Food Forum
Vol. 27 No. 3  October 2013

CLOSE-UP JAPAN

Japan’s Evolving Train Stations


Tokyo Station’s GRANSTA shopping arcade offers a variety of foods including bento lunchboxes and prepared dishes.

Major train stations in Japan have changed drastically in recent years. Pass through the wicket and find not just your train, but busy shopping centers where you can buy almost anything including souvenirs, clothing, household goods—and food. Grab a quick lunch before boarding, buy prepared dishes for dinner before heading home, visit a restaurant for a full-course meal or a glass of wine: any convenience you might imagine is right at the station.

Stations are now a lifestyle destination

The Japanese rail system became well established during the late nineteenth century; today, rail-development efforts concentrate on those areas immediately surrounding major urban stations, where information, activities and commerce are increasingly concentrated. Until recently, train stations were no more than transportation hubs; today they are multi-use lifestyle destinations that integrate commercial and office facilities, hotels, apartments, shops, restaurants and other services.

In 2012, Osaka Station underwent significant redevelopment and has become, in effect, a small city within an enormous complex comprising a hotel, clinic, cinemas and over 200 stores and restaurants that all interconnect with the station building. The rail station itself was updated with enhanced safety features and a renovated facade.


Tokyo Station’s GRANSTA

After five and a half years, the renovation and preservation of Tokyo Station’s Marunouchi Station Building, designated an Important Cultural Property, was completed in October 2012, faithfully reproducing the historic building as it appeared after its construction in 1914. Here, besides countless convenience stores and souvenir shops, many station businesses now feature on-site kitchens that produce freshly made foods. Some of these include small outlets of well-known restaurants, including some of Tokyo’s most famous ramen noodle shops. These have become hugely popular, as have the shops of several major confectionery companies where, thanks to their in-house kitchens, visitors can observe preparations and enjoy a condensed factory-tour experience, then sample just-made goodies. The seasonal merchandise and exclusive goods sold at these shops are a tremendous draw, and so these days the train station bustles not only with travelers, but with curious—and hungry—shoppers and visitors of all ages.

Photos courtesy of Tetsudo Kaikan Co., Ltd.