By Selena Hoy
If you’re interested in modern day Japan, chances are you’ve watched the movie Lost In Translation. Whether you enjoyed the story or not is irrelevant, as the third and perhaps most bold character – Tokyo – shines brightly, even in the dark. As part of the opening sequence, we’re shown sweeping daytime views over Shinjuku, the very same views I had as an expat child. But it was the nighttime views from the film’s sky bar that sealed the deal for me. First watching the film in Norwich, England, I had to return to Japan, and see this once again for myself.
Described by Haruki Murakami as "a single gigantic creature," Tokyo after dark and from height, offers one of the most surreal views one can experience with sure footing. There's something about the brilliant sea of lights, the slow pulse and glow of each bulb, the ins and outs and ups and downs, as Tokyo breaths deep and slow like a resting giant. But where can you take in such a view? Visit one of Tokyo's amazing hotel sky bars.
Part of the fun here is exploring hotels we might not be able to afford a stay in. Keio Plaza has Little Bear, Park Hyatt has New York Bar, and the Cerulean Tower in Shibuya has BelloVisto, my personal favorite. Just walking into the lobby will slow your pulse. And on your ride to floor forty, you've time to dab the sweat from your brow, give a check in the mirrored doors and quickly yawn to relieve the pressure in your ears as you near the top.
Exiting the elevator brings you immediately to a dim foyer, with dark marble floors and black leather furniture, nothing distracting from the appreciation of what lies framed in floor to ceiling windows. You've now arrived at BelloVisto.
You'll be greeted with a slow bow by a floor attendant, your jacket taken by another, then seated by a third. As you pass a tabletop humidor and a wall of wine, you'll see how truly great a room you've entered. With glass stretching twelve feet high, your Tokyo view goes on for 180 degrees. As you're seated at the bar counter, only top-shelf whisky and chilled champagne bottles are kept in view. You aren't quick to read any labels though, you're just now remembering how to breath. Just like the slow pulse of nighttime Tokyo, you begin again, in and out. Time for a drink.
You've got a list of cocktails categorized by Alcohol Type and Temperature Served. Amazing. Have whatever you fancy, though I'm partial to their Long Island Iced Teas. Important to get good value when drinking at ￥1,500 a glass, yes?
From high above Shibuya on floor forty, you can see the Tokyo Tower standing strong, a symbol of national pride. You can see Shinjuku's skyline, the peaks atop the Park Hyatt, the round curve of the "Egg" building and the familiar DoCoMo clock tower. Oh, and that dark, fluffy tuft separating these two city centers is Yoyogi Park, a place dormant and lonely at this drinking hour. Directly below you to the left is Shoto, where I grew up, learned to love foreign culture, and let slip some of my own.
Each sky bar will take on its own personality, its own ambiance, but the overall nature is a relief from the normal Tokyo drinking establishment. With views to be had all around Tokyo, instead of just looking at those towers from the ground up, take a ride into the clouds, if only for one round. Just be sure to dress accordingly. Any visit to Tokyo wouldn't be complete without at least one drink in the clouds. And should you find yourself sitting high above Shibuya, give her a wink for me.
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My Japan story starts from a rather young age. When I was nine years old, my Father was offered the opportunity of a lifetime, a transfer to Tokyo. I attended the American School in Japan (ASIJ) for three years before moving to Singapore for two. I absolutely LOVE traveling and experiencing different cultures. So, my love for Japan is routed deep in life experience. After studying Japanese and visiting a Fraternity Brother in Tottori prefecture in 2007, I applied to and was accepted into the JET Programme, which sent me back to the Chugoku region to Shimane prefecture for one year. I am now based in Atlanta, GA and spend summers on the island of Martha's Vineyard. Over the past few years I've traveled back and forth to Tokyo, even living there during the March 11 earthquake. It was a trying time, but it only bonded me tighter with this island nation and it's people. Please keep up with me on twitter and feel free to contact me however you see fit! Cheers, Adam Hacker