Tokyo is a city of limited space, given all the people.things.sights.stuff crammed into the city. And so Tokyo takes advantage of its space. This has, in the past, included making use of the rooftops of major department stores. In 2011, they frequently featured pet stores (which seemed like a really, really bad idea in inclement weather. Which could be all the time: extreme heat and humidity in summer, cold and snow in winter, and the typhoons in the fall and rainy season); I am thrilled to see that is hopefully coming to an end.
I’ve heard there are sometimes “playgrounds” on the top floors or roofs – those little merry-go-round things you put some quarters (or 100 yen) in and they work for a minute or two.
But the trend we’ve been seeing in the last few days, in Ikebukuro, Shinjuku and Omotosando/Harajuku, is for rooftop gardens/parks. And it’s great. (I’m giving bonus points to any of Don’s students who incorporate them into their design plans this quarter. Of course, since I don’t actually grade the projects, nor am in any way involved with them, and they don’t know this anyway, they are all imaginary points. But still, I’d love to see what they come up with after checking out a few around the city.)
We stumbled upon one outside the Seibu/Loft mall in Ikebukuro (according to Don, this was – and may still be – the biggest shopping mall in the world) on a surprising night out (Aardvark took a late nap in the carrier on the way home from the Fire Museum – despite my poking and prodding and jostling to keep her awake, she kept falling back asleep. So we decided to make the most of it and actually stay out after dark for a change!)
It was a huge space with several seating areas that had fun funky designer benches in one area, tables and umbrellas in another, bar-style seating near a line of walk-up food stalls, fancier restaurant seating, and seating open to the public all day around a large pool.
It also obviously had great views (but they were hard to photograph – it also had lots of fencing in place to keep people safe).
It had fun and funky artwork (is this massive mural inspired by the Olympics? It seems random here to have a Rio mural?)
It had a large grass area on one end and what would be called a “Japanese garden” in the US on the other end (a bit redundant here!)
And tucked away on the far side of this garden-&-pond area was a Shinto shrine to Inari, one of the most famous kami.
And so Aardvark’s first visit to a Shinto shrine, one of the oldest religions in the world, took place late at night on top of one of the biggest shopping malls in the entire world.
Which seems an entirely, perfectly Japanese experience to me.
Oh Japan. I do love you so.
(And unrelated, but here’s a glimpse of our little street – on the busy side of the canal, not our quiet side – on the walk home from the train station.)