My trip to the virtually-abandoned station in Yokohama last Autumn was something of an eye-opener for me as it resulted in me scouring the internet for any other abandoned stations in and around Tokyo. I found a fantastic site called Tokyobling’s Blog which detailed two places. Admittedly they didn’t get me overly excited as the remains were just a few building exteriors but just a few weeks after that I read that one of them was going to be open to the public to snoop round for a limited time period.
The old Hakubutsukan-Dobutsuen Station in Ueno Park closed in 1997 but has been open for free to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays for three months from the end of November last year. It is located pretty much equidistant between Okachimachi and Ueno stations so I chose the former as it’s one stop closer (when coming from Ikebukuro) and is a much quieter route.
I went on the first day of my school holiday just before Christmas, and arrived at 11am and saw there were a few people milling around. No problem, I’ll just get into line and wait for a bit is what I thought. Wrong! I went to get a ticket from one of the vendors at the entrance and was a bit surprised to see that I couldn’t access the place for another three and a half hours!
Plenty of time to build up anticipation ready for my return!
The first thing to be seen on entrance, other than the impressive roof interior (above), was a giant rabbit which fits in with the “down the rabbit hole” theme of this place.
Steps lead down beneath the surface and you can see the obvious state of disrepair which comes from being closed for over two decades. There was a projection on the wall showing footage of the stations final days including things like the tickets from the last day.
The bunny theme continued as a lady wearing a rabbit head (the same person who had checked our tickets on the way in) performed a tune or two on the violin. There was a slightly weird display of animal skulls including one belonging to a panda which is something of an Ueno icon thanks to the zoo and all its panda souvenirs.
I enjoyed seeing the old signage but really could have done without all the arty aspects of this station which had been asleep for just under 22 years.
Graffiti from visitors could be left on the doors which go down to the tracks. Rather annoyingly that was as far as we could get and I was a little frustrated as I wanted to be able to take a look at the old platform. All I could do was poke my camera through gaps in the graffiti covered door and zoom in to the foot of the steps where the old ticket barrier could just about be made out.
Slightly disappointed by the limitations of that station I thought I had better visit the other abandoned station in Tokyo to
pad out this post paint the full picture. A week or so later I had a bit of free time in the afternoon after my ‘Back To The Future‘ experience at the HollyCon 18 convention so I went to Akihabara Station. Most visitors hang right at the main road (known as Chuo-dori Street) having left the Electric Town exit but if you turn left and cross the Kanda-gawa River you’ll see the remains of an old station that has been redeveloped into a cool and modern shopping area.
This is the former Manseibashi Station which was named after the nearby bridge. It closed down way back in November 1943 although trains can still pass through it today. Back in the direction of Akihabara Station is the Big Apple Slot & Pachinko which featured in ‘The Wolverine‘ (2013).
It was once the location for the Tokyo Railway Museum latterly known as the Transportation Museum which re-focused in 2006 and moved to Omiya in Saitama. As for Manseibashi now, there is a museum-of-sorts (a display is probably more apt!) that showcases a model of the old station and its surroundings as well as some art and literature relating to the first half of the 20th century.
The arched walls may have been bricked up but it’s origins are still easily noticeable from the outside, all complete with visible signs of wear and tear from the last century including fire damage, bomb shrapnel and pollution.
As for the inside, it has been renovated but not at the cost of completely disregarding its history. It may be full of chic stores, cafes and galleries now but they’re built around the old structures of the station and indeed much of the original grime and brickwork is still very apparent.
Click here to read ‘The Virtually Abandoned Station Just Over The Border From Tokyo’
Bonus: Just across the road from Manseibashi Station is the weirdest vending machine corner in all of Japan. I have been to this place a few times now and it has featured in a fair few YouTubers videos in the last year or so due to the eclectic mix of goods which can be purchased. Alongside the ubiquitous drinks are cans of oden, yakitori, potato chips as well as toy cars, plastic animals and fortune boxes.