Entertaining Illuminations In The South Of Tokyo
Caretta Shiodome is a shopping mall located in Minato ward, in the south of the Japanese capital’s downtown. Its offer of restaurants and shops is made more attractive thanks to an Ad Museum and a free observation platform with a view on the Tokyo Bay. During the Holiday season, wonderful winter illuminations light up the place at nightfall.
Shiodome has a rather bleak and urbanized landscape, mainly roamed by salarymen working in the various companies’ headquarters of the area. To entertain these business people, some of the high-rises accommodate shopping malls at their lower floors such as Shiodome City Center and Caretta Shiodome.
Caretta Shiodome is spreading at the foot of the Dentsu Headquarters Building, which is home to the famous Japanese advertisement company. Beside the shopping opportunities, it is an interesting site for sightseers who can enjoy free cultural entertainment.
The popularity of the shopping center rises each year during its winter illuminations usually taking place from mid-November to mid-February. The plaza at the entrance of Caretta is entirely decorated with neon and LED lights that shine at nightfall and create a magical decor into which it is pleasant to walk. Moreover, a short 20 minutes light and sound show is performed every night.
The abundance of lights is really impressive and immersive into the Holidays’ atmosphere. The light-up’s theme changes each year, most of the time inspired from the shows performed at the Dentsu Shiki Theatre SEA, Caretta’s theater. It often programs famous international musicals such as Mamma Mia! and more recently Aladdin. The Disney princesses’ universe is a frequent theme of the mall’s night illuminations.
Ad Museum Tokyo
At Caretta’s B2F underground floor, we recommend visiting the free The Ad Museum Tokyo. The place is dedicated to commercial communication history in Japan and is divided into 2 exhibition halls at the lowest floor and a library / book shop at the upper floor:
- Hall A , the largest space, displays the permanent collection;
- Hall B is smaller and hosts temporary exhibitions that are renewed frequently, on average once a month.
The tour is set chronologically. The history of Japanese advertisement starts at the Edo period (1603 - 1868), then follows up through the Meiji (1868 - 1912), Taisho (1912 - 1926) and Showa (1926 - 1989) eras, and ends with the last achieved era, Heisei (1989 - 2019).
The items on display are usually accompanied by explanations in Japanese and in English. They are beautiful and typical old advertising supports such as:
- 錦絵 nishiki-e, richly decorated etchings ("brocade pictures");
- 引札 hikifuda, flyers;
- 双六 sugoroku, board games;
- As well as TV spots and posters, which are more recent and familiar.
The upper floor is home to a pleasant library specialized on the advertisement topic. It has nearly 27,000 references, including books, magazines, Japanese and foreign works available for onsite consultation.
Lastly, go to the 46th floor of the Dentsu Building (designed in 2002 by French architect Jean Nouvel) where an indoor observation platform has been laid out 200 meters above sea level.
The access is direct from Caretta’s main entrance thanks to elevators connecting the B2F and 46F floors. The elevator is particularly fast (beware of your eardrums!) and the ride allows to enjoy an impressive view on the north-west of the capital. Exiting the elevator, you’ll face the artwork called 豊穣の海 Hojo no Umi (The Sea of Fertility in English) by contemporary artist Nobuo Sekine after Yukio Mishima’s novels.
Two views are available from 46F and 47F floors, towards different directions. On a clear weather day, one can watch Tokyo spreading to the horizon and identify the megalopolis’ landmarks, such as:
- Hama-Rikyu gardens, surrounded by the Sumida River;
- The unoccupied area of the former Tsukiji fish market;
- Tokyo Bay and the Rainbow Bridge, the Tokyo Bay Bridge and a little bit further a part of the Aqua-Line, a partly underwater freeway connecting the 2 sides of the bay between Kanagawa and Chiba;
- The 2 iconic towers of the capital: Tokyo Tower 🗼 and Skytree; and,
- The green area of the Imperial Palace with Shinjuku’s skyscrapers in the background.
The only drawback of this observatory is its limited circumference as it doesn’t have a 360° panoramic view. However it is free and close to the bay and still interesting to visit, especially since it is not very crowded. Dentsu Building’s upper floors also have several bars and restaurants that allow their customers to look at the idyllic view while enjoying good Japanese cuisine.