BY KAZUHISA KUROKAWA STAFF WRITER
An artist's concept of the new Asakusa Station building. (Tobu Railway Co.)The station building as it appears today, with its aluminum panel exterior (Tobu Railway Co.)The station building in the early Showa Era (1926-1989), with its neoclassical facade (Tobu Railway Co.)
Tokyo's Asakusa district, which draws throngs of tourists seeking out the capital's face of a bygone era, is to get a new edifice that will add to the retro atmosphere with a touch of class.
Tobu Railway Co.'s Asakusa Station building, built in 1931, will be renovated later this year, returning to its original neoclassical architectural design.
Aluminum panels that form the current futuristic facade, completed in 1974, will be removed, company officials said Wednesday.
The 17 art deco style, arched windows on the building's east side, hidden behind scaffolding for nearly four decades, will reappear along with a clock tower atop the roof. The tower will feature three clocks, each 1.5 meters in diameter.
Construction work is expected to be completed by spring 2012, when another more modern landmark, the 634-meter Tokyo Sky Tree tower, opens to the public nearby.
The tower, located across the Sumidagawa river from Asakusa, is expected to bring a windfall of tourists to the district.
The original building drew widespread interest for its unique design, which combined a department store with a terminal station. The sight of trains emerging from and disappearing into the seven-story building captured the imaginations of many at the time.
The new station building will feature amenities such as a waiting space inside the second-floor concourse.
A foreign tourists' travel information center will be moved from the station's northern gate to the main entrance area.
Work will also be done to enhance the building's ability to withstand earthquakes.
Operations will continue as usual during the renovation at both the station and the Matsuya department store inside the building, officials said.
They said they hope the new station will be even more appealing as a terminal for users traveling to Nikko and the Kinugawa hot springs resort in Tochigi Prefecture, which are served by Tobu Railway.