Tokyo Station, with its attractive red brick structure, is a place where eastern and western Japan come together.  People from all over the country and all over the world pass through Tokyo Station daily.  It is representative of the extensive Japanese railway system which branches out to all places in Japan.

Anybody passing through the station within the last few years probably couldn’t help but notice the sounds and wonder about what they were doing behind those walls.  After five years of this construction, renovations were finally completed on October 1st.  Tokyo Station has been restored to its original splendor from when it first opened 100 years ago.

The most noticeable part of the renovations are the two domes with ornate ceilings in the north and south entrances of the station.  The octagonal shape  is decorated with eight of the twelve Chinese zodiac figures at each corner.  In the three days we were there to report the renovations we could see many people stopping to gaze up into the domes, also taking time to aim their cell phone cameras at the art work there.

But wait, there are twelve zodiac figures, one for each month of the year, so where are the remaining four?  We thought maybe they were divided between the two north and south entrances but, no, the domes each are decorated with the same eight zodiac figures.  What does this mean?

Actually the zodiac figures are not purely for decoration but have directional value as points of a compass.  They are as follows:

The ox represents northeast

The tiger, northeast

The dragon, southeast

The snake, southeast

The goat, southwest

The monkey, southwest

The dog, northwest

And the pig, northwest

The four omitted zodiac signs are, rabbit, rooster, horse, and rat, all representing the straight out directions of the compass, east, west, south and north.

Some people may be disappointed that their zodiac sign is not up there, but it all sort of makes sense directionally, now doesn’t it?  Perhaps all those years ago people actually used the signs to get their bearings and plan which direction they needed to go!

These Marunouchi Station Halls were first built 100 years ago.  At that time, their special feature was their round dome-shaped ceilings.  During the war they were burned to the ground by bombings.  In rebuilding the station, safety was taken into consideration and the three-storied round domes became two-storied trapezoid shaped domes.

These newly renovated station halls are places of interest for visitors and should be added to the list of hot spots for tourists.  Looking up into the dome is like looking into a kaleidoscope.  There is also the Tokyo Station Gallery in the north dome of the station where unique modern art is exhibited.  Tokyo station is definitely an attraction worth seeing, a place you’ll want to slow down instead of your usual mad rush to your next train.  You’ll want to linger a bit and enjoy the view of Tokyo station 100 years ago.

A model of the new station

The station gallery

The dome of years ago

Today’s dome

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