All Eyes on the Gateway to the Capital City of Tokyo
Audio Guide of the Marunouchi and Imperial Palace Area
Marunouchi · Exploring the Imperial Palace Area
Tokyo is the face of Japan. Tokyo station is a gateway into this capital city. Behind the station lies the areas of Marunouchi and the Imperial Palace, which were built between the Edo and Meiji eras at astonishing speed.
In the aftermath of World War II, the city made a miraculous recovery in front of a global audience. Even with its turbulent history, the metropolis continues to evolve on its own terms, developing advanced technology while maintaining its distinctive traditional culture.
Tokyo station, where all the bullet trains meet, is currently the third most visited station in Japan after Shinjuku and Ikebukuro. The splendor of the area called "Office City Marunouchi" which surrounds the station has also long been a place to unwind for local business men and women alike.
Notably, the museums in the area have escaped being burned down in the war and are preserved as symbols of the new era. The Kokyo Gaien National Garden especially, is a place that few tourists pass up.
Come with us on a tour of the Marunouchi and the Imperial Palace area, where modern Tokyo and old Edo co-exist.
A Tokyo Station
B Marunouchi Building
D Kokyo Gaien National Garden
Tokyo Station, a major train base, first opened in 1914. The first railway in Japan, however, had actually been built 42 years before, running between Shinbashi and Yokohama. The reason for this belated development was the financial difficulties the government faced, allowing private railway companies to enter the railway market. Consequently, there were no plans to connect such private company railways as a transportation network for the city.
However, in order to extend the route to the Tohoku area as part of urban planning efforts in Tokyo, the openings of Shinbashi and Ueno Stations became urgent. As a result, construction of Tokyo Station was finally able to commence.
For the design of the station building, well-known architect Kingo Tatsuno was hired by the city. He is considered to represent that era’s aesthetics as he had a hand in designing a number of large Western-style buildings that blend well into the Japanese landscape.
Later, the third floor of the station building would be destroyed by air raids during World War II, but it was quickly repaired and converted into a two-story building.
Today, all the Shinkansen, or bullet trains, meet in Tokyo Station, as it is the terminal connecting every corner of the mainland. In 2013, the main building underwent a massive restoration to its former red-brick glory.
During Tokyo Michiterasu, a year-end festive event, the majestic and beautifully lit-up Tokyo Station is the talk of the town. In addition, part of the station building also houses traditional and boutique hotels, offering a luxurious escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.
The Marunouchi Building, also called the Maru Building, is a high-rise office building on the Marunouchi side of Tokyo Station. The Marunouchi Building that you're seeing now is the second version as it was rebuilt in 2002 due to the aging of the original structure and the redevelopment of the entire district. The first Marunouchi Building was constructed in 1923, proudly known as a towering pillar in East Asia and one of the most sought after landmarks to see in Tokyo. While Tokyo Dome stadium today is one of the largest buildings in terms of land size, the Maru Building stood as a symbol of structural grandeur in its heyday. When describing the vastness of an area, people would often pose the question, “How many Maru Buildings can you fit in here?”
Post reconstruction, the Maru Building now has 37 floors above ground and 4 floors underground, fusing shopping malls and offices together. The shopping area attracts customers with an array of shops from fashion and cosmetic stores to gourmet restaurants and convenience stores. With the creation of a large commercial space in the financial district, the building became a prime location for holiday shoppers to drop by. Thus, the Maru Building plays an important part in the city's economy.
"There's a ranch in the middle of the financial district?" is the common reaction when people hear about OTEMACHI-BOKUJO. Just like on a real ranch, about 60 cattle, mini pigs, goats, alpacas and other animals are raised here. It was opened by Pasona Group's comprehensive human resource services department for the purpose of fostering more workers in the dairy industry, an industry that is suffering from a labor shortage.
Within the facility, you can pet animals in the animal feeding area. Three baby goats were also born here, and their irresistible cuteness has made them quite popular.
There are also fun hands-on activities such as making butter or ice cream at the OTEMACHI-BOKUJO Cafe, which is committed to food education. While you may be surprised to see these farm animals in the big city, it makes you wonder what the animals are thinking when they see the busy office workers rushing by, or the roads lined with cars.
Kokyo Gaien National Garden
The Imperial Palace is bookended by two parks: Kitanomaru Park on the north end and Kokyo Gaien National Garden on the south side. Kokyo Gaien National Garden is open to the public as a park adjacent to the Imperial Palace.
When it comes to sightseeing in Tokyo, many people cite the Imperial Palace as the first on their list. Considered as a starting point for Tokyo tourism, the garden is crowded with many tourists from across Japan and all over the world throughout the year.
In particular, in front of the Imperial Palace on the Marunouchi side, grass was planted with black pine scattered between gravel roads for an even more spacious effect.
In front of Kokyo Gaien National Garden is the Nijubashi Bridge. Further on, are the famous Sakurada-mon Gate and Sakashita-mon Gate synonymous with the Bakumatsu end to the Edo period. It is also a famous filming location.
This area is extremely popular as a jogging course, as runners can be seen here at any time of day. Despite the park's picture-perfect setting, during World War II it was from this location that the Imperial Government broadcast news of the country's surrender and where the Bloody Mayday incident, a catastrophe that ended with many lives lost, occurred. Archive footage of both historic events can still be found today.