Tokyo Station Domes Cap $645 Million Refit of City’s Icon

Tokyo Station Domes Cap $645 Million Refit of Century-Old Icon
Pedestrians walk past the refurbished Marunouchi station building of Tokyo Station in Tokyo. Photographer: Haruyoshi Yamaguchi/Bloomberg

Tokyo Station, the main hub for the city’s business district, unveiled its new rooftop domes today, marking the completion of a 50 billion yen ($645 million) refit for the nearly 100-year-old building.

The two domes, which return the station to how it looked before damage in World War II, were added during more than five years of construction. The work also included expanding the station’s hotel, adding a new department store annex, and replacing 10,000 pine stakes used to secure foundations against earthquakes.

“The station will be the face of Tokyo,” Station Manager Yasuyoshi Umehara said last week during a press tour. “I hope people can look at it for the next 100 years and be inspired.”

Train operator and station owner East Japan Railway Co. refitted the red-brick building in Tokyo’s Marunouchi district as part of a wider push to boost retail sales. The station, the city’s main bullet-train hub, handles about 380,000 mainline train passengers a day, including workers at the headquarters of Japan’s biggest banks and tourists visiting the nearby Imperial Palace. Trains also link the station with Narita airport.

“JR East knows they have a good location,” said Masayuki Kubota, who oversees the equivalent of $1.9 billion in assets at Daiwa SB Investments Ltd. “They are making progress in their goal of becoming a conglomerate in lifestyle, transportation and finance.”

The operator canceled a ceremony for the unveiling of the domes scheduled for today because of typhoon Jelawat.

Hotel Expansion

The number of rooms at the JR East-owned Tokyo Station Hotel, which reopens Oct. 3, has more than doubled to 150 following a refit that included rebuilding a third floor and the construction of two new underground floors. There are 10 restaurants and cafes, serving Japanese, French, Italian and Chinese food, along with three banquet rooms.

The property, an official hotel for an International Monetary Fund meeting next week, charges from 30,030 yen a night, according to its website. Its Royal Suite costs at least 808,500 yen. The hotel already has several bookings for the most expensive suite, Fuminori Kaneda, executive director of operations, told reporters Sept. 24.

Daimaru Inc. will expand its department store at the station with the opening of the annex on Oct. 5. It will be housed in a 13-story building with 13,800 square meters (148,500 square feet) of retail space.

Station Refit

Work in the main station included the addition of dozens of shops and restaurants, as well as new ticket and tourist information counters. Passengers will have free Wi-Fi access.

The domes, at the northern and southern ends of the building, were restored to their original 1914 design. On the inside, they are painted egg-yolk yellow with reliefs of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. The original structures were replaced by angled roofs after World War II.

“The symmetry is beautiful,” said Noriko Kobayashi, 36, a finance-industry worker, who was taking photos of the station Sept. 28. “Its oldness among all these modern buildings lends a certain weight to it.”

The 335-meter long station, designated as an important cultural property, was designed by Kingo Tatsuno, who also designed the Bank of Japan building, according to Japan’s National Diet Library. The station withstood the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, which destroyed about 293,000 structures.

Tourist Spot

JR East will light up the station’s exterior at night to help attract tourists. It’s also building an elevated walkway that will link two skyscrapers it has built on the opposite side of the station.

The railroad plans to increase the share of revenue it gets from shops, hotels and office buildings to almost 40 percent by the year ending March 2019 from 30 percent in the year ended March 2011. Tobu Railway Co. also completed the world’s tallest tower in Tokyo this year, while another train operator, Tokyu Corp., has opened a 34-story entertainment complex.

JR East rose 0.2 percent to 5,180 yen in Tokyo trading today. The railway operator has gained 5.7 percent this year as the Nikkei 225 Stock Average has risen 4 percent.

The company paid for the Tokyo Station reconstruction through a deal with Mitsubishi Corp. By limiting the size of its buildings, the rail company was able to sell air-space rights to Mitsubishi. The developer used these licenses to build taller office towers nearby, including Shin-Marunouchi Building and Marunouchi Park Building.

Other Redevelopments

The station’s refit follows other redevelopments in the Marunouchi area, which is home to Japan’s three largest lenders, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc., Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc. and Mizuho Financial Group Inc.

Japan Post Holdings Co. reopened the area’s main post office earlier this year after a restoration. It also built the adjoining 38-story JP Tower office, which is due to fully open next year. The 290-room Palace Hotel also reopened earlier this year after being rebuilt.

“The station is from a period in Japan’s history when there was a heightened sense of purpose,” JR East President Tetsuro Tomita told reporters in Tokyo last month. “We hope it will lift Japan’s spirits and those of JR East.”

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