Tokyo On The Go: Excellent Architecture: The Cocoon Tower


One thing I love about Tokyo is its amazing range of interesting and creative architecture. Whether it’s classic, centuries-old temples or sleek, modern high-rises, Tokyo has it all for the architecture buff.

But hands down my favorite building in Tokyo is Cocoon Tower that punctuates the heart of the Nishi-Shinjuku business/skyscraper district in Shinjuku. In fact, it’s right up there with the Sydney Opera House, San Francisco’s Transamerica Pyramid and the Bank of China tower in Hong Kong as one of my favorite buildings in the world.


Officially known as the Mode Gakuen Coccon Tower, it is a 204-metre-tall (669 ft.), 50-story tower that houses three educational institutions: fashion school Tokyo Mode Gakuen (for which the building is named after), HAL Tokyo, a information technology and design college, and the medical college Shuto Ikō, each operated by Mode Gakuen University. It is the second-tallest educational building in the world (surpassed only by the main building of the Moscow State University) and is the 17th-tallest building in Tokyo.


Literally a vertical campus, the building can accomodate 10,000 students. Each floor of the tower contains three rectangular classrooms that surround an inner core, which consists of an elevator, a staircase and a support shaft. Every three floors, a three-story student lounge is located between the classrooms that face east, southwest and northwest.


Construction of the Cocoon Tower began in May 2006 and was completed in October 2008. Before selecting a design for its new Tokyo location, Mode Gakuen held a competition asking architects to submit design proposals for the building. The only condition was that the building could not be rectangular. Mode Gakuen received more than 150 proposals by approximately 50 architects.

The winning proposal was submitted by Tokyo-baded architecture firm Tange Associates. According to the firm’s designers, the cocoon shape symbolizes a building that nurtures the students inside. White aluminum and dark blue glass exterior form the structure’s curved shell, which is criss-crossed by a web of white diagonal lines that give the structure its cocoon-like appearance.


With its sleek, almost space-age design, the building has been praised for offering a new solution for school architecture in Tokyo’s tightly meshed urban environment. The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat had this to say about the Cocoon Tower: “Turning the traditional horizontal configuration for school design literally on its side by projecting it vertically, the Cocoon tower presents an incredible case-study for creating a university in the sky. Not only is the organization of the spaces both radical and logical, the resulting aesthetic is quite startling.  Those charged with creating our cities of the future should stand up and take note.”


Beyond it’s architectural excellence, which I never tire of seeing, the Cocoon Building also acts as a directional beacon of sorts. Because of it’s close proximity to the Shinjuku train station, I always know what part of Shinjuku I’m in by which way the building is facing. If I see the “Mode HAL Iko” wording on the front facade of the building, I know I’m at the station’s west entrance.

On this trip my hotel was in western Shinjuku, so to get back there I just had to head towards the Cocoon Building, which was a block from the hotel. This is very important because the Shinjuku Station is vast, and finding the proper entrance/exits can be confusing. Having the building as a directional marker is a real help in navigating Shinjuku.


As you can see, I’ve photographed the Cocoon Tower many, many times. I even tried to get into the building, but since I’m not a student or staff and I didn’t have a pass of any kind, the front desk attendant would not let me in to see and photograph the interior. Which is okay, because marveling it’s amazing exterior is just fine by me. So when in Shinjuku, be sure to stroll around the grounds of the Mode Gakuen Coccon Tower, especially if, like me, you’re an architecture buff. I’d give you directions, but the building is omnipresent, and you really can’t miss it. If you get confused, just head west.

Posted in Japan, Photo Essay, Photo Gallery, Photography, Stephen Kelly Photography, Tokyo, Tokyo On The Go, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Ailsa’s Travel Theme: Dogs


They’re cute and they’re furry and they’ve got wet noses. They’re renowned for being man’s (and women’s) best friends and they have an amazing ability to lift your spirits when you’re feeling down. They’re loyal and trusting and they love you totally and without question. All they ask in return is a pat on the head and perhaps a nice tummy rub. It’s no wonder former French president Charles DeGaulle once said, “The better I get to know men, the more I find myself loving dogs.” Ladies and gentlemen, dogs!

Check out Ailsa’s Travel Theme for more canine encounters.

Posted in Ailsa’s Travel Theme, Animals, Photo Gallery, Stephen Kelly Creative, Stephen Kelly Photography | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Weekly Photo Challenge: From Every Angle #2: The Golden Gate Bridge


I rarely post two responses for one photo challenge, but I was so torn by my choices for this week’s WordPress “From Every AnglePhoto Challenge that I felt compelled to break my rule and post another response. And in this post I’d like to focus on what is perhaps the penultimate SF site, because few sites say San Francisco more than the world-famous Golden Gate Bridge.

IMG_0783In fact, the Golden Gate Bridge joins the Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore and the Lincoln Memorial as total visual symbols of the United States. One of the perks of living in San Francisco is being able to easily visit and photography the bridge, and I feel lucky to have that opportunity. I often think to myself that people come from around the world to visit the bridge and it’s in my own backyard. I always appreciate that fact, and I try to take advantage of it, because it’s really an amazing site. It always makes me sad and a little perplexed that many people who live in San Francisco never indulge in all of the great things this city has to offer. But that’s my own particular thing, a rant perhaps better left for another post.

Some fun facts about the Golden Gate Bridge: The bridge officially opened with much fanfare on April 19, 1938. It took four years to complete, with work starting on January 5, 1933. The bridge celebrated its 75th birthday in 2013. It is 4200 feet long, and until 1964 it was the world’s longest suspension bridge. It handles 110,00 cars a day, who pay its whopping $7.00 per car toll. The Golden Gate Bridge cost $35 million to build, and 11 died to building it. Nineteen others fell but landed in the safety nets; they’re known as the ‘Halfway to Hell Club.’

IMG_6958And for those who wonder or debate about the bridge’s color, it is officially known as “International Orange” and its a variation on the color used now for many astronaut jumpsuits. In fact, it is a color commonly used by the aerospace industry to set objects apart from their surroundings. The tone of international orange used to paint the Golden Gate Bridge is slightly lighter than the standard International orange used by military contractors and in engineering in order to increase its visibility to ships.

For those graphic designers who want to emulate that Golden Gate Bridge color, it is most closely matched by Pantone color 180. Pantone color 180C is equivalent to the hex code #C0362C.

I guess the bottom line is that I’ve had many chances to photograph this iconic piece of architecture from many, but not all angles. Here’s a few samples of my many visits to San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge.

Posted in Photo Essay, Photography, San Francisco, Stephen Kelly Photography, Travel, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Weekly Photo Challenge: From Every Angle #1: Cupid’s Span


Stroll along San Francisco’s waterfront at the Embarcadero and you’re liable to see any number of interesting sites. One of the more striking is “Cupid’s Span,” a 60-foot, fiberglass-and-steel sculpture of an arrow at Rincon Park.

Erected in 2002, it is the creation of noted American sculpture artists Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, who have said that the bow and arrow of Cupid design was inspired by San Francisco’s reputation as the home port of Eros, the Greek god of love and reputed son of Aphrodite.

When in San Francisco, be sure to check out this arresting piece of public art, as well as the other cool things to be found along the Embarcadero. Until then, here’s Cupid’s Span, from every angle.

For more angles, check out this week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge.

Posted in Art, Photo Essay, Photo Gallery, Photography, San Francisco, Stephen Kelly Creative, Stephen Kelly Photography, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments

Ailsa’s Travel Theme: Feet


This week’s Ailsa’s Travel Theme is all about the feet … and the shadows that are always connected to them!

Posted in Ailsa’s Travel Theme, Photography, Stephen Kelly Creative, Stephen Kelly Photography | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Tokyo On The Go: Akihabara, aka “Electric Town”


So far in these posts I’ve taken you to some of Tokyo’s quieter, off-the-tourist-paths, but if you’re looking for the full-on, in your face, big city Tokyo experience, then you need to visit Akihabara, otherwise known as “Electric Town.”

A popular district in the Tokyo’s Chiyoda ward, it is indeed electric, in its many electronics and gaming stores and in its busy, space-age pace. And typical of a place that’s internationally known as the otaku (geek culture) anime and manga epicenter, Akihabara is fast, colorful, noisy, quirky, and really exciting; in short, everything you expect from Tokyo’s bigger districts.


I’ve been to Akihabara in previous trips, and for many reasons, it’s one of my favorites parts of Tokyo. I really love the bustling excitement of this intensely colorful place. I also love its tall, soaring, gleaming glass buildings that, like most things in Tokyo, are often plastered with clever, colorful advertisements …


… in Akihabara, it’s not unusual to see a five-story advertising banner hanging from a ten-story building. Continue reading

Posted in Japan, Photo Essay, Photo Gallery, Photography, Stephen Kelly Creative, Stephen Kelly Photography, Tokyo, Tokyo On The Go, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

Tokyo Dine & Dash: When In Ginza: Appartement 301

IMG_2033One truism of traveling around Tokyo is if you see an interesting alleyway, explore it, because you never know what you might find. Such was the case one drizzly afternoon in Ginza when we discovered Appartement 301, a gem of a cafe just steps from one of the most luxurious shopping districts in the world. Continue reading

Posted in Japan, Photo Essay, Photo Gallery, Photography, Stephen Kelly Photography, Tokyo, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments