Sometimes the best designs are the ones that surprise you from the inside out.

Japanese train stations are known for being clean and efficient, but once you get out into the countryside, they become even more wonderful, taking on a character and charm all of their own.

That’s certainly the case over at Hoshakuji Station in the town of Takanezawa in Tochigi Prefecture. Here, in the beautiful, rural idyll, the station stands as a secret gem known pretty much only to locals, because what looks like an ordinary station building from the outside is actually a futuristic work of art inside, and it’s so worthy of esteem it won a highly recommended award in the architecture category at the 2008 Brunel Prize, an international railway design competition.

▼ Don’t be fooled by the station’s plain facade.

Hoshakuji Station (marked with the red arrow below) is located two stations from Utsunomiya Station (on the left of the arrow), which is about a 10-minute ride away.

Hoshakuji Station first opened in 1899, but the building was rebuilt in 2008, with Kengo Kuma in charge of the design. Kuma is famous for his work on the designs of the National Stadium, Kadokawa Musashino Museum, and Takanawa Gateway Station, making him one of Japan’s most esteemed architects.

Kuma’s skill and eye for design is on display for everyone to see at this station, because when you step inside, the concrete stairs and wide glass windows are contrasted by an incredible ceiling made of wood panels.

The interwoven geometric patterns create a dynamic 3-D effect, and when you look at it for a while, it feels as if it’s actually alive and moving towards you.

▼ As you walk up the stairs, it feels as if you’re being swallowed up by a giant robot.

The wooden ceiling continues beyond the stairs, writhing its way along the sunlit corridor, as if guiding you towards the ticket gates in the centre.

After purchasing a ticket and passing through the gates…

…you get to continue on your journey with the ceiling above you.

The ceiling continues around the next corridor, giving you a strange sense of comfort, as if it’s cradling you through the final leg of your journey through the building.

The stairs to the platforms feel safe and snug under the warm lights, which help to give the wood a pleasing sense of warmth as well.

Anyone who arrives at this station without prior knowledge of the design is bound to be surprised, because it’s a world away from the simplicity of other stations on the line.

Even the platforms and waiting rooms at Hoshakuji are quite generic, giving no suggestion that an award-winning design awaits those who step inside the station.

While the station building is reason alone to stop off at Hoshakuji, there’s another sight to see here — Chokkura Plaza.

Located at the east exit of the station, this building was also designed by Kuma, and it’s a good example of his light and airy design aesthetic. The concept behind this particular design is to allow wind and light to pass through, and the road surface is paved using rice husks.

The area around the station used to be divided into east and west by the railroad tracks, with the station building only being on the west side. In order to improve the ease of movement between east and west, the new building design included a bridge, leading to a large-scale redevelopment that facilitated the passage of people, which helped to regenerate the area.

Hoshakuji Station is a beautiful example of how the needs of a rural area can be fulfilled with a design that’s not only aesthetically pleasing but absolutely show-stopping.

So if you’re ever travelling around the gyoza capital of Utsunomiya, be sure to make a stop at Hoshakuji Station. Whether you’re an architecture buff or a lover of good design, this building will definitely surprise you!

Station Information

Hoshakuji Station / 宝積寺駅
Address: Tochigi-ken, Shioya-gun, Takanezawa-machi, Oaza Hoshakuji

Photos ©SoraNews24
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