The inspiration people seek: Images that invariably come to mind in association with Roppongi Hills are prosperity, modernity and a presence second to none. Whether you actually visit it and experience its many intertwining areas directly, or view its central symbol of Roppongi Hills Mori Tower from the Shutoko or some other vantage point around town, there’s no doubt that Roppongi Hills leaves a distinct impression, though in different degrees and with different impressions for different people. Perhaps what draws people to the Roppongi Hills complex is twofold: the magnet-like attraction from the many leading companies and individuals in a variety of industries have set up main offices here, and how the building acts like a beacon that outshines the long shadow cast by Japan’s “Lost Decade.”
Roppongi Hills has many different faces depending on the time of day your visit, or whether it’s a weekday or the weekend. For example, if you visit in the daytime on a weekday, the people you see are mainly those who work in the vicinity—a microcosm of today’s “global economy.” If you visit in the evening on a weekend, the beauty of the illuminated Mori Tower and the decorative lighting in the complex’s spaces tells you this is the contemporary world at its cutting edge. Even the Mohri Garden here is not just another Japanese garden but a space created with a new contemporary Japanese aesthetic.
When viewed from a distance as well, Roppongi Hills (or the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower to be exact) has a distinctively contemporary look and the contrast between the Mori Tower and the surrounding cityscape is another example today’s “Japan” that might be particularly recommended for visitors from overseas to see. Also, if you explore the neighborhoods around Roppongi and Azabu, you are likely to discover some unexpected collaborations of Japanese “contemporary” and “traditional.”
In short: The Roppongi Hills complex consists of: the central Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, a 238 meter tall 54-story office building with Japan’s highest open-air observation deck (called the “Sky Deck” and standing 270 m above sea level) and the Mori Art Museum on its top floors, the Roppongi Hills Residences (twin high-rise luxury condos), the Grand Hyatt Tokyo hotel, the headquarters of Asahi Television, arts and culture facilities like the Toho Cinema complex, various other business establishments and the Mohri Garden that stands as a reminder that this was once the estate grounds of the feudal Lord Mori in the Edo Period. Read more Roppongi Hills was originally designed around the concept of being “Tokyo’s cultural center.” The unique and complex layout here blurs the boundaries between the various facilities and is the tangible result of a collaborative effort of architects, designers and artists from around the world. There’s even a place where you can encounter one of the little joys of spring in Tokyo: a mother karugamo duck raising her many chicks.
Some background: Today’s Roppongi Hills is located on land that was once the estate and grounds of the powerful Mori daimyo (feudal lord) and his clan in the Edo Period. Also, the surrounding neighborhoods that are now the Roppongi business and entertainment district were once a quiet town dominated by the grounds of large estates, temples and shrines. Like other daimyo residences, the Mori estate was transferred into the hands of private citizens during the Meiji Period and became the site of businesses and tightly grouped residential homes until the 1990s. Unlike today, the Roppongi entertainment area was formerly concentrated around the Roppongi intersection and the flow of people tended to move in the direction of nearby Nogizaka or Iikura, leaving the present site of Roppongi Hills a rather quiet area not much different from that of the Edo Period. Read more In 1986, the area was designated as a “redevelopment inducement area” by the Tokyo metropolitan government, ushering in a period of change. In 1995, the “city plan” for redeveloping the area was approved, and after agreements were reached with the parties holding the land rights here, construction of Roppongi Hills began in the year 2000—just before the dawn of the 21st century.