Thursday, December 27, 2012

Tokyo Railway Station Marunouchi Building

Hubby has to travel abroad a lot for his work. I accompanied him up to Narita International Airport on one such trip. On October 13th, we took a flight from Akita Airport to Haneda Airport, and then traveled by Limousine Bus up to Tokyo Railway Station. We reached Tokyo Railway Station at about 2.30 pm. At the railway station, we went to see the recently renovated red-brick Marunouchi Building.

The red-brick Marunouchi Building of Tokyo Railway Station is an exquisite landmark building situated near the Imperial Palace. The historic building has undergone a 5.5 year major renovation and formally reopened on October 1st. The building measures 335 meters in length and 20 meters in width, and is placed parallel to the train platforms. The building was originally constructed in 1914 in a distinctive European architectural style and was designed by an architect named Tatsuno Kingo. The original building stood three stories high and had a basement floor. Tokyo and surrounding areas were severely damaged in the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, but surprisingly the red-brick station building remained unharmed and standing. However, the third floor and the ornate domed rotundas were destroyed by a fire in a bombing raid during World War II in May 1945. After the war, the building was closed for repairs from 1945 to 1951. It was reconstructed in a simpler style with only two main floors, along with a small part of the third floor and a basement. In addition, the original ornate cupolas were replaced with simple and flatter octagonal slat-style domed roofs. The building was designated as an important cultural property of Japan in 2003. Major renovation work to conserve and restore the retro building started in 2007. The total cost of the renovation was about 50 billion Yen. Some 400000 red bricks were used in the project. The renovation project restored the north and south domed rotundas to their original look and also revived the third floor of the building. The building now has three main floors and two basement floors. Part of the building has a fourth floor. New first and second basement floors were constructed as machine rooms and space for parked cars. The station building now accommodates a hotel with 150 rooms as compared with the 58 rooms when it was closed for renovation. In addition, the building also has an art gallery, a museum, a tourism center for international travelers, various travel services, and new commercial facilities. The building formally reopened on October 1st and has now been fully restored to its original 1914 charm and splendor.

Tokyo Railway Station is a very big and busy station. From the station bus stop, we walked for about 10 minutes inside the railway station to reach the west side (Marunouchi side) of the station where the red-brick building is located. We walked almost up to Marunouchi north exit/entrance gate of the station and stood right under the impressive dome of the restored north rotunda. Both the domed rotundas, located at the northern and southern ends of the brick building, have been restored to their original 1914 design. The ornamented pre-war appearance of the domed rotundas include the octagonal ceilings with stone reliefs shaped after an eagle, a flower, a phoenix, a sword, and animals of the Chinese zodiac. Although no original detailed design data or drawings remain, from the contents of documents of the time and through the color shading of black and white photographs, brilliant colors like brown, white, and egg-yolk yellow of the original dome interiors have been carefully restored to reflect their original state. We stood under the dome of the north rotunda for almost 15 minutes and appreciated the wonderful architecture.
I am standing next to a scale model of the renovated red-brick building inside Tokyo Railway Station

Dome with ornate ceiling located at the northern end of the red-brick building

Interior of the north dome showing brilliant colors

A few third floor hotel rooms are seen along with the ornate ceiling

A few second and third floor hotel rooms are seen along with the ornate ceiling

A few hotel rooms

Ornate ceiling

Relief of Eagle

Hubby standing under the north dome of the brick building

Hubby (center) appreciating the ornate interiors of the north dome

We exited the station building from Marunouchi north gate and stood right in front of the impressive red-brick building. We loved the amazing architecture of the distinct European-style brick building. Both the domes located at the northern and southern end of the building looked awesome and classic. We took several pictures of the building from various positions and angles for memory sake.
Northern part of the red-brick station building

North dome

Portion of the station building adjacent to the northern entrance

Portion of the station building located between the northern and central entrances

Hubby standing in front of the station building

Central entrance of the station building as viewed from the northwest

Central entrance of the station building

Hubby and I standing in front of the central entrance

Southern part of the station building as viewed from the northwest

Southern part of the station building and adjacent high-rise buildings

South dome

A few red bricks of the wall of station building

Next, we started walking towards the Imperial Palace complex located about 1.3 kilometers west of Tokyo Railway Station red-brick building. After walking for a few minutes, we started getting a full view of the restored 335 meters long brick building. However, we still had some difficulty to capture the photo of the entire building in one frame.
Northern part of the red-brick station building

Central (left) and southern (right) part of the red-brick station building

Full view of the station building

After walking further west for another couple of minutes, we could finally take the photo of the entire red-brick station building in one frame. The elegant European-style station building amongst modern high-rise buildings looked so stunning, remarkable, and beautiful.
Full view of the red-brick station building

Hubby and the station building

Hubby posing in front of the station building

We leisurely walked towards the Imperial Palace complex located to the west of the station building. We walked along a pedestrian road surrounded by high-rise office buildings. On our way, we saw beautiful water fountains named Wadakura Fountain Park to our right side.
High-rise office buildings right in front of the red-brick station building

Walking along the pedestrian road surrounded by high-rise buildings

Wadakura Fountain Park

I am standing in front of the water fountains

After walking for about 15 minutes, we reached the Imperial Palace complex which is a very calm and quiet place. The tranquility of the complex is in direct contrast to the hustle and bustle of the nearby railway station area. The Imperial Palace outer park named Kokyo-gaien has vast empty ground that is either tarred or concreted. From this park we could see high-rise buildings and busy traffic in the background. While walking in this outer park, we saw that the Emperor’s residential area is surrounded by reconstructed turrets, massive stone walls, and water filled moats. This is because the Imperial Palace is built on the former site of Edo Castle. We walked along the paved ground next to the water filled moat and stone wall, and reached a gate that leads to the Emperor’s residence and inner gardens. The general public is not allowed to enter beyond this gate. It was nice to visit the Imperial Palace complex.
Entrance area of the Imperial Palace complex showing many granite bollards

Vast empty tarred ground in Kokyo-gaien Park of the palace complex. High-rise buildings are seen in the background.

Tarred ground at the palace complex and more high-rise buildings

Reconstructed turret buildings, stone wall, and water filled moat (extreme right) of the old Edo Castle

I am standing near a reconstructed turret

Water filled moat and stone wall of the Imperial Palace complex

Water filled moat

Visitors are not allowed to go beyond this gate which leads to the Emperor’s residence

Water filled moat and the top portion (indicated by red arrow) of a reconstructed structure of the Imperial Palace behind the stone wall

There is a garden in the Imperial Palace complex which is open to the public but we skipped seeing it this time. We walked back to Tokyo Railway Station and then went to Narita International Airport by Narita Express train.
Hubby relaxing inside Narita Express train

While looking at the photos of the red-brick station building and the Imperial Place complex on my computer, I had a strange feeling of deja vu that I have walked along the same path before. So I looked through most of the old photo albums and found that I had indeed visited Tokyo Railway Station red-brick building and the Imperial Palace complex way back in January 1999. It is hard to believe that fourteen years have passed since then. And now the station building looks so much the same yet so different, the ground near Imperial Palace is tarred or concreted and not anymore covered with sand or gravel, and I have definitely gotten older!
I am standing in front of the northern part of the red-brick station building. Note the portion of the flat slat-style domed roof.

I am standing in front of the central part of the station building

I am sitting in front of the central part of the station building

Wadakura Fountain Park and I

Ground at the Imperial Palace complex is covered with sand and gravel

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Akita International University festival

Hubby and I went to see the festival of Akita International University (AIU) on 7th October. It was the first day of the two day festival organized by the students of the university, which was open to everyone. AIU is located in Akita city and offers International Liberal Arts education entirely in English. The university provides a brilliant cross-cultural environment for all of its students.

Hubby and I reached near AIU campus at about 12.30 pm and parked our car at a nearby car parking area. On entering inside the university campus, we saw that there were many international students from various countries. It was nice to see the energy and enthusiasm of the students in organizing various events in the festival.
I am standing at the main entrance of AIU

Pathway leading to the cafeteria main building

On the campus ground located to our left side just next to the main entrance of the university, we saw that open air live music concert was going on. We spent some time enjoying the concert. It was nice to listen to electric guitar music and many songs. In addition, many food stalls were set up along a small street on the right side of the pathway leading to the cafeteria main building of the campus. These food stalls offered interesting food items from various countries.
People enjoying open air live music concert

Open air live music concert

Hubby enjoying the music concert

Street food stalls

Food stalls as viewed from the front entrance of the cafeteria main building

On entering inside the cafeteria main building, we saw the AIU mascot character named One. While walking inside the building, we noticed that the students had put in a lot of effort to decorate the corridors and the classrooms that were used for the purpose of the festival. Several exhibitions were held and there was a festive mood all around. In one of the rooms an exhibition named Halloween Cafe was held. Here we saw many students and visitors dressed in funny Halloween costumes. In yet another room, we enjoyed listening to a mini-concert at Acoustic Cafe.
I am standing next to the AIU mascot character One

Hubby posing in a decorated corridor of the building

Halloween Cafe

Students and visitors dressed in Halloween costumes

Funny Halloween costumes

Mini-concert at Acoustic Cafe

Afterwards we left the first building and started walking towards another building. While walking, we saw an interesting way of eating udon noodles called nagashi-udon (flowing udon). The noodles were placed in an extraordinarily long flume of bamboo whose one end was located in the second floor room of a building and the other end was on the pathway in the campus. The bamboo flume pipe carried clear cold water. At one end of the flume pipe located on the second floor room, a student of AIU fed noodles down the pipe. Crowding around the pipe on the pathway, kids and visitors plucked the noodles out of the flume pipe with chopsticks, dipped them into their cups of dipping sauce, and ate them. A couple of times chocolates and sweets came down the flume pipe and kids got very excited seeing the sweets. Walking further along the pathway, we saw many unique exhibition stalls set up by the students that sold goods and products of various countries.
Setup for nagashi-udon noodles

A student feeding noodles down the bamboo flume pipe from a room located on the second floor of a building

Kids and visitors eagerly waiting to pluck the noodles out of the flume pipe

Several stalls selling goods and products of various countries

Next we went to the Library building. At the entrance hallway, we saw a display of beautiful dolls from many countries around the world. The library main hall is semicircular in shape and exquisitely built with trees from local cedar forests. Inside the library, there are many books, journals, magazines, digital media, and other interesting reading materials. We loved seeing the gorgeous semicircular hall and spend some time reading magazines.
Display of dolls from many countries

Inside the library

Interior view of the semicircular library main hall

I am appreciating the gorgeous library hall

Afterwards we went to yet another building where we saw that many funny and interesting games were set up for small kids. It is fun to see kids really enjoying ring-a-bottle game. While walking inside the second floor of the building, we noted that the corridor was decorated in a very unique way. Looking out of the corridor, we saw that many visitors were having picnic on the grass lawn inside the campus. We also saw that many food stalls were set up in a row. Amongst the visitors having food from various food stalls, we noticed the mascot character of Akita prefecture named Sugichi-kun interacting with visitors.
Various games set up for small kids

Hubby standing next to an interesting decoration in the second floor corridor of the building

Visitors having picnic on the grass lawn

Sugichi-kun interacting with visitors near the food stalls

Hubby and I enjoyed AIU festival and had a fun filled day. We were inside the university campus until 4.30 pm and then went to a game center in Akita city. Hubby played there for some time and won two LED flashlights.
Hubby playing at a game center in Akita city

Hubby smiling at the teddy bears