Ueno Park in
the early 20th century Ueno Park (Ueno Station subway stop, 3 miles north of the Imperial Palace) is one the largest parks in Tokyo. Built where troops loyal to the Tokugawa Shogunate made their last stand in 1868, it is also one of Tokyo's most popular cherry blossom viewing spots. In March, young workers stake out spots early in the morning for spring cherry blossoms parties for their superiors. During the autumn a wide variety of cultural events are staged in the park.
Ueno Park contains the Tokyo Metropolitan Festival Hall (site of many classical music concerts and operas), the Tokyo National Museum, the National Museum of Western Art, the Tokyo Metropolitan Fine Art Gallery. For information on the museum see Museums.
Ueno Zoological Gardens in Ueno Park features elephants that have trouble mating and a new $15 million vivarium with 130 kinds of fish, reptiles and amphibians. Ueno Zoo attracts 3.5 million visitors a year. Many of them have come over the years to see the panda Ling Ling who died at the age of 22 in May 2008. The zoo has had pandas since 1972 when a pair of pandas was given to Japan and the zoo by China. After Ling Ling’s death China said it would loan the zoo a pair of pandas. Ueno Zoo was finally given a pair of pandas—a male named Ri Ri (“Power”) and a female named Shin Shin (“Truth”)—in 2011. They were supposed to go on display in March that year but their unveiling was delayed until April because of the earthquake and tsunami
Lotus-filled Shinobazu Pond, Saigo Takamorir Statue (depicting a samurai walking his dog) and Toshogu Shrine in the park are worth a look. A walking trail encircles the pond and exits the near the Shitamachi Fuzoku Shiryokan (Shitamachi Historical Museum), which contains an interesting display of Edo period artifacts and recreations of Edo period businesses. Nearby is the 400-shop Ameyoko discount shopping arcade. Websites: Ueno Park artisandevelopers.com ; Japan Guide japan-guide.com ; Asakusa and Ueno Maps: Japan National Tourism Organization JNTO ; Gmap /gmap.jp
Ryogoku (between Ginza and Ueno Station) near the Yamanote line is where many sumo stables are located. The national sumo arena is here. Sumo wrestlers are often seen walking the streets. Shitamachi (near Ueno Park) is a working-class neighborhood that occupies an old Edo period entertainment district. The flimsy wooden houses that were located here were regularly destroyed by fires called the "Flowers of Edo," by the upper classes who welcomed the them as a way of cleaning out the city's riffraff. Situated near the Sumida River, Shitamachi is home of Akasura and Asakusa Kannon Temple and the Shitamachi History Museum. Few old wooden houses remain.
Asakusa District and Asakusa Kannon Temple
Asakusa Kannon Temple Asakusa District (three stops from Ueno on the subway) is Tokyo's quaintest neighborhood and one of the largest downtown entertainment centers in Tokyo. It used to be a merchant's quarter, with a large number of brothels, kabuki theaters, music halls, and geisha houses. Now it is not so different than other Tokyo entertainment districts.
Asakusa Kannon Temple (in the middle of Asakusa Park) contains a large five-story Buddhist pagoda and is home to the “Thunder Gate,” with its massive red lantern, one of the most popular photo spots in Tokyo. Also known as Sensoji, the temple enshrines a gold Buddha statue said to have been miraculously netted by a fisherman in A.D. 628. Millions of pilgrims have come from all over Japan over the centuries to see it. During the 1923 earthquake, when Tokyo was engulfed in flames, thousands sought refuse in temple and were saved by its open spaces.
Asakusa Kannon Temple is Tokyo's best known temple. The huge red lantern that hand from Kaminarimon (“Thunder”) Gate weighs more than ton. The pagoda is situated in a beautiful Japanese garden. The temple is also the site of the Sanja Festival in May, a Plant Fair in May, June and July, the Ground Cherry Fair in July and the Battledore Fair in mid-December.
Large weekend crowds visit the temple to make offerings and light incense in the temple buildings and go shopping and play video games at the shops and amusement centers located within the temple grounds. The lively open air market on Nakasmise Dori is a good place to shop for souvenirs. It is filled with stalls selling dolls, kimonos, wigs, crackers, lacquerware, ceramics, paper fans, tourist kitsch, and other stuff. South of the temple a Edo period neighborhood has been recreated on Denboin-dori street. Website: Japan Guide japan-guide.com
Fukagawa (east side of the Sumida River) is a rough and tumble old school Tokyo district known for its fishermen, wood merchants and mid-level geisha houses. In shops here you can find beauty creams made from the feces of nightingales. In the Edo Museum an Edo-period street has been re-created in a large underground hall. Along the street wooden boats bobs up and down in a simulated river, mechanical cats roam the roof tops and recorded rice vendors call from loudspeakers.
Akihabara (JR Akihabara Station, second stop from Tokyo Station on the JR Yamanote Line) is Tokyo’s “Electric Town.” It is a good place to get electronic products at reduced prices. The street in front of the station is dotted with stores offering almost every kind of electric and electronic device imaginable, including a lot of stuff you won't see in your home country. Most of stuff has been marked down 20 percent or more. Particularly interesting are cell phones and car navigation systems.
Akihabara is ground zero for otaku (nerd) culture. It is chock-a-block with small but influential, back-alley anime and manga stores and maid cafes. Within a several block area there are over 80 maid cafes. Akihabara got its start as a center of black market activities after World War II. In the 1950s and 60s it was known as the place to buy radios and appliances. In the 1990s it became known for personal computers Over the years a number of shops that specialized in video and computer games and manga- and anime-related products opened up and these have attracted otaku. `
On Sundays and holidays some of Akihabara’s streets are closed to traffic. In recent years these areas have attracted “cosplay” performers—people who dress up like manga and anime characters and put on street performances. Some regard the performances as a nuisance because they disrupt the flow of shoppers and there has been some effort to control them. One woman was arrested for putting in a show that climaxed with exposing her underwear. On weekend nights large crowds gather on the east side of JR Akihabara Station to see live street performance of bands and dance groups.
In January 2011, the vehicle-free pedestrian zone in Akihabara that was the site of the 2008 mass murder was re-opened. The street had been a car-free zone since 1973 on Sundays and holidays. In July 2010 all of Akihabara’s promenades reopened. In 2010, a number of duty-free shops were opened to lure foreign customers. Chinese-owned Laox runs the largest duty-free electronic store, followed by Softmap. Store clerks have been hired that speak Chinese, Korean and English . Poster saying say “Welcome” in Chinese hang from the walls of some stores.
The Best Shops of Akihabara—Guide to Japanese Subculture by Toshimichi Nozoe is available for ¥1,000 by download at http://www.akibaguidebook.com
Akihabara Murders, See Government, Crime, Famous Crimes.
Websites: Picture Tokyo picturetokyo.com ; Akihabara News akihabaranews.com ; Akihabara Tour akihabara-tour.com ; Otaku story in Planet Tokyo planettokyo.com ; otaku story in the Washington Post Washington Post ;
Shinjuku (Shinjuku Station) is one of Tokyo's most happening places. Known for its rowdy nightspots, noodle restaurants, shopping arcades, flashing lights, huge display screens, department stores, boutiques, hostess bars, and smokey clubs, it is a places where executives and salary men gather to drink heavily, young people hang out, tourists experience Tokyo’s intensity, women shop and huge crowds cross the streets.
Shinjuku is split into three major areas: 1) Shinjuku Street, 2) the Kabukicho district, the main sleaze area, and 3) the area on west side of Shinjuku station. Shinjuku Street (pedestrian-only on Sundays) is a shopping area lined with large department stores, fashionable specialty shops, restaurants and bars. Golden Street was a center the avant garde scene in the 1960s. Now it features dozens of little bars ensconced in spaces formally occupied by brothels. Many of the bars have regular customers who often look a bit shocked when strangers or foreigners come in.
Shinjuku Station is Japan's largest train station. As may as four million commuters on 19 train lines day pass through it every day. During rush hour special guards are sometimes employed to push passengers onto their trains. In the Edo Period, Shinjuku was where people parked their carts and animals and was known for its large amounts of horse dung. For a splendid view of all the action today check out the Sky Bar in the Park Hyatt Tokyo, which sits on top of the glass-and-chrome Shinjuku Park Tower and is where several scenes from the film Lost in Translation were shot. Websites: Wikipedia Wikipedia ; JR Map of Shinjuku Station jreast.co.jp
West Side of Shinjuku Station is newly developed business quarter with several new modernist skyscrapers, including Kenzo Tange's Tokyo Metropolitan Government Offices, a three building complex with a 45-floor tower with free panoramic views. Also worth checking out are Shinjuku NS Building, with the world's largest pendulum clock (29 meters), the 110-meter-long interior "sky bridge," and the numerous restaurants on the 29th and 30th floor. Worth a look are the Kio Department store and some of the world's largest camera stores.
Gakuen Cocoon Tower, which stands in front of JR Shinjuku Station’s west entrance, is among the most striking new modernist buildings in Tokyo. Completed in October 2008, its is 203 meters high and resembles the new, spiral cocoon building in London. Gakuen Cocoon Tower was designed by Tange associates, which is run bu Noritake Tange, the oldest son Kenzo Tange.
Shinjuku Gyeon Park (5 minute walk from Shinjuku-Gyeon subway station) features Japanese- and Western-style gardens and has been described by some as having the most gardens in Tokyo. Covering 144 acres, it also has good public recreation facilities and is known for its irises, which bloom in May and chrysanthemum shows in November. The park is open from 9:00am to 4:00pm.
Kabuki-cho (part of Shinjuku) is regarded as Tokyo's largest entertainment district and is the center of Tokyo’s sex industry. Lining its main streets and side streets are sex clubs, hostess bars, image rooms, bunny-suit clad streetwalkers, strip clubs, gambling parlors, peep shows, "soaplands" parlors, and bars with nude waitresses. Beer vending machines are found at every intersection.
Kabukicho was the center of Tokyo street life and culture in the 1960s and 70s, when it attracted drag queen geishas, rockabilly rent boys, prostitutes and yakuza gangesters. Back at that time prostitution was legal and controlled.
Kabuki-cho is home of several yakuza headquarters. The yakuza has traditionally controlled districts pornography shops, gambling parlors, and prostitution rings. Like their Italian counterparts, they also hustle "protection" money from local businesses as well as major corporations.
Many of the prostitutes and sex workers in Kabuki-cho today are Chinese who work for Chinese gangs rather the yakuza. Many of the businesses are also run by Chinese. Supermarkets sell Shanghai newspapers and restaurants offers noodles dishes found in Canton.
Yoshiwara in the 19th century Despite its unsavory reputation Kabuki-cho is generally safe to stroll around at night and certainly more safe than similar districts in cities like Bangkok or Manila. Places that do attract trouble generally don’t allow foreigners on the premises. Websites: Wikipedia Wikipedia ; Wikipedia ; Getting There: Wikipedia ; Guardian article Guardian
Yoshiwara (near Minaimi-Senju Station) is Tokyo's oldest red light district. Founded in 1657, it now contains Japan's largest concentration of "soaplands,” Japanese-style brothels, some which have amusing nicknames and are decorated like French chateaux. Many of the 18th and 19th century woodblock prints of women in kimonos and yukatas were set in brothels in Yoshiwara. Nearby is Sanya, sort of Tokyo ‘s version of skid row. A number of homeless people make their home here. The food street on the railway line to Shinjuku is known locally as “Piss Alley.”
Ikebukuro (about three miles north of Shinjuku) has two of Japan's largest department stores (Seibu and Tobu), the second busiest station in Tokyo, the world's largest automobile showroom, a smell-reality sensuround theater (Toyota Amlux) and a super long escalator (at Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space). Most of the interesting stuff is one the east side of the station. Ikebukuro Map: Japan National Tourism Organization JNTO
Sunshine 60 Building (in Ikebukuro) is one of the tallest buildings in Asia. It is 60 stories high and also boasts the world's fastest elevator which ascends 60 floors in 35 seconds. Within the complex is the Sunshine Planetarium and the Sunshine International Aquarium. Website: Wikipedia Wikipedia
girls in Shibuya Shibuya (Shibuya Station) is a fast-growing modern shopping and entertainment area, with department stores, shops, restaurants and bars, around Shibuya station. The landscape of colored-ligh billboards, cramped buildings filled with pachinko parlors, karaokes, shops, and bars on different floors was a model for the film Blade Runner .
Shibuya also serves as a starting point for Meiji Shrine, Yoyogi Olympic Park, Harajuku, Akasaka and Roppongi. Harajuku and Shibuya districts are where young Japanese come to be seen and check out the latest fashions and trends. The main square is the home of one of the world's busiest pedestrian crosswalks. All around are liquid crystal display screens showing off the latest Japanese products, fashions and pop stars. Shibuya station sees about 700,000 people a day
Shibuya has become a primary place for young people, particularly girls, to hang out into the wee hours of the morning. The shops in and around 109, a shopping center near the main crossroads, is where young girls in the latest street fashions and outrageous make-up gather. On 109, Alexander Harvey wrote in the Atlantic Monthly, “Saleswomen in ruffled miniskirts shout their welcome in sticky-sweet tones above the din of club music. Japanese girls with clouds of strawberry blond curls and heavy fake eyelashes cruise the mall’s 10 floors, shopping bags dangling from their wrists.” The mall “has everything a girl could want—terry cloth hot pants, argyle sweater dresses, rhinestone-studded skull rings—all at deep discounts to department store prices.”
Many people also gather around Manderake, the world’s largest manga and anime department store. Trends that begin here spread across Japan and often make their way to Hong Kong, Seoul, Taipei and Shanghai and even London and New York. Sometimes you can see marketing agents with clipboards asking young girls what they think about this or that.
Shibuya has been center of youth culture and street fashion since the 1970s when college-age women began gathering here to shop for the latest fashions. Over the years the girls that have come have been getting steadily younger. In the 1980s high school girls began dominating. By the 1990s, middle school girls were appearing in larger and larger numbers. Now days there are even large numbers of elementary school girls. Shibuya also has traditionally been a place where men met with geishas or their lovers. This mix of men and young girls that sometimes takes place here produces sleaze and trouble.
Shibuya has become a primary place for young people, particularly girls, to hang out into the wee hours of the morning. One 16-year-old Shibuya girl told the Daily Yomiuri, “I often spend the night in the streets or at karaoke shops, or I stay with men who ask me for a date. I’ve not returned home for several days now, because everything is boring at home, where I have nothing to do.”
Particularly disturbing is the number of young girls seen at night talking with unsavory looking middle-age men. The men will strike up a conversation, and ask the girls if they want something to eat. When the girl above was asked if she engaged in “compensated dating: (a euphemism for teenage prostitution), she said, “Why not? I can earn ¥60,000 a date.
There are also large numbers of male “scouts” in their 20s who try to lure young girls into some endeavor, usually bad. One Shibuya regular told the New York Times, “Every scout is trying to get a girl into his business. There’s the store scout, the restaurant scout, the sex business scout, the entertainment industry scout, the fashion magazine scout.” Websites: Shibuya City city.shibuya.tokyo ; Wikitravel Wikitravel ; Japan Guide japan-guide.com Shibuya Map: Japan National Tourism Organization JNTO
Hachiko Dog Statue
Hachiko Dog Statue (in front of Shibuya Station) is universally recognized landmark and arguably Tokyo’s most popular meeting spot. Hachiko is Japan's best-loved animal. A white Akita dog that died in 1935 and is now stuffed and displayed at Japan's National Museum, "Chu-ken Hachiko , or "faithful dog Hachiko," was the pet of a Tokyo University professor. Every morning the professor and Hachiko walked together to Shibuya station, where the professor would take the train to work and each afternoon when the professor came home his dog was there waiting for him at the platform.
Then, one day in 1925, the professor suddenly died at work. Hachiko waited at the station that afternoon but her master didn't return. She waited again the next afternoon, and the next and the next—through rain, snow and the occasional earthquake—every afternoon for the next nine years. Hachiko's devotion caught the imagination of Japan and the world. In 1934, a year before she died, a statue of faithful Hachiko was erected in Shibuya Station by the Los Angeles Friends of Animals.
The 162-centimeter statue, resting on a 180-centimeter stone base, was made by the celebrated sculptor Teru Ando. In World War II the statue was melted down during scrap metal drive and used to weapons. Later it was replaced. The current statue was made by Ando’s son Takeshi Ando. Made of bronze, it is 91 centimeters tall and sits on a 127-centimeters stone base. It popularity as a meeting has a lot to do with it nearness to one of the world’s busiest train stations
There are hundreds of different Hachiko books and souvenirs. Recently her story was made into a popular Hollywood film, starring Richard Gere. Hachiko merchandise such paw-print tea towels and stuffed toys are available at a Hachiko-themed. souvenir shop near Shibuya Station. Tourists and friends like to pose in front of the statue for photographs. Website: Wikipedia Wikipedia
Harajuku dancers Harajuku (one stop from Shibuya on the JR Yamanote line) is a neighborhood popular with fashion-conscious teenagers, who tend to congregate around the record stores and clothes shop. There are also many trendy shops, such as Condomania, restaurants and tea shops in the area. The pedestrian overpass from Harajuku station to Meiji Shrine and the narrow alley of Takeshita Dori is favorite gathering place for young Japanese who like to dress in outrageous cosplay costumes and relish in drawing attention to themselves. Kiddyland is good place to check out the latest weird gadgets.
Harajuku a been known as an center of Japanese fashion since the 1970s and the crossing of Meiji-dor and Omotesandi is regarded as the epicenter. Trends over the years have included An/Nonozuka (a “tribe” of young girls with fashion magazines in hand) and Takenko-zoku (young people who performed distinctive dances wearing distinctive, colorful clothing. In recent years fast fashion has become the lasting trend with stores like Japan’s Uniqlo, the Gap, Spain’s Zara, Britain’s Tipship/ Topman and Sweden’s H&M have all become firmly planted here.
Harajuku is crowded on the weeks with Goths, Lolitas, Gothic-Lolitas, visual-kei glam rockers, flashy boys with strange haircuts, and lest we forgot the Harajuku girls with their funky, girlish hairstyles and their colorful, mismatched, accessory-laden outfits. Takeshita-Dori, across the street from Harajuku Station, is popular with 13 to 15 year olds and is good place to check out the shops that keep Tokyo’s youth culture thriving. The LeForest Department Store, with over 100 trendy boutiques inside, is popular with the younger crowds.
Sometimes on a bridge near Harajuku stations teenage girls pose in Gothic make-up, punk clothes and leather kimonos. On Saturday afternoon groups play hip-hop, reggae, punk, ska, hard rock, 50s music and Japanese idol music. Websites: Tokyo Street Style style-arena.jp ; Photos japanforum.com Wikipedia Wikipedia ; Japan Guide japan-guide.com
Akasaka (east of Harajuku) is a night life area with a variety of things to do. There are first-rate Japanese-style restaurants for people that can afford them as well as bars and snack shops, popular with office workers and young people. Akasaka is also the home of fashionable shopping areas like the Shopping Corridor of the Akasaka Tokyu Hotel.
Armani store Omotesando (in Harajuku) is a wide boulevard dubbed the Champs-Élysées of Tokyo. Located in the districts of Shibuya and Minato, it runs from Harajuku to Aoyama and is famous for its designer-label shops and for the buildings of the designer-label shops, many designed by famous architects. It used to be closed off to traffic but now is a busy thoroughfare filling with cars. While its main clientele are older fashionable adults it also has places that attract younger, trendier crowds. There are a large number of cafes, which are fine places to watch the street fashion parade. If you have time check the pet salons that offer aromatherapy and reflexology for dogs.
Prada, Louis Vuitton and Emporio Armani opened new shops here in the early 2000s. The Prada store was designed by Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, who also designed the Beijing Olympic Bird Nest Stadium and London’s Tate Modern Art Museum. The Prada building is made of glass and features diamond patterns. Other architectural stunners include Ubiqutious One, where Louis Vuitton rules; Tod’s flag ship store, designed to resemble branches of trees; Commes des Garcons, with futurist glass units; and the Ralph Lauren building.
Oriental Bazaar, next to the Dior building, has been a fixture of Omotesando since 1954. It is regarded as Tokyo’s largest and best souvenir and craft store and is a good place to stop to get gift for all the folks back home. Nearby is the flagship store for Kiddyland, one of Japan’s largest toy store chains. Also worth checking out are the green-glass-fronted V28 building near Harajuku station, which is open 24 hours and houses a Zara fashion store and Gold’s Gym; the Audi Forum Ice Cream building, which features an asymmetrical glass facade, with new car models and classic cars displayed in some of the windows; and the UT Store Harajuku, which resembles a neon stock exchange.
Omotesando is popular with parasite singles, young women who live with their parents and have a lot of disposable income. The side streets of Omotesando Avenue in Harajuku, abound with fortunetellers. Some charges as little as ¥500 for five minute palm reading and answers to any question the client asks. Omotesando Hills opened in 2006. Financed by Mori Building and designed by the famous architect Tadao Ando, it cost $330 million and houses 130 stores. There was controversy about its construction as the Bauhaus-inspired Dojunkai Apartments—which had survived the 1923 Tokyo earthquake and the World War II—was torn down to make room for it. To appease critics a small section of the old apartments have been incorporated into the minimalist structure. Websites: Omotesando site omotesandohills.com ; Omotesando Map paperlantern.net
Yoyogi Park and Meiji Shrine
a yanqi in Yoyogi Yoyogi Park (Harajuku Station) is 130-acre park with five entrances, a strolling lane and a bicycle route. It used to be where Tokyo's youth gathered on the weekends to hang and party. The parade of young people included punk rockers; "teddy boys" with Elvis Presley haircuts, hip-hop fans practicing their break dancing moves; and Japanese motorcycles gangs, called bosozokus ("violently running tribes") revving the engines of their scooters.
Authorities have largely shut down the gatherings. Sometimes young people practice cos-play ("costume play") on Sunday afternoons. The parade of characters includes jackbooted Nazis, Kiss look-alikes, white-faced ghosts, Eskimos, vampires, Elizabethan ladies, robot cats and people dressed as a variety of manga and anime characters. . Makeshift Sunday concerts by street rock bands are sometimes held near Harajuku Station.
Meiji Shrine (in Yoyogi Park) is a popular and impressive shrine, dedicated Emperor Meiji, the 19th century ruler who became a symbol for the modernization of Japan. Set in a forested area of Yoyogi Park, it embraces the lovely Inner Garden, famous for its river of irises that bloom in May and a torii gate said to be one of the largest in Japan. It is a serene place surprising close to some of Tokyo most heavily urbanized areas.
Connected to the Inner Garden by a broad cherry-tree lined avenue is the Outer Garden, which contains the Memorial Picture Gallery, various sports facilities including the Yoyogi Sports Center, Komazawa Sports center, the ultra-modern National Indoor Stadium and its shell-shaped annex constructed for 1964 Olympics, and the National Stadium. Nearby is the Tobacco and Salt Museum. Website: Meiji Jingu site meijijingu.or.jp
Louis Vuitton store Roppongi (centered around Roppongi Intersection, two miles from Ginza) is a nightlife area with a lively and international atmosphere. The bars and snack bars are open to the wee hours of the night. Many foreigners live here and party here. There is freer, less closed atmosphere than in some other Tokyo entertainment districts. In the old days many U.S. servicemen were based around here. It has traditionally been the best place in Japan to score drugs. Many of the nightclubs have African guards. The landscape and atmosphere of the neighborhood has been changed dramatically by Roppongi Hills. Roppongi's name translates into "six trees," from the samurai families who lived here during feudal times.
John M. Glionna wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “Once a U.S. serviceman's haunt, the Roppongi district became a respectable business district, then fell back into disrepute— the gentle women in kimonos giving way to mobsters and drug dealers. It's now home to the yakuza, hostess bars, drink spiking and murder. Good or bad, in this famously safe city, Roppongi stands out: elegant one block, seedy the next, a multicultural meeting spot known as Tokyo's most cosmopolitan dusk-to-dawn adult playground. See Crime[Source: John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times, January 26, 2010]
After World War II, the area was a popular haunt for U.S. servicemen, and visiting military men still sometimes abound here. When the economy was good, foreign-born stockbrokers and stock traders wandered out of their offices in the upscale Roppongi towers to spend their money here, attracting a parade of young, single Japanese women. Website: Japan Guide japan-guide.com
Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Midtown
Roppongi Hills (in Roppongi) opened in April 2003. Laid out on a 64 acre site, it is a huge $4 billion curved glass and metal complex with 200 shops, 70 restaurants, high-rise apartments, a 390-room luxury Grand Hyatt hotel, a nine-screen, 2,100 seat cinema complex, grand stairways and escalators, 70,000 trees, rooftop gardens with a rice paddy in the sky, English, terraces and a rainwater recycling system. The rice paddy produces 135 pounds of rice that is harvested in September. The rice straw that is left over is used to make slippers. Power for Roppongi Hills is supplied by six engines similar to the aircraft engines on P-3C antisubmarine aircraft. They are used because they prevent even split second power outages. It is no surprise then that Roppongi Hills is home to a of trendy technology and foreign companies like Google Japan.
The buildings themselves are located on a 29 acre site referred to as a “city in a city” or an “artelliegence city.” The centerpiece of the complex is the Mori Arts Center, a 54-story office tower that its architect New-York-based Richard Gluckman described as two ships about to crash into one another. The Mori art museum occupies the top six floors and is regarded a center Tokyo contemporary art. The museum has made Asian contemporary art it main focus and has been widely praised for it imaginative use of its exhibition space and for providing explanations in both Japanese and English. It cost around ¥1,000 to get in
View from Roppongi Hills An observation area offers great views of the city for an admission charge of ¥1,500 and stays open to 1:00am. The shops—which include an Issey Miyake store designed by Naoki Takizawa, a Yohji Yamamoto high-tech store, White Trash Charms, and a Louis Vuitton store,—and restaurants also stay open late. The Vuitton store has a facade with 30,000 glass circles with a lining of 120,000 steel rings. If you have the money and get a reservation try the restaurant established and named after Joel Robuchon, one of France’s most famous chefs.
By all measures Roppongi Hills has been a big success. It attracted 26 million people in its first six months. A giant bronze sculpture of spider, known as Maman , by Louise Bourgeois, has become a symbol of the complex, so mcuh so that many young people says “Lets meet at the spider.” The mastermind and financier of Roppongi Hills is Akira Monoru Mori, the largest owner of commercial property in Japan. He wanted to create a cutting edge shopping center that would outdo anything in New York or London. Website: Roppongi Hills site roppongihills.com
Tokyo Midtown (10 minute walk from Roppongi Hills) opened in March 2007. Built on 10-hectare site whose former occupant was the Defense Agency, the ¥370 billion project embraces a 248-meter-high towers, the tallest skyscrapers in Tokyo, a luxury Ritz Carlton Tokyo on the upper floors; upscale apartments, a museum, business offices on the lower floors; and 130 shops and restaurants in spacious shopping area.
Tokyo Midtown is somewhat similar to Roppongi Hills. There are worried the two may end up competing against one anther. They have similar facilities and are organized according to similar concepts. Other disagree and say they draw customers for the other and help improve the image of Roppongi in the same way that news stores and shopping areas in Time Square upgraded that area of New York. Website: Tokyo Midtown site tokyo-midtown.com
Image Sources: 1) 7) Visualizing Culture, MIT Education 2) 10) Twin Isles 3) Hector Garcia 4) Wikipedia 5) 6) 9) 11) 13) 14) Ray Kinnane 8) 12) Andrew Gray Photosensibility
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
© 2009 Jeffrey Hays