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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tokyo Station Centenary

東京駅 100周年

Tokyo Station, the granddaddy of Tokyo's Marunouchi district, turned 100 years old this month. The station opened on December 18, 1914, after six-and-a-half years of construction work.

Marunouchi side of Tokyo Station, Japan.
Tokyo Station - Marunouchi side.
The plans for its construction had been laid 30 years before, in response to the rapidly growing population of Tokyo. The project received a massive budget boost shortly after Japan's victory over Russia in the Russo-Japanese War of 1905, taking it to six times the original budgeted amount. The result was a grand Renaissance-style building that not only announced Japan's arrival as a modern state, but as the first non-European power in modern times to defeat a European power.

Until Tokyo Station was built, Tokyo had only two railway termini: Ueno Station up north, and Shimbashi Station a little south. Tokyo Station marked the joining of these lines and the beginning of a citywide railway network.

South side of Tokyo Station, with Marunouchi Building.
South side of Tokyo Station, with, from left to right, Marunouchi Building and Shin-Marunouchi Building.
Tokyo Station has a distinguished history not only in the vigorous modernization efforts it embodied - but in a tragic sense too in that no less than two prime ministers were assassinated here: Takashi Hara in 1921, and Osachi Hamaguchi in 1930.

Bombing in World War II destroyed two of the Station's domes, and it remained shorn of them for almost the next seven decades. In 2012, renovations were completed at a cost of over USD600 million, restoring Tokyo Station to its former glory, domes and all. To ensure its safety in the event of a major earthquake, it was seismically isolated - a project that consumed a large portion of the renovation budget.

Tokyo Station has an art gallery, a hotel, and Wi-Fi throughout.

Over 3,000 trains pass through Tokyo Station every day, making it Japan's busiest station in terms of rail traffic, if not in numbers of passengers (for which it is sixth).

JR East just released a commemorative centennial Suica card for the event, but it sold out so quickly that plans have been announced for a second run.

North end of Tokyo Station with Kitte Building in background, Tokyo, Japan.
North end of Tokyo Station with Kitte Building in background.

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