- What kind of place is the Marunouchi/Ginza area?
- Taking photogenic photos and feeling the history of the Marunouchi/Ginza area
- “Yonei Building”, where the memories of the Mobo/Moga revives
- "Okuno Building", meeting the remnants of a former Apartment in Ginza
- "Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum", a Queen Anne style western architecture
- "KITTE", where the low-rise historical buildings and the high-rise modern buildings connect
- Enjoying the beauty of the Tokyo Marunouchi Station Building
There are various stylish architectures in Tokyo which embody the "Modern" days of Japan.
Out of these, the "Marunouchi" and "Ginza" area attracts many people through the retained atmosphere of the past days seen from the retro buildings, and also being a well-known cutting edge spot of modern Japan at the same time.
Central Tokyo consists of two areas: Marunouchi and Ginza. Although these two areas are close by, Marunouchi is known to be the center of businesses, and Ginza specializes in trends and commercial complexes.
This contrast creates a very interesting scenery, and you won't be able to resist taking pictures here.
With this being said, we wish to introduce the top five must-see retro architectures upon sightseeing in Marunouchi and Ginza.
Let's enjoy a photography tour to take snaps of the epic historical buildings while learning about its attraction and history.
What kind of place is the Marunouchi/Ginza area?
"The Center of Tokyo" is the perfect phrase to describe the "Marunouchi" area.
The area preserves countless buildings which took part in the development and modernization of Tokyo from the start, and shares the glorious history of the city.
This includes the "Tokyo Marunouchi Station Building" which serves as the gateway of Tokyo upon visiting and departing.
An office district is built around the Marunouchi Station Building
With the Tokyo Station being the most typical example, this area is known for proactively working on conservation activities to preserve and renew these valuable buildings representing Japan.
This is why you can appreciate the various beautiful buildings retaining their appearance of the past up until today.
The “Ginza” area is located within a 15 minute walking distance from Marunouchi.
It has consistently served as the forefront of trends throughout the history of Japan, and here, you can witness valuable historical buildings of the old days blending into the rapidly-changing renewed modern buildings of today.
The Ginza area attracts many tourists everyday as a popular shopping district
At these two areas, you will feel the contrast and blend of Tokyo's "Past" and "Present" through looking at the cityscape.
This time, let's enjoy a stroll to see and take pictures of the attractive historical architectures in the Marunouchi and Ginza area.
Taking photogenic photos and feeling the history of the Marunouchi/Ginza area
The tour starts from Ginza, where we look through the buildings and then walk past Kyobashi to head directly towards Marunouchi.
As supposed, the finale of the trip takes place at the entrance of Tokyo, the "Tokyo Station".
Alright then, let's begin our hour and a half stroll to explore through the five buildings.
■START：Tokyo Metro Yurakucho Line, Ginza-itchome Station, Exit no.9
↓Walk（About 2 minutes）
↓Walk（About 14 minutes）
3：Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum
↓Walk（About 2 minutes）
↓Walk（About 1 minute）
5：Tokyo Marunouchi Station Building
“Yonei Building”, where the memories of the Mobo/Moga revives
The “Yonei Building” designed by Matsunosuke Morimoto
Ginzaicchoume Station on the Tokyo Metro Yurakucho Line.
It was built in 1929, designed by an architect called Matsunosuke Moriyama.
Not many people in Japan acknowledge his name, and this is because he was mainly active in Taiwan during the colonial period, where he worked at the Architectural division of the Taiwan Sotoku-Fu to produce various architectures including the building of the former Taiwan Sotoku-Fu (current Supreme Ruler Office of China).
You can surely say that his name is more familiar in Taiwan than in Japan.
At first glance, you may consider Yonei Building to be a fairly simple stone-built architecture, but the details of the interiors in the first floor is definitely worth noticing.
The pillar designed with a spiral pattern, along with the Romanesque style arched window will catch your eye, being highly impressive and well preserving the appearance of back when it was built.
The elegance seen in the design well represents the Ginza from back then
At the time it was built, Ginza was rapidly developing to establish its position as the commercial center of Tokyo.
With tastes of retro-looking western style designs hidden here and there, the beautiful cityscape will give you a temporary illusion of that time when the Moga and Mobo(an abbreviation of Modern Girls and Modern Boys) swaggered about the city.
Unlike the styles of Art Deco and Renaissance, the simple and elegant design allows it to blend smoothly into the city of Ginza.
The outer wall seen on the second floor and above was first made from terracotta tiles, but is now finished with mortar to create a simple and refined appearance.
Since the upper floor is a linear building with a modern look, the combination of curved lines and tiles seen from the Romanesque medieval style design of the first floor stands out.
The fence is also designed with a Romanesque style look
When taking photos, you should focus on the delicate decorations garnishing the arches and columns.
You can also try to fit in the entire scenery into a single picture, so that you can enjoy comparing the different expressions seen in the first and second floor.
"Okuno Building", meeting the remnants of a former Apartment in Ginza
A conspicuous apartment will catch your eye after proceeding straight down the street running before the Yonei building.
This profound building with regularly-arranged windows and scratch tiled walls is the "Okuno Building".
The distinctive atmosphere of the “Okuno Building” creates an illusionary feel as if time has stopped
Completed in 1932, this building was formerly known as the "Ginza Apartment".
It was literally an apartment house built in Ginza 1-chome as a leading-edge cultural apartment of that time equipped with steam heating and communal baths, and was admired by many people as a luxury residence standing in the rapidly developing commercial area of Ginza.
The administration room of the Okuno Building is filled with a Showa touch
The first floor is a tiled structure
After awhile, the Ginza Apartment gave rebirth to become today's "Okuno Building", and is currently a building consisting art galleries and several other tenants.
When looking at the entire view of the building, the left side was completed during the first phase of the construction in 1932, whereas across two walls on the right side was built in the second phase construction which took place two years later .
You may not notice much difference at first glance, but if you look carefully, you will be able to tell the slight differences seen in the size and location of the window part.
The manually operated elevator is yet active today
A ride on the yet active manually operated elevators upon visiting tenants of the building is a nice way to enjoy your stay.
You can arrive at your desired floor through following the steps of opening the outside door and the inner yellow lattice door to enter, and then repeating this procedure in reverse to close them.
Through completing this ritual to board the hand-operated elevator, you will feel as if you've time slipped back to when it was first built during the Meiji era.
The desolated atmosphere further enhances the nostalgic feel
"Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum", a Queen Anne style western architecture
After exiting the Okuno Building, we will walk towards Kyobashi to head for Marunouchi.
Don't forget to check the main pillar of Kyobashi, which stands midway after departure.
Kyobashi was a historic bridge built around the same period of time as the Nihonbashi.
It was actively used to cross the Kyobashi river which ran through this area in the past, but with the river being reclaimed under the purpose of disposing the debris caused in World War II, the bridge was also demolished in 1959.
As of today, the main pillar which stood at the edge of the bridge is the only remaining architecture of that time.
This concrete pillar was built in 1911, where beneath the bronze top was glazed with glass so that it can be lit from the inside to serve as a milestone for walking by people.
A police box replicating the design of the Kyobashi
There is also a police box replicating the design of the main pillar on the opposite side of the road.
Walking down the Kajibashi street
After about a 14 minute walk from the Okuno Building and along the Kajibashi Street, you will see the "Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum" on the opposite end of a large intersection, which was designed by Josiah Conder.
The “Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum” standing on the opposite end of the intersection
The "Mitsubishi Ichigokan" was first built in 1892.
It was designed by Josiah Conder, who was the leading figure at that time to introduce western architectures to Japan.
Along with his four disciples including Kingo Tatsuno, he is known for largely contributing to the development and modernization of the architecture built during the Meiji era.
Although the building was demolished in 1968 due to deterioration, it was reconstructed based on the original design of Conder to give rebirth as the "Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum" in 2010.
You can feel the elegance of the building from the eye-catching bright colored bricks of the walls.
In order to replicate the moisty texture of the bricks used during the Meiji period, a total of 2.3 million bricks were produced in a brick factory in China solely from press molding.
Based on the drawings and the original design written in the Meiji era, the bricks were stacked to faithfully restore the former appearance of that time.
Even the textures of the bricks were reproduced
You can enter the historical resource room from the entrance facing the street.
Materials such as the design drawings of Josiah Conder and the history of the appearance from the beginning to the "Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum" of today is displayed here.
The historical resource room is free to enter
Next to the room is a beautiful steel-framed staircase with natural light coming through.
Since gas lamps were not available during the day time in the Meiji era, the step part of the dark and cramped staircase was designed in a lattice form. This allowed plenty of sunlight to enter and cover the entire space, providing a sufficient amount of brightness to the room.
Due to this historical background of that time, you can find other lighting elaborations seen in the details of the room. Try looking for them with a camera in hand.
Light passes through the lattice form steps
"KITTE", where the low-rise historical buildings and the high-rise modern buildings connect
About 2 minutes of walking along the road from the Mitsubishi Ichigokan and past the Tokyo Marunouchi Station Building, we head for the high-rise building of "KITTE".
This building was first built in 1931 and served as the former Tokyo Central Post Office.
Its appearance is very elegant and simple looking, with white tiles gently wrapping around the curvaceous building designed to match the gradual curves of the surrounding roads.
The unornamented exterior embodies the traditional Japanese-style architectural designs seen in Makabe-zukuri and Shoji.
The beautiful white tiles, which is partially renewed.
The building was reconstructed in 2013 by an architect called Kengo Kuma, under the intentions to preserve the original appearance of the former Tokyo Central Post Office building as much as possible. Innovative new features were added as well, where the appearance looking as if the modern high-rise buildings are penetrating through the low-rise floors, was created from connecting the center part of the open ceiling atrium.
The open-ceiling atrium inside the KITTE
This is how the building of the KITTE gave birth as a commercial complex with different concept designs applied to each floor: cherry blossoms for the 1st floor, the kawara tiles in the 2nd floor, and the Kimono texture used for the 3rd floor.
It has transformed into a beautiful and stylish building where soft natural light pouring from the atrium gently lightens the inside of this innovative triangular shaped architecture.
When visiting the KITTE, you should also try visiting the former Tokyo Central Postmaster’s room as well.
The former Tokyo Central Postmaster’s room
This room filled with retro atmosphere has a desk and a black phone placed in the center, and was actually used by the postmaster in the past.
In addition to this, a view of the Tokyo Marunouchi Station Building can be seen from the window behind.
It is currently used as a public rest space, with tables and chairs made available for a short break.
The window frame is purposely painted uneven to produce a nostalgic look, and you can also find various other "Intentional" ingenuities to retain the feel of that time.
The Tokyo station is used as a borrowed landscape
There is a roof garden called "KITTE Garden" at the 6th floor of the commercial area, and you can appreciate a panoramic view of the Tokyo Marunouchi Station Building here.
A panoramic view of the Tokyo Station can be seen at the roof garden of the KITTE
Enjoying the beauty of the Tokyo Marunouchi Station Building
The finale of this tour is of course, the "Tokyo Marunouchi Station Building".
It was designed by Kingo Tatsuno, who is considered to be the father of modern Japanese architecture, and also did the design of the Bank of Japan's Main Office.
This building is a typical so-called "Tatsuno Style" brick building with reddish-brown and white bricks being used to create an ornate appearance, contrary to the solid feel seen in the Bank of Japan.
The ”Tokyo Marunouchi Station Building” is the typical example of a “Tatsuno Style” architecture
At that time, RC constructions (reinforced concrete structures) were introduced to Japan from the West to be implemented in many buildings to enhance durability.
Brick constructions were considered to be completely outdated, whereas Tatsuno dared to continue using bricks in his design because this material was so familiar to him and a symbol of his works.
After all, the station building successfully colorised the entrance of Tokyo to prove that brick buildings yet deserved a position in the capital of Japan.
The reddish brown tile was a strong preference of Tatsuno
The Marunouchi station building opened in 1914, but faced several critical moments throughout its history, starting from the roof partially collapsing due to the Great Kanto Earthquake, and the symbolic domed roof on the 3rd floor burning down upon experiencing the Great Tokyo Air Raid in 1945.
Tatsuno was known for building safe and tough buildings to the extent where his constructions were called Tatsuno "Kengo"(meaning tough in Japanese) which is a parody originating from his first name "Kingo".
Sadly though, it couldn't withstand the damage caused by earthquakes and air raids despite implementing all of his knowledge and technique.
It was reconstructed with its former appearance
After enduring these crisis, the Marunouchi station building somehow maintained its form by applying minor adjustments, where it was made into a two-story building and the shape of the domed roof was changed to a square design.
In 2007, a project to fully restore the Marunouchi station building back to its original form designed by Tatsuno finally started.
The project consisted repairments and reinforcements of the entire building along with base isolation constructions which were completed in 2012 to achieve the revival of the former Marunouchi station building first built in the Taisho era.
Not only should you closely look at the details, but don't forget to also visit the South exit ticket gate located in the domed area.
The south exit ticket gate located in the dome area
If you go up to the 2nd floor from the entrance of Tokyo Station Hotel, you can view the entire floor of the domed area.
In contrary to the simple Ionian style looking orders, the ceiling is colored by reliefs, with each having a design coming from the twelve horary signs which is reminiscent of Japanese culture.
These luxuriant designs can be seen in the details as well, making it a perfect place to welcome guests to Tokyo.
The reliefs and the detailed ornaments on the ceiling is worth looking
The Ionian style pillars with a moderate elegant look
If you want a photo covering the entire scenery, taking shots from the roof garden of KITTE along with shots from the terrace of the "Shin-Marunouchi Building", which stands on the opposite side, is recommended.
You can view the entire Marunouchi station building from above just like a diorama,
You can fit the station building and the KITTE in a single photo
Thinking upon the people of that time from looking at the modern architectures of Marunouchi/Ginza
Starting from the gateway of Tokyo, the Tokyo Marunouchi Station Building, various architectures of the Meiji/Taisho era still remain in the Marunouchi/Ginza area.
Due to the rapid westernization of Japanese culture at that time, Western style architectures were also actively adopted during this period.
Since Japan recently entered the new Reiwa era, now is the perfect time to take photos whilst thinking upon the lifestyle admired by the people back then, and the contribution of the architects who supported the modernization of this country.
There are many other photogenic buildings in Tokyo with both retro and modern characteristics.
When looking at the nostalgic buildings standing quietly in between the stylish modern architectures, a mysterious feeling as if time has stopped, along with a sense of beauty, can be felt from the tranquil atmosphere.
Be sure to take notice of these architectures when sightseeing in Tokyo.