Today the Asia 2017 vault is temporarily reopened as I bring you back to Japan for a new story.

I had been in Tokyo for several days when I decided it was time for me to go to the observation deck at the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower. Three days earlier I had been up in the Tokyo Sky Tree during the day, so now it was time to see the endless city at night. Located southwest of the Imperial Palace, close to Tokyo Tower and not too far from Shibuya, the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower is perhaps Tokyo’s most famous “city within a city.” Inside the soaring structure are apartments, businesses, retailers, restaurants, and even an art museum. At the top of it is the observation deck, which was my destination that night. It was about 8:30pm when I stepped out of the elevator and was greeted by the view.

Roppongi 2.jpg

That night I was fortunate in that the observation deck wasn’t packed with people. There was a small crowd, but I could still find a spot with a good view to just stare out at one of the world’s greatest cities. In front and to the right was Tokyo Tower, the city’s iconic orange landmark. A little to the left in the far distance was the Sky Tree, Japan’s tallest building. Far to the right was Tokyo Bay and Odaiba Island, where I would eventually get to see the life-size Gundam statue. Far to the left were the lights of Shibuya and in the distance beyond them were the towers of Shinjuku. Clouds were obscuring the night sky, but even if they were gone I doubt I’d have been able to see any but the brightest stars given the sheer amount of light radiating from the metropolis. After taking a few photos and looking around the observation deck I took a seat roughly facing in the direction of the above photo and just sat there for ten minutes or so. It was then that I started to hear it—the sound I’ve come to associate with nighttime cityscapes. A lone, powerful saxophone calling out to the urban jungle. The particular one I was hearing that night comes from a song on the Halo 3: ODST soundtrack called Bits and Pieces. Below I’ve embedded the section from the track where the saxophone is most prominent, though unfortunately I don’t have the skill to isolate the saxophone so you’ll be hearing the other instruments with it too. Take a listen, focusing in on the saxophone, stare at the above photo, and just try to put yourself where I was that night.

When I felt my time was up I stood and walked around the rest of the observation deck. The views from the other sides of Mori Tower aren’t as iconic as the one looking out on the main part of Tokyo, but they do help you understand just how large the Tokyo metropolitan area is. In every direction you turn your head there is an unending ocean of city lights. Those other views from Roppongi I’ve largely forgotten, but that one from the photo is etched into my memory, along with the sound of that saxophone. It’s one of the first things I think of when I think of Tokyo.

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