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In and Around Tokyo Midtown

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It surely won’t keep the title for long but the tallest habitable building in Tokyo is currently the Midtown Tower, part of the Tokyo Midtown complex in Akasaka. We spent a day checking out the sights around Midtown, including the National Art Center and the tranquil Nogi Shrine.

Midtown Tokyo

Built in 2007 for over three billion dollars, the mixed-use Tokyo Midtown complex provides office space for leading firms like Xerox, Cisco and Yahoo! Japan, as well as residential apartments for (it seems safe to assume) the ultra-rich. In addition, it’s home to the five-story Galleria Mall, the Suntory Museum of Art and Issey Miyake’s 21_21 Design Sight workshop.

We spent a long time inside the Galleria Mall, walking into a number of shops… nothing which we could afford, of course, but there was some neat stuff. Along with stores selling clothing and household furnishings, there’s a vinoteca dedicated to the wines of Frances Ford Coppola. Even though we couldn’t shop, it was fun to be around such luxury, and one of Midtown’s best attractions is entirely free. Out back, in the shadow of the massive tower, is a gently sloping park that has soft grass, upon which hundreds of people were lying.

Midtown Tokyo

After resting in the park, we walked over to the nearby National Art Center, which also opened in 2007 and is among the largest art halls in Japan, with an ever-changing lineup of exhibits in its many rooms. But we were less interested in the art, than the architecture. The building, designed by Kisho Kurokawa, has a tilted, wave-shaped glass facade and an interior architecture that features huge, upside-down cones.

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Further north along Gaien-Higashi-Dori, we came upon the Nogi Shrine. This is the former home of General Nogi, who served Emperor Meiji throughout his reign. The General had an illustrious career, with victories against both the Chinese and Russians, but today he’s most well-known for a demonstration of ultimate loyalty. A couple days following the death of the Emperor, both Nogi and his wife committed suicide in their home; she by throat-slitting, he by seppuku.

It’s a grisly story (and one I don’t find particularly “honorable”), but today the shrine and its adjoining park make for a peaceful escape from the noise and tawdry luxury of the upscale neighborhood surrounding it.

Locations on our Map: Tokyo Midtown | National Art Center | Nogi Shrine

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June 29, 2014 at 7:45 am Comments (0)

Ikebukuro’s Sunshine City

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It’s best to take Sunshine City’s name at face value. And I don’t mean that it’s filled with sunshine, but that it’s truly a city of its own. This enormous complex spreads across four buildings, including the Sunshine 60, which became the tallest building in Asia upon its completion in 1978.

Sunshine City Tokyo

You could fly into Tokyo, take the metro to Ikebukuro, stay in the Sunshine City Prince Hotel, go shopping the in the Alpa mall, check out the Ancient Orient Museum, and entertain yourself at the Namja Town arcade. That’s a busy schedule, and you haven’t even left Sunshine City. In fact, you’ve barely scratched the surface of what this complex has to offer.

Over the next few days, you could shop in a second giant mall (the Alta), admire the view from the observation deck atop the Sunshine 60, check out the recently-refurbished aquarium, go to the planetarium, catch a show at the Sunshine Theater, play around at another arcade/theme-park called J-World, and choose your meals from around 90 restaurants. What a great vacation you’ve had in Sunshine City! (Next time you’ll have to check out this other city called Tokyo, which I’ve heard is okay, too.)

Jürgen and I experienced a mere fraction of Sunshine City’s attractions. After getting completely lost among the shops on the lower floors, we made our way to the World Import Mart Building, which hosts the two indoor theme parks, Namja Town and J-World. At the top of this building is the aquarium, and below that, a salon dedicated to Go, crowded with serious-looking guys bent over game boards.

We decided to entirely skip the Bunka Kaiken building, along with its Museum of the Ancient Orient, and instead wandered across the Rooftop Sunshine Plaza, on our way to the Sunshine 60. Here, one of the the world’s fastest elevators whisked us up to the top floor.

Considering the admission price, this isn’t among the better observation decks in Tokyo. It was crowded, and you’re not allowed close to the windows, except at a few points which are usually packed with people. But still, we enjoyed Sunshine City, another completely overwhelming place in the world’s most overwhelming city.

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June 18, 2014 at 7:51 am Comments (0)
In and Around Tokyo Midtown It surely won't keep the title for long but the tallest habitable building in Tokyo is currently the Midtown Tower, part of the Tokyo Midtown complex in Akasaka. We spent a day checking out the sights around Midtown, including the National Art Center and the tranquil Nogi Shrine.
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