“We’re going to see Star Wars:Visions at Roppongi Hills!” I announced.
The three young boys accepted this news with little enthusiasm. “I don’t like Star Wars,” said my younger nephew.
“I do!” said his older brother. “The raccoon and the dumb tree guy were really funny!”
“That’s not it!” my son interjected. “I saw the movie last week. It was just like the LEGO Star Wars video game! I mean, it wasn’t as good, but…”
This might be a little more difficult than I thought.
We took the #96 bus from Shinagawa, which for 210 yen will put you right underneath the Roppongi Hills Shopping Center. You can also take the train (one of the Roppongi exits puts you right on the center’s grounds), but now that the warmer weather is here the scenic route isn’t so bad.
Roppongi Hills is taking full advantage of the event. Several stores are offering Star Wars-themed merchandise, from the obligatory t-shirts to the LEGO Clickbricks toy offerings to the artsy umbrellas at Hanway. There was also a ROOTOTE stand, where you can custom-design a Star Wars tote bag for 4000 yen. The missus got one of the Millennium Falcon, but only because there were no Han Solo designs. “He’s so handsome!” she said.
Not far from the ROOTOTE stand is a display of stormtrooper helmets, as modified and decorated by local art students. The interpretations range from the lazy artist calling it in and drawing numbers on the helmet to the guy who turned his into a split watermelon. A nice thing to spend a few minutes on, but that’s not what we’re here for, is it?
At the Mori Art Museum Tokyo City View entrance (at the West Walk), you will pass the nice lady and go up to the third floor for tickets. From there, you will be ushered to an elevator, which will zoom you to the 52nd floor. Be sure to swallow, or your ears will start popping around the 30th floor.
And you’re there! The first thing you will notice is the impressive view of the Tokyo skyline. The walls are actually floor-to-ceiling windows, through which you can take in the excellent view. At various points around the floor you will be able to see Tokyo Tower, the Skytree, Yoyogi Park, and other notable landmarks, all from this awesome bird’s eye view.
I was prepared to be wowed, and the entrance to the exhibit looked like my expectations would be fulfilled. The first thing I saw was the gigantic model of the Death Star hanging from the ceiling. This was the Return of the Jedi version, the almost completed yet “fully armed and operational” battle station, surrounded by scale models of Empire and Rebel fighter craft engaged in small-scale dogfights. Underneath the model was the man himself–a life-sized statue of Darth Vader, emerging from his meditation chamber.
Past that was the entrance to the exhibits themselves, and that’s where we saw it. “No photography beyond this point! No touching the exhibits!” the sign said, along with the obligatory Japanese lady repeating it over and over. They meant it, too. Throughout the rest of the exhibition, there were no shortage of staff members saying the same thing to anyone who even looked like they were reaching for a camera. So if you want to take pictures, you better get one with Darth Vader right at the entrance. Like a certain rougish smuggler, I was getting a bad feeling about this.
The art itself was wonderful. The walls were covered in artwork from the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art (http://www.lucasmuseum.org). Much of it was interpretations of events in the series itself, along with aspirational pieces (girl stormtroopers) and even a few paintings of major characters in Ye Olde Portrait style. My favorite was the portrait of an unscarred Hayden Christensen in his Darth Vader costume, helmet at his side, with Mustafar’s fiery landscape in the background (none of which makes any sense if you think about it for a second).
Also present were props from the movies. One room contained replica lightsabers; another was full of mannequins wearing the costumes of characters from the movie. Yet another room featured dioramas and models from famous battles, such as Hoth and Naboo. Throughout the exhibition, screens endlessly looped pivotal scenes from the films. It was around these screens where I kept finding my son and nephews.
Once I thought about it, I can see why they weren’t interested. Yes, the Mori Art Museum is an art museum, not a playground. There are no interactive exhibits, nothing to play with or sit on or climb on or have your picture taken next to. Nothing but some dumb pictures and costumes for some old movies that their parents and grandparents liked. To our generation, Star Wars was a touchstone of popular culture. To them, it’s just another option in the seemingly endless parade of entertainment possibilities, no different from any of the other superhero movies that come out every year. To them, it was just like visiting–well, a museum.
At the end of the tour was the obligatory gift shop selling the various franchise-related tchotchke, including prints of some of the artwork featured in the exhibition. Outside were two coin and medal machines. A couple of guys were feeding them money as if they were Vegas slots, probably with the same goal in mind.
Summary: If you are an older fan, Star Wars: Visions offers an interesting perspective into the art that helped to shape the series. For children, it’s something you must endure so you can have McDonald’s for lunch. Really, would it have been too much to ask to allow people to take pictures of themselves next to mannequins of their favorite characters? A shot of me and my best bud Boba Fett would have had a long tenure as my Facebook profile pic.
Location: Roppongi Hills Mori Art Museum City View (Roppongi Station). The exhibition is open 1100-2200 daily (last admittance 2130) until June 28th.
Prices: Adult advance tickets can be purchased at convenience stores and other ticket outlets for 1500 yen. For reasons I do not readily understand, adult tickets are the only ones that can be purchased in advance in this manner. At the counter (third floor of the museum), prices are (in yen): Adults 1800, High School/College Students 1200, Seniors 1500, Children 600.
Website: Google Translate page at http://translate.google.co.jp/translate?hl=en&sl=ja&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.roppongihills.com%2Ftcv%2Fjp%2Fsw-visions%2F.
Looking for other ideas on fun things to do with kids? Check out Derek’s article 36 Hours in Tokyo: Kids in Tow.
Derek Winston is retired from the US Navy and currently attends college in Tokyo. If you see him on the street, approach with caution; there’s no telling what you will end up talking about. It might be safer to limit your exposure by contacting him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Might be.