Tokyo CHAPTER 8: The Neighborhood of Roppongi.
Legendary for its night spots and foreign party people, this is also the place to come if you want to see cutting edge art and design.
Opened in 2003, Roppongi Hills was the dream of real-estate developer Mori Minoru, who long imagined a transformation of Roppongi. The complex has received lofty praise, and is one of the more architecturally arresting sights in Tokyo. It’s enhanced by public art such as Louise Bourgeois’ giant, spiny alfresco, Maman spider sculpture. With expertly drawn lines of steel and glass, expansive tree-lined public spaces and a healthy smattering of the city’s top bars, restaurants and shops, Roppongi Hills stands as a new concept in urban planning to Tokyoites. Most Tokyoites can’t even dream of owning a high-rise apartment at the city’s most prestigious address- Roppongi Hills. (I actually hear that many famous Japanese people and even international stars have homes here in this area!)
The centerpiece of the complex in Roppongi Hills is the 54-story Mori Tower, which is home to some of the world’s leading companies, as well as the Mori Art Museum and Tokyo City View observatory. At the base of the tower is Grand Hyatt Tokyo and some 200 shopping, drinking, and dining establishments.
Honda Welcome Plaza
We got lost in Honda’s Welcome Plaza for a little while looking at Honda’s latest cars and motorcycles on display. We also just happened to visit in time to see Honda’s amazing, spaceman like ASIMO, do a brief demonstration. ASIMO is the world’s most advanced humanoid robot! Pretty cool huh!?!
Now introducing ASIMO, the human robot!
Built during the postwar boom of the 1950’s when Japan was struggling to create a new list of monuments symbolizing its modernity, Tokyo Tower resembles the Eiffel Tower, albeit 13m taller. The similarities stop there, however, as Tokyo Tower was painted bright orange and white in order to comply with international aviation safety regulations. Tokyo Tower weighs 4,000 tons, a strong, lightweight steel tower. (Much lighter than the Eiffel Tower that weighs 7,000 tons). This tower was opened in 1958. Random fact: this was the year that Brazil won its first soccer World Cup and that instant ramen was introduced. Tower celebrated its 55th anniversary December of 2013.
Tokyo Tower is definitely something of a tourist trap, but if you go with the right mind set you’ll have fun. There are lifts that take visitors up to the main observation deck at 150m which provides some stunning views of Tokyo. There is another “special” observatory deck at 250m, but it costs extra and you can only take the stairs up to that deck. Although we are very active and in shape people, we had to pass on that one… we were already walking everywhere and a bit exhausted! Nevertheless, we still got a great view on the observation deck!
Zojo-ji (Zojo Temple)
Behind Tokyo Tower is this former funerary temple of the Tokugawa regime, one of the most important temples of the Jodo (Pure Land) sect of Buddhism. It dates from 1393, yet like many sights in Tokyo, its original structures have been relocated and were subject to war, fire, and other natural disasters. It has been rebuilt several times in recent history, the last time in 1974. Yet, Zojo-ji remains one of the most monumental temples in town. The main gate, Sanmon, was constructed in 1605, and its three sections were designed to symbolize the three stages one must pass through to achieve nirvana. The giant bell (1673) is considered one of the great three bells of the Edo period. On the temple grounds there is a large collection of statues of the bodhisattva Jizo, said to be a guide during the transmigration of the soul.
A.K.A The ‘Kill Bill’ Restaurant.
If you have ever watched Kill Bill Vol. 1, you will probably remember the bloody battle scenes from a restaurant where Uma Thurman goes on a massive killing spree against criminal members of the Tokyo underground.
Perhaps less known is the fact that director Quentin Tarantino got the idea for this fighting scene while visiting a famous Tokyo restaurant called Gonpachi. The restaurant shown in the movie, which I believe is actually a set built in studios in China, is not an exact copy but it looks very much like the actual one.
Upon entering, you are met with a wall of photos of some famous people that have visited here:
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Our roots will forever be from here, America, born and raised. Yet, life requires us to move more frequently than we care to count. Whether living stateside or abroad, you can always find us traveling somewhere. We scout out places that you only think you can dream of one day seeing and we seek out those that aren’t found in guidebooks. We then bring them to life here in our travel memos, so hopefully, one day you too can visit them or at least be able to live vicariously through us. This blog isn’t just about crossing off places from a bucket list. It’s about absorbing and learning how other cultures grow and fit into the same world that we do. Life is short and the world is big. Enjoy and get out there!
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