Thursday, 14 April 2016

Tokyo: City View and Mori Art

And so, on a gloomy afternoon, I finally headed for the Roppongi Hills complex and tower.

Warning: if you don't like spiders, you might want to Page Down a couple of times...

There's a circle of businesses, shops and things around the tower itself, and I found it relatively confusing to work out how on earth I was supposed to actually get into the place. I walked most of the way around before I found an acceptable entrance. On the plus side, there were some reasonably pleasant flowerbeds.

Also a gigantic statue of a spider for some reason. This one really shows just how grey it was that day - but I persevered.

There's a joint ticket for the City View and the Mori Art Museum, so I thought it was sensible to pack both in. They're in the same place, and if one wasn't too interesting at least I'd have another shot.

Observation tower City View

This is a fairly classic "looking from high building" experience. They actually escorted us up to the top floor - you're not allowed to go by yourself for some reason. You can get a rough idea of the holistic view from checking the website.

There's a restaurant by the entrance, which I noted, but I ended up not going there because, well, I assume there was a reason. It was probably too early, to be honest.

As a general rule I try to steer clear of highlighting weird English on menus, because it usually makes you look like a smug git and I appreciate that in Japan popular places generally at least make a modicum of effort towards foreign visitors, a gesture which other countries could do well to emulate. That being said, I found this one delightfully perplexing.

I really want some Diable-style butter rice of birdthigh now.

  • Served with Diable-style butter rice of birdthigh
  • Served with Grilled shall matter tee yale butter rice butakata loin
  • Served withFoie gras hamburg steak mushroom cream source of the butter rice

For reference, the Japanese goes something like this:

  • Chicken thigh meat, diablo-style - butter rice garnish. "Chicken" is usually just written "bird", and Japanese explicitly writes "meat" like most languages; English is fairly odd in having different words for meats and animals, because of history. Although not, in fact, where chicken is concerned.
  • Pork shoulder (buta+kata) roast grille charcutière - butter rice garnish. I can see how "shall... tee yale" came out of this (r becomes l because they're not distinguished in Japanese; tière > tee yale), although I don't get where the "matter" came from.
  • I can't be bothered typing this one out, you can manage it. "Source" and "sauce" are basically interchangeable, after all. And in Japanese "hamburger" is the entire bread-wrapped package, while the meat part alone is "hamburg".

I don't know why the parts of the sentence are so badly muddled though. Wait, I do. Google Translate gives "Served Diable-style butter rice of chicken thigh" so that's probably where it came from originally.

Thunderbird launching site

I feel like buildings just should not be this tall. The clear marks of the storeys really bring it home to me.

Who's that? Proof I was actually there...

It's foggy, but I thought the cluster of pale buildings in the centre

looked like a clump of sprouting fungus (just to be clear, I quite like fungus) or an odd crystal crowth.

Tokyo stretching out into the distance. I quite like the effect near the horizon; the road helps. It's strange to think that anywhere is so very big, with so many people in it. All these shops, offices and apartments; and just about everything you need probably within a couple of blocks, so the same things are reduplicated all over the city.

Aoyama Park, though like a lot of these things it appears rather tarmacy for my taste. Am I just incredibly spoiled from growing up near genuine countryside? Probably.

This appears to be Fujifilm Square. The tall tower may be Sugura Bank, or that might just be one of the companies inside, not sure.

Surprise exhibition

I was a bit disappointed to see that most of the tower was actually closed off while a new exhibition was prepared, because of course that limited what I got out of it. However, it turns out that being quite tall and having a camera give you a bit of a sneak preview...

It turned out they were preparing for a Sailor Moon exhibition. I can't honestly claim to know anything much about Sailor Moon, but I'd have had a look if it was open. But you can have these photos instead.

Lackeys hard at work setting up the exhibition with various historical artefacts

This looks to be original artwork displayed on the walls, but maybe just reproductions of some classic images?

You tell me. Legs three times longer than bodies? Life-size marble statues? I dunno.

More artwork

I presume this shop will eventually sell Sailor Moon-related stuff.

Having had a reasonably nice time looking around at the skyline, and taken quite a few group photos for people, I sloped off to the art museum.

Mori Art Museum

This is actually the view ascending to the museum, looking down towards the entrance. Because the view the other way isn't interesting.

It turns out that the museum is one of the more modern kind, which is to say, most of the artwork is heavy on the concept and light on the discernable aesthetic value. Some of it worked better than others for me.

This one, for example, seems pointless.

The same section featured some art by an artist with developmental abnormalities and prostheses, about understanding or coming to terms with her body. This was a bit more interesting because of the human element, although I confess it was mostly beyond me apart from the actual artwork.

My favourite part of the museum was the next exhibit, about a same-sex family.

The family photo.

A little staged, but full of life.

A really nice snapshot of everyday life; again, a little artificial if you look for it, but warm and believable.

So here's the thing, I actually showed these pictures out of order to deliberately mislead you, sorry.

The project is about exploring how a family might look for a same-sex couple as technology develops.

The parents exist, but their children don't. It's quite melancholy for me, because they seem so alive, and so much like their parents, in the photos.

The next section was about... the experience of being Thai, versus stereotypes, I think. There were various subsections. I am definitely exactly the correct person to comment on or critique this in any way, so yeah, I'm not going to.

This section was a mock-up of a supermarket (well, part of one) showing various kinds of goods. But I have to admit, I couldn't really tell what it was achieving. It's called Fantasy World Supermarket

The museum Flickr page offers some rather better photos, but does not enlighten me in any way.

This was something about small machines. I honestly can't even remember if it was in the Mori or not, but it looks like it.

In the photo it looks like a mess, but if you look closely you'll see lots of cute little robots doing things.

Finally, there was a room full of buttons.

No, I don't know either. But there was a little competition to try and land a button on the pole at the centre of the room, so I had a go, of course (and failed, of course).

I did, however, find the large pools of buttons on the floor to be aesthetically interesting, so I spent a while there taking a few more photos. I do love my super-close-up function...

Roppongi Hills

Museum thoroughly viewed, I returned to Roppongi Hills to explore the shopping centre, and to collect my stuff before the locker timed out.

It's very expensive and quite pretentious, so I limited myself to looking. I'd thought about eating here, but... nope! Too fancy for the most part, too expensive, and also quite busy. I ended up getting a katsu curry near the station instead.

Although the art museum was interesting, I actually liked this flower arrangement more than most of what I saw there. It was just out on display in the shopping centre.

A cool gnarled bit of bamboo root.

There was some kind of big event starting at one of the shops, and huge queues were forming.

The mall is so posh that there are signs strictly forbidding you to sleep there - something I've hardly seen in Japan, where falling asleep in random public places is a national hobby. I did see an older man who'd dozed off, and he was eventually approached and woken by some security guards, and eventually quietly encouraged to leave.


It was a worthwhile way to spend the afternoon, I think. It's all relatively low-key stuff, although it would be more striking on a sunnier day of course. With company it would have been significantly better because then there's someone to talk to, rather than just looking at things and then moving on. The tower and museum were reasonably priced and worth the time.

The mall was, well, an expensive shopping mall, so that's that. It does have useful lockers, though! And nice clean convenient toilets near the station. It's a reasonable place to stop and sit down for a breather too, which is often very hard to find in Japan unless you're actually in a café.

Again, I didn't fancy trying to eat there by myself, but for a couple or a small group it's probably a more attractive proposition. For a lone traveller I just find that sort of place rather stressful.

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