Continuing my sojourn in Tokyo, I decided to venture into the southern quarter of the city since I hadn’t checked it out yet. I’m staying in Asakusa, in northeast Tokyo (traditionally an older part of town), so I took a quick detour to neighboring Ueno to walk through the famous street market there, Ameyoko.
Running alongside (and sometimes under) the train tracks of the Yamanote Line, Ameyoko is something of a bargainer’s market, where tons of tiny street shops sell anything from raw fish to New York Yankees baseball caps. It was an experience just to walk through and be hit by strong seafood smells out of nowhere, but I didn’t linger too long since I wasn’t actually interested in buying anything.
I then hopped on the subway and headed south. My original plan was to get off at Shiodome (near Tokyo Bay) to see the park there that is famously encircled by skyscrapers, but I may or may not have fallen asleep on the subway (it was a 30-minute ride after all) and missed Shiodome by a couple stops.
I wasn’t particularly perturbed though because the stop I woke up at was Roppongi, the modern hub of Tokyo. Revolutionized only in the last couple decades, Roppongi is home to many of Japan’s top IT sector, in addition to magnificently-designed buildings. During the day, it is swarming with salarymen in suits (although, so is almost all of Tokyo), though at night it has a bit of a negative reputation for its clubs and ‘hostess’ bars that supposedly charge exorbitant fees.
Roppongi is largely dominated by two cities-within-cities: Tokyo Midtown and Roppongi Hills. I headed to Roppongi Hills today, a perfect example of Tokyo’s love for city-like complexes. It has numerous cafes, an underground shopping mall with designer brands, cuisine from around the world, a couple hotels (one of which is the really elegant Grand Hyatt), a cinema complex, all of which are under shade of the towering Mori Tower.
Standing around 240 meters high, Mori Tower has a great modern art museum on its 53rd floor (I really enjoyed the film exhibit they had on the 2011 earthquake and tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear issue). More spectacular though is Tokyo City View, the 360-degree observatory that allows for wide views across Tokyo. Even more exciting (well, for me) is that they have an open-air roof that, when weather permits, is open to visitors.
As usual, I tried to time it so I could be at the top during sunset (I’m a sucker for the photographic opportunities), and it definitely did not disappoint.
As I circled around the rooftop taking pictures, I noticed the sun was setting directly behind what I initially thought were bunches of clouds.
I then realized I was looking southwest – the location of Japan’s number one trademark, Mt. Fuji (fujisan in Japanese. Side note, the ‘san’ here isn’t actually the same -san used as a term of respect when addressing people. ‘San’ is another way of pronouncing the character for mountain). I was really lucky to be able to see Mt. Fuji since it is normally blocked by haze and clouds, but now that autumn is in full bloom, the skies are generally pretty clear.
It was honestly an amazing experience seeing the vast, blinking metropolis of Tokyo underneath the highest mountain in Japan, and I definitely recommend Mori Tower to those who come to Japan and want a panaromic view to write home about.
It’s a great sight from atop the tower, moreso because buildings in Japan above a certain height (not sure what it is) are required to have blinking-red lights on their corners, presumably for air traffic reasons. In any case, as soon as the sky darkens, you can observe from up above the sea of lights begin to flicker into being, and Tokyo evolves into a whole other mega-metropolis at night.
Anyway, I was pretty tired and cold (it’s really chilly and windy at the top of these observatories) so I rode the subway back to my hostel in Asakusa, forgetting it was rush hour (cue packed trains).
That’s all for today. Thanks as always, here are a couple more pics: