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Westernized and utilitarian to the point of being drab, the skyline and architecture of Tokyo is a bit disappointing to anyone naturally expecting an exotic and eye-catching Asian metropolis, but perhaps an industrialist photographer’s paradise.
There are two reasons for this alleged architectural mediocrity. The first is the relatively young age of most of the buildings. Between earthquakes, war, and a Japanese penchant for constant renovation, the age of Tokyo architecture is scant compared to its European urban counterparts, despite having an equally lengthy and impressive history. Secondly, for a city of its size and sophistication, Tokyo has a surprisingly low skyline. Four tectonic plates meet in Japan, and it is thus frequently shaken by earthquakes. So, for safety reasons, the current tallest member of the Tokyo skyline is the City Hall at a modest 248m, and several other buildings top out around this limit. As engineering technology improves, this number creeps up; a 338m office tower is proposed for west Shinjuku.
That is certainly not to say that Tokyo is without its architectural gems, far from it, this is Japan after all. A convenient and spectacular example to start with is the Tokyo International Forum, south of Tokyo Station. The result of a contest in 1989, won by Rafael Vinoly Architects, this colossal 225m long glass hall, which is said to resemble a whale skeleton, is a marvel to walk through. The Fuji Television Head Office in Odaiba catches your eye with its massive spherical observation platform. Tokyo City Hall is modelled after the Notre Dame cathedral, while maintaining Tokyo’s futuristic persona with its microchip pattern throughout. On a smaller scale, head to Den-en-chofu’s arced streets to see how Tokyo’s wealthiest design their intricate and unique homes.
For the best views of the Tokyo skyline, several buildings have observatories open to the public. Tokyo City Hall, at the heart of the Shinjuku Skyscraper District, offers the best 360-degree views. For other excellent vantage points, also consider the Bunkyo-ku Civic Center (Kasuga Station), the Carrot Tower (it’s orange, Sangenjaya Station), the Sumitomo Building (next to City Hall), Ebisu Garden Place Tower (Ebisu Station), the Marunouchi Building (Tokyo Station), St. Luke’s Tower (Tsukiji Station), Tokyo Tower (Kamiyacho Station), the World Trade Center Building (Hamamatsucho Station), or the Sunshine 60 Building (Ikebukuro Station); only the last three in this list cost money.
Of course, if blocks of modern urban utilitarianism are your thing, there’s a bounty of subject matter in Tokyo. Head to Nihombashi and environs, particularly along Chuo Dori and Showa Dori. Also, the new skyscrapers around Shinagawa Station, the Shiodome Sio-Site at Shimbashi Station, and the Shinonome Canal Court complex just west of Tatsumi Station. And for true manufacturing industry, wander through the Keihin Industrial Island, the meaty part of Japan’s gargantuan industrial machine, best reached from Kojima-Shinden Station on the Keikyu Daishi Line.
Thanks for very much reading everyone. For more photos of Tokyo, I invite you to visit shiodome.deviantart.com/store, or for information on other projects please visit www.chrisjongkind.com. For more information on Tokyo’s architecture, please visit www.emporis.com.
This article has been viewed 47091 times in the last 7 years
joey: 11th Jan 2006 - 04:52 GMT
well . . . there's nothing like this in oakland . . . the sprawl looks more like los angeles
Jamie: 11th Jan 2006 - 16:45 GMT
jack: 11th Jan 2006 - 18:29 GMT
im amazed at how the japanese are able to copy the worlds great structures and recreate it in their city. shinjuku could be new york city. sunset on tokyo tower could be paris at night. shinjuku's office tower that slants outwardly is like our building in ny on 42nd st on the west side. japan is beautiful. now they need a collesium
jeeff: 12th Jan 2006 - 00:46 GMT
the thing that sets tokyo apart from others is its sheer size and density. tokyo's population density is 3x higher than new york city. any one of these photos shows only a tiny bit of the city's full size. i think it's something you can't quite grasp until you've been there.
ps. thanks for more great tokyo photos chris j. i walked along that stretch of showa-dori in nihombashi many times (i worked right at ginza san-chome crossing).
adam: 26th Jan 2006 - 02:56 GMT
i wouldnt say theyre copying other cities.. atleast not as bad as themed copying in las vegas
awesome photo set tho
BAHADIR: 3rd Mar 2006 - 14:24 GMT
If we want to see a metropolitan city that is full of buildings, we must visit tokyo.But if you want to see a metropolitan city thats with nature we must to visit Istanbul.Tokyo has a good architecture about towers and we can understand that from the photos.Thank you very much.
aer suzuki: 15th Sep 2006 - 12:40 GMT
very, very cool photos. tokyo is a city i'm always curious about, and probably will be until i get a chance to visit it myself, thanks for the post.
tec: 16th Oct 2006 - 18:47 GMT
The thing that i like most is that it got the most fasinating cars in the world that i like
Geethu: 15th Feb 2008 - 13:03 GMT
I never thought tokyo is something like this. Not very diffrent from a fully urbanized european city. Can't beleve anybody can live without visinity of lush green and rain drops.
dboy: 23rd Mar 2008 - 02:48 GMT
Just to nit-pick ... By a fraction, Tokyo Midtown is the highest tower in central Tokyo and 4th highest in Japan. I was lucky enough to work there when it was finished last year, the views from the 40th floor?, well ....
elizabeth john: 5th Nov 2008 - 13:33 GMT
well just to add on, i ve been studying on this city as part of a college project...
Marco: 29th Oct 2009 - 01:47 GMT
tokyo is not just skyscrapers even though those are the buildings that stand out in the center of the city.
Yet what it strikes in Tokyo is again the contrast between this kind of environment, that in other countries would have been damned by social and economic problems, and the vitality that instead shows off.
Japanese people have been used since Edo period to cope with what they had and provide themselves the necessary services and amenity for urban living.
Now legislation changed, decentralization is being implemented and citizen participation to urban planning issues also is again increasing.
From the mere architectural point of view Tokyo is a treasure chest, because of the few but important traditional buildings that are still standing, because of the modern architecture (including Le Corbusier`s) and because of the parade of contemporary architecture (most of the best architects built something here) that dots this great city.
Sorry if I took too long...but I could`t help it.
alma: 28th May 2010 - 07:18 GMT
The most Amazing city in the world!
Jan: 15th Apr 2011 - 22:00 GMT
This looks really amazing. I aspire to be an Urban planner one day, finding ways to make a really cool city... eheh
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