Visitors to Japan's capital city are highly likely to pass through Tokyo Station at the beginning of their Asia travel adventure, but they may not consider it a real attraction. However, if you take some time to explore the massive station, you may see that it has more to offer than just passage into the city.
First stop for Asia travel
Travellers who pass through Tokyo Station as their first stop in the city may consider themselves lucky. JR East, one train company that operates out of the station, also runs a travel service centre in Tokyo Station's central building, according to CNN. The service centre provides currency exchanges and luggage storage for visitors. Public computers and wireless Internet access are also available. Tokyo's Central Post Office is located in the nearby JP Tower and features staff and brochures to help foreign travellers.
Art of the railway
The station itself, and the number of people who move through it each day, are impressive enough to warrant to a visit, especially for those who are interested in seeing how a city as large as Tokyo keeps running. According to CNN, the station is 304 meters long and 350,000 people pass through it every day. The Tokaido Shinkansen, the busiest high-speed train line in the world, is just one of 14 lines serviced at Tokyo Station. Between these 14 lines, 3,000 trains move through the station every day.
However, there's more to see in the station than just the inner workings of the city's train service. The station is also home to a gallery of contemporary art as well as exhibits focused on railroads and architecture. Originally opened in 1988, the gallery was renovated along with the rest of the station's main building in 2012. Since its first opening in 1988, more than 2.3 million people have visited the gallery, according to CNN.
Ramen on the rails
Art galleries may be rare at train stations, but first-class restaurants are even less likely to find. Tokyo Station again defies expectations by hosting a number of eateries that are considered by some to be among the best in the city.
Serious Eats visited Rokurinsha, one of the city's most popular ramen restaurants, located on the basement floor of Tokyo Station. The well-regarded restaurant serves tsukemen, a local variant of ramen that's growing in popularity and is served with separate bowls for the noodles and broth.
According to the source, the restaurant can be packed with a line stretching out into the station's hall by 11 a.m. Rokurinsha serves a variety of broths, noodles and other additions, making it a stop that can please just about anybody.
CNN reported that there are plenty of other options for those who don't want to start their day with a bowl of hot ramen. The station also offers passengers spots to buy Japanese boxed lunches known as bento, as well as common Western fare.
Part of the landscape
More than just a place to pass through or pick up lunch, Tokyo Station has become something of a landmark in the city. According to The Japan Times, the station has survived earthquakes and damage from World War II, though the latter left it in need of major repairs.
The Times reported that repairs after World War II were only meant to keep the station running for a couple of years, but the design remained largely unchanged until 2007, when the most recent round of renovations began.
This year, Tokyo Station celebrated its 100th anniversary, having opened officially on Dec. 20, 1914, according to The Asahi Shimbun. To celebrate the event, the station was illuminated with a shade of violet that was in fashion when it first opened for business.