Tokyo, the capital city of Japan, is a fascinating blend of tradition and modernity, where towering skyscrapers coexist with historic sites that whisper stories of the past. This vibrant metropolis is a treasure trove for history enthusiasts, offering a tapestry of iconic landmarks and sites that mirror its evolution.
From the grandeur of the Imperial Palace and the intrigue of the Edo Castle Ruins to the soaring Tokyo Tower and the stately National Diet Building, each edifice narrates a chapter of Tokyo’s journey through time.
The city’s pulse resonates at historic hubs like Tokyo Station, Ginza Wako, and the symbolic Shibuya Scramble Crossing, where the past and present intersect.
Delving deeper, the Akasaka Palace, Tekigai-sō, Jindaiji Castle Ruins, and Hachiōji Castle Ruins reveal layers of history etched into Tokyo’s fabric. The Kabuki-za Theatre immerses visitors in traditional performing arts, while the Old Ministry of Justice Building offers a glimpse into Tokyo’s architectural heritage and the evolution of its legal system.
This article delves into these historic gems, inviting you to uncover Tokyo’s rich history amid its modern splendor. In this article I didn’t include the Tokyo’s museums, and the Buddhist temples, which have their own articles.
A brief history of Tokyo
Tokyo’s journey from a humble village named Edo to the sprawling metropolis we know today is a tale of transformation and resilience. Originally fortified in the 12th century by the Edo clan, the settlement flourished.
In 1457, Edo Castle was erected, a precursor to the city’s rise. Tokugawa Ieyasu’s move to Edo in 1590 marked a turning point, making it the hub of his rule upon becoming shōgun in 1603. Over the Edo period, Edo’s peace and policy of seclusion underpinned its prosperity, while a stringent rebuilding effort countered natural disasters.
The intrusion of Commodore Perry in 1853 shattered Edo’s seclusion, leading to unrest and ultimately the fall of the Tokugawa shogunate. The era of Pax Tokugawa concluded after 265 years.
Edo was renamed Tokyo in 1868, as Japan’s new government took shape. The young Emperor Meiji established Tokyo as the nation’s political and imperial center, with Edo Castle as the Imperial Palace. In 1889, Tokyo officially emerged as a city.
The 20th century saw Tokyo’s endurance through trials. The Great Kantō earthquake of 1923 and World War II brought devastation, particularly the catastrophic air raids. Post-war, the city was rebuilt under US administration, with slow economic growth until the 1950s.
The 1964 Olympics showcased Tokyo’s resilience, while the 1980s saw real estate booms followed by the bubble’s burst, leading to the “Lost Decade” of the 1990s.
Despite challenges, Tokyo surged forward with urban developments like Ebisu Garden Place and Roppongi Hills. The city’s earthquake-resistant infrastructure withstood the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and its ensuing effects.
Tokyo’s dynamic evolution continues, marked by hosting the 2020 Olympics amid the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. While facing complex issues, Tokyo remains a vibrant global hub, capturing the essence of Japan’s journey from Edo to an unparalleled modern metropolis.
The Imperial Palace
The Imperial Palace, or Kōkyo in Japanese, is the primary residence of the Emperor of Japan. Situated in Tokyo’s Chiyoda district, it encompasses a vast park-like area that houses various structures, including the Fukiage Palace, where the Emperor resides, and the main palace, where important ceremonies and receptions occur.
Additionally, the palace grounds host Imperial Family residences, administrative offices, museums, archives, and more.
Built on the former site of Edo Castle, the Tokyo Imperial Palace spans 1.15 square kilometers and, during Japan’s 1980s property bubble, was valued higher than the entire California real estate.
Following the Meiji Restoration, the castle’s inhabitants, including Shōgun Tokugawa Yoshinobu, departed. Renamed Tōkei Castle in 1868 and later Imperial Castle in 1869, the palace underwent historical and nomenclature changes.
The old castle experienced fires, leading to the construction of the new Imperial Palace Castle in 1888. The prospect of restoring the main donjon, led by the “Rebuilding Edo-jo Association,” remained uncertain.
During the Meiji period, original structures vanished, replaced by a blend of Japanese and European architectural styles. The main audience hall featured Japanese-style ceilings and parquet floors combined with Western chairs and curtains.
Concrete structures emerged during the Taishō and Shōwa eras, albeit with limited Japanese influence. The Allied firebombing of 1945 destroyed much of the palace, with Emperor Hirohito even meeting his Privy Council underground.
The post-war period saw new construction, such as a main palace hall and residences, designed by Junzō Yoshimura. The western side became the Imperial Residence, while the eastern part became the East Garden, a public park since 1968.
The present Imperial Palace covers the former Edo Castle’s retrenchments. The palace’s complex, built in 1968, houses various wings, including state function halls, banquet halls, reception areas, and Emperor’s workspaces.
The Fukiage Palace serves as the Emperor’s residence, with other sections hosting Imperial Family members.
Although largely inaccessible to the public, the East Gardens contain administrative buildings and play host to some events. Symbolic trees representing each Japanese prefecture are planted there. The Ninomaru Garden, designed by landscape artist Kobori Enshu, was restored after a fire in 1867.
The Tokyo Imperial Palace stands as a testament to Japan’s history, transitioning from its feudal past to its modern imperial present.
The Edo Castle Ruins
Nestled in the heart of Tokyo lies a testament to Japan’s rich history – the Edo Castle Ruins. Originally constructed in 1457 by Ōta Dōkan, this flatland castle evolved through the ages, shaping the course of the nation.
What once stood as the epicenter of political power during the Edo period is now a part of the Tokyo Imperial Palace, offering visitors a chance to step back in time and discover the remnants of this illustrious past.
At its zenith, Edo Castle encapsulated the might of the Tokugawa shogunate. The Honmaru, the heart of the castle, was home to the shōgun’s residence and grand halls. The impressive curtain walls, punctuated by keeps, defense houses, and gates, spoke of the castle’s impregnability.
While fires and the passage of time have taken their toll, remnants like the Fujimi-yagura keep and Fujimi-tamon defense house still stand, echoing the grandeur of yesteryears.
The Honmaru Palace, a labyrinth of low-level buildings linked by corridors and gardens, hosted public audiences and private quarters. Though consumed by fires and rebuilt multiple times, it remains a testament to the luxurious lifestyle of the era.
The Ninomaru, dedicated to the shōgun’s heirs, was ravaged by fires, yet the Hyakunin-bansho and Dōshin-bansho guardhouses endure. Meanwhile, the Sannomaru, separated from the Ninomaru by the Tenjin-bori moat, offers glimpses into history through its guardhouses and gates.
The Nishinomaru, where retired shōguns and heirs resided, still boasts the Fushimi-yagura keep, the sole survivor from Fushimi Castle in Kyoto. Bridges like Nijūbashi provide passage over the moats, leading visitors into the heart of history.
The Fukiage, once ablaze during the Meireki fire, has transformed into a western firebreak, marked by gates like the Hanzōmon and echoes of its past. Kitanomaru, once a medicinal garden, has evolved into the serene Kitanomaru Park, graced by the Shimizu-mon and Tayasu-mon gates.
In modern Tokyo, these structures stand as silent sentinels, each a chapter in Japan’s rich history. Walking through these hallowed grounds, visitors can feel the whispers of the past, where emperors and shoguns walked and decisions that shaped the nation were made.
The Tokyo Tower
The Tokyo Tower, an iconic communications and observation structure nestled in the Shiba-koen district of Minato, Tokyo, is a marvel that stands as a testament to architectural prowess and cultural significance.
Erected in 1958, the tower graces Tokyo’s skyline at a towering height of 332.9 meters (1,092 ft), securing its rank as the second-tallest structure in Japan. Drawing inspiration from the Eiffel Tower’s elegance, the lattice framework of the Tokyo Tower is adorned in a striking combination of white and international orange, a color scheme crafted in compliance with air safety regulations.
Much more than a mere architectural spectacle, the Tokyo Tower thrives as a multifaceted hub of activity. It thrives on two key pillars of revenue: tourism and antenna leasing.
Encompassing a dynamic blend of entertainment and cultural offerings, the FootTown complex, a four-story structure situated beneath the tower, beckons visitors with a variety of attractions, including engaging museums, diverse dining options, and vibrant shops.
For those who aspire to ascend the tower’s lofty heights, two observation decks await their exploration. The Main Deck, rebranded as the Main Observatory, resides at a height of 150 meters (490 ft), while the smaller Top Deck, now known as the Special Observatory, offers a breathtaking vantage point from its elevation of 249.6 meters (819 ft).
The renaming of these decks accompanied a renovation in 2018, showcasing the tower’s commitment to evolution and enhancement.
The Tokyo Tower’s significance in the realm of broadcasting is undeniable. Once adorned with transmission antennae in 1961, the tower facilitated radio and television broadcasts, transmitting signals for prominent Japanese media outlets like NHK, TBS Television, and Fuji Television. Notably, the tower played a pivotal role in Japan’s broadcasting history, especially before the advent of digital broadcasting.
With its evocative presence, the Tokyo Tower has seeped into the cultural fabric of the city. As a member of the World Federation of Great Towers, its glowing form is not only a prominent landmark but also an artistic canvas for special events.
From illuminating in pink to raise awareness for Breast Cancer Awareness Month to donning themed lighting arrangements for festivities and corporate events, the tower morphs into a beacon of celebration and unity.
Beyond its vibrant illumination and stunning architecture, the Tokyo Tower’s enduring role as a cultural touchstone is vividly seen in its portrayal across various forms of media.
From anime series to films, it often graces screens, cementing its status as more than just a tower; it’s a symbol of Tokyo’s ever-evolving spirit and a testament to the city’s ability to blend the modern with the traditional.
The National Diet Building
The National Diet Building, situated in the heart of Chiyoda, Tokyo, serves as the hallowed ground where Japan’s legislative deliberations unfold. The architectural masterpiece stands as a symbol of democratic governance, housing the House of Representatives in the south wing and the House of Councillors in north wing.
Constructed in 1936, the building stands as a testament to the nation’s resilience and cultural identity, as it was exclusively fashioned from indigenous Japanese materials. The notable exception lies in the stained glass, door locks, and the pneumatic tube system.
The grandeur of the National Diet Building unfolds through its various architectural facets. The Central Entrance, shrouded in exclusivity, remains largely sealed, reserving its grandeur for significant occasions such as the welcoming of the Emperor and foreign dignitaries.
The Central Hall, resplendent under the pyramid-shaped dome, showcases the meticulous craftsmanship of Japanese artisans. Stained glass ceilings, oil paintings depicting the seasons, and statues of constitutional pioneers embody both aesthetic elegance and historical significance.
The Central Tower, an awe-inspiring feat, presents a panoramic observatory atop a spiral staircase, a vantage point closed even to most Diet members. It stands as a silent sentinel, its history intertwined with Japan’s transformation.
The Gokyūshō, steeped in imperial legacy, stands as a testament to the monarch’s presence in legislative proceedings. Rich in cypress and adorned with exquisite artistry, it exudes grandeur and history.
The Chambers of the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors, characterized by their continental seating arrangement, are arenas of democracy. The Emperor’s throne in the Chamber of the House of Councillors maintains the legacy of inviting the imperial presence to significant sessions.
The Public Gallery offers a space for citizens to witness democracy in action, carefully partitioned to accommodate dignitaries, officials, journalists, and the general public.
Committees, such as Committee Room Number 1, resonate with the echoes of national discourse, where vital discussions unfold, from budgetary matters to summoning witnesses.
The National Diet Building stands as a testament to Japan’s political journey, an embodiment of resilience, architectural magnificence, and the embodiment of democratic ideals.
The Tokyo Station
Tokyo Station, also known as Tokyo Central Station, stands as a bustling hub in Chiyoda, Tokyo, heralding its significance as a premier railway station. Its original site lies in the Marunouchi business district near the Imperial Palace grounds, while its newer extension spans toward the vibrant Ginza commercial district.
This sprawling station, divided into Marunouchi and Yaesu sections, acts as the convergence point of a myriad of railway lines.
Functioning as a vital link in Japan’s high-speed rail network, Tokyo Station serves as the nation’s primary inter-city rail terminal. Its bustling platforms witness over 4,000 trains in daily transit, attracting an average of more than 500,000 passengers daily. With its intricate web of connections, the station accommodates both regional and national commuters.
Tokyo Station’s façade carries historical significance, with its brick-built western side retaining its 1914 charm. The station comprises 11 island platforms, overseeing 22 tracks, elegantly elevated above ground level. An east-west main concourse flows beneath these platforms.
The station’s dynamic features include its Shinkansen lines situated on the eastern side, flanked by the iconic Daimaru department store. Notably, the Yaesu entrances lead to the Shinkansen lines, while Marunouchi entrances facilitate connections to the Sōbu/Yokosuka line platforms below ground.
The station is a blend of historical charm and modern functionality, linked by an intricate network of underground passages merging with commercial establishments. Tokyo Station is more than just a transportation nexus; it is a testament to Japan’s progress and a living embodiment of its ever-evolving spirit.
Nestled at the core of Tokyo’s vibrant Ginza shopping district, Wako Co., Ltd., renowned for its flagship store known as Ginza Wako, epitomizes elegance and luxury. Established in 1881 by Kintarō Hattori as a watch and jewelry shop, Wako has evolved into a premier department store that exudes sophistication.
Ginza Wako, celebrated for its watches, jewelry, porcelain, chocolates, and upscale international merchandise, is a symbol of refined taste. The store’s allure extends to an art gallery named Wako Hall on its sixth floor, enriching visitors with cultural experiences.
The store’s history is intertwined with the iconic Hattori Clock Tower that once stood on its grounds from 1894 to 1921. After its reconstruction in 1932 as the K. Hattori Building, designed by Jin Watanabe in an art deco influenced neoclassical style, the building’s curved granite façade and its distinctive clock tower have become a celebrated landmark.
Even the tumultuous times of World War II couldn’t diminish its charm. Interestingly, during the Allied Occupation of Japan from 1945 to 1952, the building served as the Tokyo PX store.
The Shibuya Scramble Crossing
Nestled in the heart of Shibuya, Tokyo, the Shibuya Scramble Crossing, also known as Shibuya Crossing, is an iconic pedestrian intersection that defines urban dynamism.
Positioned in front of Shibuya Station’s Hachikō exit, this bustling crossing halts traffic from all directions, giving way to a torrent of pedestrians that flood the junction. Adjacent to it stands the Hachikō statue, an ever-crowded rendezvous point.
Dominating the scene are three expansive video screens gracing nearby edifices, accompanied by an array of static advertising signs. The Starbucks store overlooking the crossing, considered one of the busiest globally, adds to the crossing’s vibrant energy.
Its sheer footfall and advertising spectacle have drawn comparisons to New York City’s Times Square and London’s Piccadilly Circus.
As the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing, with up to 3,000 people crossing simultaneously, Shibuya Crossing offers an authentic Tokyo experience. It’s celebrated as an exemplar of Tokyo’s essence, as described by architecture professor Shane Flynn.
The crossing frequently stars in cinematic and television productions set in Tokyo, including iconic appearances in Lost in Translation and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.
Shibuya Crossing isn’t just an intersection; it’s a cultural phenomenon. From its cameo in the 2016 Summer Olympics closing ceremony to its role as a Halloween hotspot for cosplaying youth, the crossing continues to thrive as a vivid embodiment of Tokyo’s urban pulse.
The Akasaka Palace
Located in the heart of Tokyo’s Moto-Akasaka district, the Akasaka Palace, also known as the State Guest House (Geihinkan), stands as a symbol of Japan’s hospitality and grandeur.
Originally constructed in 1909 as the Imperial Palace for the Crown Prince, this architectural marvel transitioned into its present role in 1974, offering luxurious accommodations to esteemed state dignitaries.
With its Neo-Baroque Western design, reminiscent of the Hofburg Palace, Akasaka Palace showcases the elegance of the Meiji period. Covering 15,000 square meters, it boasts both regal splendor and functional sophistication. The palace complex, including a smaller Japanese-style structure, graces a sprawling 117,000 square meters.
The historical significance of Akasaka Palace reaches beyond its architectural magnificence. Crown Prince Hirohito resided here from 1923 to 1928, including during the Great Kantō earthquake.
After World War II, the palace transitioned into a governmental hub hosting entities like the National Diet Library and the Organizing Committee of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
The Akasaka Palace’s transformation into the State Guest House emerged from Japan’s post-war economic revival. After an extensive renovation led by architect Togo Murano, it reopened its doors in 1974. Since then, the palace has welcomed distinguished guests from across the globe, including the likes of Gerald Ford.
A historic site of immense cultural value, Akasaka Palace was recognized as a National Treasure of Japan in 2009, a testament to its enduring legacy and importance in the nation’s history.
Nestled in the serene Ogikubo neighborhood of Suginami, Tokyo, the Tekigai-sō stands as a poignant testament to pre-war Japanese history. Once the residence of Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe, this architectural gem was designated a National Historic Site of Japan in 2016.
Constructed in 1927, the one-story wooden villa was originally designed by architect Itō Chūta for Tatsukichi Irisawa, a doctor with the Imperial Household Agency. With a blend of sukiya-zukuri style and modern sensibilities, the villa boasted high ceilings and exotic design elements inspired by Itō’s journeys across China, India, and the Middle East.
Acquired by Konoe in 1937, the villa transformed into his preferred retreat and unofficial prime ministerial residence.
The Tekigai-sō witnessed pivotal moments in Japan’s history. It hosted the “Ogikubo Conference” in 1940, leading to the Tripartite Pact with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.
Konoe announced the formation of the Imperial Rule Assistance Association here in 1940, and its halls echoed with discussions on the Second Sino-Japanese War and US-Japan relations.
Konoe’s legacy lived on within these walls, as he continued to oppose the Pacific War and the Tōjō government. Tragically, Konoe took his own life in the study of Tekigai-sō in 1945, rather than face trial for alleged war crimes.
The villa’s historical significance endured even after Konoe’s passing. Shigeru Yoshida, another prominent figure in Japanese politics, briefly inhabited the residence.
Although part of the Tekigai-sō was relocated in 1960, the remaining structure and grounds were purchased by the Suginami government in 2014. While the building’s interior remains off-limits to the public, the surrounding park opened its doors in 2015, inviting visitors to reflect on the history contained within these hallowed walls.
The Jindaiji Castle Ruins
The remnants of Jindaiji Castle, a significant castle from Japan’s Sengoku period, are nestled in the present-day city of Chōfu, Tokyo. Recognized as a National Historic Site since 2007, these ruins whisper tales of a tumultuous past.
Perched atop a small rise on the Musashino Terrace, Jindaiji Castle’s strategic location bridged the center of Chōfu and Mitaka cities. The castle’s layout reflected the region’s challenging terrain, with small hills and riversides chosen for fortifications.
It was strategically positioned along the Kamakura Kaidō road, linking the Kamakura shogunate capital with Kōzuke and Shimotsuke Provinces.
The castle’s concentric design featured an inner bailey, encircled by second and third baileys. The inner bailey held the main and back gates, watched over by a projecting yagura watchtower. The secondary and third baileys extended westward, with the latter mostly lost to time.
Jindaiji Castle’s origin remains speculative, with suggestions of a Kamakura-period origin. However, its prominence emerged when Uesugi Tomosada, leader of the Ogigayatsu Uesugi clan, fortified it in 1537.
This marked a bid to control Musashi Province’s northern region. The Uesugi clan’s struggles for dominance eventually succumbed to Hōjō Soun of the Late Hōjō clan.
Over the years, shifting alliances and conflicts shaped the castle’s destiny. Despite Uesugi clan’s efforts, the castle fell into Hōjō’s hands, only to be abandoned due to its unsuitable location for local governance.
Today, the remnants of Jindaiji Castle lay within the Jindai Botanical Garden’s grounds. This space offers a fascinating juxtaposition of historical significance against modern urbanization. The story of Jindaiji Castle, while obscured by time, still captivates those who venture into its vestiges.
The Hachiōji Castle Ruins
Nestled in the heart of Hachiōji, Tokyo, the Hachiōji Castle Ruins transport us to the dramatic era of Japan’s Sengoku period. These remnants, recognized as a National Historic Site since 1951 and expanded in 2005, offer a glimpse into a storied past.
Perched atop Mount Fukasawayama, southwest of modern Hachiōji, the castle commanded both major and minor routes connecting Kai Province and Musashi Province. Its strategic placement on the mountain’s slope utilized natural contours, with clay ramparts and dry moats forming outer defenses.
The castellan’s residence and enclosures occupied the hillside, displaying authority with stone-lined walls and drawbridges.
Hachiōji Castle’s asymmetrical design revealed its incomplete nature. Built in the 1570s by Hōjō Ujiteru, it replaced his former seat, emphasizing the need for a stronger fortress. In 1590, during Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s push against the Hōjō, the castle fell. The Tokugawa later commanded its destruction, leaving a site believed to be haunted for years.
Now in ruins, the castle saw some reconstruction in 1990, with stone walls and bridge replicas. The site’s historical significance led to its designation as one of Japan’s Top 100 Castles. As time weaves its tapestry, the Hachiōji Castle Ruins continue to whisper tales of valor and strife from an era long past.
The Kabuki-za Theatre
Nestled in Tokyo’s vibrant Ginza district, the Kabuki-za Theatre stands as the paramount venue for the revered art form of kabuki. Its history weaves through the eras, encompassing destruction and renewal, leaving an indelible mark on Japanese cultural heritage.
Originally founded by journalist Fukuchi Gen’ichirō during the Meiji era, the Kabuki-za was a platform for kabuki dramas starring luminaries like Ichikawa Danjūrō IX. After surviving fires and earthquakes, the theater came under the stewardship of the Shochiku Corporation in 1914.
The original wooden structure, built in 1889 on land that held the legacy of the Hosokawa and Matsudaira clans, was twice consumed by flames. First in 1921 due to an electrical fire, and then during the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake. The theater emerged anew in 1924, fusing fireproof design with traditional Japanese architecture and Western materials.
World War II brought further devastation, but the theater was restored to its former glory in 1950, maintaining its iconic 1924 style. However, in 2010, reconstruction was initiated to address seismic concerns and accessibility. Farewell performances followed, and after a three-year rebuilding effort, the new Kabuki-za opened its doors in 2013.
The theater’s interior showcases the intricate Nihonga art style, with four captivating front curtains that shift with the seasons. Shochiku, with its Kabuki-za Theatrical Corporation as the major shareholder, curates performances almost daily.
Each month brings a fresh repertoire of plays and dances, perpetuating the time-honored tradition of kabuki in this hallowed theater.
The Takanawa Great Wooden Gate
In the heart of what is now Takanawa, Minato, Tokyo, the Takanawa Great Wooden Gate once stood as an emblem of authority and passage.
Constructed during the Tokugawa Shogunate in the Edo period, this wooden gate and checkpoint held the crucial role of regulating travel along the Tōkaidō highway, serving as the official entrance to the bustling city of Edo.
Originally positioned near the Sengakuji intersection on Japan National Route 15, the gate oversaw the comings and goings of the Tōkaidō route, which extended its web across the land.
In 1710, the gate found its new abode just beyond Shinagawa-juku, marking Edo’s expanding borders. Shielded by earthen ramparts and adorned in black, the gate controlled not just the flow of travelers but the very essence of Edo’s security.
While the physical gate is now lost to time, its legacy remains etched in history. The Takanawa Great Wooden Gate site earned the esteemed status of a National Historic Site in 1928.
Although the gate is no more, a stone wall on the east side, surviving the tides of change, echoes its presence. A monument commemorates its significance, inviting visitors to reflect on the gate’s enduring role in shaping the past.
This location, once the epicenter of journeys into Edo, continues to hold its importance as it resides near the Sengakuji Station on the Toei Asakusa Line and the recently inaugurated Takanawa Gateway Station on the JR East Yamanote Line.
Meiji Seimei Kan
Standing proudly in the heart of Marunouchi, Tokyo, the Meiji Seimei Kan is more than just a building; it’s a testament to the harmonious fusion of history and innovation.
Designed by Shinichiro Okada and completed in 1934, it marked a pivotal shift from preceding Western-style constructions. Notably, it was among the earliest projects entirely conceptualized and executed by Japanese architects using native materials and craftsmanship.
Enduring a tumultuous history, Meiji Seimei Kan survived the requisition of its metal fittings during the Shōwa period and the ravages of World War II. In 1956, it was restored to Japanese governance after being under the jurisdiction of the General Headquarters / Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (GHQ/SCAP).
A pivotal milestone arrived in 1997 when it was bestowed the distinction of a National Important Cultural Property, becoming the inaugural Showa-era building to receive such recognition.
Boasting Greek Revival architecture, Meiji Seimei Kan’s exterior showcases imposing Corinthian pillars ascending five stories to the pediment, which actually constitutes the fifth floor. Constructed with a concrete encased steel beam structure, it reaches 31 meters in height and spans 3,856 square meters.
With eight floors above ground and two below, the building serves as an emblem of Japan’s architectural heritage, offering public access to its first and second floors, replete with conference rooms, dining spaces, offices, and waiting areas.
The Old Ministry of Justice Building
The Old Ministry of Justice Building, also referred to as the Red-Brick Building, stands as a historical gem in Tokyo’s Kasumigaseki district. Once the central hub of the Ministry of Justice, it remains a hub for specific ministry offices and holds the esteemed status of an Important Cultural Property.
Positioned near Sakuradamon on the Tokyo Metro Yurakucho Line, this building’s roots trace back to the Edo period, having been the residence of the Uesugi clan of the Yonezawa Domain.
Constructed in 1895 under the architectural guidance of German expatriates Hermann Ende and Wilhelm Böckmann, the building’s red-brick façade stands as a testament to Meiji-era modern public architecture in Japan.
The structure demonstrated its resilience during the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 due to its steel-reinforced framework, though it wasn’t spared from the destruction of the 1945 firebombing, which left only the exterior and floors intact.
The building, having undergone renovations in 1994 that restored its original appearance, presently accommodates the Ministry of Justice Museum, the Library of the Ministry of Justice, and the Research and Training Institute of the Ministry of Justice.
Its cultural significance was officially recognized in 1994 when it received the designation of an Important Cultural Property.