Tokyo Station completes five-year restoration to the pride of Marunouchi

City's main rail hub, built in 1914, has completed a five-year restoration to the gracious landmark of the Marunouchi commercial district

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 October, 2012, 5:16am

Tokyo Station, the main hub for the city's business district and a key landmark, has unveiled its new rooftop domes, marking the completion of a 50 billion yen (HK$5 billion) renovation of the century-old building.

The two domes, which return the station to how it looked before it was damaged in the second world war, were added during more than five years of construction.

The work also included expanding the station's hotel, adding a new department store annex, and replacing 10,000 pine stakes used to secure foundations against earthquakes.

"The station will be the face of Tokyo," station manager Yasuyoshi Umehara said last week during a press tour. "I hope people can look at it for the next 100 years and be inspired."

Operator East Japan Railway refitted the red-brick building in Tokyo's Marunouchi district as part of a wider push to boost retail sales. The station, the city's main bullet-train hub, handles about 380,000 mainline train passengers a day, including workers at the headquarters of Japan's biggest banks and tourists visiting the nearby Imperial Palace.

"JR East knows they have a good location," said Masayuki Kubota, who oversees the equivalent of US$1.9 billion in assets at Daiwa SB Investments. "They are making progress in their goal of becoming a conglomerate in lifestyle, transportation and finance."

The station's renovated main building was reopened to the public yesterday at 4am. The operator had been forced to cancel an unveiling on Sunday because of the approach of Typhoon Jelawat, which left at least two people dead and more than 180 injured in Japan over the weekend.

The number of rooms at the JR East-owned Tokyo Station Hotel, which reopens tomorrow, has more than doubled to 150 following a refit that includes the construction of two new underground floors. There are 10 restaurants and cafes, along with three banquet rooms.

Work in the main station included the addition of dozens of shops and restaurants, as well as new ticket and tourist information counters. Passengers will have free Wi-fi access.

The domes, at the northern and southern ends of the building, were restored to their original 1914 design. On the inside, they are painted egg-yolk yellow with reliefs of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. The original structures were replaced by angled roofs after the war.

"The symmetry is beautiful," said Noriko Kobayashi, 36, a finance-industry worker, who was taking photos of the station on Friday. "Its oldness among all these modern buildings lends a certain weight to it."

The 335-metre long station, designated as an important cultural property, was designed by Kingo Tatsuno, who also designed the Bank of Japan building, according to Japan's National Diet Library. The station withstood the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, which destroyed about 293,000 structures.

JR East will light up the station's exterior at night to help attract tourists. It is also building an elevated walkway that will link two skyscrapers it has built on the opposite side of the station.

"The station is from a period in Japan's history when there was a heightened sense of purpose," JR East president Tetsuro Tomita told reporters last month. "We hope it will lift Japan's spirits and those of JR East."