Designed by Kenzo Tange to resemble a computer chip, Tokyo’s Metropolitan Government Office Building is a set of three towering skyscrapers, in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo.
Two of the towers have a panoramic Observatory on the 45th floor, or 202 metres up, and there’s a few things about them that are rather special.
As well as one of the most amazing illuminated Cityscape outlooks you’ll find, the T.M.G. Building Observatory is open to the public, every night till 9pm, and what’s more – entrance to the observatory is FREE to the public.
Now that’s something that doesn’t come along too often, does it?
But back to the building. Impressive by day, the view was spectacular by night.
This is one of the views that awaits you.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government building complex occupies an entire block close to Shinjuku station. Entrance is via street level or a subterranean shopping arcade and underground walkway. There are actually two observatories, one in the North tower and one is the South tower, each with alternate openings times, so that if you visit two nights in a row, you might see two different views.
This is important to note, as it can be somewhat disorienting, if you exit via a different lift than you entered previously. Or perhaps it is only a sign of my approaching the elder years?
Uniformed Security Personnel are on hand to check bags prior to entering the lifts in the main foyer. In typical Japanese fashion, these Assistants are immaculately dressed, polite and helpful. Note that there will be a queue to enter the lifts, so factor this into your time allowance when visiting.
I would allow 45 minutes to an hour for this experience. Longer if you want to browse the gift shop or eat at the rooftop restaurant – which comes complete with faux Roman columns! The few trip advisor reviews for the restaurant I read, were mixed but they would surely have a first class view.
When you return to ground level, don’t forget to keep an eye out for an interesting clock in the foyer.
Even in the daytime, the building is quite impressive. In the foreground is a walkway across the busy street.
If you are observant of details and the resolution is not too small, you might note there is what appears to be a homeless person in the foreground. This was the only one I ever saw in the time visiting Japan. He appeared to be reading his Buddhist scriptures in the morning mist. I know that he was Buddhist, not that it is of any consequence to me what religious persuasion he was.
I realized this at a much later date, when I was informed by one of our guides that Shintoism does not have any written scriptures. In fact, anyone can invent a deity in Shinto if it is meaningful for them. They have thousands of deities.
One attraction that everyone comes to see in Trondheim, Norway, is Nidaros Cathedral and yet it is the nearby Værnes church in Storjdal that, for me, holds more fascination, at least in a historical sense.
Not only does the Værnes Church have a purpose-built ‘Weapons House,’ that dates back to Viking times, but you get to see Viking age architecture in regular daily use and see some of Scandinavia’s earliest church frescoes.
In the 11th Century, any self respecting, newly Christianized, Viking carried with them a range of knives, axes and other paraphernalia used in defence, and weapons such as these were banned from Church. When the Priest really wanted the new Christians to attend Church, he had to provide a purpose built structure to safely lock up any instruments of death. And so the Weapons House was built. Ten centuries on, I believe the ‘House,’ now accommodates nothing more deadly than a garden hoe or lawn cutter. [Watch out for your toes].
The interior of the church takes the visitor straight back to the 11th Century and is every bit as unique as the Weapon House. The roof trusses, pictured below, span 11 metres and are completely original. This is Viking carpentry at its finest and it is the only original roof of its type, still in existence. Notably, the trusses were used as a design template in reconstructing the roof of Nidaros cathedral and Håkonshall in Bergen.
What you see above you, at Værnes, is what a Viking saw ten centuries ago.
A raised and carved chair (c 1685), see above, was constructed as the private pew of General Von Schultz, the local Squire. It makes me slightly recoil to tell you this but, the wooden lattice ‘cage’ below was for the wives to sit, ( either Von Schultz or the Pastor’s wife. It is embarrassingly even referred to as a ‘wife’s cage.’ Awful, I know, but that is history.
Faces carved into the interior of this elevated chair are thought to depict the face of Von Schultz, but no one is quite sure of that. To me, some of them more resembled a gargoyle or the “north wind.”
The wall mural pre-dates the carved pulpit and is also original. Echoes of a world now past.
A fresco on the wall that looks like a hood from a pulpit remains a mystery to historians. The meaning and significance of this symbol has been lost.
Threatened by the Nazis during the war years, with their intensive infrastructure plans for a military base and airport, at Trondheim, Værnes Church survived and is still used for church services today. In fact, the church is so popular for baptisms and weddings, it is booked out many months and sometimes, years in advance.
Make a small detour from Værnes Lufthavn, (Trondheim airport), to Stjørdal, in Norway and you can walk the path of history.
Værnes Kirke is an important link to the past and something to ponder about. Linking to Jo’s Monday Walks – a tad earlier
“We don’t catch hold of an idea, rather the idea catches hold of us and enslaves us and whips us in to the arena so that we, forced to be gladiators fight for it.”
– Heinrich Heine 1797 – 1858
So says the inscription on the statue of German Poet, Journalist and literary critic, Heinrich Heine, in Berlin, Germany. His words of wisdom have often intrigued me and it was for that very reason that I tracked down his statue, on a recent trip to Berlin.
Why bother to search for a statue, you might say? After all, the Heine statue is a little off the usual tourist path and one has to actively search for it, [and you already know that I was doing just that]. It is because I’ve been fascinated by the liberal, and at times prophetic words, of this free thinking writer and how his words written in the 19th century, became catastrophically true, in the twentieth century. But more about that a little later.
Heine’s statue sits in a small square, fringed with manicured hedges and shady trees, and is a suitable spot to rest and reflect, as Heine did, upon the world, (although I suspect, today’s visitors might update social media, rather than navel-gaze). Whilst mapping out my walking route around Berlin attractions, finding his statue was a short stop before my walking destination – the Pergamon, a Berlin absolute ‘must – see’.
The Pergamon is situated amongst a complex of museums, housed in several palatial buildings on Museum Island. The classic architecture of the museum buildings harkens back to Ancient times and is an excellent visual attraction in itself.
Also in the Museum complex, the monumental Neues Museum, circa 1800’s, contains Ancient art and archeology, whilst Neoclassical art fills the neighbouring and awe-inspiring Altes Nationalgalerie.
But, I am here to see the Pergamon itself, and its jewels in the archaeological crown – one of which is the excavation finds of frieze panels of the Pergamon Altar, reclaimed in archaeological digs, from 1878 to 1886. Disappointingly, for me and future visitors, I find that the Pergamon Altar exhibit is closed for renovation, until 2019. Well, maybe next time.
What you won’t see till 2019. Wikipedia Photo
Nevertheless, I am aware that one ‘altar’ doth the Pergamon, not make. There are other ‘jewels’ to see. Some of the other monolithic exhibits, such as the Market Gate of Miletus, the Ishtar Gate and the Processional Way from Babylon, are overwhelming and to say that is a complete understatement. Just look at them!!!
If you don’t ever get to visit the historic sites of the Middle East yourself, visiting the Pergamon will make you feel like you have!
The exhibits are unlike anything I have seen and are but a small window into the world of ancient civilizations. I am completely gobsmacked by the level of intricate detail and the skills necessary to produce such fine work.
To Plan a visit, go to the Museum website here, and please note there’s an option to purchase a combo ticket, for entry to all three museums, at a discounted price. A good tip to remember is to arrive at the Pergamon around opening time so as to avoid the lengthy queues commonly found, later in the day. I arrived just on opening time, and already the queue to enter took around 20 minutes.
If you decide the queues to the Pergamon are too long on your arrival, the surrounding gardens and Berlin’s Domkirke cathedral are in themselves, a delight to see. The square in front of the Cathedral church is filled with buskers, street artists, and unfortunately, a few less desirable folk angling for the tourist dollar, legally or illegally. Be careful with your money around them.
The Pergamon Museum complex is located on Bodestraße 1-3, Berlin and if you don’t want to walk there, from your accommodation, as I did, you can take a Bus, Tram, UBahn or Uber. Me? I enjoyed the a brisk, but lengthy early morning walk from my room at Comfort Hotel Auberge, which is located on Bayreuther Straße, a few steps from Wittenbergplatz station, but the walk back was a little too much, after being on my feet all day, so a bus near the Brandenberg gate took me right back to Kurfürstendamm, and then it was only a short stroll home past the farmer’s markets.
Hotel Auberge is family run boutique hotel with classic old world features. Think ornate plaster ceilings, chandeliers in every room, carpeted stairs with turned wooden banisters, and a spacious room overlooking a leafy courtyard. Breakfast is an ample and satisfying buffet and tea is served to your table.
On a 37° Celsius summer day like this one, the balcony seat was a perfect place to enjoy the sounds of the birds, and the city waking from its slumber before embarking on my walk.
The modern KaDeWe and Kurfürstendamm shopping precinct, the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, the Europa-Center and the Zoological garden are an easy 10 minutes walk away.
On my lengthy walk around Berlin, and the Pergamon, I was happy to find Heine, and pondered his thought-provoking words, especially his tragically prophetic line from the 1821 play, Almansor,
“Where they burn books, they will, in the end, burn human beings too.”
Today, as I read a book called Stasiland by Australian author, Anna Funder, and learn of what it was like to live in the GDR, prior to the fall of the infamous Berlin Wall, I remember the inscription on Heine’s statue and ponder more his words, in much the same way as Anna Funder did, in her book:
“Heine, the free thinking poet, would be turning in his grave to see the sort of enslaving and forcing and fighting that has gone on here, under his cold black nose and pigeon shit shoulders.” -Anna Funder in Stasiland.
Have we really learned any lessons?
If you enjoyed reading my Tuesday Travel adventures, and are looking for other Travel themed blogs, you may like to check out:
Around this time 6 years ago I was walking in Wellington, New Zealand
A light shower greeted me this morning so the day started with an indoor activity hunting down a friend’s family history at the library. To our surprise we found a connection with our own family… is everyone in New Zealand related in some way or another to a resident in the Hawkes Bay area????
Wellington promised to live up to Melbourne’s weather reputation of having four seasons in one day… becuse pretty soon the sun came out, allowing us to have a picnic lunch, after walking along the beach. The children had a great time and I saw the harbour at its best. It really is a huge natural harbour surrounding by breathtaking mountains and forest.
The old part of Wellington has some beautiful houses:many perched on the absolute top of the ridge, and especially around Oriental Bay, one could be forgiven for thinking you were in San Francisco.
After all, New Zealand is on a fault line, like San Francisco, has a cable car like San Francisco, has houses perched on perilously steep cliffs and mountain sides, ending in a beautiful harbour, and lots of wooden architecture from the early 20’s – 30’s like San Francisco, and then of course, there is the earthquake issue.
New Zealand had around 15,000 earthquakes each year, mostly in the North Island, but very few are felt. The town centre of Napier, in Hawkes Bay, was completed flattened by a quake in 1931 and you’ll find footage of this in the Te Papa Museum, central Wellington, which was my next destination on this walk.
An earthquake ‘house’ gives a simulation of what it was like to be in Napier on that fateful day. The terrible rumbling, the premptive the shaking and rattling, and sudden movement underfoot is actually terrifying. Really gives you an idea , of what it is like to live through such an event, without experiencing the danger.
The Maori exhibits are also interesting and one can sit inside a Maori meeting house where they occasionally hold council meetings…. it is quite dark inside and has an atmosphere of solemnity and seriousness.
If you visit this museum, don’t forget to see the Kiwi and, the Giant Squid, both preserved and dead of course. Children are well catered for too, with dress ups, games, activities and play areas that allow for interactive learning.
Travelling further through the main centre of Wellington, we took a ride on the cable car to the small museum at the top of the hill. The museum itself, outlines the history of the Cable car, has some Vintage cars and you can also see the cable mechanism at work.
On our return to the city, we paused at the fully timbered church where my cousin’s parents were married. Truly unique I think in New Zealand’s church architecture. Our walk continued following a short car ride (sorry Jo, I cheated), to the wind turbines at the Karori Reserve. Some energetic Wellingtonians were actually jogging the whole way up the narrow 5 kilometre road, and this in very windy conditions, one of the reasons I declined the offer to walk the 5 kilometres. Even then, we almost got blown away when we stepped out of the car at the top!
The wind turbine was built with Danish technology. While being able to sustain winds of up to 200km/h, it shuts down when the winds goes over 80km/h.
Wind power is something many cities are now pondering about.