The other day, I walked to Tokyo Station from Jimbocho. It was a lazy, twenty minute walk that took me by the Imperial Palace and into the heart of Marunouchi.
I wanted to see this side of things before I wrote anything. I wanted to get a better feel for the place.
On one side of the road sat the stone walls and immaculate gardens of the Imperial Palace. On the other, were skyscrapers, office buildings, and expensive hotels. I was struck by the contrast; it was as if the moat surrounding the palace acted as a kind of barrier against the passing of time.
Tokyo Station, too, I realized, has this feeling. It’s like a slice of restored history, lost in the middle of a world moving on around it.
Tokyo Station was first built in 1914. Air-raids in 1945 left it in ruins, and though it was rebuilt, much of the original design was lost. Over time, the location grew into one the busiest stations in Tokyo, and in 2007 it underwent renovations.
Over the course of the next five years, Tokyo Station was restored—rebuilt to the specifications set almost a hundred years earlier.
Reading about it on the walls of the station reminded me of a story I once heard from a coworker.
Her mother was an elderly woman in her 90’s at the time. She didn’t go out much, but when the renovations to Tokyo Station were completed, she insisted on seeing it in person. She stood before the structure in silence, and after a time, she wept. She said it was just as she remembered it, years before the war had torn it down and left the better part of it rubble.
I looked up at the domed ceiling, and it’s patterns, and I thought about that story for a long time.
It encompassed a feeling I had no way of truly understanding at this point in my life.
As I walked around the station, It dawned on me that I was experiencing a recreation of the past. A reminder of what once was, so many years earlier, and the beauty there because of it.
I liked the idea that this was a pocket in time. I liked that the station interior and the buildings around it might continue with their ceaseless development, but the people who went through it every day would always have this portal to history.
I thought that maybe it’s important we still have that in our lives—daily reminders of the value in what was, and the time that has passed.
Because it’s with the past in mind, and the present at our fingertips, that we build towards our future.
Written by Hengtee Lim