This site now acts as an archive only. For the latest news, opinion, blogs and listings on disability arts and culture visit disabilityarts.online.

Disability Arts Online

Visit to Roppongi and the Mori Gallery exhibition / 5 April 2011

View of Tokyo Tower from Mori Tower 52nd floor

View of Tokyo Tower from Mori Tower 52nd floor

Zoom in to this image and read text description

In silver dragonskin
the rippling river
slides over the rolling
muscles of the sea.
Quiet now in her lair
Sumida still attracts
my attention. Su mi ma sen.
Excuse me! Not the
apologetic version I
repeat endlessly at home.
Here I am.
Take notice of me!
Su mi ma sen
Sumida showing me
another way, a better way
to be.

Today Sumida sparkles in brilliant sunshine and her reflections ripple on the ceilings of the flat. A good day to visit Roppongi and the view from the Mori Tower.

I have discovered that the shrine I pass on the way to Hatchobori station is Teppozu Inari Shrine, dedicated to the Guardian God of Minato. Minato has been the gateway to Tokyo by sea since the the Edo era, so it surprises me that so few Japanese have heard of it.

I roll over to the station, and complete the usual ritual to board the train. Roppongi is a longer journey and there are no wheelchair spaces in the carriage, so I try to park thoughtfully. My interpretation of Japanese way of thinking is something I call Narrow Focus. You see what you need to see. 

Mostly it benefits me. I enjoy not feeling like a leper; not having people pressing themselves against a wall to give me three unnecessary metres of room; not constantly accusing me of speeding; not loudly warning loved ones that they will be mown down. Here people take it for granted that I will not do anything to upset the system.

The staff are a little less attentive at Roppongi, but it's easy to find my way around. The station is in Roppongi Hills and the Mori Tower impossible to miss. I buy a ticket to the viewing platform and the Mori Gallery exhibition. An ear popping ride to the fifty-second floor brings me to The View. It is indeed impressive.

Tokyo stretches as far as the eye can see; Tokyo Tower, bold and red in the sunlight, is being slowly outshone by Sky Tree, the giant to it's left. The sea of skyscrapers is punctuated by tiny hillocks of soil with mini-diggers working; by patches of rust where old metal objects gather; by gleaming blue ceramic tiles, the tiny roof-tops of ancient and modern buildings; by shrines and temples, the cemetery and the cherry blossom.

Eight lane highways carve grooves into the rich texture, then layer-up road, rail and river, linking the past with the future. Tokyo Harbour is also visible, glinting peacefully, the tsunami not in focus right now. Further around I notice a change in the tone of the misty skyline, this is where Fuji-San lives. I hope there will be time for a dedicated visit and that Fuji-San will not be hiding in the mist.

The gallery is on the fifty-second floor and I'm taken behind the scenes to access the lift. The poster I saw earlier was misleading; "French Window" is an exhibition of works by Marcel Duchamp and various winners of the Marcel Duchamp Prize. The play on words seems overly tedious to me: Duchamp's  playful "Fresh Widow" gains little from bouncing the idea back on itself. A shame because the exhibition is well presented, thought-provoking and fun.

My next destination, the National Arts Centre, is no fun to get to. Rolling through the rather seedy Roppongi Crossing is an adventure, but as the road surfaces begin to deteriorate, the journey gets a little dangerous. And the signposted route ends in steps. I find another way, but the place is closed. I head back to Roppongi Hills.

Later SP and I meet up to eat in the Mori Tower, not his favourite sushi place, which has steps, but somewhere he pronounces acceptable. The food is delicious. We make our way home through the moody half-dark that is Tokyo in recovery. The nuclear reactors and cooling systems are on the TV news. We don't watch it.