Friday, January 21, 2011

Answer: What's that statue in front of the Grand Hyatt in Tokyo?

As written, this isn't that difficult of a question.  You can just look up Grand Hyatt Tokyo on Google Maps, then switch into StreetView to get a pretty good look at it.  When you look at the map, it's easy to tell that the Hyatt is next to the Mori Towers, in the region of Tokyo known as Roppongi Hills.  

You can check the Photos layer at that location, but I didn't spot any good images of the sculpture there.  (That's often a great resource for questions like this because people will take pictures, geo-locate them and label the things in the picture.  Not this time.)  

So we found the first answer to my question... 

What is it?  It's a sculpture of a mini-landscape.  By zooming in on the StreetView image, you can pretty easily see that it's supposed to be some kind of mountains, and you can (in some angles) see that there's a little waterfall in the sculpture.  

But you know me--now that I've got that little bit, how could I figure out what this sculpture is called and who the sculptor was? 

Getting this last little bit of information was tricky, but my solution leads to a great insight for real searchers and real search tasks.  

I tried all of the obvious searches ( [ tokyo grand hyatt sculpture ]  [ roppongi hills sculptures ] and so on... nothing was working).  

After about 45 minutes of plugging away like this I realized that I was going to need a different strategy.  

I sat back in my chair and though "Well... who would know what this thing is called?" and the answer hit me like a World Book encyclopedia dropped from 30,000 feet as the jet of thought passed overhead:  the concierge at the hotel would know.  

Now you might think this is cheating, but I don't think so.  I'd tried about 20 searches, and when you've done that many searches, it's a strong indicator that something is wrong.  You really need a different approach.  And people are great information resources.  

Besides, Google helped out here too.  I just went to my GMail and used the "Call phone" function.  I did the obvious search for [ Grand Hyatt Tokyo telephone ] and got the direct number in a couple of seconds.  I asked for the concierge and had the answer about 15 seconds later.  

If only I'd thought about this 44 minutes ago! 

For the record, the concierge at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo (who was a lovely person and incredibly helpful, I might add) told me that the sculpture is entitled "High Mountain, Flowing Water" by Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang.  

Armed with that information, it's an easy search:

 [ high mountain flowing water cai guo-qiang ] 

The first hit is the artist's web site, that tells us the full name of the sculpture is  High Mountain Flowing Water: 3-D Landscape Painting,  and was  Mori Arts Center, Tokyo, commissioned by Mori Arts Center, Tokyo and put into place in Oct. 2003.  And his website has this much better photo... from the parking lot, not from the street.  

High Mountain: Flowing Water: A 3-D Landscape Painting
Cai Guo-Qiang (2003) 

Search take-away?  Sometimes a phone call to a live human can VERY quickly give you the few additional bits you need in order to get to information that's otherwise impossible to deduce.  

Remember--all this search stuff isn't a closed-book test.  It's open Internet, open brain, open world.  

Search on!  


  1. Oh, Daniel, you took the phone, I just eMail them! ha ha ha

    Shinya Terada Team Leader - Reservations answer the question:

    "The sculpture in the main entrance is 高山流水遇知音. Unfortunately we do not know how to say in English. It is created by Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang."

    Of course that's not the end, by google translator help, I find also a tranlation for 高山流水遇知音 (Mountain stream event concert) and following the artist path I also found the things you've found.

    So the teaching is: phone call beats email. LOL

  2. Interesting substory bit... When I was on the phone with them, they told me the same thing. (That the name of the sculpture is 高山流水遇知音 ). Since I had them on the phone, I was able to quickly say, "can you tell me that in English?" They couldn't, but someone walking past was able to give them the correct English name. Sometimes a phone call really is best...