Like the pang of protective nostalgia you felt when your outgrown toys are given away, the demolition of the quaint European cottage-like Harajuku Station is bound to pull a heartstring or two.
The historic building is the oldest wooden station in Tokyo, constructed almost a century ago in 1924 during the Taisho period, and has become an icon and landmark of the Meiji-Jingu area. Google reviews of the retro station include, 'I love this train station with an old unique architecture blending into the fashion world of Tokyo,' 'One of the most beautiful stations in Tokyo (architecture wise!)', and, 'I like the building of this station, so classic.'
However, plans have been made: a new construction south of the current station will serve as the new Harajuku Station starting March 21 next year while the current building will remain onsite until after the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. After which, according to The Japan Times, the current building will be torn down and rebuilt, replicating the current design as much as possible.
The reason given by JR East (in a Japanese press release) for the demolition is safety – built mainly of timber, the building could be better fire-resistant. While we are sad to see this iconic architecture go, we do realise that the current station infrastructure has exceeded way beyond its capacity. If you've passed through the station on weekends, you'll know that the experience of getting in and out of the building can be somewhere between lining up for a Michelin-starred ramen and going to see the Imperial family wave on New Year's Day – heaving.
Plans for the new and modern two-storey station building include expanding the concourse, more ticket gates, better toilets and a new entrance on the Meiji Shrine side. These plans, however, have already attracted much outcry – there are calls to relocate the original station, to preserve the building even when it's no longer a functioning station, to reference the original building in the new design, and a general lamenting of the brash 'out with the old, in with the new' attitude of local developers.
If you're keen to preserve this original, charming piece of history in your photos, be sure to get there soon. And while you’re there, check out these top things to do in Harajuku, or eat your way through the neighbourhood’s famous Takeshita Street.