« Authentic, no Lie | Main | Higher Learning »

Touring Meiji Era Tokyo

   Akasaka Palace was built between 1899 and 1909 and originally intended as the residence for the Crown Prince. Since 1974, the palace has provided accommodations for state and official guests and a venue for international conferences.

   After the capitulation of the Shogunate following the Meiji Restoration (1868), the inhabitants of Edo Castle, including the Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu, were required to vacate the premises. Emperor Meiji then left the Kyoto Imperial Palace and on 26 November 1868 arrived at Edo castle, making it his new residence. It was initially renamed Tōkei Castle (東京城, Tōkei-jô) as Tôkyô had also been called Tôkei at the time, but on the emperor's return on 9 May 1869, it was renamed Imperial Castle (皇城, Kôjô).

   The head office of the Bank of Japan consists of the Old Building, New Building and Annex Building. The former main building, the oldest part of the Old Building, was completed in 1896.

   Kingo Tatsuno's ties with Shibusawa Eiichi, an industrialist and the "father of Japanese capitalism", brought him the commission to design the bank in 1890. It was the first building of its type to be designed by a Japanese architect. Once given the commission, Tatsuno immediately set off to Europe for a year to do research for the project, studying among other buildings, the Banque Nationale in Brussels by Beyaert and Janssens.

   Take a virtual tour of the building.

   Stick 'em up!

   I have written elsewhere about Nihon Bashi. The first wooden bridge was completed in 1603, and the current stone bridge pictued above and below dates from 1911.

   The highway overpass ruining the view was built in 1963. What on earth were they thinking? Fortunately, there is some renewed talk about tearing down the highway as the Shuto Expressway is over forty years and showing signs of wear.

   The zero kilometer mark. It is from this point in the middle of Nihon Bashi that all distances from the capital are measured.

   A few blocks from Nihon Bashi is the Mitsukoshi Department Store. Although this store opened in 1935 (a decade into the Shôwa Period), the company itself went into business in 1673, when it was called Echigoya and dealt in fabric for kimonos. The company founder Mitsui Takatoshi would go on to establish the Mitsui zaibatsu and Mitsukoshi chain of stores.

   The two lions at the entrance of Mitsukoshi were based on the four lions found at the foot of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square in London and were made by a British company in 1914.

   In the center of the department store is a massive statue of Benzaiten (Saraswati), the goddess of everything that flows--water, words, speech, eloquence, music, and knowledge. Seems like the goddess is helping the money flow, too.

   The Tokiwa Bashi (bridge) located just up the river from the Nihon Bashi was built in 1877 (Meiji 10) and is the oldest bridge in Tôkyô. At the time of my visit, the bridge was closed for repairs.

   Construction of Tôkyô Station was delayed due to the outbreak of the First Sino-Japanese War  (1 August 1894 – 17 April 1895) and Russo-Japanese War (8 February 1904 – 5 September 1905), but finally began in 1908. The three-story station building was designed by architect Tatsuno Kingo as a restrained celebration of Japan's costly victory in the Russo-Japanese War. 

   Tokyo Station opened on December 18, 1914 with four platforms; two serving electric trains (current Yamanote/Keihin-Tohoku Line platforms) and two serving non-electric trains (current Tōkaidō Line platforms). The Chūō Main Line extension to the station was completed in 1919 and originally stopped at the platform now used by northbound Yamanote/Keihin-Tōhoku trains. During this early era, the station only had gates on the Marunouchi side, with the north side serving as an exit and the south side serving as an entrance.

   Only a week or so before I went to Tôkyô, most of the scaffolding surrounding the station had been taken down. Renovation of the station continues today.

   I was surprised to find that much of the original iron and brick work at and around Tôkyô Station was still being used today.

   The former Ministry of Justice building was designed in the German neo-Baroque style by German architects, Hermann Gustav Louis Ende and Wilhelm Böckmann and completed in 1895. Although it survived the Great Kantô Earthquake of 1923 with little damage, it was destroyed in the Allied firebombings of 1945. Five years after the Pacific War's end, the building was rebuilt with some improvements to the design, most noticeably to the roof.

   The former Dai-Ichi Seimei Building, which was built in 1933 (Shôwa 8) and is located across from the Imperial Palace, was used by Douglas MacArthur as the headquarters for the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers during the occupation of Japan. It was designed by the Japanese architect Yoshikazu Uchida.

   Another building that doesn't quite deserve to be in this collection is the National Museum of Science and Nature which was built in 1931. It is located in Ueno Park.

   Standing at the heart of the main campus of Tôkyô University is the Yasuda Auditorium. It was constructed in 1925 (Taishō 14) thanks to a donation from Zenjiro Yasuda, who had been concerned about the absence of a building of sufficient grandeur to receive the emperor when visiting the university. (The things that motivate people.)

   On the Ueno campus of the prestigious Tôkyô University of the Arts, you'll find a number of buildings dating back to the Meij and Taishô eras, including this one which was part of the former Tôkyô School of Music (founded in 1890). In 1949, the School of Music merged with the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, forming the Tôkyô University of the Arts.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.