六本木 Roppongi (literally means six trees) has changed a lot in the past decade with the development of Roppongi Hills, a giant complex of residential and retail buildings. When I lived here 15 years ago the main drag, Roppongi crossing/intersection (Roppongi kōsaten in Japanese) was where the international/expat crowd liked to hang out. I used to hear about these nightclubs and bars that catered to gaijin (foreigners) that sounded rather dangerous?! (hostess bars). I’m sure there are still plenty of those places around but now it’s hard to ignore the towering Mori building and all the high-end shops in and around Roppongi Hills. Just on the other side of the Roppongi intersection is another compound of modern buildings/shopping mall/hotel called Tokyo Midtown, which also didn’t exist until about five years ago. When it rains and I don’t feel like venturing out too far I explore different parts of Roppongi Hills but its maze-like layout makes it hard to figure out which way is which. I look at it like a big puzzle and since I’m not shopping or in search of anything in particular, it’s fun to see what I might bump into around the corner.
Mori Building, day & night
When I was planning a trip back to Tokyo I was surprised to find out that the serviced apartment where I used to live 15 years ago on “Terebi Asahi dōri” was still there. I had assumed that since Roppongi Hills took over the entire neighborhood this apartment building would have also been absorbed. On a whim I contacted them and was delighted to learn that they had an apartment available for rent. I booked it right away. I knew that everything around it had changed dramatically but I was really curious to see what it would feel like for me to return to the same place again.
Mohri Garden at Roppongi Hills, two blocks down the street from my apartment.
I used to take the airport limousine bus from Narita to ANA hotel and taxi over to the apartment. But with the Grand Hyatt Tokyo Hotel just across the street it made it even easier to get to Roppongi this time (the limousine bus now makes stops at ANA, Grand Hyatt, and the Ritz Carlton at Tokyo Midtown). When I got off the bus I could tell directionally where Terebi Asahi street was and from there it took just a split second for me to recognize the old building. It felt a bit out of place with all the new highrises (Court Annex Roppongi is only 10 stories) but I smiled at the sight of the place I called home for a year.
Paper origami cranes waiting for me at my apartment in Roppongi
The management office was still on the 3rd floor, and the staff were just as kind and nice as they were so many years ago. My apartment back in 1998-1999 was on the top floor, and from the balcony I could see the Tokyo Tower not too far away. This time I’m on the 9th floor and even though I’m facing the same direction, two Roppongi Hills residential towers are blocking my view of the Tokyo Tower.
View from my apartment balcony
When I first arrived I felt as if I were in a time warp, like this apartment building was transported from 1999 into this bright and shiny future. Not much of the apartment building had changed over the years; the furniture in the unit has been updated but the elevator, hallway, and the basics of the apartment are exactly as I remember them. I don’t recall having a rice cooker in the kitchen so maybe they did upgrade and added a few things. As far as serviced apartments go, I think this one is pretty nicely equipped. They provide dishes, pots, pans, wine glasses, cutlery, and utensils. I also found a coffee maker, microwave, toaster oven, and yes, a rice cooker. Since all the appliances are Japanese there are laminated cards with English instructions.
With a large fridge, washer, drier, fax/phone combo, and a fast internet connection (plus cable TV), what else could I want? OK, the weekly maid service is a nice plus but because I don’t want her to think of me as a total pig, I tidy up and clean the apartment BEFORE she comes on Tuesdays. I know. It’s silly but I can’t help it.
I have thoroughly enjoyed living here again and had my friends over a few weeks ago for a sleep over party… just like how we used to do it 15 years ago. I had a lot of fun preparing for the gathering and we spent the whole night laughing and reminiscing- I’ll save that post for another day.
A giant spider sculpture in front of Mori Tower, Roppongi Hills
There is usually something going on around here; the other night on my way home there was a pop-up doughnut operation and giveaway. Inside this structure (photo below) Mister Donut (“misdo” for short) set up a real kitchen.
Roppongi Hills is celebrating its 10 year anniversary and there has been a lot of free events lately. On a recent weekend this French performance group “Les Giraffes” with their stilt-walking show made the neighborhood place feel like a circus.
People who know Tokyo rolled their eyes a little when I told them I used to live in Roppongi because of its reputation as a nightlife destination. But it was home to me then and I liked it for its convenient location. I wondered whether I’d still feel the same here when I came back. Strangely enough, Roppongi still feels comfortable. I think because Tokyo is such a large city it’s nice to know that there is a small part of this metropolis that’s familiar to me.
It took me over a decade to revisit Tokyo but I won’t wait that long to come back here again. I’d forgotten how much I like this city and this country. I’m even thinking about studying Japanese again…
Roppongi Hills: 六本木ヒルズ Subways Hibiya line and Oedo line, Roppongi stop
Tokyo Midtown: 東京ミッドタウン 9-7-1 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Court Annex Roppongi: www.asahihomes.co.jp