If you want to see the Tokyo landmark in its current form, go now.
December has barely started, but it’s already turning into a rough month for Tokyo landmarks. Just last week the announcement was made that the full-scale Gundam statue will be vacating the city’s Odaiba neighborhood, which has been the anime robot’s home since 2012. Now comes a reminder that the end is drawing near for iconic Harajuku Station.
Granted, the blow is softened a bit by the fact that rail operator Japan Railways, also known as JR, had already told us back in June that the station would be rebuilt ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. But that’s feeling a little more real now that Japanese Twitter user @mamu_610taka has shared a snapshot taken at Harajuku Station of a sign informing passersby of when the project will get underway.
【さよなら原宿駅舎】 ついに建築計画の標識設置がされてしまいました。大正13年に建築されたイギリス風木造駅舎は見納めとなります。 今後、木造駅舎はどうなるのかJR東日本の方針にかかっています… #鉄道建築 https://t.co/Jvey90bmnl—
陽氣發處 (@mamu_610taka) December 05, 2016
According to the notice, construction will start on January 15, meaning that the building will be existing in its exact current form for only about one more month.
Oddly enough, the sign lists the completion date of the project as August 31, 2021, a full year after the Olympic Games vacate Japan’s capital. Specifying such a specific date that’s still so far in the future seems to indicate that it’s more of a placeholder meant to convey the idea that construction may possibly continue in some form through the summer of 2021. That said, the projected timeframe of more than four years from start to finish drives home the fact that even if the new Harajuku Station retains certain aesthetic elements of the present design (something which JR is yet to confirm), its overall appearance is going to be very, very different from what it is now.
▼ JR’s early render of the new Harajuku Station
In all fairness, the number of people flowing in and out of Harajuku has grown far beyond the woefully small capacity of the current building, which has only a handful of ticket gates and extremely limited space between the structure and road that runs in front of the building. Still, plenty of Tokyoites and repeat visitors to the city will be sad to see the old station go. The Yamanote Line, which runs through Harajuku Station, also stops at Osaki and Shimbashi Stations, where passengers can transfer to other lines connected to Odaiba, so if you’re planning to pay one last visit to both Harajuku Station and Gundam, you can easily hit both on the same bittersweet day.