Anyone who's ever visited Harajuku for the Instagrammable rainbow-colored cotton candy, or the eccentric fashion displays in Takeshita Street will have passed through the iconic wooden structure of Harajuku Station.

The European-style building operated by the East Japan Railway Company has a long history within Tokyo and has established itself as a must-see for visitors of the city. Harajuku Station is the oldest wooden station in Tokyo, and has been used by generations of locals and millions of tourists from all over the world since it was first constructed in 1924.

The structure was designed by an engineer called Kaoru Hasegawa during the Taisho era of Japan, and the station even includes a little-known platform that was made especially for the imperial family. This concealed platform was said to have been secretly used by Emperor Taisho to avoid any public attention to him and his illness at that time.

Harajuku Station has even stood strong against damages to Tokyo in World War II. Based on a report by The Japan Times, even though most of the station’s surrounding Shibuya ward area received damage during the Tokyo air raids, the bombs that landed on the station itself were duds and the station ended up unharmed.

Photo by Xinyan C. on Unsplash

Unfortunately, despite the historic significance of the station, a report by NHK states that JR East has made plans to demolish the building after the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

According to the railway company, the current wooden structure does not comply with fire resistance requirements, and it will be replaced by a safer, more modern building set to open in March 21, 2020. However, fans of Harajuku Station’s classic design need not mourn just yet: JR East also announced that the new building will be designed in a way that recreates the half-timbered style we’ve all come to know and love.

Visitors coming to Harajuku after the new building is opened can enjoy a much wider interior space that allows for more freedom of movement, and a new exit near Meiji Jingu that makes it easier to access the shrine. In JR East’s press release on the construction, they revealed plans which mention a new cafe located on the second floor and even a break room specifically for parents with babies.

The 2020 Paralympic Games are set to end in September 6th next year, just under a month after the last day of the Olympics. So it’s definitely a good idea to plan a trip to Harajuku before then if you still want a chance to get to see this historic icon of Tokyo before it’s gone forever.


By - Jen Santelices.