ROPPONGI / AKASAKA
Roppongi and Akasaka feature high on any list of amusing-cum-attractive areas of Tokyo. Roppongi, a favorite with the youth of today was only recently the recipient of a major ‘face-lift’ when Roppongi Hills opened in 2003, and will once again see a new attraction added to the neighborhood in March, 2007 with the opening of Tokyo Midtown. Akasaka meanwhile has long been considered more of an attraction for those with a more mature outlook and is home to a number of high class Japanese-style restaurants and top of the range nightclubs – a modern day contrast to its historical sites including Hie Shrine and Toyokawa Inari.
Roppongi is an international town often thronged with those employed in global media organizations as well as its strong foreign populace. Of the 128 embassies and consulates in Japan, more than 40 are based in Roppongi. Couple this to the after dark options of all night bars, restaurants and disco bars and Roppongi may initially come across as a work by day / party by night area, but following the 2003 arrival of Roppongi Hills increasing numbers have begun visiting Roppongi to shop and eat during the daytime.
The huge precincts seen spreading along Gaien-higashi Dori in Tokyo’s Roppongi district are becoming increasingly synonymous with Tokyo Midtown – a multi-purpose complex housing a hotel, private residences, offices, shops, cultural facilities and a hospital which, although essentially a collection of modern high rises lean towards the informal; the welcoming with their vast green spaces creating a peaceful oasis at the heart of the metropolis.
Once the residence of the Mori family, members of the Edo Period Hagi clan, following the start of the Meiji Restoration (1868-1912) the facility was commissioned by and used as an Imperial Japanese Army post. Later still, post-WWII, American officers were billeted at the site, followed in turn by the Japanese Defense Agency. When the Defense Agency moved to Ichigaya in 2000, a massive redevelopment project started and out of the concrete and steel was born Tokyo Midtown.
Midtown Tower stands 248m above ground level and is a combination 54 floor above ground and 5 floor below ground building. The tower is actually taller than the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower and the well-known Tokyo Metropolitan Government Tower. Offices fill floors 8 through 43 and the world famous Ritz Carlton 5-star hotel, will occupy floors 44 through 53. The Tokyo Midtown Medical Center on the 6th floor will always have English-speaking staff on hand for the convenience of visiting non-Japanese.
The Midtown East building houses offices, residences and a multi-purpose hall. The Midtown West building on the other hand is used for offices. The Suntory Museum of Art will move from its long-term location in Akasaka Mitsuke to the Tokyo Midtown facility – opening on March 30th. In addition, Oakwood Premier Tokyo Midtown, an up-market fully furnished and serviced apartment block stands proud as the first such Oakwood Premier facility in the country.
As many as 130 fashion boutiques, interior design shops, cafe, restaurants and other shops are in Galleria, Plaza and Garden Terrace. Shopping freaks and gourmets don’t miss them.
One of the background themes of Tokyo Midtown is public art and the precincts as a whole are thought of more as a garden of sorts. Art buffs will enjoy the numerous pieces of artwork dotted around the complex.
Roppongi Station on both the Hibiya and Oedo subway lines is directly connected to the facility and will start to feel the benefit come the official Tokyo Midtown opening on March 30th, 2007, – the time cherry blossoms are at their best.
Art Town – Triangle of Museums
The National Art Center, Tokyo, (opened: January, 2007) and The Suntory Museum of Art will stand side by side in complementing the artistic side of Tokyo Midtown come March, 2007 when the latter opens its doors. Added to the Mori Art Museum over in Roppongi Hills, a veritable triangle of art now exists to brighten the days and nights of Roppongi residents and visitors alike.
The National Art Center, Tokyo
The National Art Center, Tokyo is the national government’s fifth art based institution in Japan and opened in January of 2007. The National Art Center does not maintain a permanent collection but rather makes the most of a total of 14,000 square meters of exhibition space, the largest such facility in the country, by serving as a venue for a variety of exhibitions. The beautiful glass walls of the building appear to ‘flow’ in what can only be termed as an outstanding feat of architecture. An art library, restaurant, cafes, and museum shops can all be entered free of charge enabling visitors to enjoy the surreal / artistic atmosphere.
Opened in 2003, Roppongi Hills houses Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, the Grand Hyatt Tokyo, Toho Cinemas Roppongi Hills, a TV station, shops, restaurants, a museum and an observatory to name but a few of the attractions to be found within.
TBS – a domestic Japanese TV station is located near Akasaka Subway Station not far from a gathering of antique shops and hotels around Akasaka-mitsuke Subway Station. The area is close to the National Diet Building and Nagata-cho (the center of Japanese politics) and is dominated by high end hotels such as the Akasaka Prince and Hotel New Otani as well as a number of expensive Japanese style restaurants often frequented by lawmakers. In the Moto Akasaka area, the Togu Gosho (Crown Prince’s official residence and palace), the National Guest House and Toyokawa Inari Shrine can also be found.
Recently the number of casual dining options in the area has been increasing and Super Dining Zipangu – located on the top floor of the Akasaka Excel Hotel Tokyu is but one such example. Operating in a large, relaxing environment, Super Dining Zipangu is popular with both local business folk and non-Japanese alike as is its unusual cigar bar. The adjacent “Zipangu The Prudential Plaza” is another ultra modern facility more in keeping with a fashionable French restaurant than a locally managed addition to the dining scene – itself well worth a look-at.
Akasaka Goyochi (Imperial Precincts)
The Togu Gosho is situated within the grounds of Akasaka Goyochi: site also of the residence of the brother of Crown Prince Hironomiya. There is a Japanese garden around a pond in the center of the grounds with the site well-known as the venue of the imperial garden party. The National Guest House (formerly called the Akasaka Detached Palace) is located northeast of the gardens, and is used primarily to receive foreign dignitaries. Not normally open to the general public, it is, however, possible to enter if applying in advance for a time when no reception is planned. Its elegant neo-baroque building is modeled after the Palace of Versailles and the Louvre.
Shrine and Temple
Toyokawa Inari Tokyo Betsuin is a branch of the main Toyokawa Inari (Myogon Temple) in Aichi Prefecture. Worship in the quiet temple is said to benefit business and if nothing else, at least provides a brief sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Hie Shrine, dubbed ‘Sanno-sama,’ was the biggest shrine in Edo during the Edo period (1603-1867) and was considered to be the guardian shrine of the Tokugawa Shogunate. As such, the Sanno Matsuri Festival, held annually around June 15, attracts a great many visitors.
The origins of Akasaka Hikawa Shrine can be traced back to 951AD making it one of the 10 most important shrines in Tokyo – along with Hie Shrine.
Nogi Shrine located near Nogizaka Subway Station was built in 1923 and hosts an antique fair on the second Sunday of each month.
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