Thursday, September 20, 2012

Roppongi Hills... Big Bold and Eight-Legged Bronze?

 19th August, 2010 - After our fill of celebrity (Julia Roberts, why don't you write to me?), we had a bit more of a look around TV Asahi studios, though at that time of night, there wasn't much to be seen except for a faux-faux-Eiffel Tower (ok, Tokyo Tower might be taller, but will never quite capture the same feeling).

Right next to TV Asahi is the rather delightful surprising Mori Garden... snuggled as it were amongst the glass and steel, and looking beautiful under the artificial Tokyo electric sun in Roppongi.

Side Note: Roppongi is the suburb name, and comes from the Japanese 六本木 which means "6 trees", from roku (六) which means 6, hon (本) or long-cylindrical counter and ki (木) trees.... so why isn't it called rokuhonki?... well, the Japanese in their wisdom realise that some things just don't quite sound right, so they soften the sounds to form roppongi. See Japanese is pretty easy. The history was that the area was actually famous for 6 pine trees, but they were successively killed off and finally the last 3 were destroyed in WWII. In recent times Roppongi has been more synonymous with partying (especially by foreigners)... although strangely enough it's also the home of quite a few foreign embassies as well.

Actually the name, Mori, is sort of well used around this development, commonly known as Roppongi Hills. Mori refers to Mori Minoru (of the Mori clan) and now billionaire building tycoon who constructed the 4 billion dollar development in Roppongi.... the 54 storey Mori Tower being the most dominant part of the development. Whislt Roppongi might have a bit of a mixed reputation, Roppongi Hills is quite a swank location to go out for Japanese, and it also offers a great observation deck (at a pretty pricey 1500 yen) as well as an art gallery and a great selection of restaurants (ranging from reasonable to very expensive).

Just in front of Mori Tower, and just coming out of the Subway Station you will be immediately taken by a very special embassador to Roppongi Hills. Maman. This amazing bronze sculpture which stands some 10m high, straddles the open plaza and entrance to the Mori Art Gallery. It was created by French artist, Louis Bourgeois (1911-2010) who actually intended it to represent the spider aspects of his mother (of all things); a weaver, clever, protector of the family... and of course Maman is the french word for mother. It is used here however to signify that Roppongi Hills was the centre of the social web of Tokyo. It's infuriatingly Japanese in both it's sheer oddity and yet undeniable charm. Though as a last note, the sculpture exists in about 8 or 9 different locations across the globe, so you might yet bump into Louis' immortalised mother on your travels.

Overall, I enjoyed our evening with T-chan's brother in Roppongi Hills - it's a great place to socialise, to eat, see a bit of culture, and possibly head out for a party afterwards. It's also a great place to view that other Tokyo attraction... you guessed it, the real faux-Eiffel Tower, Tokyo Tower. And this view is free.

By the way, Ebisu Garden Place is just a quick train ride away and another great place to socialise. Note - you might also see Ebisu spelt Yebisu... don't get confused, but it's also a name of a beer. Hmmmm Beer.....

And one of the best things to do when you're thinking of beer..... hmmm... is to enjoy a meal of Jingisukan, or Mongolian Lamb BBQ - which is a speciality of my adopted home of Sapporo. And indeed, when in Ebisu Garden Place, you should definitely pop into the Sapporo Beer Station for a Sapporo beer and a slab of bbq'd lamb. Two of my favourite things.