Sunday, February 14, 2010
The Asahi Building
You can't complain about the location - on the banks of the Sumida River, a short walk from Sensoji, Tokyo's biggest temple district, and the hugely popular Asakusa tourist area; you may even see a geisha or two, if you're exceptionally provident.
And the product is virtually a trademark - if you've ever dabbled with Japanese beer, you would've brushed up against (or at least guzzled a few drops of) the silver-shrouded contents of Asahi Super Dry, without doubt Japan's most famous international amber fluid.
Almost as famous is the commercial HQ for the Asahi company itself.
Known quite simply as the Asahi Building (not to be confused with the TV Asahi building in Roppongi Hills), it was completed in 1989 at the height of Japan's excessive bubble economy to replace Asahi's old offices. Some of the building's harsher critics have suggested that French designer Philippe Starck had had one Super Dry too many when he finished the design for the monolith, which is constructed from super-expensive black granite and capped by his trademark gilded flame, an icon apparently weighing in at 300 tons.
And confusion reigns supreme in this city as to what the symbol really represents - is it a firework that reflects the nearby Sumida River's annual hanabi (fireworks) festivities? Is it an overturned post-modern glass of beer? Is it a golden radish or turnip? Or is it - as popularly espoused around the traps of Tokyo - just a humongous blob of excrement that'd do Godzilla proud?
Others see it in a warmer light - the windows are tinted yellow, apart from the top few floors, where the windows appear white... mmm... beer...