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Sunday, June 19, 2016

JR East Redesigning Harajuku Train Station In Time For Olympics

While I am a big fan of nostalgia and maintaining architecture that kicks butt, I am glad to see that JR East will be redesigning both the interior and exterior of the well-trod upon Harajuku train station in Tokyo.

Yeah, it was built in 1924… yeah, it’s old… yeah, it's been great to travel through… but dammit, even when I last did so 20+ years ago, it was cramped and appeared difficult to navigate.

Now… being a gaijin (foreigner), I’ve never had much difficulty in navigating any of Japan’s busiest trains stations as people tended to move out of my way. I’m guessing it was because - in case they bumped into me, would I freak out like some stereotypical guy that they have seen in the movies…

Actually… I would probably apologize to them if they bumped into me, because I am Canadian.

Plans for Harajuku-eki (Harajuku Station) are still kind of up in the air, suffice to say that the newer version will be larger, entail changes to the concourse and platforms.

If you look at the concept drawings provided by JR East, it looks like a standard Euro train station: open concept with lots of glass…. and I’m okay with that. Much better than the dismal dark buildings that pepper the U.S. and Canada. 

The current train station is the oldest such structure in Tokyo constructed of wood. I’m pretty sure out in the boonies, there are some pretty damn side older train stations made of wood.

The new station will be changed into a two-level structure featuring a greatly expanded concourse, ticket gates and toilet facilities. The plans will also increase the number of elevators and add a new exit for Meiji Jingu.

What isn’t know, however, is if parts of the old station will remain or will become integrated within the new structure. In my opinion… that’s not necessary.

There are plenty of buildings in Japan that are hundreds of years old and have a far more interesting aesthetic design to them than Harajuku station.

If one wants to be a prick about such things, it seems pretty damn obvious that JR East has a lot of money hanging around.

Not only is it redesigning Harajuku station, but it is also doing the same to Shinanomachi-eki and Sendagaya-eki.

Also, it is working on Shibuya and Shinjuku stations, and improving facilities to Yurakucho, Shimbashi, Hamamatsucho, Nippori, Oimachi and Shinkiba stations.

Very good, right? So… how can it afford to do so? Hey… commuters… think your daily train ride is fairly priced?

Anyhow, construction  - regardless of when it begins - is scheduled to be completed in time for the 2020 Olympic Games to be held in Tokyo... perhaps to impress foreigners as much as to make it easier for them to get along... oh, and the Japanese, too.

Andrew Joseph

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