The tower is the centerpiece of Roppongi Hills, an ambitious development that reflects a new Tokyo. Opened last spring, Roppongi Hills is many things - a residential area, a commercial and cultural district - but at its heart it is a city-within-a-city, a self-contained pocket with all the attractions of modern urban living without the usual obstacles. Covering 28 acres in the trendy Roppongi district, Roppongi Hills offers the top of the line in lodging, dining, and shopping. It has a nine-screen cinema complex, a multilingual library, and a modern art museum that is one of the largest showcases for contemporary culture in Asia. It has ample office space, high-end residential towers, and a seamless network of pedestrian walkways, gardens, and open spaces for outdoor entertainment and exhibitions.

It's as if someone crossed the Guggenheim with Rockefeller Center, threw in the Trump Tower and a host of four-star restaurants, then placed it all at the foot of Rodeo Drive.

"How do you create a bridge between culture and commerce, to show great sensitivity to the finer things in life, such as art and culture, and still translate it into the commercial world?" asks Tony Chi, one of the prominent architects who worked on the design. "That is the ambition of Roppongi Hills, and for that, it deserves tremendous applause."

Roppongi Hills was designed by a team of leading international architects, but the overarching concept is the brainchild of one man: Minoru Mori, the namesake of Mori Tower. A billionaire developer, Mori is one of Japan's richest men, and one of the country's foremost visionaries. Roppongi Hills, his $4 billion project, is meant to turn a profit; however, the philosophy behind it reaches deeper than the bottom line. Mori envisions it as a tourist attraction (more than 20 million people have already visited) and a cultural center, as well as a model for a prosperous Japan.