Tōkyō’s new, old Gem
Since October 2012 Tōkyō is able again to adorn itself with a main railway station that has overcome the troubles it went trough during the last months of World War II. The brick-built facade and the parts of the station that face west towards the Marunouchi business district and the Imperial Palace have been restored in their original splendour. By doing so, also the requirements of modern technology were satisfied, without destroying the charm and the grand air of the building which was opened in 1914.
As early as 1889 there were plans to build a railway station here in order to connect the tracks of the Tōkaidō line (which ended in Shimbashi at that time) and of the Nippon Railway (which had its terminal in Ueno). However, before any further action was taken, Japan found it necessary to make war against China and Russia first – hence, building activity didn’t start before 1908.
Designed by the architect Tatsuno Kingo (辰野 金吾 / たつのきんご)(1854-1919) a splendid building was erected which, however, doesn’t really follow the rules of a specific style. This should come as a little surprise only, if you know that Tatsuno graduated from the “Imperial College of Engineering”, where Josiah Conder was his teacher. And if one was to bitch about it, one could say: The “distinct” samples of architecture left to Japan by the Briton Conder even US-American air raids couldn’t rid of the face of the earth.
Even at the days when the station was opened on December 20th 1914 there were (among others) two electric railways (the lines which we now call “Yamanote line” und „Keihin-Tōhoku line“). During the course of the following years and decades the station was expanded and further lines connected. Originally, the tracks could only be reached from the Marunouchi side of the station – and this is the part that has recently been restored.
But, naturally, the station wasn’t witness of expansion and splendour only. In 1921 the Japanese Prime Minister was assassinated here. And on May 25th, 1945 the station was largely destroyed by US-American B29 bombers. The dome-shaped roofs at the north- and the south gates were shattered. At least the station’s facade could be rescued from the war’s destruction. However, only two of the initially three stories were re-built right after the war. Also the domes had to be sacrificed to the time’s feasibilities and found their “replacement” by rather simple angular roofs. Furthermore, most of the more delicate design elements were scraped. Even though the station could be put back into function, it had lost its particular charm.
Since the days of reconstruction only little attention was paid to the appearance of the magnificent brick-stone fasace. In recent years the building showed clear signs of “ageing” and even looked a but shabby. But that all was remedied with the recent comprehensive restoration work. After five years of efforts, the railway station is again a magnet not just for travelers, but also for tourists who like to include the station as a little detour when visiting the nearby Imperial Palace – or vice versa.
The center of the building shows a particularly inviting entrance to the tracks – it is reserved for members of the Imperial Family.
Additionally, since October 3rd 2012 this historic building is home to the luxurious “Tōkyō Station Hotel“, that offers 150 rooms and suites – a revived version of the “good, old days” for its well-off clientele.
By the way: While restoring the old magnificence of the building, also everything possible was done to protect it from the harms of earthquakes. A complicated system of cushioning is supposed to make it resistent for earthquakes up to a magnitude of 7.
Back in the 80s and 90s the area that stretches from the station to the Imperial Palace, the Marunouchi district, was a rather desolate place to look at. The high-rise buildings for offices had little beauty to offer and gave the whole district a dark character. But that has changed dramatically during the last 10 years or so. The high-rise buildings have grown more and considerably taller, but at the same time the area has been transformed into a rather fancy and cosmopolitan shopping- and business district, that doesn’t need to fear any comparison with the chic Ginza district on the east side of Tōkyō Station.
Of course, one could also write a little about the east side of Tōkyō Station, the Yaesu distrcit. But today it’s just about the gorgeous west side.
By the way: The restoration works at Tōkyō Station haven’t been completed yet – they will go on well into the year 2013. But for a station like that construction work will hardly ever be “completed”. Unlike most of the other station in the country, Tōkyō Station’s function as a hub for the bullet-train connections will require constant upgrades to state of the art technology.
If you fancy data – here they are:
Tōkyō Station is home to the following railway lines:
- Chūō line (中央線 / ちゅうおうせん) for Shinjuku, Takao and Ōme
- Keihin-Tōhoku line (京浜東北線 / けいひんとうほくせん) for Ueno, Akabane, Ōmiya, Shinagawa, Yokohama and Ōfuna
- Yamanote line (山手線 / やまのてせん) for Ueno, Sugamo, Ikebukuro, Shinagawa, Meguro and Shibuya
- Tōkaidō line (東海道線 / とうかいどうせん) for Yokohama, Hiratsuka, Odawara, Atami, Numazu, Itō, Takamatsu, Izumoshi and Izukyu Shimoda
- Yokosuka line (横須賀線 / よこすかせん) for Yokohama, Ōfuna, Kamakura, Yokosuka and Kurihama
- Sōbu line (総武線 / そうぶせん) for Kinshichō, Funabashi, Chiba and Narita Airport
- Keiyō line (京葉線 / けいようせん) for Shin-Kiba, Maihama, Kaihin-Makuhari, Soga, Tateyama and Awa-Kamogawa
- Musashino line (武蔵野線 / むさしのせん) f0r Nishi-Funabashi
- Tōkaidō Shinkansen (東海道新幹線 / とうかいどうしんかんっせん) for Nagoya, Kyōto, Shin Ōsaka and Hakata
- Tōhoku Shinkansen (東北新幹線 / とうほくしんかんせん) for Utsonomiya, Sendai, Morioka and Shin-Aomori
- Yamagata Shinkansen (山形新幹線 / やまがたしんかんせん) for Yamagata and Shinjo
- Akita Shinkansen (秋田新幹線 / あきたしんかんせん) for Akita
- Jōetsu Shinkansen (上越新幹線 / じょうえつしんかんせん) for Takasaki and Niigata
- Nagano Shinkasen (長野新幹線 / なかのしんかんせん) for Nagano
- Tōkyō Metro Marunouchi line (東京メトロ丸の内線 / とうきょうメトロまるのういちせん) for Ginza, Shinjuku, Ogikubo, Hōnanchō, Ōtemachi and Ikebukuro
Tōkyō Station is – as far as the number of daily trains is concerned – the busiest in Japan with more than 3,000 trains a day. As far as “bording passengers” are concerned it is the fifth-busiest in Eastern Japan with more than 380,000 passengers (if you add all the people that change trains here or leave the railroad’s premises, this number will explode to far more than 1,000,000 passengers every day). However, the “number one station” in Japan is Shinjuku Station in the west of Tōkyō’s center with roughly 750,000 boarding passengers every day. Based on all passenger movements Shinjuku Station is even the busiest in the whole world (3.6 million passengers), as the Guiness Book of World Records states – and they are supposed to know best.
How to get here:
Very simple: Just pick one of the railroad lines above…