Food, Shopping, Entertainment, and More at Tokyo’s Newest Tourist Draws
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A New Destination for Entertainment in Kabukichō
To the northeast of Shinjuku Station, recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s busiest railway hub, are the bright lights and bustling nightlife of Kabukichō. On April 14, the district saw the opening of Tōkyū Kabukichō Tower, a soaring new structure that is part of a project to upgrade the entertainment on offer in the area.
Tōkyū built the 225-meter skyscraper, with 48 floors above ground and 5 below, on the former site of the landmark Milano-za movie theater. The building has no office floors; the higher levels are occupied by two hotels with a total of 635 rooms, and the lower ones dedicated to entertainment facilities, including a cinema, theater, and concert venue.
Sakamoto Ryūichi, who passed away in March, was the sound supervisor for the movie theater 109 Cinemas Premium Shinjuku. It has eight screens with more than 700 seats, all in the luxury class. One room has wraparound screens to the left and right, in addition to the one in front, while another can show movies recorded on 35-millimeter film. A film festival based around the internationally popular Neon Genesis Evangelion film series began on April 28.
Shinjuku Kabuki Hall, on the second floor of the tower, is a 1,000-square-meter neon-lit space based on the concept of Japanese festivals and back-alley ambience. It re-creates a twentieth-century image of Japan, decorated with lanterns and festival floats, offering a range of alcoholic drinks alongside “B gourmet” popular cuisine from across the country, including rice bowl dishes, noodles, yakitori, and gyōza.
Unusually for this kind of building, the area is open almost 24 hours a day, from six in the morning until five in the morning the following day.
Open-Air Baths and More at Haneda Airport
In October 2010, Haneda Airport resumed international flights after 32 years, following the construction of its fourth runway. On January 31 this year, it opened a new Haneda Airport Garden facility at Terminal 3 to make the most of its proximity to the city center and its 24-hour opening times.
The 12-floor building is run by Sumitomo Fudōsan Retail Management. Hotel Villa Fontaine operates on all but the first floor, and with 1,717 guest rooms, it is one of the largest airport hotels in Japan. The twelfth floor boasts natural open-air hot springs from which bathers can look out at Mount Fuji while they watch the aircraft take off and land below. This 24-hour facility, open to hotel guests and others, also has four different kinds of indoor bath, including carbonated and jet baths, and three kinds of hot-stone spas.
There are 73 stores in the shopping zone on the first and second floors. Japan Promenade offers specialty products highlighting Japanese culture and artistic technique, Haneda Sandō’s stores gather souvenirs from around the country, and Haneda Collection features items to make travel more comfortable. There is also a 230-seat food court and a restaurant zone, as well as an all-weather bus terminal offering access to cities and tourist destinations across Japan.
Encouraging More Time Spent at Tokyo Station
If Haneda is the gateway to Tokyo for arrivals by air, the land equivalent is Tokyo Station. March 10 saw the grand opening of Tokyo Midtown Yaesu, a 240-meter-high complex adjoining the station on its east side, with 45 floors above ground and 4 below. Real estate giant Mitsui Fudōsan is behind the third entry in the Tokyo Midtown brand, after those standing in Roppongi and Hibiya.
The top floors of the building are occupied by Bulgari Hotel Tokyo, a venture from the Italian brand known for its high-end jewelry. The shopping zone on the top three basement levels gathers together 57 stores, featuring some of Japan’s top and up-and-coming brands.
For example, Kyoto firm Hosoo, established in 1688, has a showroom displaying more than 200 kinds of textiles produced with 1,200 years of experience in traditional artisanship, and also showcases furniture, artworks, and other pieces. Tsugaru Vidro, meanwhile, is the first store for a company selling traditional glassware from Aomori Prefecture; the colorful glass is produced at temperatures of 1,300 degrees Celsius.
On the second floor, the Yaesu Public space contains a food court and stand-up drinking counters. Food items bought can be consumed anywhere within the space.
Floors 7 to 38 are office space. This is Japan’s first office complex to provide delivery robots. Their services are reserved via smartphone, and the automatons ride elevators by themselves to make deliveries.
A bus terminal on the B2 level will be expanded to integrate express terminals currently scattered around the Tokyo Station area, making it one of the largest terminals nationwide by 2028.
Tokyo Midtown Yaesu should encourage visitors not simply to pass through the Tokyo Station area, but to spend more time there.
(Originally published in Japanese on April 22, 2023. Banner photo: Tōkyū Kabukichō Tower’s design evokes a gushing fountain. Courtesy Tōkyū.)