John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Attended by skating instructors, the wee rink measures less than 10 feet across.
Novice ice skaters – the kind who flail around like they're fending off dive-bombing bats – might have mixed feelings about the newest rink in Tokyo. On the one hand, it's so tiny that their terrible skills are on full public display. On the other, it's so tiny that when they topple over, they'll likely avoid the hard ground and instead bump into a nice, protective guardrail.
That's because the rink measures just under 10 feet in diameter. Sponsored by luxury-goods maker Hermès, the wintry pit invites people to sign up on Facebook for time on the ice. When they show up, Hermès operators offer free skate rentals for feet up to almost a foot long. There are even free skating classes given by qualified instructors, presumably covering all the maneuvers you can execute on this nickel's worth of ice – gliding to the opposite side and immediately turning back, for instance, or furiously spiraling in one place until they're forced to remove you or you vomit, whichever comes first.
As this tiny fixture is located in the tony Ginza district – in front of Hermès' swanky, Renzo Piano-designed building, no less – its creators have spent extra effort to make it gorgeous. A sheath of delicate white flowers and evergreens make the rink appear as if somebody had chopped it right out of a mountaintop ski resort. The railings are constructed with unfinished wood in a haphazard-looking manner that no doubt disguises expert craftsmanship. Even the skates are pretty, made from what looks like ivory leather.
Anybody in Tokyo has until December 25 to check it out; after that, Hermès will turn it over to a specially trained troupe of scarf-wearing penguins that'll skate in endless circles. Well, not really, but that would be adorable: