Roppongi Hills is a big chunk of real estate in the middle of Tokyo. There's a central skyscraper (the Mori Tower), a few condominium towers to the south, a swanky Grand Hyatt hotel (not to be confused with the swankier Park Hyatt from Lost in Translation), a bunch of high-end stores, a Virgin Cinemas multiplex, the studios for TV Asahi, and a lot of other features I'm too lazy to list.
It was built by Minoru Mori, who is to Tokyo what Donald Trump is to New York—a guy who likes to build lots of flashy stuff and put his name on it. Mori bought up parcels of low-rent land on the west side of Roppongi over a period of years, and then squeezed out the straggling tenants, offering some of them free apartments in the finished complex (eminent domain doesn't really work in Japan).
The finished product was somewhat controversial. Shintaro "Jail The Iranians" Ishihara thought that it was a bloody eyesore, for instance. Myself, I think the Mori Tower is beautiful; I use a picture of it as wallpaper on my mobile phone.
But it does have ghosts. Not too long ago, a little kid was crushed in a revolving door when maintenance decided to deactivate some safety devices that kept stopping the doors at the wrong times. Years later, people aren't dying at Roppongi Hills; even the spiraling walkway down the back side of the Mori Tower has recorded "watch your step" announcements. But the Hills still have their issues.
My boss's brother lives there. Not in the condos or the serviced apartments—this guy is too loaded to be interested in Japanese residency. He lives in the hotel instead. He can do this, because there are no rules in capitalism.
I made a deal to spend a night there. I waited in the lobby for the boss to show up, half-reclined in an oversized armchair, listening to the sound of a fountain under dim evening lights. He called me from the back door, where the valet was pulling out his sports car.
American money smells funny, but Japanese money doesn't. I had never ridden in a six-figure car before, but it seemed completely routine. Meanwhile, there was talk from the left seat. "Everyone wants to be the next Roppongi Hills, whether they're the Ebisu Garden Place or the Shiosite or the Midtown Project or whatever." I was nodding along as we whipped down narrow roads wrapped around forests of expat apartment towers.
"This is the shit," he said later, when we were back up in the room. He pushed a button by the bedside, and the windowshades whirred up into the ceiling, and suddenly we were looking out at south Tokyo, an endless view of lit-up building-tops to the horizon.
At the bottom of the Mori Tower is Heartland, one of the places you go in Tokyo if you're male, foreign, and not an English-teaching monkey. Within 15 minutes, I was talking to a tall girl with a gorgeous body and an enviable academic background. "I'm a lawyer." (Exaggeration. OK, lie.) "From Miami." (More or less.) "But I just got a job downtown." (True, sort of.) "I'm staying next door until I can find a real place to live." (Lie.) "Specialty? M&A." (True; and M&A is a very sexy thing to do.) "You're afraid of a relationship? Jeez, so am I." (At that point, it was set.)
She was in that king-size Hyatt bed at 12:30 sharp, and she gorged on me. Come next morning, I had to peel myself out of the sheets. And I had no problem buying her a $20 breakfast downstairs, and getting her a cab home, and promising to call her "when I can get myself out of the office." It's hard to regret this when sex and dishonesty go hand in hand so often.
Goldman Sachs is the anchor tenant of the Mori Tower. But most people associate it with Livedoor, the Internet company founded by Takafumi Horie, who tried to buy Fuji TV and is now in jail for alleged securities fraud. I guess he wasn't the only person lying his ass off in that building.
But there you have it all... the money, the power, the intrigue, the money, the women and the money, all on one guy's property. You can see why everyone wants to be Roppongi Hills: to be the center of attention. Kids like me, who hate being second-rate. But as I walked to the subway later that morning, I kept looking back to see if I was leaving a trail of slime behind me, like a snail without a soul.