Our second and final Tokyo blog places the spotlight on the destinations we visited and what makes Japanese buildings and mixed use estates some of the best in the world. From the Skydeck of the second tallest structure in the word to the imposing but creative Midtown campus, we sped across the city searching for the most exciting ideas to bring back with us.
The focal point of the Tokyo Midtown Campus is a 54 story commercial tower which is home to some of the most prestigious companies in the world; Coca-Cola, Sony, Nike and Blackstone to name a few, blended with a number of creative and digital agencies. This gigantic Campus features a verdant central plaza and park, a shopping complex on the lower floors, an Art Gallery and one of the best flex and co-working spaces we’ve come across anywhere in the world, ‘Work Styling’.
The lobby experience was contemporary and uncluttered, with a well provisioned concierge team supporting use of many digital facility guides which made navigation a breeze.
On the day of our visit the sun was shining so we decided to head to the central plaza and park to recce the area and top-up our vitamin D levels at the same time.
Connected to the main tower complex by footbridge, the park grounds are brilliantly landscaped, and somehow offer Tokyo’s citizens a haven of peace and tranquillity right in the heart of one of the city’s busiest districts.
Sculptures and art are everywhere, but it’s how the space merged form with function that really caught our attention. The summer events calendar (including a Hawaiian Festival and different brand pop-up stores and cafes) was printed throughout the gardens on large canvases, including a useful map of the park grounds and signposting the numerous event spaces.
Luckily, there was a brand pop-up store live during our visit. The modular store and café from Gwyneth Paltrow’s ethical and socially conscious lifestyle brand Goop were both a hit with visitors, who were picking up beauty and fashion products along with homewares and then enjoying an iced green tea in the sun afterwards.
Goop is a retailer we’ll be keeping tabs on, and their mission to encourage shoppers to purchase fewer things that are better hits the spot with us.
Next up was a visit to the Design Sight Gallery to exercise our creative muscles. We wandered around their Sense of Humour exhibition which explores the cross section of art, humour, communication and the absurd.
Thoughtfully curated, one of the highlights of the collection was a collection on the interaction between humans and machines. I don’t think there are many of us who’ll disagree with the sentiment behind this piece.
We also came back with a beautifully typeset new book on Japanese architecture for our reception coffee table. Look out for it when you next visit us.
Leaving the Midtown campus for our next destination, we found a suite of simple, multilingual wayfinding and a marked 1.3k run route, which at least one of our party would have been willing to test if it wasn’t for the now rapidly rising temperatures.
Working with a local school, the estate team had also created an outdoor picnic mat art exhibition, which was being viewed by many members of the public, ourselves included. Proof if any was needed that the simple, low-cost ideas are often the most effective.
Standing at 634m, The Skytree dominates the city skyline and is the second tallest structure in the word. As is the trend in Tokyo, the bottom floors are dedicated to a shopping mall and leisure complex with direct access to Oshiage Skytree Subway station.
After exploring the shopping and eating a very Japanese late lunch of Octopus done five ways, we headed for the Skydeck to take in the views and understand more about how the facility was commercialised and enlivened.
After buying tickets, we headed direct to the first level of the observation deck. Home to a café, restaurant and art exhibition, we walked around the circular observatory and were wowed by the stunning vista over Tokyo at sunset. This level also included an educational VR experience, showing visitors all the viewable major landmarks across the city.
The highest observation deck, which visitors have to pay a further supplement to access, is home to the highest theatre in the world, along with a permanent Hello Kitty experience which can only be described as, well…a little strange, even if you’re a fan.
Ginza is Tokyo’s luxury hopping district, and is home to flagship stores of all the biggest global fashion, jewellery and watch brands.
Visiting at the weekend, we were pleasantly surprised to see the main arterial thoroughfare, as well as several side streets featuring many creative independent boutiques and more high-end fashion retailers, were fully pedestrianised. Oxford Street, are you watching?
What really sets Ginza apart is the architecture. Rather than inhabit uniform buildings, each luxury label operates from their own unique building, typically with a small, compact footprint but upwards of seven stories. Brands designing and constructing their own buildings has led to an architectural arms race, with particular front runners being Louis Vuitton, Dior, Cartier and Mikimoto. Decide for yourself which brand wins.
Throughout the city, one thing that was immediately and consistently noticeable was the cleanliness, complete lack of graffiti and attentive standards of customer service. It’s clear that Tokyo Natives take a great deal of pride in their city, and rightly so.
Akihabara is a district famed for its electronics retailing and bright neon illuminations. We spent time browsing various consumer goods and robotics products whilst simultaneously lamenting the stratospheric levels of light pollution and energy consumption. Before catching our return connecting flight at Abu Dhabi Airport, we found an energy capturing flooring solution in Departures from Pavegen which turns kinetic energy into off-grid power. How many footsteps would it take to power the Akihabara district for just one 24 hour period? Answers on a postcard please…