Tokyo’s notorious nightlife district, once synonymous with drunk GIs and expat excess, still offers plenty of after-dark action at its numerous pubs, clubs, hostess bars and other entertainment spots. However, the huge urban redevelopment program that began in the early 2000s has seen it grow into a formidable cultural, business and consumer hub, making it a worthy daytime destination full of delights and diversity.
The most notable additions that have been responsible for Roppongi’s transformation comprise of the “Art Triangle Roppongi”: The National Art Center, Tokyo, the Mori Art Museum, and the Suntory Museum of Art (discounts are on offer if you visit all three). The National Art Center, Tokyo is an impressive undulating glass, steel and concrete design, and one of the largest exhibition spaces in Japan, regularly hosting high profile art exhibits. The Suntory Museum of Art is in Tokyo Midtown, another major part of redeveloped Roppongi. A complex of six buildings – of which Midtown Tower once held the mantle of Tokyo’s tallest (surpassed in 2014 by Toranomon Hills) – Tokyo Midtown is home to the Ritz Carlton along with numerous other businesses and shops.
Photography fans will enjoy Fujifilm Square, which aims to showcase photographic talent both past and present within its free-to-enter gallery spaces. Visitors can also check out (and rent) the latest Fujifilm camera gear or browse antiques from its prestigious past in the Photo History Museum section. Another great addition to Roppongi’s art scene is found on the edge of Midtown’s park – the multipurpose 21_21 Design Site, which features sleek large-scale twin roofs that stretch down to a point on the ground.
The Hills Are Alive with Entertainment
If anything provides a stark contrast to Roppongi’s former sleazy image it’s Keyakizaka, a 400m-long avenue alongside Roppongi Hills. Heads will be turned by Keyakizaka’s top-class boutiques and the occasional supercar purring down the road. It’s beautifully lit up with illuminations during the festive season. Move inside the Hills complex for a plethora of entertainment options including those at Grand Hyatt Tokyo (especially The Oak Door Steakhouse and its accompanying bar), a multiplex cinema, exquisite Japanese garden and pond, Mori Art Museum, plenty of shopping and dining options … and a giant steel spider (“Maman” by Louise Bourgeois). It’s possible to catch great views of Tokyo Tower from parts of the concourse but for a spectacular 360-degree view of the surrounding area head up to Tokyo City View Lounge on the 52nd floor of Mori Tower (or go even higher to the open-air rooftop Sky Deck) — great for observing a decent sunset over the city.
Chock-a-block with expats and tourists, Roppongi remains a melting pot of foreign influence, and this is none more evident than in its diverse dining options. Swedish food (Lilla Dalarna), Finnish food (Finland Kitchen Talo), Chinese food (the slightly brazenly staffed and decorated Chinese Cafe 8) and much more awaits. Options within a proximity that wouldn’t be out of place on the high street of a South London suburb include a wonderful Indian restaurant (Moti), an authentic fish and chip shop (Malins), and a number of kebab houses.
A little bit further down from Roppongi Midtown, new kid on the block Pizza Slice offers, as its name suggests, fantastic New York-style pizza by the slice. If you prefer your pizza to be consumed whilst knocking back some quality craft beer, then head over in the evening to Pizzakaya. Burger aficionados will be pleased to note that Roppongi Hills holds an annual Gourmet Burger Grand Prix during the summer where a selection of restaurants offer up their takes on the American classic. A regular winner of the accolade, Rigoletto‘s simple yet refined effort is thankfully a feature on its daily menu so it can be enjoyed throughout the year. For a popular vegan dining option, Falafel Brothers has been a hit with the lunchtime crowd since opening in 2017, offering a hefty falafel sandwich with a range of interesting toppings.