Visting Roppongi the other day I couldn’t help but take a few photos of the city. The first photo is of the main Tokyo Midtown building during the day. Tokyo Midtown is the latest of the grand city centers in Roppongi, following soon after Roppongi Hills. I can remember, vaguely, what Roppongi was like before these developments when large areas were still being dismantled after many decades of use by the US military. In fact Roppongi has a long history of military. It has always been associated with the Samurai class and the name itself, Six Trees, can be traced back to 1660. It is said that it reflects the names of six noble families living in the area but a more likely explanation is the fact that there were six very large zelkova trees, the last three of which were burned down in the fire bombings of 1945. Roppongi was home to Japanese Imperial army from 1890 until 1945, when the US Military took over. The area was already popular with foreign embassies and this combined with the century of soldiers helped create the lively entertainment business that is now the main attraction of Roppongi. There is everything from the cleanest fine art galleries to the seediest night clubs, often to be found side by side. It is also one of the most international spirited areas of Japan so it pays to be a little more careful.
The second photo is of the famous Roppongi street crossing that used to be the heart of the area. These days Hills and Midtown act as new centers of Roppongi and things have quieted down considerably around the old street crossing. The start of many a classic nights out drinking hard in Roppongi used be take place in front the Cafe Almond on this street crossing: one of those legendary Tokyo meeting spots.
I also got a photo of the Roppongi Hills Christmas tree and the (almost) annual event Whiskey Hills where a major Japanese whiskey brewery serves (very very very very cheap) shots of their best whiskey for people to enjoy under the cold winter night sky. It is hard to resist stopping by if and your friends are in the area anyway.
It is that time of the year again – Christmas illuminations and decorations are up all over Tokyo Midtown and the crowds are as thick as usual! Midtown is strangely photogenic so I can’t resist taking some pictures every time I pass through the area, and every year something changes slightly in their decorations. The Christmas tree though, is the same year after year and as popular as ever.
The illuminations in the park behind Midtown are always crowded and are scheduled to run until December 25th. Most of the crowds tend to stay at the bottom of the field though, and if you don’t mind walking a little up the field it is usually not crowded at all up there. In Japan Christmas is not a big family event, it is more for young couples enjoying a romantic night out. “Older” couples tend to order fried chicken and cake and have a quiet night in. Me, I will be working all through Christmas!
In January I went to see one of Japan’s legendary rock bands, the 5, 6, 7, 8′s who became famous in the west after appearing in the movie Kill Bill back in 2003. The director, Quentin Tarantino found them after hearing their songs being played in a Tokyo fashion store, and you can see him talk about it and the bands performance in the movie here. They performed as guest of one of the best Tokyo rock clubs, the Boogie Shack Rhythm & Soul Club, every first Saturday of the month at the fabulous A971 upstairs lounge in Tokyo’s Roppongi district, Tokyo Midtown. So if you are free tonight you know where to go!
Christmas in Japan is like Christmas in many other countries, more about by consumerism than any tradition or even religion. Families usually spend Christmas together (after work of course) with a cake and some grilled chicken, while young adults or those unattached prefer to spend Christmas eve with their sweethearts. To lure this attraction seeking young crowd many shopping centers put on light displays and events, the most popular of which are so crowded that people have to cue up to get in. There was supposed to be a huge light display at Tokyo station but when the managers understood the huge numbers of people who were likely to show up the event was actually cancelled! I happened to walk through Tokyo Midtown in the Roppongi district on Christmas eve and saw these christmas decorations. While the decorations inside the big commercial center was focused on abstract shapes there were some cute hand decorated snowmen!