Roppongi Hills Is Talk Of Tokyo With 25 Million Visitors

New Mori Art Museum Opens Joins 200 Flagship Stores, One-of-a-Kind Restaurants
MINATO-KU, Tokyo, Japan (October 29, 2003) – Tokyo is abuzz about Roppongi Hills. Since its opening April 25, the $4 billion city-within-a-city has attracted 25 million visitors to its observation deck, luxury hotel, multiplex cinema and 200 designer boutiques and one-of-a-kind restaurants – double original estimates. And the October 18th opening of the Mori Art Museum – the crowning attraction of this spectacular complex – is destined to make Roppongi Hills the city’s new cultural heart. Even Hollywood is taking notice. Keanu Reeves, Uma Thurman and Angelina Jolie have been seen strolling down the red carpet of Roppongi Hills, Virgin Cinema. And Louis Vuitton – the world’s largest luxury brand – opened a 9,700-square-foot store to standing room only shoppers last month.

Museum in the Sky

Sitting atop the 54-story Mori Tower, the Mori Art Museum aims to be an art institution “where people may experience and reflect upon the culture of our times,” as Yoshiko Mori, chairperson of the Museum explains. The inaugural exhibition, “Happiness: A Survival Guide for Art and Life,” co-curated by the museum’s director, David Elliott and guest curator Pier Luigi Tazzi, features 250 works by 180 artists, including Paul Cezanne, Ito Jakuchu, Henri Matisse, Henry Moore, Takashi Murakami, Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol. Exploring this eternal theme, the exhibition – running through January 18, 2004 – moves through four concepts: Arcadia, Nirvana, Desire and Harmony, traversing Japanese and Asian Classical art from the 6th to the 19th centuries and early Western modern art including Romanticism and Impressionism up to contemporary art. From February 7 to May 5, the museum will showcase, “Roppongi Crossing: New Visions of Japanese Art 2004,” the first ever overview of Japanese contemporary art. Designed by architect Richard Gluckman, the 32,300-square-foot Mori Art Museum is the cultural centerpiece of Roppongi Hills and one of the largest spaces for contemporary art in Asia.

As David Elliott explains, “the museum’s primary aim is to mediate between contemporary art and as broad a public as possible by illuminating the links between art and life. We,ll be focusing on contemporary art as well as on photography, film, design and architecture.” Unusual for Japan, the museum will be open seven days a week until 10 PM and until midnight Fridays and Saturdays.

Sushi to Foie Gras

With over 60 restaurants to choose from, visitors to Roppongi Hills can sample Japanese, Chinese, Indonesian and Korean as well as French, Italian, California and Indian cuisines. There are sushi bars, dumpling shops, soba noodle restaurants and traditional Japanese tearooms and much more. The Mori Company’s stipulation that all restaurants in Roppongi Hills be “original” has been faithfully followed, as have the requirements for bilingual staffs and extended hours. “Chef of the century” Joel Robuchon opened L,Atelier where diners sit at counters munching foie gras brochettes and watch the action as chefs move around the open kitchen. Olives is the first Japanese venture for Todd English, hailed as “Best Chef in the Northeast.” The ubiquitous Wolfgang Puck has opened Puck Cafe and renowned sushi master Jiro is packing them in at Sushi Sukiyabashi Jiro. And tucked away on Roppongi Keyaki-zaka Street is a little jewel box of a soba noodle restaurant that seems to have been transported from a ryokan in the countryside. The Grand Hyatt Tokyo’s ten strikingly designed restaurants could explain why the hotel is running at 90 percent occupancy. Each focuses on originality and authenticity from the clean Scandinavian decor and cuisine of the northern European Juniper to the Kaiseki menus and Kappo dishes of Shunbou, set in a garden surrounded by waterfalls, ponds and trees.

Standing Room Only Shopping

Tokyo residents are already comparing Roppongi Keyaki-zaka Street with Rodeo Drive and Madison Avenue. While the Minato-ku district was home to a number of fashionable boutiques, Roppongi Hills just raised the bar with more than 120 high-end shops of international fashion designers and luxury brands such as Baccarat, Hugo Boss, Courreges, Escada, Christian Lacroix, Loro Piana, Max Mara, Issey Miyake, Kate Spade, Anna Sui, Vivienne Tam, Louis Vuitton, among others. The shopping areas – from the tree-lined Roppongi Keyaki-zaka to the four-story vaulted galleries of West Walk – are designed to draw shoppers in and be in physical harmony with Roppongi Hills.

Integrating man-made with nature, traditional with modern, the architects created a new pedestrian district without diminishing the Buddhist Temple and Edo-style garden and generous use of greenery. Estnation, Tokyo’s most distinctive specialty store has its flagship here. And in September, Vuitton – the world’s largest luxury brand – opened a 9,700-square-foot store. By staying open until 11 PM Thursdays through Saturdays, Vuitton is counting on attracting its share of Japanese shoppers who account for a third of the company’s worldwide sales.

Glamorous New Luxury Hotel Receives Rave Reviews

Positioned to be one of Tokyo’s premier hotels, the 389-room Grand Hyatt Tokyo has been running at 90 percent occupancy in its first six months and its 10 restaurants – featuring Japanese, Chinese, Italian, French and Northern European cuisines – have already served half a million diners including Hugh Jackman, Sandra Bullock with Hugh Grant and Cameron Diaz. Noted architects Kohn Pederson Fox and a world-renowned team of interior designers were commissioned to create the hotel’s dramatic spaces. And striking they are. The Grand Chapel has a 52-foot-high ceiling and cedar walls, the spa features a magnificent 67-foot-red granite swimming pool and the rooftop presidential suite boasts its own private pool and Japanese garden. Guest rooms are equipped with two flat screen TVs (one for the bath), complimentary high-speed “Plug and Play” Internet connection, DVD/CD player with Bose speakers and Frette sheets.

Hollywood Taking Notice

The lavish, high-tech Virgin Cinemas Roppongi Hills was a major draw for the 82,522 Japanese, who flocked to watch Matrix Reloaded. The sci-fi sequel seemed right at home in the futuristic atmosphere of the new Roppongi Hills urban center and the dramatic glass-walled Virgin multiplex received the distinction of being the world’s highest grossing theatre for the movie. Keanu Reeves came for the premiere along with Jada Pickett Smith and Laurence Fishburne. In August, Tom Cruise visited Roppongi Hills to announce his upcoming film: “The Last Samurai.” On September 2nd, Their Royal Highnesses the Crown Prince and Crown Princess joined Angelina Jolie for a charity preview of “Tomb Raider 2” and on October 19th, Uma Thurman and Lucy Lui strolled down the red carpet for the “Kill Bill” premiere.

Open-Air Museum, Sculpture Garden and Street Furniture for the Weary

Louise Bourgeois’ huge bronze sculpture, the spider, Maman greets visitors as they come up from the subway to Roppongi Hills. Martin Puryear’s massive Guardian Stone acts as a sentinel in front of TV Asahi. Artists such as Isa Genzken, Choi Jeong Hwa, Cai Guo-Qiang, Sol Lewitt and Tatsuo Mijajima have contributed twenty striking works to Roppongi Hills, open-air museum, set in and around the traditional 17th century Japanese Gardens. Along the sidewalks, artists have placed whimsical Street Furniture such as: Shigeru Uchida’s red ribbon-like bench entitled, I Can’t Give you Anything But Love; Droog Design’s Day-tripper, a pink fiberglass “wave” incorporating a coffee table, dining table and chairs, and sKape, a long undulating purple seating area by Karim Rashid.

“Artelligent” City That Never Sleeps

With 90 percent of the residences – designed by Sir Terence Conran – occupied and 90 percent of the office space in the Mori Tower leased to tenants like Goldman Sachs and Yahoo Japan and the Grand Hyatt Tokyo running 90 percent occupancies, the 200 restaurants and shops are humming late into the evening. More than 150,000 visitors tour the complex on weekends and 100,000 on weekdays. The 52nd floor Tokyo City View observation deck – that stays open till 1 AM – has already welcomed 1.2 million paying visitors. The nine screens at the Virgin Cinema play movies until 5 AM on weekends. The exclusive Roppongi Hills Club – where membership costs $23,000 – has already welcomed such luminaries as Boris Yeltsin, Richard Branson and David Beckham. TV Asahi has begun broadcasting from their futuristic new headquarters designed by Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki and the schedule of events at the Roppongi Hills Arena ranges from “Morning Tai Chi” to tango lessons, from community gatherings to live concerts. In creating Roppongi Hills, Minoru Mori aims to establish a new concept of urban living in Japan, a place where people can live, work and enjoy art and culture, developing “open minds.” A place where Japanese are optimistic about urban life and westerners feel particularly comfortable. If the first six months are any indication, it appears that his “artelligent city” has struck a chord with both Tokyo residents and international visitors.

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