Saturday, July 19, 2014

Shopping and Dining at Tokyo Station, Kitte Marunouchi Building, and GranRoof

2014 was a big year for the iconic Tokyo Station, as it completed a 5 year renovation project to restore the original red brick station building for its 100th birthday.  Not only has it been restored, it has been earthquake proofed and it lights up at night now too!  During WWII the third floor of the station and the domes to the north and south of the building were destroyed. The building was repaired afterwards without the domes or the third floor.  The station has survived the great Kanto Quake, had a prime minister assassinated within, and been repaired after war.
Tokyo Station Brick Building (photo via Creative Commons license from T.Kiya)


Today, Tokyo station has obviously been expanded too, as it now has platforms for many Shinkansen bullet trains, underground metro lines. Many mile zeros for the rail lines crisscrossing Japan start at this station and you might even see a zero marker on the track.  It is the busiest train station in Japan for rail traffic, with over 3000 trains a day passing through, but it is not as busy as Shinjuku Station as only a quarter of a million people pass through each day.  With all these people passing through the station, it is also a major shopping hub and place to pick up souvenirs.



Amazing Tokyo Station Hikari Vision Projection Mapping Birthday Celebration

Tokyo Station is the center of attention here for the redevelopment, but the redevelopment of didn't stop there.  On the west side, is Marunouchi, one of the main business districts for Tokyo, and on the east side are additional business areas.  Both sides have seen a revitalization.  The Kitte Marunouchi building (the old Japan Post building) was redeveloped into a fancy mall with some very interesting shops and a great looking atrium and rooftop.  On the east side (Yaesu exit), Tokyo First Avenue is now a great shopping hub and the GranRoof was put in to modernize and link the GrandTokyo north and south towers.  A place like Tokyo Station or the Tokyo Skytree Solomachi malls are like little commercial microcosms of Tokyo that you can easily spend a day in.  If you had one of these at home you'd have a nice little piece of Japan.
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Tokyo Station
Tokyo Station is a maze and many of the shops are actually inside the paid transit area for the trains (even if just for the Yamanote Line).  The food shopping and dining here is pretty intense too.  Ekibenya, one of the best ekiben shops for the train bentos is here.   The main concourse runs east-west below the platforms and it is easy to get lost.  You'll have to look at a map and then look again --- I know I had to.
Bullet trains and you can see the GranRoof sail behind them (photo via Creative Commons license from Norio Nakayama)
Shinkansen lines are on the Yaesu or east side of the station for a couple of the rail lines (each has different models of bullet trains), along with the big Daimaru department store.

Wall of Ekiben at Ekiben Matsuri
Tokyo Station's big shopping and dining area is called Gransta and it is divided into North Court and South Court.  Central Street Shops is another major shopping area with Japan themed and travel shops, and Keiyo Street for some classy personal shopping are also focuses inside the station.

First Avenue Tokyo Station on the Yaesu side is an additional great shopping area for food items (from traditional to modern day snacks from Glico or Calbee), anime goods (Hello Kitty, Ultraman, Precure, Ghibli, etc), delicious ramen on Ramen Street, and there is much more.  Not to be missed if you have time.

Kitte Marunouchi Building
This building is just east (literally across the big wide street on a corner) from the restored red brick station building.  Kitte means postage stamp in Japanese.  Japan Post runs this department store as it is located at the site of their old Central Post Office building.

Kitte Building (photo via Creative Commons license from Norio Nakayama)
Kitte Atrium (photo via Creative Commons license from Norio Nakayama)
Kitte Atrium (photo via Creative Commons license from Norio Nakayama)
The exterior looks like the old building, but the interior is now a big wide atrium with a great little rooftop garden where you can view the trains coming and going across the street.  Shops line the sides of the beautiful atrium and a 38 story glass and steel office tower, the JP Tower, is now the core of the building.  Again, many interesting shops and restaurants here (as usual on the upper floors), and there is a tourist information kiosk on the main floor.  One interesting shop in the basement shops, Amano Freeze Dried Foods, sells high quality freeze dried soups and mix and match ingredients.



GranRoof
GranRoof links the north and south towers of the GrandTokyo towers together.  It put a beautiful sail-like canopy over the long connective strip and is multiple stories high with many shop levels.  It brings an open and lively pedestrian zone to the old area that also adds many dining options.  I've never visited but I'll easily take a walk through this nice looking urban spot.

More Tokyo Highlights
Shopping and Dining at Tokyo Station, Kitte Marunouchi Building, and GranRoof
Tokyo's Ramen Streets at Tokyo Station, Aqua City, and Shinagawa Station
Ekiben Matsuri (Train Bento Festival Store) at Tokyo Station
Sweets Land, Character Street, and Ramen Street at Tokyo Station

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