For the 2020 Summer Olympics, Tokyo joins the best group of cities that played host to the Games multiple times. IOCC’s selection of Japan’s capital further highlights it as one of the world’s most dynamic cities.
Tokyo made a big splash during the 1964 Summer Olympics, sealing its global reputation as the city of the future. The 2020 planners and policymakers, therefore, knew they had an enormous challenge in finding fresh ways to reintroduce Tokyo to the world. Numerous tech bells and whistles brought forth by Fortune 500 sponsors will enhance how spectators experience the games. Panasonic’s contributions, for example, include a translation device handling up to 10 spoken languages and a smartphone app enabling foreign visitors to instantly scan and translate signs. There’s also a big buzz surrounding driverless Lexus and Toyota taxis.
On the other hand, Tokyo follows South Korea’s performance on the world stage with the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics and precedes Beijing’s next outing as a repeat Olympic city in 2022. Perhaps for these reasons, the city and various developers are emphasizing historic preservation even as projects to improve infrastructure and accessibility apply a city-of-the-future mindset. According to the Japan National Tourism Organization, this Olympian undertaking exemplifies Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s goal to increase the annual number of incoming foreign tourists to 40 million by 2020 and 60 million by 2030.
The reworking of the concrete-based National Stadium, used for the 1964 Olympics’ opening and closing ceremonies, embodies this approach. The old structure enters the 21st century with the implementation of a nature-focused design by noted Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, employing Japanese lumber. It serves as an anchor point of a Heritage Zone surrounding the Imperial Palace that includes upgraded and updated venues from the earlier games. The 10 new facilities, meanwhile, go up in the Tokyo Bay Zone on the reclaimed land of Odaiba, including the swimming competitions venue.
The New Shinagawa Station, launching 2020, is one of the crown jewels of the city’s infrastructure improvements. According to The Japan Times, the first major addition to the Yamanote train loop since 1971 is intended to not only improve crowd flow but also make exploring Tokyo and Japan more user-friendly years beyond the games. It dovetails into transforming the Shinagawa neighborhood and will provide a quick connection to Metro Sengakuji Station and access to Narita and Haneda airports by 2027.
Some of the most visible developments will reside in Shibuya, which adjoins Yoyogi Park, site of the new Olympic Stadium. The mega makeover includes more than 786,000 square feet of new office space around Shibuya Station and nearly 2.8 million square feet of space throughout the district. One of the most important revitalizations is Shibuya Station, adding new elevators and escalators to link the different levels and passageways, facilitating smoother transfers between commuter lines.
Other multipurpose structures in Shibuya will alter one of the world’s most photographed neighborhoods. The 750-foot-tall Shibuya Scramble Square, opening 2019, encompasses expansive rooftop space and one of Japan’s largest observation decks. Panoramic views include the iconic intersection as well as the Meiji Shrine, the Shinjuku skyline to the north, the Roppongi district to the east and (on clear days) Mount Fuji to the west. Shibuya Stream, arriving in 2018, fuses nature with practicality with 20 open-concept office floors, a fourth-floor atrium with compact workstations, and a fifth-floor lobby with an arched ceiling reminiscent of the wave-shaped patterns of the former roof of the Tōyoko Line’s terminal. Its 6,500-foot, tree-lined walkway will about the banks of the newly exposed, free-flowing Shibuya River.
Developments in Ginza involve the use of repurposed buildings and designs paying homage to past architectural styles defining Tokyo retail. Early players include Ginza Place (opened fall 2016), inspired by the 1932 landmark Neo Renaissance-style Wako department store building directly across the street; and Ginza Six (G6), debuted in spring 2017 at the location of the former Matsuzakaya department store. G6’s third basement floor serves as the new home of the Kanze School of Noh, a musical theater group tracing its history back nearly 700 years. The project transplanted its historic stage, plank by plank, to pair with state-of-the-art sound and lighting, improved handicapped access and a multilingual interpretation system.
Between 2018 and 2020, the former Sony building will transform into Ginza Sony Park, where visitors will enjoy multisensory kind experiences delivered by technological gadgets and machines devised by Sony and others. Another global Japanese brand expanding beyond retail is MUJI, Japan’s minimalist lifestyle, and apparel store. When the MUJI Hotel in Ginza opens in spring 2019, visitors can draw inspiration from the brand’s unique design element in the hotel on the top four floors, as well as its expansive home retail concept covering the bottom six and three basement floors.
Quirky boutique hotels opening or soon to open include the Wired Hotel Asakusa in the historic Taito ward; the 15-guestroom Trunk Hotel in Shibuya, distinguished by expanses of recycled woods, tiered balconies, aromatic herb gardens, and organic made-in-Japan bathroom toiletries; and the Tokyo Skytree, designed by Tokyo Olympic Stadium architect Kengo Kuma, integrating industrial materials with natural wood.
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