Saturday, April 25, 2015

The six trees of Roppongi

Roppongi is one of the more famous, or rather infamous, nightlife areas of Tokyo. Home to a plethora of bars and restaurants, it's often the first stop for foreigners new to Japan looking to dip their toes into the waters of a foreign land. The sports bars are popular and often broadcast events in English, something of a rarity when 99.9% of customers are non-English speakers. And recent police crackdowns have led to a noticeable decline in the street hawkers looking to entice the unwary into their clubs.

But the question arises, if Roppongi means "six trees" (which it arguably does), where exactly are they? Mentioned in Mishima's book "Spring Snow", they were in theory still around in 1912 when the book was set. And there are also stories that the first three were felled long before the final three met the same fate. Certainly there are no signs of them anymore though my Japanese teacher when I first arrived explained they had been uprooted to make way for a branch of the Asahi Bank (also no longer with us).

Interestingly though, no early photographs of the trees appear to exist. The trees themselves were thought to be zelkova which in Japanese is known as keyaki and indeed there is a street in Roppongi called Keyakizaka (Keyaki Hill). But there are few trees there today. So I'm going to go with a working theory. Roppongi Hills is a sprawling expanse of offices, high end boutiques and residential apartments. And at it's centre is the Grand Hyatt with an excellent restaurant called Kayakizaka. And remind me to ask Mori-san if this actually was the location next time I see him. 

Spring Snow by Yukio Mishima

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