Tokyo Station Marunouchi Building set to reopen

by Minoru Matsutani

Staff Writer

An “old and new” landmark will soon be back up and running at JR Tokyo Station.

The red-brick Tokyo Station Marunouchi Building, designated in 2003 as an Important Cultural Property of Japan, has been undergoing a major refurbishment since 2007 to restore its original appearance, before it was damaged by U.S. bombings during World War II.

“The purpose of the renovation is to maintain the historic structure for future generations and restore it to the way it was when it was built” in 1914, said Daisuke Nomura, a spokesman for East Japan Railway Co.

The building, situated near the Imperial Palace and which some speculate was based on Amsterdam Central Station, originally stood three stories high and had a basement floor. It emerged unharmed from the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, but the top floor was severely damaged by bombing raids in 1945.

The building was closed for repairs from 1945 to 1951, then operated with two main floors, a small part of the third floor and the basement until 2007.

When it reopens June 3, it will have three main floors and two basement floors.

The renovation work will be completed and ticket counters will be operating, but full operations will have to wait until October when its hotel and museum will be reopened and a brand-new tourism center for international travelers will debut.

The building stretches 335 meters along the station and measures 20 meters wide. Part of the building will have a fourth floor.

The biggest change is in the Tokyo Station Hotel, which will have 150 rooms, compared with the 58 when it was closed for reconstruction in 2006.

The hotel began accepting reservations May 8, and its most expensive room, the 173-sq.-meter Royal Suite, runs a staggering ¥808,500 a night.

Prices start at ¥30,030. Rooms with a view of the Imperial Palace are generally more expensive.

The building’s European appearance and proximity to Tokyo Station attracted lots of foreign tourists, hotel spokeswoman Junko Hama said.

For a few years after 1951, when the hotel resumed operations after the 1945 bomb damage was repaired, about 75 percent of the guests were foreigners, she said.

Adding to the building’s foreigner-friendliness will be the JR East Travel Service Center, a multilingual travel information center, on the first floor. It’s a good location, given that Tokyo Station is a transit hub serving several subway and commuter train lines, bullet trains and the Narita Express.

Also, Tokyo Station Gallery will be reopened to display paintings and other artworks.

Tokyo Station Marunouchi Building was designed by Kingo Tatsuno, who studied European architecture in London. He designed many other buildings in the European style.

On speculation that the architect drew his inspiration from Amsterdam Central Station, which was erected in 1889, JR East spokesman Ryosuke Akaya said, “Only Tatsuno would have known the truth.”