One final hurrah for the soon-to-be-demolished iconic building. 

After standing tall in Tokyo’s Ginza district since 1972, the iconic Nakagin Capsule Tower, designed by Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa, is set to be demolished this year.

This is in spite of the best efforts made by the building’s longtime tennants to save the twin-tower concrete complex and its 140 self-fabricated capsule apartments, including our own Japanese-language reporter Chie Nomura, who took up residence at Nakagin in May last year.

Nakagin Capsule Tower 

During her time at Nakagin, Chie became close with the community connected to the complex, including a man called Mr Okuyama, a 44-year-old reporter who used one of the capsule apartments as a second office.

▼ Mr Okuyama (middle), surrounded by other Nakagin tennants.

After interviewing Mr Okuyama in his capsule apartment last year, Chie discovered that his room has a slightly different history to most of the others in the building, as it was once a “pink capsule“, used by members of the sex industry.

When Mr Okuyama first discovered remnants of pink paint in his room that alluded to its former past, he began to dream about restoring the apartment to its previous glory. That lofty project idea ended up being placed on the back burner for a number of years, but when he and the other residents moved their belongings out of their apartments in January ahead of the March closure of the building, it became the perfect time for the restoration to take place.

▼ The Nakagin gang got together to help Mr Okuyama realise his dream, gathering materials together for the D.I.Y project.

The tight-knit gang of supporters (officially known as the Nakagin Capsule Tower Cheering Party) were all keen to help, and luckily, they had reference photos from a former pink room to refer to.

As it turns out, it wasn’t just the doors and windowsill that were painted pink — the toilet seat was also painted.

The team were able to go out and easily buy the exact shade of paint needed for the job, thanks to this colour match against the remnants of pink paint.

▼ A perfect match!

▼ Funnily enough, the paint can they bought kind of resembled the round window in the room.

Some of the former pink rooms were once covered in pink marble-patterned wallpaper, but given that the team was tight on time and money, they decided to recreate the look of the painted rooms.

▼ The Great Restoration Operation, as it was dubbed, took place at the end of January.

The first thing the team needed to do was cover the entire floor with plastic and secure the edges to the walls with masking tape.

▼ They also set up a sheet around the toilet seat, which had been out of use for seven years.

▼ Then, they applied masking tape around the door and window sections that were to be painted.

▼ With the prep work now complete, it was time to start painting.

▼ Even the tower’s resident cosplay DJ was on hand to help.

She wrote “Mojisho“, Mr Okuyama’s nickname, on the door, along with the date for posterity, before going over it all with the paint roller.

The paint wasn’t great on the metallic surface of the toilet seat and lid, but it still worked to provide a pop of colour.

And finally, the team painted the power outlets on the wall, which ended up looking a bit like blocks from a video game.

It only took about an hour to finish the paint job, and the team then turned the air conditioner on to help it dry before leaving the room.

After an hour, the painters returned, but the fumes were so strong in the unventilated room that they had to borrow an air circulator from another room to help ventilate it. After another hour or so, they were able to return to finish the job, peeling away the tape to reveal the end result.

▼ Before

▼ After!

The pops of pink around the room added an amazing amount of character to the space. The rounded bathroom door, one of the most beloved features of these capsule rooms, looked even cuter than it did before.

▼ The pink toilet seat also brightened the bathroom.

▼ What really drew everyone’s eye, though, was the rounded window, which looked absolutely gorgeous in the afternoon light.

The team had the job finished just in time for Mr Okuyama’s return from work, and when he stepped through the front door of his previously colour-drained apartment, his eyes immediately widened in surprise. He absolutely loved the result, telling the team it was far more beautiful than he’d imagined it to be.

“I’m so happy it turned out so well! I just wish I’d had it done sooner.”

However, there was one thing missing from this newly revamped pink capsule apartment, and that was…a woman of the night.

That’s where Chie stepped in, volunteering to pose in ways she imagined they would in the sex industry, covering her eyes to protect her identity.

“Oh dear. It appears my dress has fallen off…again!”

▼ She even shot a clip that recreated the innocent opening scene of an adult video.

As she posed in the restored room, Chie couldn’t help but wonder what stories these walls could tell. That’s when she remembered that this apartment, and its fifty-year history, would soon be a pile of rubble in Tokyo, taking all its stories to the grave with it.

▼ Even the team pet, Aibo, seemed a little sad about it all.

The team has always maintained that Nakagin is more than just a building with unique design features, though. It’s a space that brings people together and offers a sense of community.

That sense of community and friendship grew even stronger during the Great Restoration Operation, and in the building’s dying days the team strengthened their resolve to keep in touch in future.

As the team left Mr Okuyama’s room, the revamped space appeared to make him giddy with joy. He was finally able to give the room the sendoff he felt it deserved, and it was the least he could do, seeing as the space had given him so much joy over the years.

The room had also given Mr Okamura’s friends and neighbours a lot of joy too, and they all came to say a final farewell to the revamped space in the days after the restoration.

▼ Woman of the night Chie also returned for some more commemorative photos…

▼ …bringing different outfits with her for her last hurrah in the room.

▼ A formal sendoff requires some formal attire, so she also wore her kimono as well.

The pop of pink around the window contrasted beautifully with the traditional garment, creating an image that recalls the past, present and future in one image.

▼ While Nakagin’s future fate has been sealed, who knows what the future holds for Nakagin’s former tenants?

As the tenants move out of the building and say their final farewells to their rooms, one thing is certain — none of these tenants will ever forget the Nakagin Capsule Tower and all the joy it gave them.

They may take away their tower but they’ll never take away their memories. Especially the ones that involve Chie bathing in humidifier water.

Reference link: Nakagin Capsule Tower cheering party
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