Tokyo Station (東京駅) is the meeting point of several of Japan’s high speed Shinkansen train lines. In the entire country, it sees the highest number of trains of all kinds pass through it each day. It isn’t the busiest in Japan, however, as measured by passenger throughput. That honor goes to Shinjuku Station, with the highest daily passenger volume in the world. But with its recent historic restoration Tokyo Station may, depending on your taste, be the most charming.
If you enter via one of the underground lines that pass through the station, everything at first appears to be business as usual.
If you already know what you need, tickets and reserved seating for Shinkansen can be purchased at automated machines.
For more complicated itineraries, the staffed ticket counters are not far away.
This is a model of the original 1914 station, now referred to as the Marunouchi Building, which we’re under.
I felt right at home among multiple generations of train geeks.
These underground passages lead west, under the taxi rotary, providing connection to the Tokyo Metro portion of the station and underground entrance to multiple buildings in the Marunouchi district. Tokyo Station’s relationship to the landholders around it was a key enabler of this ambitious, five year long, 50 billion yen construction project to restore the Marunouchi Building to its original state, prior to sustaining heavy damage during World War II. From 2003 to 2008 East Japan Railway Company, the station’s owner and operator, transferred its unused and unneeded air space rights to other building owners, much of which went to the Mitsubishi Estate Company. The proceeds from the sales fully funded the renovation.
Emerging from underground, a glimpse of the restored red brick facade comes into view.
But this is what all of the fuss is about, and justifiably so. This is the dome over the north entrance to the Marunouchi Building. There is another just like it at the south end. The domes replace the angled roofs that had been in place since repairs made after World War II. Ornate woodwork and steel adorn the interior.
The dome interior is breathtaking, but what I couldn’t get over were all of the people who had come here, like me, just to admire the work and take a few photos.
Digital displays show an animated history of the station as it morphed over time.
JR East could do a brisk business with a massage chair setup for treating all of the people craning their necks.
The Tokyo Station Gallery, an art exhibition space opened in 1988, is located in the north dome.
Don’t forget to look down, too.
While it was a real treat for me to come and see this, I think I enjoyed even more watching all of the people taking photos or having their pictures taken in the space. Expressions ran the gamut from curiosity to wonder and joy.
In addition to all of the aesthetic and structural work, the building received an updated seismic activity suspension system.
Waiting in the taxi queue
I wanted a few wider shots of the building exterior, but by this point the rain had become moderate to heavy. In order to get out from the overhang around the north dome without getting wet, I decided to shoot from the front of the Shin-Marunouchi Building, which faces the station. Thank goodness for those underground passages.
24mm on a full frame camera was apparently not enough for Tokyo Station. I think I will use this image to play up the 14mm wide angle I’ve been eying for a while to my purchasing manager.
I wasn’t the only one who had this idea.
Shin Marunouchi Building is one of the Mitsubishi Estate owned properties that received the benefit of an air space increase in transactions with the East Japan Railway Company. Its original floor area to plot size ratio of 1300% increased to 1700%, allowing nearly 500,000 additional square feet. It’s the tallest building in the Marunouchi district.
The underground level is filled with vendors and places to eat. Though technically not part of Tokyo Station, the multiple underground linkages mean it can be easily reached by commuters working in the area or through travelers changing trains in Tokyo. This is also what transit oriented development looks like.
Back in Tokyo Station, I captured just a bit of the belly of the terminal as I made my way over to the local lines for my next destination.
Like many of the larger stations in Tokyo and Japan, there is a large and sophisticated retail presence. JR East’s decision to renovate the station wasn’t simply a beauty project, but part of a broader strategy to strengthen its brand as a retail destination.
This is one of the Shinkansen entrance gates within the station.
The lower electronic display indicates how the trains (with numbered cars) will line up with each of the platform stairwells and elevators.
I had much humbler plans for the remainder of the day, so back to the good old Yamanote Line.
This little Russian boy was so happy to see the Yamanote approach the platform. So was I.
This post is part of The Tokyo Project. Click here to go to the introduction and table of contents.