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Roppongi & Azabu 六本木 & 麻布

Roppongi Hills at dusk (© moonrise - Fotolia.com)
Roppongi Hills at dusk

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Roppongi

Roppongi is Tokyo's most notorious nightclub district and is considered as a foreigners' favourite hang-out place. It is located between the upmarket residential and business districts of Akasaka (where the embassies of the USA, Canada, Spain and Sweden are located), Azabu (embassies of China, South Korea, France and Germany), and Aoyama. The area has lots of bars and non-Japanese restaurants (Indian, Turkish, Italian, French, American...) and feels distinctively different from the rest of Japan.

The recent opening of Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Midtown, and their upmarket shops and restaurants, has transformed the atmosphere of Roppongi - for the better.

Roppongi Hills' Mori Tower (238m) is a masterpiece of modern architecture. Simply magnificient. It hosts the Japanese headquarters of quite a few big multinationals such as BASF, IBM, TIME, Coach or Goldman Sachs, as well as the Mori Art Museum (see below) and the Grand Hyatt Hotel. With over 200 shops, cafes, and restaurants of the highest quality, Roppongi Hills is one of the best places in Japan to shop and dine. The observation deck on the 52nd floor offers a great vista on West Tokyo, as far as Mount Fuji on a clear day. It is also possible to access the Sky Deck on the roof when the wind is not too strong.

Tokyo Midtown (248m) is now the tallest skyscraper in the Japanese capital. The tower itself is an office building (Yahoo! Japan, Fujifilm, Fuji Xerox, UNIQLO, Cisco Japan, Konami, among others) off-limits to visitors, except for the upper floors which are occupied by the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Midtown is more than just a skyscraper; it has a large commercial centre, divided into the Galleria, the Plaza, and the Garden Terrace, with a vast array of luxury shops and gourmet restaurants. The whole Midtown complex surrounded by a green belt with 140 cherry trees. To the north stretches the Hinokicho Park, beautifully arranged around a pond and Japanese-style garden with rocky streams with little pathways and bridges. Tokyo Midtown is also the home of Design Sight 21_21, a design gallery/workshop created by fashion designer Issey Miyake and architect Tadao Ando.

The Toei Oedo line on the subway network has a direct access to both Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Midtown.

Tokyo Midtown Mori Tower, Roppongi Hills Galleria shopping center, Tokyo Midtown

Museums in Roppongi

Roppongi has been redefining itself over the years as a trendy place for shopping and culture, as opposed to the nightclub district of foreigners (especially Americans) that it used to be. Among the novelties are the National Art Center, which opened in 2007, and the Mori Art Museum, inaugurated in 2003. The former is housed in an ultra-modern facility designed by Kisho Kurokawa. It contains 600 pieces of 20th-century painting and modern art. The latter, perched on the 53rd floor of the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, specializes in contemporary Asian, African, and Japanese art.

Azabu

Azabu is a hilly residential district with numerous embassies and consulates. At the end of August each year, the Azabu-Juuban Matsuri (festival) takes place between Azabu-Juuban Station and Roppongi Hills. There are no mikoshi like in typical matsuri, but many food stalls, a flea market and Obon-odori dances. It is a good place to sample traditional Japanese "yatai" (food stall) food and even foreign cuisine around the embassies.

Azabu-Juban Matsuri, Roppongi Hills

Azabu-Juban-jinja Shrine

Yama-Azabu-ji Temple, Moto-Azabu

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