There’s something about the word “Roppongi” which makes most expats in Tokyo shudder. It’s notoriety as a roaring, rowdy night spot is a reputation you approve of when you’ve had a beer or two and deplore when you’re sprawled on the pavement the next morning hoping you wont add any unwanted decoration to the pavement.
The Roppongi Hills Public Art and Design Project has seen to it that no more decoration is required here. Dotted around outside the glamourous Hills building (famous for the Mori art museum and high class boutiques) lie giant, endearingly haphazard sculptures which are spectacles worthy of tourist attention in themselves.
I’d recommend going at night when the backdrop of the office-light stars help create a perfectly melodramatic mood for viewing the giant spider, who rests his spindly, monstrous legs over one of the entrances of the Hills. Behind this, an enormous rose emerges from the ground, reminiscent of something from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
The fantasy world of art and sculpture follows this theme of random bursts of creativity through to the street outside. Rather than sit on a traditional wooden, plastic, or often as the case may be, no bench at all, the public seating areas surrounding the hills have also been transformed with a pinch of imagination. Choose from a giant ice cube, an ice chair, modern white and black seating pebbles or a marble sofa.
Morning or night, pavement or majestic marble couch, Roppongi is designed with going out in style in mind.
Google map: bit.ly/Tc6ERx
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This is one of Tokyo's best private art museums and was founded by Mr.Ishibashi (his name means stone bridge) the president of Bridgestone Tyres. It houses a small but impressive collection of French Impressionist art. It is also a rare opportunity to see Japanese paintings in the Western style dating from the Meiji Period onward. Since there are only 10 small rooms of displays, it makes a quick and worthwhile one hour detour if you're in the vicinity of Tokyo JR station (it's a short walk directly east). There is also the delightful, if expensive, 'Georgette' tearoom.
Bridgestone Building, 1-10-1, Kyobashi, Chuo-ku,Tokyo.
Google map: bit.ly/dKUb7i
Tokyo (Yaesu Central exit, 5 min.), Kyobashi (Meidi-ya exit, 5 min.), or Nihombashi (Takashimaya exit, 5 min.). On Chuo Dori (with an entrance around the corner on Yaesu Dori)
An art gallery set in a 1930s art deco house that used to be the home of Prince Akasa. The art is good - there were gorgeous photographs of flowers when we went - but the house is outstanding. There's also a Japanese garden to stroll round afterwards and a nice cafe near the entrance. Well worth a visit.
website - www.teien-art-museum.ne.jp/info/e_index.html. The nearest underground is Meguro (also on the JR Yamanote Line) - and then it's about a 10-minute walk.
Roppongi Hills is one of the largest new developents in Tokyo, with the massive Mori Building at the centre. JPY1,500 buys you entry to the Tokyo City View, offering spectacular views from all directions (depending on the air pollution. You'll get the best views in February). On the same floor you'll also find the Mori Urban Institute for The Future, which has incredible fully-detailed scale models of both Manhattan and central Tokyo, and is likely to bring out the Godzilla "must destroy this thing!" instinct in you.
Directly connected to Roppongi subway station (Hibiya and Oedo lines).
Dedicated to the work of animator Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, the museum is a 15-minute train ride from both Shinjuku and Shibuya. Even if you've never heard of Studio Ghibli before it's worth a visit, and the nearby neighbourhood of Kichijoji has a slightly bohemian feel that is unusual to come by in Tokyo.
Ghibli Museum, 1-1-83 Shimorenjaku, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 181-0013.
The nearest station is Mitaka (Chuo Line), but I would recommend walking there from Kichijoji station (Chuo and Inokashira Lines).
Holds the world’s biggest collection of Japanese art – everything from samurai armour and swords to lacquerware and calligraphy. Admission is 420 yen.
The museum is located inside Ueno Park, about 15 minutes’ walk from Ueno Station; www.tnm.go.jp/
Houses one of the biggest collections of Japanese and Asian contemporary art, with added attractions made available through the museum’s tie-up with the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The 1,500 yen admission fee includes access to the observation deck on the 52nd floor.
52nd and 53rd floors of the Mori Building in Roppongi;
6-10-1 Roppongi, Minato-Ku; Tel: +81-3-5777-8600
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