A district of old business buildings outside of Tokyo Station has turned to fashion center in the making. See what's new in Marunouchi.
Tokyo Station and Surroundings Change from One of Work to One of Shopping and Play
Everyone has been noticing the changes taking place in Marunouchi, but what is it that has been changing the face of Marunouchi in the last couple months, and where will it go from here? The reason for developing this area from one of pure business to one of shopping and leisure has always been easy to realize. The area forms a little strip of buildings sandwiched on one side by the station and railway tracks, and on the other by the Imperial Palace. It forms a peninsula of old architecture office buildings jutting out into Ginza from the bulk of the old business district that dominates the area. Nakadori runs right through the middle of the island of buildings and leads right into Yurakucho Station, on the other side of which can be found Ginza. Also in this vicinity is the Tokyo International Forum. With Ginza and Yurakucho at its one side, Marunouchi makes next block in the sequence, and now after having opened shops, is extending the flow of Ginza shoppers farther down, all the way to Tokyo Station. Besides being geographically convenient, the area's new shopping front is meeting the fashion and general shopping needs of the local business workers, and is drawing in all kinds of shoppers from all over, so far living up to the expectations envisioned in its conception. In addition, tour-set Tokyo sightseers are sure to be dropped off in either Ginza or the neighboring Imperial Palace. In either instance, they are lead right through or in close proximity to this new shopping Marunouchi.
The remake of this whole area was first on the drawing board in 1997, and was influenced greatly by Mitsubishi Estate Co., Ltd., who owns a good number of the area's buildings. The Mitsubishi plan for the new Marunouchi facelift involved 24 large Mitsubishi-owned buildings, 22 of which are located in and around the Nakadori strip. The old office buildings were to change in one of two ways. Six of the 24 were to be fully reconstructed from the inside out. That is to say, they were to be reconstructed inside, while keeping the outer rustic, old, almost gothic architecture. It gives the streets somewhat of an authentic atmosphere, and although they are office type buildings, the aged look of them really compliments the neighboring palace, and Tokyo Station. Eighteen of the buildings have already been leased out to high quality fashion retailers and restaurants on their bottom floors, as well as to a variety of other new businesses and enterprises on the upper floors. They will not be reconstructed like the others, but they will change most of the area into the envisioned shopping area from the ground level. Although Marunouchi is still only in its first stage of reformation, this whole new line of shops can already be found in abundance with Nakadori as their centerpiece.
The Marunouchi Building (nicknamed Marubiru, or Maru Bldg.), is the first of the six big buildings to be reconstructed. Five more will follow over the already planned time span of ten years (from nineteen ninety-eight to two thousand-eight). Maru Bldg., a five-minute slow-paced walk, almost immediately in front of Tokyo Station, has been transformed into wonder of interior design and object art. The interior design like so much of the street surrounding has become littered with interesting pieces of object art to peak your curiosity. On the first floor is the glass walled atrium, Maru-Cube. It is a space for art exhibits and events, concerts, venues for industry promotions, and information. Each floor of the building offers yet another selection of rare and interesting shops. When planning which shops to bring into the building, there was a lot of concern for not having too much of the everyday; but to include lesser-seen, yet very stylish and well-established shops. From B1 to the fourth floor is the shopping zone. Here you can find clothes, but also interior and furniture shops, and other goods such as foods. The first floor is booked with performances from famous performing artists from near and far. Designs in the interior include such interesting things as the old salvaged pine beams from the building's original late nineteenth-century construction. They now rest beneath your feet encased in plexiglas flooring. Another form and wonder to peak your curiosity, with an eerie feeling to it is the camera and TV screens hanging from the atrium ceiling. Each system records the movements from the people below and obscures or scrambles their movements. It then replays what it had recorded in bizarre ways, such as in super speed, or focus gradations mixed with color distortions. No doubt the interior of the new building is a treat for the eyes of any lover of new design, and shape art enthusiast. The fifth and sixth floors of the Marubiru, as well as the thirty-fifth and thirty-sixth (the top two floors), offer a wide selection of restaurants. Up on the top floors, are some restaurants that are noted to be the "best in the world." Above that, it can definitely be said that they offer the best view in Tokyo, especially at night, with all the city lights extending to the horizon below. The seventh and eighth floors are reserved for what has been called the 'interactive zone.' Here, business people can converge and hold business meetings and presentations. These floors offer the latest equipment to support such meetings. The rest of the building provides office space. In this way, it is business as usual, plus a pinch of fresh ideas together with interesting shopping in a classy and artistic building that is appealing to the eye.
Nakadori is the street that runs right in the middle of Marunouchi. It is lined with light laden trees and dotted with many new and interesting shops. Walking on Nakadori from Yurakucho Station (the Ginza end of Marunouchi), the first stores you will notice, will be brand name shops targeting the Ginza shoppers. More towards the Tokyo Station end of Nakadori, there are stores that target a more casual shopper. Several of the shops located on Nakadori are a rare find, having their only other branch on the other side of the globe, and many offer high quality designer clothing. If you're in Tokyo for the Holidays, Nakadori boasts the largest light up event in the country- the Milenario Light Up Event.
Chill Out On Your Lunch, For Free!
Marunouchi Cafe, located on Nakadori lets you do just that. This isn't your everyday cafe. Set to the rustic and elegant styles of antique meets contemporary South East Asia, this is the perfect place to hang while you enjoy your lunchtime bento. It's the usual cafe atmosphere, with that typical hip cafe music, but with a rich oriental interior creation by Aran Chan. Here you can access the net (they have 8 computers with free internet access, limited to 1 hour per person), read one of the hundreds of publications from their magazine and newspaper pile, and sip on whatever beverage you please (the vending machine corner has just about every drink) at one of their 140 one-of-a-kind chairs. The best part about this cafe is that it costs you nothing to just come in and have a seat. It was designed to be a free sitting space for people to meet and obtain information- to serve as the lobby for the entire street. The makers of the cafe realized there was no space for the business workers of Marunouchi, of some 4,100 companies to get together, sit, relax and get information. There are many free papers and pamphlets on the shelves for you to get to know the events taking place locally and elsewhere in the city. This cafe is open from eight to eight (ten to six on weekends and holidays), so come on in and check out the latest on what's happening in town.
Magestic Gardens And The Palace They Guard
Within sight even from the inside of the Marunouchi area lie the endless Emperial Palace; the lush maze of black pine evergreens on the grassy plain that guards it. Coming to Tokyo Station from the rest of the high tech, modernized city, you are, architecturally speaking, transported to the early nineteen hundreds, a walk farther out past the Palace green will take you even further back to the Edo period; many elements from the Meiji restoration and other eras are also apparent. You may even have the occasion to witness a horse-drawn carriage transporting guests of the Emperial Palace from the station to the other side of the Palace mote. The inner palace is not open to the public, but a closer look is worth the effort, if nothing more than to enjoy the crisp fall air, and ancient stone walls beside the green landscape.