[From December Issue 2012]
On October 1 this year, Tokyo Station reopened after renovation work. In 1914, a train line was built to connect Shimbashi Station, the gateway to Western Japan, with Ueno Station, the gateway to Eastern Japan, with a central station established at the halfway point between them. That was the beginning of the Tokyo Station story. It was decided it would be situated in front of the Imperial Palace. Reflecting the special importance of this station to the country, the station was named Tokyo Station; taking the same name as the capital of Japan.
Tokyo Station is a huge terminal located in the center of Japan. According to a survey, conducted in 2011 by East Japan Railway Company, on the number of passengers passing through ticket gates, Shinjuku is the busiest of all the stations run by JR East Japan, followed by Ikebukuro and Shibuya. Although it has the most platforms in Japan and serves as the terminal of many lines, Tokyo Station is the fifth busiest. That’s because many people transfer to other lines at this station instead of exiting through a ticket gate.
For the past five years there have been a number of development projects being carried out in the vicinity of Tokyo Station, such as the renovation of the station house and the construction of buildings nearby. The tagline for this project has been: “Tokyo Station will become a town.” The area around Tokyo Station was named “Tokyo Station City.” Now, Tokyo Station is no longer just a place to catch a train, but has been reincarnated as an attractive place that anybody would go out of their way to visit.
Tokyo Station building has been designated as an important national cultural property. It has been fitted with a quake absorbing system that uses the latest architectural techniques to help it withstand major earthquakes. Particularly noticeable are the two round roofs or domes, located on the north and south sides of the station building. Due to fire damage during the war, the building had been limited to being a two-story structure up until recently, but it has now been restored to its original three-story layout. Inside the domes are elaborate carvings of flowers and animals.
Located inside the main station building, Tokyo Station Gallery was opened in 1988 with the aim of making the station a cultural destination, not simply a place which people pass through. Now the station has been renovated as a three-story structure, it has three times as much floor space as before. On the second floor gallery, you can touch the building’s iconic red brick walls. To celebrate the completion of the renovation work, an exhibition is being held titled, “Nine Artworks that tell a Story about Tokyo Station and the Railroads, to be Enjoyed While Waiting for the First Train.”
Tokyo Station Hotel, adjacent to the station building, reopened on October 3. Its new “Dome Side” rooms are designed so that guests can look down at the ticket gates below the dome. Opened in 1915, Tokyo Station Hotel is one of Japan’s most famous classic hotels and has been patronized by writers such as KAWABATA Yasunari, and other celebrities. The hotel houses a beauty salon and a small department store that sells traditional crafts.
The JR East Travel Service Center, a service center for foreign tourists, has been set up in the station building in the Marunouchi North Exit Dome. They can handle inquiries in four languages: Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean. At the center, there is a tourist information center, a travel agency, a currency exchange counter, and an ATM. At the travel agency, they provide a number of convenient services for foreign tourists: you can pick up a Japan Rail Pass or pick up and buy a JR East Pass; you can also buy tickets for special English-language trips, tickets for JR trains, and Suica (an IC card).
At Tokyo Station Ichiban-gai (First Avenue Tokyo Station), right outside the Yaesu Underground Central Ticket Gate, there is a wide variety of shops. Tokyo Character Street and Tokyo Okashi (Snack) Land are popular spots that entertain children and adults alike. Offering freshly baked snacks and chocolates, Tokyo Okashi Land is a collection of “antenna shops” (showroom stores) run by three major confectionary makers in Japan.
Tokyo Ramen Street brings together eight of Tokyo’s most famous ramen shops. Among these, Rokurinsha Tokyo’s tsuke-men, is so famous that some people travel long distances just to try it. Hirugao’s shio (salt) ramen is especially popular with women. You can savor the taste of these popular ramen here without having to trek all over the city.
At Tokyo Station you can have a good time without even having to go through the ticket gate. The “ekinaka” (within the station) area has more facilities than any other station in Japan. At Gransta, about 50 shops sell special dishes and packed lunch boxes from famous restaurants, as well as sweets, sake and other goods. Many limited edition products on sale here are difficult to get hold of elsewhere, making it a popular place for tourists to pick up souvenirs of Tokyo.
Using ingredients delivered fresh from all over Japan, at Gransta Dining you can enjoy eating at popular restaurants that serve not just Japanese cuisine, but also Chinese and Italian food. Every single shop has a good reputation for its breakfast menus. On Central Street around 150 types of ekiben (boxed lunches sold at train stations) are on sale. A popular feature of these stores is how you’re able to watch from outside as these meals are prepared.
In the evening, the entire building of Tokyo Station is magically lit up in the dark with LED spotlights. The color of the walls and the design of the station building have been reproduced so that it exactly resembles the way it appeared when it was first built. The exact same scene of 100 years ago has been recreated before your very eyes. The traditions and culture that have continued up until this day will be passed on throughout the next 100 years.
Text: MUKAI Natsuko