Tokyo is a very scenic city whose architecture has been largely shaped by its history. The metropolis was destroyed twice in recent history, first during the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and second, after the extensive fire-bombing of WWII. Consequently, Tokyo’s current urban landscape consists mainly of modern and contemporary buildings and older buildings are very scarce.
Of these scarce structures, two that are definitely worth seeing while visiting Tokyo are the National Diet Building and Tokyo Station.
Built in 1936, the National Diet Building is an imposing granite structure which sits on land that was once inhabited by feudal lords. For 46 years prior to the building’s completion, the National Diet, comprised of two chambers, the House of Representatives (the Upper House) and the House of Councilors (the Lower House) assembled in temporary quarters, with the first meeting taking place in the year 1890. When the Diet is not in session, visitors can go on free 60-minute tours of the House of Councilors chamber, the public gallery, the Emperor’s room, the central hall and the front courtyard.
Tokyo Station which opened on December 20, 1914 was first conceived in 1896 by the Imperial Diet who wanted to open up a new station on the line connecting the Shinbashi and Ueno terminals. They wanted to name it Central Station. Unfortunately, construction was delayed until 1908 due to the First Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War. When the station was finally completed, it consisted of four platforms, two of which were dedicated to electric trains and the other two served non-electric trains. In the early days, the station only had gates on the Marunouchi side, with the north side serving as an exit and the south side serving as an entrance. Today, this brick faceted side is the one that is most easily recognized when referring to Tokyo Station.
Unfortunately, much of the station was destroyed in the fire-bombing which took place on May 25, 1945. The bombing shattered the impressive rooftop domes and when the station was rebuilt within the year, simple angular roofs were used in place of the domes and the restored building was only two stories tall rather than three.
The Marunouchi side underwent an extensive 5-year renovation which was completed in October 2012 where it was restored to its pre-war condition. The modern day Tokyo Station (main station) consists of 10 island platforms serving 20 tracks, raised above street level running in a north-south direction. The main concourse runs east-west below the platforms. It is the main intercity rail terminal in Tokyo and the busiest station in Japan in terms of number of trains per day (over 3,000). Inside the station you will find a large shopping area including the multi-story Daimaru department store, event halls, coffee shops, restaurants, an art gallery and a hotel.
The Tokyo Station Hotel opened its doors on November 02, 1915. The hotel consists of 150 guest rooms and suites designed in a classic European decor. It features a variety of fine and casual dining restaurants as well as several bars and lounges. The Atrium Lounge designed by the British firm, Richmond International Ltd., features a 9 meter high ceiling with a massive skylight.
Chances are, you are going to utilize Tokyo Station when traveling in Japan. Why not linger a little and tour the station and all it has to offer before boarding your train to your destination?
The Marunouchi side entrance
The food court at the Daimaru department store
You can find anything and everything at the Daimaru department store