Tokyo Station Turns 100, Carrying Proud Past On Journey

Tokyo Station turns 100, carrying proud past on journeyIn a piece titled "Toki wa Henkai su" (Times have changed), author Hyakken Uchida (1889-1971) recalled the day a Japanese National Railways official visited his home.

The official asked him to act as Tokyo Station's honorary stationmaster for a day as part of a ceremony to mark the 80th anniversary of the inaugural railway service between Tokyo's Shinbashi and Yokohama in 1872.

It was an invitation that Uchida, an avid train enthusiast, could not refuse. In fact, he was so thrilled that he had to force himself to stay calm.

The sweetest part of the deal was that his duty as stationmaster would be to give the signal, during the day, for the departure of the Hato superexpress, his favorite among all trains hands down. "I couldn't contain my excitement," he recalled.

The big day came, and Uchida, decked out in a stationmaster's uniform and cap, abandoned his duty moments before the Hato's departure and hopped on.

Tokyo Station opened on Dec. 20 exactly 100 years ago.

Prime Minister Shigenobu Okuma (1838-1922) attended the opening ceremony and gave a speech. According to The Asahi Shimbun of the time, Okuma recalled being at Shinbashi Station in 1872 for the inauguration of the Shinbashi-Yokohama train service. "One can only be amazed by the speed of civilization's progress," he noted.

I went to Tokyo Station on Dec. 19. Emerging from the south exit on the Marunouchi side, I felt as though I was in a deep valley in a forest of high-rises. If Okuma were to see a sight like this, he would be more than a little amazed.

An exhibition titled "Tokyo Station: 100-nen no Kioku" (Tokyo Station: A Hundred Years of Its Legacy) opened Dec. 13 at the Tokyo Station Gallery. One of the major draws is a set of scale models of the station and surrounding buildings, past and present.

One hundred years ago, the station was standing in an open field. Fifty years ago, the station faced a row of buildings that were all about the same height as the old, iconic 8-story Marunouchi Building.

Times have changed indeed. However, century-old pillars are still standing on some of the train platforms. On Dec. 19, many people were snapping pictures of the beautiful red-brick station building, restored to its former glory, just as Okuma saw it back in 1914.