Business / Corporate

Tokyo's Takanawa Gateway Station opens to public as Shinagawa development marks milestone

by Ryusei Takahashi

Staff Writer

Takanawa Gateway Station opened its doors to the public on Saturday, becoming the latest addition to Tokyo’s Yamanote and Keihin Tohoku lines and marking a major milestone in a decadeslong project to transform a large part of the Shinagawa district into a global transportation and business hub.

The new station, located in Minato Ward between Shinagawa and Tamachi, is the 47th station to open on the Keihin Tohoku Line and the 30th on the Yamanote Line. East Japan Railway Co. initially expects 23,000 daily passengers, with that figure growing to 123,000 by 2024. It is the first station to be added to the heavily used Yamanote loop since Nishi-Nippori in 1971.

“It’s a beautiful station with its big windows and modern roofing,” Taka Nakamura, the station’s inaugural stationmaster, said Saturday. “As the development of Shinagawa continues, from these windows people will be able to see the city changing.”

The station’s sleek cedar walls and enormous glass panels were designed by famed architect Kengo Kuma, who is said to have been inspired by origami in creating the concept for the building’s overall structure. With robots providing cleaning, surveillance and travel guidance, as well as an automated convenience store where items are scanned by cameras instead of clerks, it’s a markedly modern addition to Tokyo’s intricate public transit system.

Many nearby residents visited the station on opening day, including all four members of the Sato family. The family’s oldest child, a 15-year-old, was impressed by the spacious design and the way natural light filtered in through the roof and windows. His 12-year-old sister shyly nodded in agreement.

“We’ve been living here for 10 years,” their mother said. “It’s a comfortable place to live and we hope everyone — not just Japanese people but foreigners, too — find the neighborhood as welcoming as we do.”

Takanawa Gateway Station represents the latest benchmark in the Shinagawa Redevelopment Project, a yearslong endeavor by JR East to create a global hub by enhancing transportation and spearheading new construction in the neighborhood.

Not only is Shinagawa located at the confluence of several train routes, including the Yamanote, Keihin Tohoku and Tokaido lines — as well as the Tokaido Shinkansen — it’s also just a few stops away from Haneda Airport.

For those reasons, the area is thought to be a potential hub for global business.

The first stage of the redevelopment, which is slated to be completed by 2024, includes the construction of several tall buildings to welcome more residents and businesses to the area. By 2027, passengers will be able to travel from Tokyo to Nagoya in 40 minutes via the Chuo Shinkansen maglev line.

Similar efforts are ongoing throughout Tokyo — in Shibuya and Shinjuku, for example — but in almost all cases the projects are led by construction companies or local governments. While JR East has done similar work with other train stations, this is the first time the railway operator is redeveloping part of the city itself.

But while the opening of the new station is an encouraging sign, several obstacles remain for the development project, said urban planning expert Hiroo Ichikawa.

“Failure would mean the city isn’t able to distinguish itself from other, more famous parts of Tokyo,” Ichikawa said. “But the station is up and running, and the city is perfectly situated to expand public transit, so I think we can expect good things in the near future.”

Also, due to its proximity to the airport, buildings in the Shinagawa area can’t be taller than 100 meters, and the district’s long and narrow shape limits the possibility of expansive new construction, Ichikawa explained. During the Edo Period, Asakusa was widely recognized as the heart of the city. After the city was named Tokyo in 1868, the city center slowly migrated to Nihonbashi and, more recently, closer to Roppongi, Shinjuku and Shibuya. As the city center continues to move south, Ichikawa said, the question is whether Shinagawa will take this opportunity to draw attention to itself and make the area known to the rest of the world.

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