The new version of Harajuku Station opened on Tokyo’s busy Yamanote loop line Saturday as visitors in masks gathered to gawk despite the coronavirus pandemic.
The new building, situated just south of the original wooden one, is a two-story structure straddling the tracks with exits facing sedate Meiji Shrine and Omotesando-dori, the busy east-west thoroughfare and upscale shopping venue.
Glass walls in the concourse allow plenty of sunlight in and give the building a bright, modern feel. The interior has tiled floors and a clear view of the old station and the tracks.
A NewDays convenience store on the first floor and a Sarutahiko Coffee shop on the second floor commenced business the same day.
“I think it’s nice,” said Unjiro Hatano, 82, who had just exited the ticket gates with his 80-year-old wife, Rieko.
Living in nearby Yoyogi, the elderly couple walk pass the station every day, Rieko Hatano said.
“Each time I wondered when it would be completed,” she said, adding that she was glad that many elements of the nostalgic old station are set to be retained when it is “remade” after the games.
East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) began construction on the new station building in September 2016.
The old Western-style version, which was built nearly 100 years ago, will be dismantled after the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games due to its narrow shape and decades-long failure to comply with the fire code. But elements of its design will be incorporated into the new commercial building scheduled to replace it.
Harajuku Station began operating in 1906. The wooden structure was completed in 1924 to accommodate visitors to Meiji Shrine, which was built four years earlier, according to JR East.
“It is clean, but I also feel the old one was good just as it was,” said a 20-year-old university student from Saitama who was waiting for her friend in the new version.
High school student Sorato Ishikawa, who was taking photos of the new station outside, agreed it had a cleaner feel.
“The old station has been around for a while, so it was quite dirty,” the 18-year-old said. “But I was happy to use either one.”
Harajuku Station is a gateway to one of the capital’s hubs for youth culture and street fashion, providing access to the bustling shopping streets of Takeshita-dori and Omotesando-dori, and Meiji Shrine, a major tourist site.
Pedestrian access from the Takeshita-dori exit in the old station remains unchanged despite the new station opening.
In the meantime, the new shopping complex With Harajuku, just across the street from the station, is set to open on April 25. It will house the first city-style Ikea store and a Uniqlo shop, among other popular brands.