Urbexing in Tokyo: The Nakagin Capsule Tower

Photo: scarletgreen on Flickr

Urbexing in Tokyo: The Nakagin Capsule Tower

Teina-Tokyo

For some traveling is not always about comfort. I’m not talking about physical comfort, but the “sightseeing” spots list. For many urbex is not an uncommon thing at all. “Urban exploration is the examination of off-limits or seldom seen parts of man-made structures. Unlike other adventurers, such as rock climbers or spelunkers, urban explorers shun the natural world in pursuit of more closely examining and understanding the inner workings of our constructed world, of seeing civic society in its real, raw, unpainted, unplastered and unprettied state. It's internal city touring, but without guides, double-decker buses, maps or directions. It's about going where people aren't supposed to go.” – James Nestor.

I always wondered about such spots in Tokyo. Of course, you will not find any exact address and info online for safety and other reasons. In addition to the above given definition one can explore locations that are disappearing in order to remember them both visually and on camera. So to a certain extend, the Nakagin Capsule Tower can be classified as an urbex location.

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Nakagin was originally planed as a capsule hotel. And probably this is one of the most popular urbex photographic subjects online. Yet, there is hardly any info about it. In a multitude of articles on its origin and history there is almost no specific tourists-oriented details (at least in the English google).

For example how does one access it? So let me make it clear. The station is called JR Shimbashi (新橋) and you have to walk around 10 minutes further. More closer exits are from the Ginza line (銀座線). I would still recommend to use JR, because those 10 minutes of walk allows one to see many other interesting places that might help one to form an opinion about the Tower itself.

The building was constructed in 1972 based on the design by the famous Japanese architect Kisho Kurakawa. It satisfied “Japanese metabolism,” a post-war architecture style connected with the traditional concept of the world dynamics and imperfections. It was planned to leave the capsules unattached: they could be removed and replaces when necessary. That would create the illusion of “alive” modern building. The capsules were mainly targeted to host salarymen that work long hours and sometimes lack time to return back home from work. The interior looked like somewhat a futuristic spaceship.

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But eventually, capsules have never been removed. The building does not function as a hotel. Until recent it was possible to rent a room for 1 night on airbnb, but other residents started to complaint about the noisy guests. Now the doors warns any urbex fans not to enter with all capitals: NO TRESPASSING. Security does not look friendly. And the Tower is to be removed sooner or later.

However, the better (in my opinion) is to shoot it from a distance on a clear day. The best would be the bridge. It is partially glass and might add some freshness.

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When I first visited Nakagin, there was just a young guy drawing the building. That gave me a feeling Nakagin was designed as something futuristic, but now it’s all behind the modern constructions, even with the amazing shapes of the capsules.

And yet if you walk just a block away or simply turn your eyes to another direction while still on he bridge, the colours and chaos of a big city might overwhelm at sudden.

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Perhaps that is what it has to be. To understand sweetness one has to taste bitterness. And vice versa.