A new plaza on the Marunouchi side of Tokyo Station was unveiled Thursday after years of construction, offering pedestrians a much improved promenade from the station to the Imperial Palace.

Before construction started in August 2014, the area outside the station was mainly occupied by roadways and had no sidewalks. Pedestrians visitors had to take a lengthy detour to get to Gyoko-dori, which leads to the Imperial Palace.

“The Tokyo Station area has finally become a landmark that represents Japan,” JR stationmaster Kunihiko Koike told reporters on Thursday. “The plaza is in perfect harmony with the Tokyo Station Marunouchi Building, which was renovated in 2012.”

The new 6,500 sq.-meter space, called Marunouchi Central Plaza, is paved with white granite to match Gyoko-dori. Japanese zelkova trees also line the street.

In addition to offering improved access to the Imperial Palace, spaces for taxis have been added to the northern and southern ends of the plaza making it possible for about 90 taxis to stand by for travelers coming out of the station.

In an opening ceremony held at Tokyo Station Hotel, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed hope that the area will help with the nation’s goal of attracting 40 million tourists per year by 2020.

“I hope this new gateway will serve its role as a hub of hospitality and will be passed on to the next generation,” Abe said.

The ceremony was also attended by Emperor Akihito and Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government started the project with East Japan Railway Company, also known as JR East, as part of a four-year strategic plan in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Of the total construction cost of ¥6.6 billion, ¥2.2 billion was contributed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the rest was covered by JR East.

Astrid Fenisa Khairani, a 36-year-old from Indonesia who was visiting Japan to accompany her husband on a business trip, expressed excitement over the new plaza.

“When I last came to Tokyo Station, in 2014, the plaza was still under construction, so I’m really happy that I could come back the day that the area is reopened,” she said. “And the plaza leading to the Imperial Palace really looks stunning.”

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