As a sharp-eyed former colleague pointed out, the cover star here is none other than footballer Hidetoshi Nakata, who once improbably spent a season playing for Bolton Wanderers. The complex has, of course, an extensive garden area, and we went there to escape the hustle and bustle of some sort of product launch that was going on in the main building. The contrast of the greenery of the gardens and the glass and steel of the complex was startling.
As we walked around town, other odd conjunctions could be seen. Even in the most fashionable part of Tokyo, you might still see very modest, traditional places cheek-by-jowl with huge statement buildings designed to show off corporate power.
Our hotel, in the south western part of downtown Tokyo, was a few minutes' walk from the Hiro-O subway station, which gave us access to the quick and efficient transport system. The following day, we wanted to see the some more of the capital, so we bought a cheap day ticket and headed out early, making our first stop at the Hama-Rikyu gardens in Shiodome, a peaceful green enclave in the midst of the corporate towers. The garden dates from the seventeenth century, when it was built as a retreat for the shogun and his family. There's an island teahouse, and lots of flora and fauna. It's a very pleasant way to start the day, but our main purpose in visiting was because it's the starting point for the Sumida River trip.
The river trip takes you north to Asakusa, passing under many bridges, and giving a flavour of the city from an unusual standpoint. The landmark building at Asakusa is the Asahi brewery building, designed by Philippe Starck, which dominates the view when you arrive at the jetty. It's meant, apparently to look like a beer glass, to complement the beer mug-shaped building to the left, and the peculiar golden top is supposed to be the froth. For reasons that will be obvious, the locals refer to it as the "poo building" and the topping as "the golden turd."
|Some smoke rising from the incense burner|
Our next stop was Ueno Park, originally yet another temple complex, but now home to several of the city's galleries and museums. Perhaps the most notable for us was the Le Corbusier-designed National Museum of Western Art, outside which stand a series of sculptures by Rodin, including a version of The Thinker, and his massive, and massively impressive, Gate of Hell.
|Rodin's Gate of Hell|
Yanaka's shopping streets diverted us for a while, and we finally gave in to the temptation to buy a souvenir in one of the many shops selling pottery.