Tokyo Central Station in Chuo Ward, only a few hundred meters from the Imperial Palace (or, at least, the Imperial Palace outer gardens) and close to the Ginza shopping district, is an iconic building celebrating its 100th birthday in December 2014. In 2012 a five-year restoration/renovation project was completed on the Marunouchi side of the station (the western side, facing the Imperial Palace precinct) that saw the removal of the post-war squared roof that was installed after wartime bombing damage and the restoration of the original roof - a rounded, domed top. In other words, it was restored to its pre-war appearance. The building, begun in 1908, was designed by Tatsuno Kingo and is often rumored to be modeled after the Amsterdam Central Station in Holland. But that pedigree is a little gray. Plans for its construction date back to 1889, but construction was delayed by the 1894-95 Sino-Japanese War and the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War. The 2007-2012 restoration project upgraded the entire interior of the building as well, including the expansion of the underground shopping concourse. Like many large commuter stations in Tokyo the entire expanse is a huge underground city and a tourist draw by itself. I have often commented that it is easy to go all over Tokyo without ever stepping out of doors, which is convenient during the Rainy Season, or during a typhoon.
On Monday, November 2, 2014 The Japan Times English-language newspaper printed a story about the station in anticipation of its centennial, “Tokyo Station’s iconic brick building, witness to war, stands the test of time.” Among other things the story praised the station on its aesthetic symmetry. But I disagree. The Tokyo Station Hotel which is at the south end of the station building has always bothered me because it does not fit, and it destroys the symmetry of the building. I often have the chance to look down on the building from a vantage point high above in one of the nearby office towers. The station has a straight north-south configuration, but the hotel occupies what appears to be an afterthought, like a human appendix, a vestigial thing. The more I look at it the more annoying it is. Whereas the façade of the station faces the Imperial Palace the hotel is more oriented towards the recently renovated/rebuilt main post office building. It is quite impossible to balance the structure by adding a comparable extension on the north wing, but aesthetically that is what ought to be done or to have been done already, long ago.
If it is intentional then we might praise it as an outstanding example of Japanese "wabi sabi" aesthetics, or designed imperfection - although wabi sabi is habitually ascribed to traditional arts like Ikebana, Zen rock gardens, bonsai tray gardens, tea houses, ceramic ware (especially Hagi ware), and poetry (especially haiku) - and my reaction can be dismissed or at least framed as chronic culture shock. I will not cease to be annoyed by the apparent imbalance in the building, however.