“Still there… still there… still there… still there… Gone.”
That memorable scene from Before Midnight replays in my head. It was the perfect shot of the perfect sunset – two lovers sitting by the water enchanted as the gentle orange sun finds its home behind the hills. A simple experience yet so clear and full.
In real life, I can’t say I’ve had a perfect sunset moment. My sunset collection was typically made up of spontaneous ones that happened while I was in the neighborhood. Over the ocean, in the mountains, or on a rooftop, they were all beautiful and quite memorable. Yet none stood out as a defining moment, one that had that perfect combination of beauty and symbolism.
Tokyo was what you could call a closing chapter. It was the final destination after a 2.5 year stint living and working abroad in South Korea, a life where travel had been a regular expectation rather than unaffordable luxury. With much of Asia traveled during that opportunistic span of time, Tokyo was picked as a fitting conclusion – the last hurrah in Japan’s famous capital.
There were plenty of iconic attractions in Tokyo – Shibuya Crossing, Tsukiji Fish Market, Meiji Shrine to name a few. But one thing stood out in the research that was almost cliché, a panoramic city view from one of Tokyo’s tallest buildings. “Go for the sunset” was the advice. I knew it was something I could do in any major city, but to have that experience mark the end of a 30 month tenure was too symbolic for me to resist.
We arrived a few hours before sunset. Roppongi Hills, like much of the rest of Tokyo, was modern, clean, and expensive looking. Among this immense “urban centre” were dozens of shops and restaurants, a gang of office buildings, residential apartments, and a giant spider. I was grateful for the spider. It seemed to lighten the mood of the place.
Inside Mori Tower, we bought our admission tickets and rode the flawless elevator up to the Observation Desk on floor 52. Like every tower I’ve been in before, the view did not disappoint. Beyond a clear wall of glass, Tokyo unfolded: a sprawling urban oasis of non-uniform buildings accented here and there by patches of green trees. Sticking out in the crowd was the skeletal frame of Tokyo tower, a bare structure painted the classic Japanese torii-gate orange.
We made several circuits around the tower, taking countless pictures of the same cityscape from different angles. By then the sun had begun settling into its comfortable perch above the horizon, the perfect height before changing color for its final descent. A glance at the watch showed 30 minutes to sunset. That was our signal.
I didn’t come all this way to watch a sunset from behind a panel of glass. A symbolic moment such as this was meant for face to face. And that is why the architects of Mori Tower created the Skydeck.
What a difference open air makes.
We hung around and waited while the world around us changed color. The brilliant glow reflecting off of a thousand car windows as it beckoned at the end of the road. Even in the busy hour of this busy city, the sun seemed to draw the attention of all.
When the time came, everybody seemed to quicken. Photographers methodically snapped their cameras and a few tourists posed enthusiastically for pictures. I instinctively took a few shots before remembering to put down my camera. An experience like this was not meant to be diluted by technology. I let it flow through my own senses and sink into my memory bank. Over time, the composition will get muddled and some details omitted, but it will forever be remembered as the perfect sunset.