[2013] Marunouchi Walking Tour

Did a guided Marunouchi walking tour, organised by a senior architect who has his place of work in Marunouchi and a deep research kind of interest in the area and its history. The tour started at 'Marubiru' (Marunouchi Building) and Tokyo Station, the later originally designed by Tatsuno Kingo. I knew of the 'brick building quarter' at Marunouchi that started with the Mitsubishi Ichigokan, designed by Josiah Conder and Sone Tatsuzo, but I didn't know that only or mainly the South part of Marunouchi was home to brick buildings, an area modelled after London of the times, or 'Little London'. The North part of Marunouchi, which was developed later, was home to buildings with white tile facades, modelled after New York of the times, so 'Little New York'. The old Main Post Office building next to Tokyo Station is on South side, but with its white tile facade one of the first buildings of the later North side style. Tokyo Station and the Post Office were connected by Japan's first underground railway. An interesting fact about Tokyo Station is that the central entrance is reserved for the emperor, the common people enter the station at North and South entrance. The Tokyo Kaijo Nichido Building (東京海上日動ビルディング本館) on North side was the first high-rise built higher than the 100 feet (31 metres) rule that governed building heights until then. Due to immediate scepticism whether such high buildings should be allowed next to the emperor's palace it was constructed as a 25 storey building, five storeys smaller than the initial 30 storey design. Even though a forerunner in terms of height it was one of the last buildings with a red brick facade, and located on the North side of the Marunouchi area.

The tour continued along Naka-dori, the central axis that runs North-South through Marunouchi, a wonderful pedestrian friendly alley lined with trees and benches, a novum in Japan. We were told that the benches were placed not with the intention to provide amenity for passersby but to prevent bicycle parking.

We visited the first two floors of the Meiji Seimei Building (明治生命館), that were originally home to a bank and open for visitors, as well as the rebuilt Mitsubishi Ichigokan and the inner garden like courtyard where people relaxed on benches or the outside sitting areas of restaurants and cafes. Here the tour ended.

We concluded that the Marunouchi area has undergone a dramatic change towards a modern urban centre, where it's fun to work, shop, dine, stroll, and relax on a Saturday afternoon.

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