Friday, 11 April 2008

Day 2 Part 1 - Tokyo Metropolitan Government Tower (東京都庁舎)

We didn't have any concrete plans for today, other than a desire to see some cherry blossoms (before they completely disappear). The Tokyo Tourist Information Center is located at the first floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building No. 1, so we headed there hoping to find some information.

Building 1 consists of two gigantic connected towers (until 2006 these towers were the tallest buildings in Tokyo) and some have said the towers look like a Gothic cathedral.


The lobby features and interesting sculpture called Kaneki blossom (dedicated to father) 鉄樹開花(父に捧ぐ):

Underneath the bridge connecting Buildings 1 and 2, with the Shinjuku Park Tower in the background:

And a view of Building 2:

This sculpture is called Sled No. 86 (そり 86番):

And the courtyard features several cherry blossom trees:


Yoshino cherry blossom with our hotel in the background:

This sculpture is called The Empty Pedestal (空の台座):


Both towers contain observation decks on the 45th floor, which are open to the public (no admission charge). Apparently, Tower No. 2 has better views as it is south facing, so we went up that tower.
There's a gift shop and a cafe on the observation deck:

And fortunately, because it was early in the morning, there weren't too many people around:

Here's a photo of me on the observation deck:

View of Tower 1 from the Tower 2 observation deck:

It was hazy morning, so the view probably wasn't as spectacular as it could have been. This is a view looking south. The park is the Shinjuku Gyoen (新宿御苑) - a large (58 hectare) park with English, French and Japanese style gardens. Unfortunately, we did not have time to visit it in our trip, but I found out later that it is a popular hangout for gay couples.

This is a collection of famous Shinjuku skyscrapers: (from left to right) the Sumitomo Building (新宿住友ビルディング), the Mitsui Building (新宿三井ビル), Shinjuku Center (新宿センタービル), and the Keio Plaza Hotel (京王プラザホテル). Behind the Keio plaza is of course our dear old friend the Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower under construction.

Each of these buildings holds a place in the Shinjuku architecture hall of fame:

  • The Keio Plaza Hotel (京王プラザホテル) (180m) was the first skyscraper built in the West Shinjuku area and was the first high-rise hotel in Tokyo. It was the tallest building in Japan from 1971-74.
  • The Sumitomo Building (新宿住友ビルディング) (210m) has an interesting three sided design featuring a massive atrium that extends over the entire height of the building. When completed in 1974, it was the tallest building in Tokyo (a distinction it held for almost 6 months until the Mitsui building came along) and had the world's fastest elevators.
  • The Mitsui Building (新宿三井ビル) (225m) was completed just months after the Sumitomo Building, and became the "highest building in Tokyo" until 1978. It is designed along the lines of a typical American 1970s skyscraper, except for a distinguishing stack of black "X" patterns on the side of the building.
  • The Shinjuku Center (新宿センタービル) (223m) was completed in 1979 and was another challenger to the "tallest building" award (somehow I get the feeling there was quite a bit of competition for this "honour" in the late 70s!). The Shinjuku Center is also the home for PENTAX SQUARE - a showcase of Pentax products (including every single lens ever manufactured!) and the Pentax Forum gallery. Stay tuned - I hope to create a special blog page dedicated to photos taken at the PENTAX SQUARE taken by my Pentax camera!
Here's a photo of the Mitsui Building and the Shinjuku Center from ground level:

And a photo of the Keio Plaza Hotel from ground level:


The Meiji Shrine (明治神宮) is located on the northern end of Yoyogi Park (代々木公園) in the middle of Tokyo. It is dedicated to Emperor Meiji (明治天皇). Although the original shrine was destroyed during World War II, it was rebuild in the late 1950s. Why shrine? Well, Japanese emperors are regarded as deities, so it is perfectly okay to worship a post-humous emperor as a god! Unfortunately, we didn't have time to visit this shrine.

Here's a view of  Shinjuku Park Tower at "bird's eye" level. This is the location of the Park Hyatt hotel featured in the film "Lost in Translation" starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson:

And this is a view of Shinjuku Central Park from above:

The northern half of Shinjuku Central Park (新宿中央公園), containing Kumano Shrine (熊野神社):

Tokyos sprawling Western suburbs, with Tama New Town (多摩ニュータウン) in the far far distance. This is significant, because later on in the trip we visited Tama New Town!

Map of area:

View Larger Map

Full album on Picasa:
[2008-04-11] Japan - Shinjuku

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