In Tokyo, day 4: Roppongi art triangle and TV Asahi
My last day in Tokyo started with a n00b mistake: my phones, computer, calendar, and travel apps have different times (I have to keep tabs of New York, Valencia, and local time when I travel), that’s why I wear an awesome Casio solar atomic watch that has world time. But somehow I did not take into account the “international day line”, so I kept checking the time right… but not the date!
By lucky chance, when I was about to leave the Ryokan, the owner mentioned “are you going to check out before you go sightseeing?”.
– What? – I said, not understanding if she was kicking me out for having conference calls in the middle of the night, or if she had the dates wrong.
– You are leaving today, right?
– Well, I thought I was leaving tomorrow, but now that you mention it… let me double check… oh &$%/&%/“!!!
So I went up to the room, packed, checked-out, left the luggage in reception, and decided to make the best possible use of the few hours I have left. I had the day planned in two sections, when I was still convinced I would have a full day to enjoy, so I had to choose only one, and as usual, art wins. And since I had not yet visited the area before, off to Roppongi it was.
In order to save time, I decided to get something for breakfast from the vending machine in the train station.
– What, the machine is out of pumpkin-chocolate chip mousse? OK, this day has not started well. And here comes the train, oh well, I’ll eat art for breakfast.
Even the sky was sad and it started to rain for the first and last time in my trip. But it all changed when I got to Roppongi.
It was too much to cover even in a few days, so I decided to focus on the highlights: the Art Triangle. First I went to the Suntory Museum of Art in the MidTownCenter, but they were showing a mono-thematic exhibition of Bohemian Glass in which I was not interested. Same with the 21_21 Design Sight: advertising posters exhibition. Since I did not have time to weave through streets looking for the triangle’s many art galleries (Art Unlimited, MA, T&G, Le Bain, Axis, Shonandai MY, art labo, etc), I headed towards my next destination, the nearby National Art Center.
The National Art Center did not disappoint me. They had two exhibitions: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay “The Birth of Impressionism”, which is a fine exhibition, but I had already seen those pieces in Paris, and the NIKA Art Exhbition.
The 100 year-old NIKA Art Association puts up a couple of shows each year. This was the 99th show at the NAC. Three floors chock full (too tightly packed, if you ask me) of Painting, Sculpture, Design and Photography. Talk about art overdose. I was in heaven. It was so refreshing, different, interesting. I love it. So much so that I acquired a work (photography this time) from the National Art Center for my collection.
Then I went to the third vertex of the triangle: the Mori Art Museum, on the 52nd floor of the Mori Tower. But the Mori, I found out, is closed for refurbishment until January 2016. They sure have a nice store, but I had to keep moving.
Before I left for the airport there was one more thing I had to do: next door were the headquarters of TV Asahi, producers, among other fine programs, of Doraemon and Crayon Shin Chan. I had to go there. I had to.
In the atrium between the shopping center and TV Asahi they were holding the Belgian Beer Week, with live music and food stalls. Tempting. But I was on a mission. And I was rewarded by picture opportunities and souvenirs that you can’t find anywhere else. My kids are only going to be little for so long. This is the time for such foolishness.
Back in the hotel, picking up my luggage to go to the airport, I realized that with all that art, I had not had breakfast, the most important meal for me. So I went around the corner to get a Donburi and Sashimi for ¥500. Delicious and awesome value.
Full of energy, but sad for leaving with the impression that there was much much more (http://artspacetokyo.com/artmaps/) to be enjoyed and discovered, I left towards the airport in the direct KS line train with one thought in mind. Next time, I won’t be alone. Japan is to awesome to enjoy it by myself, and it has to be incredible to share it with a loved one. There are too many things I am still to see and do in Tokyo: Koenji and Shimokitazawa, ZenyaRen “food theme park”, Ghibli Museum, Hara Museum, Watari Museum, SCAI the Bathhouse, Mount Takao, Tokyo Tower, Gotokuji…; and many that I wanted to repeat and I did not get to this time: Nakano Broadway, Omotesando, Meijingu-mae st., a Daiso, Cando, Donki, o Seria, KiddyLand…
Even the restaurant scene is awesome, with Tokyo having 14 triple-Michelin-starred restaurants – the most in the world.
Beyond that, of course, there are day excursions that I would love to take, like Mount Fuji, Kamakura, Nikko, Yokohama, Kawagoe, Narita, Nagatoro, Mount Mitake or Mount Nokogiri. And other cities, starting with Kyoto all the way to Okinawa.
Unfortunately, one experience that it seems I will not be having is an Onsen, due to my being tattooed. I wonder where the Yakuza bathe.
So I will return, and I would love to do it with my wife and kids. I can imagine my son’s eyes in Robot Restaurant or in Mandarake. Or my daughter’s in KiddyLand. Tokyo is the safest city in the world. You don’t have to worry if you lose your wallet: ¥3 billion in cash is returned to its owners every year, and according to UN statistics, Tokyo’s homicide rate is a mild 0.4 per 100,000 people – compared to a more “frightening” 5.6 in New York (which we in NY consider super low and safe).
In the meantime, I will be watching NHK World Bagin Japanology, Journeys in Japan, Tokyo Eye, Kawaii International, and Kabuki Kool ^_^