JIN-409 -- Tokyo Station Redux

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J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
JAPAN INC NEWSLETTER
Commentary on Japan's culture, economy and society
Issue No. 409
Wednesday April 4, 2007 TOKYO

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CONTENTS:
@@ VIEWPOINT: Tokyo Station Redux

Tokyo Station, the sprawling red brick landmark with a main
entrance facing the Imperial Palace, is being restored to
Kingo Tatsuno's original design. This is ironic.

It is ironic because the nearly century-old station is the
focal point of two modern, glitzy office building complexes,
one in the Marunouchi District on its west side, and the
other in the Nihonbashi and Yaesu areas on its east side.
Mitsubishi Real Estate Co., one of the developers, intends
to 'transform Marunouchi into a world-class center of
dynamic interaction,' according to real estate consultant
Dylan Robertson, writing in J@pan Inc magazine.

>From Soseki Natsume and Ryunosuke Akutagawa to Hyakken Uchida
and Hiroyuki Agawa -- Japanese novelists who have written
about railroads are numerous. One novelist, Natsuo Sekikawa,
offered an explanation for the large number of railroad
buffs among baby boomers. 'The heyday of the National
Railways coincided with the high economic growth period,
a period of need and hope.' There may be Japanese who, when
they recall vernal rites such as college entrance exams,
matriculation, or job hunting, see in their mind's eye Tokyo
Station.

The National Railways directed Tatsuno to design a station
after the style of a Momoyama palace, since the building
would face Edo Castle. But when the architect showed the
design to the Emperor, the castle's post-Restoration
resident, His Majesty remarked, 'Stations and the like are
best rendered in a foreign style.' Tatsuno returned to the
drawing board and designed a Renaissance-style station. But
the architect had still another master. Shimpei Goto,
director of the National Railways and later mayor of Tokyo,
examined Tatsuno's blueprint. 'Japan defeated Imperial
Russia,' he said. 'The station will be the gateway to Japan.
This is not of sufficient scale. Design a station that will
awe the world.' Thereafter Tatsuno modeled the station after
Amsterdam Central.

Tokyo Central Station does not awe today, but would have
been impressive then. Even if it hadn't suffered a
dimension-reducing vicissitude, it has been relatively
diminished as the city grew upward and buildings inched
closer. Today it is a landmark invisible for the surrounding
buildings.

The preservation work to the station will restore the third
story and the fourth-story octagonal domes, all of which
were consumed by fire in an air raid on May 25, 1945.

'The redevelopment...efforts on the East and West sides of
Tokyo Station...are...leading the way for the country as a
whole to reposition itself in the global economy,' notes
Robertson. And the fulcrum of that repositioning will be an
image of 19th century Amsterdam. Ironic indeed.

-- Burritt Sabin

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