“Japan’s largest urban redevelopment project.”

Roppongi Hills

A “vertical garden city” for the people, or gated community of 1%ers? Still not clear on this myself. Maybe a bit of both? Mori Tower stands as the centrepiece of the complex, 54 floors of mostly office space with top-shelf tenants including Apple, Barclays Bank, Google, Lenovo, Nokia, and The Pokemon Company. True, Mori Art Museum and Skyview is open to the public, but access is by way of a separate entrance. Also true there are a variety of facilities around the base of the tower, including shops and restaurants, a movie theatre, a stroll garden, and event space, again all open to the public – though separated from the surrounding neighbourhood by walls breached in a couple of places by staircases and the glass, guard-tower-like Metro Hat.

Whatever you think of real estate developers razing apparently run-down residential neighbourhoods for experiments in urban planning — and I still haven’t made up my mind — Roppongi Hills offers some fine commercial art, architecture, and people watching in a part of the city better known for gaijin bars and dance clubs – and other, more dubious denizens of Tokyo’s nightlife.

 

Tokyo Midtown is an Artsy Multiplex in Roppongi, Tokyo

Tokyo Midtown

I’ve said it before: I kinda like Tokyo Midtown. It might be a high-end mall, any place that host both a photography gallery (Fujifilm Square) and a Tado Ando-designed exhibition space has something working right.

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Tadao Ando designed art gallery in Roppongi

21_21 Design Sight

I gotta say, I really enjoy taking my camera to 21_21 Design Sight, the Tadao Ando-designed, steel and concrete lowrise tucked into the Garden behind Tokyo Midtown in Roppongi (that’s Tokyo, if you don’t know). Despite the fact that, or maybe because, it’s off most people radar – though I think I’m starting to see some familiar Euro-hipster faces from Golden GaiRead the rest of this entry »

Friday Night, Golden Gai

Friday night photo walk, Golden Gai

Another Friday, another trip to Golden Gai. Not that I’m complaining. It’s actually great to have such an interesting part of Tokyo on my commute line. No doubt the area is changing, and not wholly for the good: last night, for the first time, a tout hit me up within Golden Gai itself – albeit near one of the entrances:

“Good evening sir! We have a new international bar. ‘Happy Endings.'”

Hopefully this won’t become the new norm, as it has in Kabukicho and Roppongi. Read the rest of this entry »

Photo Walk at Tokyo Midtown, Roppongi

Tokyo Midtown

 

Roppongi Hills ain’t the only premiere  multiplex in town, or even in Roppongi: Tokyo Midtown, located on the “good” side of the Overpass, has its share of cultural/commercial/residential/entertainment/etc. facilities, including no less than five art and design galleries – two of which I visit on a regular basis: Fujifilm Square and 21_21 Design Sight (sic). In fact, I checked out the newest 21_21 Design Sight exhibition, “Imagemakers”, on a recent — and rainy — Thursday. Along with some interesting and eclectic exhibitions, 21_21 has two things going for it: the Tadao Ando designed concrete exhibition space, and a camera-friendly policy. I’d post some pictures from the Imagemakers exhibition here, but I don’t wanna ruin it for others: the exhibition, or the policy…

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Friendly to Locals and Visitors Alike

Golden Gai

Truth is, the scene in Golden Gai has changed a lot in the last couple of years as more visitors have discovered the place and as some, at least, of the 200-odd bars in the area look for new clientele. One popular blogger recently called it “One of the most poorly kept secrets of Tokyo”, which sounds about right.

These days, there are a lot of visitors meandering the alleys between the bars, looking for places to drop in for a drink. This hasn’t “ruined” the place in my opinion, though twenty-year regulars may disagree.

What this means for you is that you should feel totally comfortable and confident visiting Golden Gai and, while there are still many establishments that will only welcome people who can hold a conversation in Japanese, some others are happy to host the international crowd.

So go to Golden Gai. Start perhaps at the large karaoke bar near the entrance called Champions where you will likely see a large crowd of young visitors. Then spend some time and walk, and pop your head into any place that catches your eye; the narrow stairs to second-floor places can be intimidating, but there’s some real gems upstairs! You’ll know soon enough if you’re welcome. If you don’t find anywhere that speaks to you, then Albatross can be your “safety”: I’ve been there many times, and while the bartender doesn’t speak much (any?) English, it’s a friendly place and you’ll likely meet others from the international set. Albatross has two floors, so don’t be turned off if the first floor is packed.

 

Godzilla! (spoiler alert: the little boy survives...)

Godzilla! (spoiler alert: the little boy survives…)

Not to be outdone by rival and neighbour Roppongi Hills with its 66 Doraemon, Tokyo Midtown managed to lure humanity’s frenemy Godzilla to the backlot. And, apparently, to pose for photos. At least, until August 31, when I guess he has to get into character for his upcoming (2018) sequel…

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