Round two of what might be called the “Battle for Roppongi” takes place Saturday night.

For the last three decades, at least, the inner-city district has been defined by its hundreds of bars and nightclubs.

But, with the arrival of the Mori Art Museum (within Roppongi Hills) in 2003 and the National Art Center, the Suntory Museum of Art and 21_21 Design Sight (the last two within Tokyo Midtown) in 2007, Roppongi has gone decidedly artistic.

The shift obviously pleased the district’s local shop-owners’ association and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, which last year joined with the newcomer museums to host the first Roppongi Art Night, a massive, outdoor, one-night-only celebration of visual culture aimed at showing off the area’s newly acquired artistic credentials.

The second Art Night will be held from 10 a.m. Saturday, March 27 till 6 p.m. Sunday, March 28. Highlights will include artist Noboru Tsubaki’s massive, UFO-like “Before Flower” — which will be better than its official description (a celebration of gymnosperm plants!) suggests — and French unit Compagnie des Quidams’ ethereal glowing balloon-man performance called “Re^ve d’Herbert.” Both will take place outdoors at Roppongi Hills, Tokyo Midtown and the National Art Center. In Roppongi Hills, Chris O’Shea’s “Hand from Above,” a video installation in which a giant hand appears to tickle, squash and grab at real-time passersby, is also sure to be popular.

These and many other events will be held right through Saturday night. All of the specialist art venues will remain open until late — the Mori Art Museum until 6 a.m. And, to help visitors stagger home after a heavy night of art appreciation, there will even be special late-night shuttle buses and Oedo Line trains.

Of course, the real question is whether or not this year’s Roppongi Art Night can make a big enough splash to upstage Roppongi’s already colorful nightlife. Last year the consensus was that the art lost out. This year, it seems, things may be different.

For more information on Roppongi Art Night, see www.roppongiartnight.com

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