Nakagin Capsule Tower is an architectural marvel located in the heart of Tokyo. As example of the post-war “Metabolism” architectural movement, this building is a must-see for architecture students, fans of unusual buildings, or anyone who wants to see a time capsule of life in Japan circa the 1970s. Ordinarily, you can’t go inside; but by taking an hour-long tour with our friends at Showcase Tokyo Architecture Tours, you too can get a glimpse of the insides of this amazing piece of history. Add that’s exactly what we did!
Finding Nakagin Capsule Tower
When Nakagin Capsule Tower was first built in 1972 (the capsules were attached to the core of the building in only 30 days!), it was one of the first tall buildings in the area that wasn’t made of wood. A brief walk (7 minutes from Higashi-Ginza station or 9 minutes from Shimbashi station) will get you there. Don’t worry–with a style that distinctive, you can’t possibly miss it.
The tower is a residential privately-owned building, so the only way to go inside is through the tour. But first, you should get some outside photos! The tower is strikingly different from the other modern towers in the Ginza area.
We met our guide Hal outside of the entrance. After introductions, it was time to get to the tour!
Showcase Tokyo Architecture Tours Guides Us Inside
Our guide Hal was a fountain of information. The Nakagin Capsule Tower A has thirteen floors, and Tower B has eleven, and has a total of 140 capsules. Each capsule measures 2.5 meters by 4.0 meters with a 1.3 meter round window. Some are people’s homes, and others function as “second homes” (or what Americans might call a “rec room”). Others still are used as business offices, and it is very prestigious to have a Nakagin Capsule address on your business card!
Other capsules are empty. Some are pristine, others damaged. Some have interesting things in them, such as plants that have taken root from wind-borne seeds (ask your guide to show you the photos).
Hal’s tour guided us to a capsule that still had some of that original 70’s Japanese flavor, complete with an entertainment center. Check out that reel-to-reel tape!
As you can see from the photos, each capsule is quite small. That’s because they weren’t meant to be homes or apartments. The capsules were envisioned as housing for businessmen who traveled to Tokyo for work, sort of like a personal hotel room. As today, businessmen back then worked late and got up early. Some of them were in no mood to take an hour-long train ride back home just so they could turn around and go back to the city four or five hours later. The capsule was an affordable option that let that hard-working businessman sleep, shower, and get back to the office well-rested. In the early days, Nakagin Capsule Tower even had a receptionist to take after-hours messages for their on-the-go residents.
The Save Nakagin Capsule Tower Project
In 2007, many capsule owners concerned over the building stability. Many of them want to replace the capsule tower with a much larger and more modern tower, or at least come up with the ways of preserving the current tower.
In 2014, Tatsuyuki Maeda founded the Nakagin Capsule Tower Preservation and Restoration Project. A capsule owner himself, he has been collecting donations from all over the world to preserve the tower.
Showcase Tokyo Architecture Tours information
You should totally see the Nakagin Capsule Tower with Showcase Tokyo Architecture Tours! They are an hour long and scheduled for Thursdays at 1200 (a group of five or more can make special arrangements for tours at other times). The tours are available in English and Chinese. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and answered all of our questions. We would like to thank you Hal and Showcase Tokyo Architecture Tours for guiding us–we learned a lot of interesting things during the tour!
Of course, this isn’t the first time Showcase Tokyo Architecture Tours has guided us. They have previously shown us their Harajuku – Omotesando Architecture Tour (which you can book here). They also have many other excellent architectural tours and offer personal guide services in Tokyo. Why would you need a personal guide in Tokyo? To help you find the things you see in Aya’s Cool Japan Blog, of course!
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