Work to demolish the original version of Harajuku Station, long a symbol of Tokyo’s Harajuku district, a mecca for young people, is set to start Monday, bringing its 96-year history to an end.
Famous for its triangular roof topped by a weathercock, the oldest wooden train station in Tokyo was built in a Western style called half-timbering. It was completed in 1924 mainly for use by visitors to nearby Meiji Shrine, which was built in 1920.
The station, one of 30 on the Yamanote Line run by East Japan Railway Co. (JR East), survived World War II but was replaced by the new Harajuku Station building in March.
“The wooden building with an idyllic exterior was easily accepted by citizens at the time of its completion when the so-called garden city concept that attaches importance to a suburban life and nature was spreading and people were starting to introduce the Western lifestyle,” said Shigeru Onoda, an official at the Railway Technical Research Institute.
According a document compiled by the now-defunct Japanese National Railways, about 10 incendiary bombs hit the former building during an airstrike in April 1945 in the final phase of the war, but the structure escaped destruction because none of the bombs exploded.
The areas around the station were burned to the ground during the war, but managed to recover in the postwar economic boom. The National Stadium in Yoyogi, about a five-minute walk from Harajuku Station, was used as the venue for swimming and other events during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
Later, a road near Harajuku Station was reserved for pedestrians as a vehicle-free zone, attracting hordes of young people dubbed takenoko-zoku (the bamboo shoot tribe), who enjoyed dancing to disco music in colorful costumes.
The station is also close to Takeshita-dori, a popular street crammed with casual fashion and sweets shops, and to the high-end Omotesando shopping district.
The old building ended service in March and is set to be dismantled because it does not meet fireproofing standards.
Some parts, such as the stained glass, have remained intact since it was built, according to JR East. After the building is demolished, a replica of its exterior is planned to be built near the new Harajuku Station, partially using materials from the old building.
“It feels like an era is ending,” said Toichi Shinohara, 79, who was born and raised in the Harajuku district.
“I’m saddened that the old Harajuku Station building will be destroyed, but I feel relieved that a replica with the same design is set to be built,” said Shinohara, who heads a local community association. “I’d like to thank (the old building) for serving us for a long period of time,” he said.