Nihonbashi’s New Facelift

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  • Nihonbashi is Tokyo’s primeval commercial district, and while Nihonbashi is no longer the center of commerce it once was with places like Marunouci and Otemachi becoming the city’s most important financial districts, and places like Ginza, Omotesando, Roppongi, Shibuya, and Shinjuku offering among the best and most extravagant shopping experiences in Tokyo, Nihombashi has retained its charmed and historical influence.

    by Martin Danker

    However, Nihonbashi is in the midst of one of the biggest and most important redevelopments a neighborhood in Tokyo has ever experienced. This redevelopment is set to once again put Nihombashi in the forefront of Tokyo’s business and commercial districts.

    Among the most exciting projects is the upcoming demolition of the horrendous highway that passes above historical Nihonbashi bridge, and which extends atop Nihonbashi River, its concrete pillars protruding from the water and providing a sad reminder of the times when Japan would prioritize modernization over nature. The highway has caused ire among Tokyoites for decades, with locals signing petitions asking the government to demolish it despite the prospects of such a project costing a fortune. Nevertheless, Governor Kokie and the Tokyo metropolitan government agreed with the sentiment, deciding that Nihonbashi needed to be revitalized, the highway destroyed, with a new highway section being built underground.

    The original wooden Nihonbashi Bridge was built in the 1600s, while the current one that replaced it was built in 1911. The bridge survived World War II, though it still shows damage from the incendiary bombs that destroyed the district. The project will restore the views of Nihonbashi River and the bridge to their former glory, albeit with modern buildings around.

    Some of the area’s newer buildings are appearing in the Yaesu district, which is in front of Tokyo Station. The two most important buildings that will adorn this area will be Tokyo Torch, set to be Japan’s tallest building and an emblem to the city, and Tokyo Midtown Yaesu.

    Tokyo Midtown Yaesu, while smaller than Tokyo Torch, is one of the most important projects because of the role it will play. Yaesu Midtown is the third Midtown location in Tokyo following the original Tokyo Midtown in Roppongi (home of The Ritz Carlton Tokyo) and Hibiya Midtown (home of one of the city’s most impressive Toho Cinemas). Tokyo Midtown Yaesu will house Bvlgari’s first hotel in Japan, but besides the glamorous hotel, the building will also become home of Tokyo Station’s massive bus terminal, one of the most important ones in Tokyo.

    Since Tokyo Midtown Yaesu will be located just across from Tokyo Station, the bus terminal will be located underground, relieving traffic in front of Tokyo Station.

    A few blocks north and actually in Nihonbashi, several other buildings are being developed. Among them is the Nihonbashi 1 Chome Central District Redevelopment, which will see a 52-storey mixed use building with 100 luxury residences on the top floors. The 284-meter building will also have what was supposed to be Japan’s first Waldorf Astoria, but the many fast-paced projects in Osaka that are intended to open before the Osaka Expo meant that the first Waldorf Astoria in Japan will actually open in the Kansai city.
    And while the many developments in Nihonbashi sound quite positive, there is one major area that is not as exciting: the buildings’ facades. For a city that is so renowned for how it can reinvent itself, Tokyo’s latest skyscrapers have very similar aesthetics: glass facades and nothing else. Nihonbashi’s new buildings are no exception, and while the district is in the midst of experiencing an exciting revival, the same cannot be said about the architectural aesthetics of its skyline.

    *Featured Image by tokyotorchpark on Instagram
    : tokyotorchpark/