Pulse of the city connecting to the future through contemporary art The latest art to be seen in the premium area of the Kabukicho Tower

New Art Spot

echo of the earth by Yusuke Asai. B2 floor in the Kabukicho Tower. A mural created with materials originating from Kabukicho.

The Tokyu Kabukicho Tower, which opened in Shinjuku Kabukicho on April 14, 2023 (the hotel area opened on May 19), has attracted attention as a super-tall complex facility, with 48 above-ground floors and 5 below-ground floors, making it one of the largest in the country. Inside the tower, which is themed around urban cultural experiences, there are many contemporary art pieces, starting with Chim↑Pom’s work “Build-Burger,” near the entrance on the 2nd floor. The total number of artworks is an astonishing 190 pieces. Many of these artworks are installed in areas such as lounges and hotel guestrooms. In this installment, we will introduce the artworks mainly located in such premium areas.


Commissioned works inspired by Kabukicho

From live music venues and food courts (restaurants) to amusement facilities, cinemas, theaters, and even hotels, the Kabukicho Tower presents different faces on each level. Contemporary art pieces are installed throughout the tower, reflecting its diverse facets. Under the supervision of Masahiko Haito, Director of the Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art, and the contemporary art gallery ANOMALY, discussions were held involving 26 artist groups, as well as the tower’s operators and owners–Tokyu Corporation, Tokyu Recreation Corporation Co., Ltd., TST Entertainment Co., Ltd., and THM Co., Ltd. These discussions revolved around the history, culture, events, memories, and human activities woven into the fabric of Kabukicho’s streets, aiming to create meaningful artworks to be exhibited within Kabukicho Tower. On top of that, many of the artworks were newly commissioned for this purpose.

Evolution of mirror ball symbolizing night city

First, let’s head to the underground floors 1 to 4, where visitors will find the live music venue Zepp Shinjuku (TOKYO) and the night entertainment facility ZEROTOKYO.
On the stage of the dance floor RING on the underground floor 3, there is an object shaped like a ring, covered with small mirrors, resembling a mirror ball. The artworks Hollow Moon (Ring), Hollow Moon (Donut), and Hollow Moon (Washer) by Kiichiro Adachi were created with the intention of elevating the secular symbol of mirror balls, often associated with disco from the bubble era, into a more sublime realm.

The ring in the center of the above image and the spherical object in the foreground to the right are artworks titled Hollow Moon (Ring) and Hollow Moon (Washer), respectively. (Kiichiro Adachi)
Works and spaces that undergo a complete transformation with lighting. The way light is reflected and diffused is truly reminiscent of a mirror ball. Photo: Keizo Kioku
The inside of the ring is an LED video panel. It can also be used as a VJ’s visual device.

Underground mural drawn with Kabukicho’s soil

In the dim lighting of the underground floor 2 lounge, R BAR, emerges a mural titled echo of the earth by Yusuke Asai, who has been continuously drawing using materials such as soil native to various regions.
For this project, Asai collected soil from various locations, including the construction site of the Kabukicho Tower, Kabukicho Park, Naito capsicum fields in Toyama Park, Juniso Kumano Shrine, Tonomine Naito Shrine, and Hanazono Shrine. During the creation process, Asai incorporated them with other soil he had collected from across Japan as his drawing materials. The water he used to mix the soil came from a well at Hanazono Shrine.
The mural intricately depicts the theme of life emerging with rhythms inspired by music, geological layers, and water currents.

echo of the earth (Yusuke Asai)
The mural covering the bar wall is drawn using soil as the medium.
Even on the tile beneath the counter, small artwork derived from the mural.

Memories of SHINJUKU MILANO-ZA preserved in the cinema lounge

Heading up to the 10th floor, we arrive at the 109 Cinemas Premium Shinjuku, where CLASS S ticket holders (general price 6,500 yen) can access the premium lounge called OVERTURE. Adorning the walls of this lounge are works by Miyuki Takenaka, who has used 35mm film as the material and etched images of film reels, bowling pins, neon signs, and more. Entitled Memories of SHINJUKU MIRANO-ZA, the work is created with motifs from the once-beloved cinema, Shinjuku Milano-za, which used to occupy the same place. Takenaka created this work using actual items used in Milano-za and archival photographs as references.
Kenta Yoshimura, who oversees the art department of Kabukicho Tower at Tokyu Corporation, expresses, “Even as we create new things, we want to preserve the history and culture that once thrived here and carry them forward into the future. This sentiment strongly resonates within our company.”
The work is truly a manifestation of that sentiment through the power of the artist.
Furthermore, while the eight theaters in the building boast state-of-the-art digital equipment, one of them, Theater 8, also features a traditional film projector. This was suggested by the late musician Ryuichi Sakamoto, who supervised the entire cinema’s sound system until his passing in March 2023.

Vivid colors shine in the serene lounge, evoking Memories of SHINJUKU MILANO-ZA. (Miyuki Takenaka)
Images reminiscent of movies and cinemas are etched onto 35mm film as the material.

Experiencing Kabukicho through sound

In the upper floors of the tower’s two hotels, along with the reception and elevator halls, many artworks are installed in guest rooms. Located on floors 18 to 38 of the HOTEL GROOVE SHINJUKU, A PARKROYAL Hotel, there are uniquely designed rooms that can be considered artworks in themselves, created by three groups of artists. One such room is on the 35th floor, designed by Yoshiaki Kaihatsu, titled Yoshiaki Kaihatsu artist room / Cassette tape. Upon opening the door to this room, you’ll be greeted by walls adorned with cassette tapes. Approximately 2,000 cassette tapes cover the entire wall, and guests can pick them up and play them on the cassette player in the room. These tapes contain recordings made by Kaihatsu in the vicinity specifically for this work, along with nostalgic songs that evoke the history of the city. Guests can enjoy an archive of sounds that have resonated through the air of Kabukicho across various eras.

Filled with the “sounds” of Kabukicho, Yoshiaki Kaihatsu artist room / Cassette tape (Yoshiaki Kaihatsu). A cassette tape-themed sofa was also specially created for this room.

With motifs of movements from traditional folk performing arts

Located on floors 39 to 47 is the BELLUSTAR TOKYO, A Pan Pacific Hotel. Here, guest rooms also showcase artworks, and one such room is on the 40th floor, displaying the works of Haruna Mitobe. The work features refined lines and striking colors, inspired by traditional folk performing arts known as “furyu odori” that still exist in various parts of Japan. At first glance, it may appear to be abstract paintings, but upon closer inspection, one can feel the dynamic movements of the dance imbued within the artwork.

Odori: Nagai no Dai Nenbustu Kenbai, a work by Haruna Mitobe with the motif of traditional folk performing arts.
Odori: Houou (Phoenix) no Mai of Shimohirai Haruna Mitobe Photo: Keizo Kioku

Finally, in the penthouse "sora Ten," contrasting artworks by two photographers are showcased. In the living room, there is a dynamic monochrome photograph capturing the skyscrapers of Shinjuku by Daido Moriyama. Meanwhile, the bedroom features photographic works by Rinko Kawauchi, depicting everyday scenes, setting the tone for a private and intimate space.

Adorning a room in the penthouse on the top floor of the hotel, “Untitled” (from “Record No. 51”) (Daido Moriyama)
“Untitled” (from “as it is” series) by Rinko Kawauchi is in the bedroom
Photo books by the artists are ready on the side table

Delving into the history and culture of Kabukicho through contemporary art

“The Kabukicho Tower aimed to create a new urban cultural tourism hub, and during the planning process. We saw art as a significant aspect alongside movies, theater, music, and other urban cultural experiences. Engaging in dialogues with various artists about the history and culture of Shinjuku Kabukicho was a stimulating and educational opportunity for us, as we continue to operate this establishment. In the future, we hope to convey the background of such creations to our customers and even plan gallery tours within the facility,” says Mr. Yoshimura.
We anticipate the day when visitors can appreciate the artworks throughout the facility like we do a tour of art galleries and museums.
While we focused on the artworks in the paid areas this time, there are also many artworks in the public areas. On the Kabukicho Tower website’s Art Gallery section, you can find each work’s photograph, commentary, and artists’ biographies. For some pieces, there are even videos documenting the artist’s voice and the process of creation. So why not start by discovering the artworks that interest you and enjoy exploring the easily accessible areas?

Kenta Yoshimura, in charge of the Kabukicho Tower Art Division at Tokyu Corporation, standing in front of the Build-Burger (Chim↑Pom) at the 2nd floor entrance, guiding us through.

Japanese original text: Nodoka Sakamoto
Photo: Shu Nakagawa (excluding those with credit)
Translation: Kae Shigeno

Tokyu Kabukicho Tower Art Project
Location: Tokyu Kabukicho Tower 1-29-1 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Artists: Noe Aoki, Shinji Ohmaki, Mayumi Hosokura, Nobuyoshi Araki, Rinko Kawauchi, Sakiko Nomura, Mitsutoshi Hanaga, Tadasu Yamamoto, Haruna Mitobe, Sumiko Sawamura, Daichiro Shinjo, Rui Sasaki, Takuro Tamayama, Yoshiaki Kaihatsu, Tomoyuki Washio, nuQ, Tatzu Nishi, Miyuki Takenaka, SIDE CORE, SIDE CORE x Shobu Style, Chim↑Pom from Smappa!Group, Ushio Shinohara, Daido Moriyama, Takeshi Murata, Yusuke Asai, Kiichiro Adachi (as of June 2023)