The Omotesando Hills shopping center is known for holding the title of Tokyo’s most controversial shopping mall, so it’s really a two for one if you think about it. Lovers of luxury shopping will appreciate some of Tokyo’s most exclusive boutiques, while culture lovers appreciate the architecture—both historic and modern.
The unique sloped design of the building means there are no stairs to walk up, just take the escalator to the top and follow the gentle slope as it winds down from floor to floor. If you've got a (metric?) ton of money to burn, this place is stocked with seven floors containing some of Europe’s most sought after designer labels. Up-market and chic, with brands and labels like Ann Demeulemeester, Black Fleece By Brooks Brothers, Bottega Veneta, Saint Laurent, Pass the Baton, and Jimmy Choo.
During the Christmas holiday season grab a hot chocolate from one of the four specialty chocolate shops and head on down to the basement where you’ll find shoppers enjoying an ice rink. A limited edition chocolate and champagne tasting boutique is also hard to rip yourself away from.
Here’s where the controversy comes! The zelkova-lined boulevard is Japan’s first boulevard, and had a number of historic buildings that were torn down to make room for international flagship stores.
The Omotesando Hills shopping center is a particularly infuriating to Tokyoites in this case since they tore down the Dōjunkai Aoyama Apartments—an ivy covered, Bauhaus-inspired social housing complex that epitomized modern japanese architecture after the Kanto earthquake. So needless to say, people weren’t happy about tearing it down to replace it with a shopping mall.
Japanese billionaire Minoru Mori carefully considered the options to revitalize the space, and hired Japan’s most famous living architect Tadao Ando, and sought to create a cultural space that was fashionable, but fit into the neighbourhood. The majority of the building is sunken below ground to maximize space but not surpass the canopy of zelkovas that line Omotesando Street, and the rear contains a wall from the original structure.
The result? A community space that’s still loved by the neighbourhood, they just had to change everyone in the neighbourhood.