Leisure & Culture #44

Charm of the Hill

Tokyo Midtown

Written by Kit Chan
Translated by Derek Leung
Photos by Kit Chan

What is the synergy of a hill being laid on a simple piece of grassland? People will thus gather around there and all kinds of interesting things would happen accordingly. This is how a small community is formed.

It was an intriguing project run by Tokyo Midtown in Roppongi, Tokyo last May.

In celebration of the tenth anniversary of Roppongi, a 6-metre soil hill called "Edo Fuji" will be built by the developer in Shibafu Hiroba, the lawned square between the office building and the mall in Roppongi.

A temporary landmark at daytime, the site is a venue for performance in the evening where the hill serves as a canvas for image projection. Designed by Rhizomatiks Architecture, a new media design team frequently employed by the three-girl electro band Perfume, the entire artpiece is an awesome manifestation of the scenery in four seasons and even, what is more, the unrivalled integration of classics and modernity.

Rather than being simply considered another installation art, the entire design is indeed an arousal of the urbanites' natural instincts. While it is difficult to view Mount Fuji among highrises in Tokyo Midtown, it is a good alternative to see an epitome was "planted" with soil waste as well as foliage and bark extracted from nearby trees. After the exhibition, nothing remains except the hill set to decompose into an ideal fertilizer and sent to different gardens in the city for recycling.

The signs that are put up and a screen installed thereon show different ecological data of Mount Fuji including its height, humidity and species. It resembles a small classroom so close for you to get to know the mountain far from you again.

"Edo Fuji" is produced by Seijun Nishihata, a "seed hunter" widely known in Japan in recent years. Inheriting (and subverting) his family's gardening business, he has been travelling around the world to collect precious plants and bring them back for exhibition in Japan. He is from time to time invited to add greenness for enterprises and buildings, bringing the horticulture to an escalated level of art.

With Mount Fuji as the beautiful start, greater ambition can however be observed in the entire tenth anniversary celebration project called OPEN THE PARK, which is to encourage people to go outdoors to the open grass area to enjoy all of its possible uses and think more about the functions of a public area.

Having fun as the beginning, one can do a lot around the hill: thinking, sleeping, eating, drinking, rolling around, taking photos and so on. What a lovely early summer picture it is when the lush lawn is filled with crowds looking for leisure!

Image credit: MIDTOWN OPEN THE PARK

Yoga events each for up to 350 people are even held during daytime and at night in Midtown and the lawn, allowing participants to interact with their inner selves in the city façade and the backdrop of Tokyo Tower.

More humane arrangements comprise the free provision of picnic mats for longer stays, and rattan baskets containing, instead of food, three books selected by the 50 specific keyword search such as "Mount Fuji" and "Japanese Plants", among which include famous works by Yasunari Kawabata and Osamu Dazai, children's drawing books, comics and photographic collections. Visitors can sit and read quietly and at the same time are encouraged to exchange books with others in this human-touch-filled outdoor library.

Image credit: MIDTOWN OPEN THE PARK

In comparison with Tokyo, Hong Kong sees frequent controversy on the drawing line between shopping malls and public areas. It is by all means unimaginable and worth pondering when a developer takes the lead to commence a project like OPEN THE PARK to open up a public area.

A hill can change the nature of a certain area. We need to think big in limited urban space, or we cannot live an unexpected better life.