After three years of consultations, the fate of Tokyo’s oldest wooden station building has finally been revealed.

Back in June 2016, East Japan Railway announced it would be rebuilding Harajuku Station ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and while the new design promised a more modern building better able to cope with the huge crowds of commuters in the area, they were yet to make a decision on whether they would be able to preserve the old building or somehow merge it into the facade of the new one.

▼ The old station and its narrow footpath become heavily congested during events, and passengers are set to increase dramatically during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

Now, after three years of consultations with local retail associations and Shibuya Ward, where the station is located, JR East has come to a decision over the fate of the near-century-old building, and the conclusion they’ve reached is that the old station needs to be demolished.

While the building, which was built in 1924 in a European style, is Tokyo’s oldest wooden station and a historic landmark, the structure itself isn’t sufficiently fire-resistant, and therefore needs to be taken away for safety reasons.

A JR East representative said, “There were people who voiced opinions over wanting to preserve its long history, but for safety reasons the decision was made to demolish the building”.

The wooden building will be torn down after the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo and replaced with a new one currently being built adjacent to it, with the grand opening scheduled for 21 March next year. While the new station will take over operations when it opens, the final completion date for works at the site is scheduled for 31 August, 2021, a year after the Olympic Games.

▼ The sun will finally set on this station building’s long history after the Olympics.

While the old station building will disappear from the landscape, JR East says it will honour the former structure by using fire-resistant materials to recreate its European look as much as possible in the new building. However, plans for the new modern-looking two-storey structure, which include a new entrance on the Meiji Jingu side of the station, show a building that looks worlds away from the original.


People in Japan were saddened to hear news of the fate of Harajuku Station’s beloved old facade, leaving comments like:

“Noooo! This is such a tragedy!”
“It’s always sad when history becomes a secondary consideration.”
“As the station closest to Meiji Jingu shrine, the old station building was perfectly suited for the historic location.”
“I’m crying for Japan.”
“Can’t they carefully dismantle it and move it to another location?”
“The option of relocation is a must!”

While JR East has made no mention as to whether or not the building will be preserved and relocated, which has been the case for a number of historic buildings in Japan’s past, many people are now holding on to the hope that the building won’t be simply torn down and completely lost forever.

And given all the changes that the capital is currently seeing as new buildings pop up all over Shibuya ahead of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, ensuring old Japan continues to thrive with the new is increasingly becoming an important issue.

Source: Jin
Featured image: Wikimedia Commons/Chris 73
Insert images: Flickr/Dick Thomas Johnson, Pakutaso, Flickr/Pohan ChenEast Japan Railway Company
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