Tokyo is rapidly expanding and by 2050 is expected to have an impressive population of 38 million. The city’s infrastructure and architecture are following suit and new constructions are constantly being built.
But what typology of buildings are popping here and there across the metropolis? You’ll be surprised to learn that the newer constructions, especially those commissioned to the most reputed architects, are reduced to two categories: residential and retail. The Nipponese are most interested in thoughtful homes and fancy stores.
As Tokyo is a strong candidate for Architectour, I’ve recently updated the guide with the newer buildings and exact locations. Though the capital is dense and its architecture superb, I’ve curated this list knowing that I left out many important buildings. That’s why I encourage you to check the full Free Architecture Guide of Tokyo.
Let me know in the comments… which is your favourite place of the list?
1. House NA
Architect: Sou Fujimoto
Location: 3-chōme-55 Kōenjiminami, Suginami City, Tōkyō-to 166-0003 (Google)
Description: This intriguing home concept – a bold statement amongst the other concrete blocks of this quiet neighbourhood – develops around the idea of living within a tree. Designed for a young couple, the interior is an amalgam of individual floor plates at different heights, 21 in total. This was the brief in fact, the desire to live as nomads within their own home. Read more here.
2. SunnyHills cake shop
Architect: Kengo Kuma
Location:3 Chome-10-20 Minamiaoyama, Minato City, Tokyo 107-0062 (Google)
Description: This delightful cake shop specialises in a pineapple variety, which is a popular sweet in Taiwan. You’ll be able to taste this wonderful baked product (and then buy some) at their somehow hidden Aoyama shop. It was brilliantly designed by Kengo Kuma using a joint system called “Jiigoku-Gumi,” a traditional method used in Japanese wooden architecture. Read more here.
3. Dior Store
Location: 5-chōme-9-11 Jingūmae, Shibuya City, Tōkyō-to 150-0001 (Google)
Description: French fashion house Dior’s flagship store in Tokyo is a small, yet very interesting building. The façade is formed by transparent glass walls and a translucent wavy acrylic screen behind. Due to Tokyo’s building codes, the building could be no higher than 30 meters and that’s why the floors were designed at unequal heights. At night, the stacked layers glow with different intensities and the effect is most visible. Read more here.
4. Tama Art University Library
Architect: Toyo Ito
Location: 2 Chome-1723 Yarimizu, Hachioji, Tokyo 192-0375 (Google)
Description: This library, which is the Northern gateway to Tama Art University’s Hachioji Campus in Tokyo, is Toyo Ito’s modern interpretation of a cave. The emergent grid of curved lines distributes the load in 56 intersecting points, allowing for the carving of the arches in a way that the thinnest part is where they touch the floor – much like the stalactites that inspired the project. Thus, the heavy concrete construction seems almost impossibly light. Read more here.
5. House in a Plum Grove
Architect: Kazuyo Sejima
Location: 4 Chome-19-41 Sakuragaoka, Setagaya City, Tokyo 156-0054 (Google)
Description: A young couple with two children and a grandmother chose this complex site where beautiful plum trees and wild flowers grew to be their new home. In only 92.3 m2 Kazujo Sejima created a white closed cube that has the right tension between the privacy found in a dwelling and the public character of a house in a garden. Counterintuitively, no space is shut off completely. Read more here.
6. TOD’S Omotesando Building
Architect: Toyo Ito
Location: 5-chōme-1-15 Jingūmae, Shibuya City, Tōkyō-to 150-0001 (Google)
Description: Located in the fashionable Omotesando area, this building was erected especially for Tod’s, the Italian shoe and handbag brand. The lower levels of this 7-story building are used as a shop, with the middle and upper levels containing offices and a multi-purpose space. The most impressive part of the building is the façade, which serves both as a graphic pattern and structural system, and is composed of 300mm-thick concrete and flush-mounted frameless glass. The resulting surface supports floor slabs spanning 10-15 meters without any internal columns. Read more here.
7. Prada Store
Architect: Herzog and de Meuron
Location: 5 Chome-2-6 Minamiaoyama, Minato City, Tokyo 107-0062 (Google)
Description: Despite the small plot, Herzog and de Meuron managed to create a public space in the form of a small plaza. This was achieved thanks to the verticality of the project. Depending on where the viewer is standing, the body of the building will look more like a crystal or like an archaic type of building with a saddle roof. The ambivalent, always changing and oscillating character of the building’s identity is heightened by the sculptural effect of its glazed surface structure. Read more here.
8. Tokyo International Forum
Architect: Rafael Viñoly
Location: 3 Chome-5-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 100-0005 (Google)
Description: Commissioned by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the Forum is a civic complex for global events and cultural exchange. It accommodates dance, musical and theatrical performances, conventions and trade shows, business meetings, and receptions. The most distinctive feature are the bridges and pedestrian ramps that connect all conference rooms to the theatres. Read more here.
9. Harajuku Church
Architect: Ciel Rouge
Location: 2-chōme-11-13 Kitaaoyama, Minato City, Tōkyō-to 107-0061 (Google)
Description: This Protestant Church is arranged with six arches and a bell tower that symbolically lay importance on the seven elements, the seven days of creation, the seven churches of the Orient etc. Why the curves? The undulating arches were specifically designed for fine acoustics, as the church is used as a concert hall facility too. Read more here.
10. Nakagin Capsule Tower
Architect: Kisho Kurokawa
Location: 8-chōme-16-10 Ginza, Chuo City, Tōkyō-to 104-0061 (Google)
Description: One of Tokyo’s most iconic examples of Kurokawa’s Metabolism, the Nagakin Capsule Tower was in fact the very first capsule architecture design. The module was created with the intention of housing traveling businessmen that worked in central Tokyo during the week. It is a prototype for architecture of sustainability and recycleability, as each module can be plugged in to the central core and replaced or exchanged when necessary. It has a total of 140 capsules which are stacked and rotated at varying angles around a central core, standing 14-stories high. Read more here.
11. Omotesando Keyaki Building
Architect: Norihiko Dan and Associates
Location: 5-chōme-1-3 Jingūmae, Shibuya City, Tōkyō-to 150-0001 (Google)
Description: Surrounded by Tod’s L-shaped Omotesando Building by Toyo Ito, this eight-story commercial building replaces a square building which failed to address its corner situation. The new corner structure changes this relationship by creating a diagonal orientation with an irregularly shaped circle. The building’s structure is composed of multiple leaf-shaped columns made from steel reinforced concrete and arranged on the outer shell. The beautiful wood-like texture on these columns was developed by pouring concrete into a wooden mold. Read more here.
12. Sumida Hokusai Museum
Architect: Kazuyo Sejima
Location: 2-chōme-7-2 Kamezawa, Sumida City, Tōkyō-to 130-0014 (Google)
Description: Located in the Tokyo neighborhood of Sumida, the 4-story, angular structure houses a collection of over 1800 works by world-renowned ukiyo-e woodblock painter Katsushika Hokusai, who lived in Sumida over 200 years ago. Angular cuts in the building’s reflective facade will bring natural light into the gallery interiors, where works such as ‘The Great Wave Off Kanagawa’ will be displayed. The angular geometries will continue into the interiors in the form of walkways and apertures. Read more here.
13. Jinbōchō Theater
Architect: Nikken Sekkei
Location: 1-chōme-23 Kanda Jinbōchō, Chiyoda City, Tōkyō-to 101-0051 (Google)
Description: Located in a challengingly small plot surrounded by narrow streets, Jimbocho Theater integrates a cinema, theatre and a practice arena for artistic school. Despite the spiky armor plating the building is still easily accessible, yet to accommodate such a program bounded by narrow streets, steel anti-seismic diaphragms aligned to the planning height control planes were necessary to enable both a light structural frame and maximum column-free space. Read more here.
14. The National Art Center
Architect: Kisho Kurokawa
Location: 7 Chome-22-2 Roppongi, Minato City, Tokyo 106-8558 (Google)
Description: Located in Roppongi, a downtown area known for its numerous high-scale restaurants, boutiques, foreign offices and many ‘art-creators’, the National Art Centre is a space for displaying public open exhibits. The building is made up of seven enormous column-less display rooms, a library, an auditorium, a restaurant, a café and a museum shop. The floor area of the National Art Center, Tokyo totals 45,000 m², making it Japan’s largest museum. Read more here.
15. Louis Vuitton Matsuya Ginza Facade Renewal
Architect: Jun Aoki
Location: 3-chōme-6-1 Ginza, Chuo City, Tōkyō-to 104-0061 (Google)
Description: The new façade of Louis Vuitton Matsuya Ginza is inspired by the history of Ginza, the city that used to be known for its art deco design. Ginza was the entrance of Tokyo, adjacent to Shimbashi, from which the very first railway station of Japan stretched to the port. Based on Louis Vuitton’s damier, which is a repeated geometric pattern, the façade of Louis Vuitton Matsuya Ginza becomes a softer version of damier, whose delicacy and richness can be best appreciated at night when the lighting system is on. Read more here.
16. Tokyo Tower
Architect: Tachū Naitō
Location: 4 Chome-2-8 Shibakoen, Minato City, Tokyo 105-0011 (Google)
Description: In 1953 Japan was trying to leave war and defeat behind, aiming to become a modern, peaceful and powerful nation. One of the key elements in the construction of this renewed Japanese society was going to be the spreading of mass media, starting with television. In February of that year, regular television broadcasting in Japan began and by the end of 1958, Tokyo Tower was finished and opened to the public as the world’s tallest freestanding tower at the time. Read more here.
17. Shizuoka Press and Broadcasting Center
Architect: Kenzo Tange
Location: 8-chōme-3-7 Ginza, Chuo City, Tōkyō-to 104-0061 (Google)
Description: Built in 1967, the building was the first spatial realization of Tange’s Metabolist ideas encapsulating the concepts of the new Metabolistic order in architecture and urban planning that prevailed in post-World War II Japan. The narrow, 189 square-meter, triangular site inspired Tange to design a vertical structure, consisting of a main infrastructural core, which could develop into an urban megastructure. A total of thirteen individual offices were arranged in five groups of two or three modules connected asymmetrically to the central beam. Balconies formed in the gaps between the clusters, allowing for future units to potentially be “plugged-in,” an idea which never materialized. Read more here.
18. Iidabashi Oedo Line Station
Architect: Makoto Sei Watanabe
Location: 1-chōme-9 Kōraku, Bunkyo City, Tōkyō-to 112-0004 (Google)
Description: Iidabashi Station, a major interchange railway station, is the first built architectural work in the world generated by a computer program solving required conditions. The structure of the façade and the interior spaces were inspired by living plants and were created thanks to a complex algorithm taking into account multiple factors such as transit, density and time. Read more here.
19. Tokyo Skytree
Architect: Nikken Sekkei
Location: 1 Chome-1-2 Oshiage, Sumida City, Tokyo 131-0045 (Google)
Description: With a height of 634 meters, Tokyo Skytree is the tallest structure in Japan and the second tallest in the world at the time of its completion. This television broadcasting tower has become the capital’s landmark and it features a restaurant and observation deck on the top floors. A large shopping complex and an aquarium can be found at its base too. Read more here.
20. Coach Omotesando Flagship
Location: 3-chōme-6-1 Kitaaoyama, Minato City, Tōkyō-to 107-0061 (Google)
Description: Founded in 1941, Coach began as a leather goods retailer, displaying their products in a single row of librarylike, wooden shelving that categorized their handbags and wallets. Their story was the inspiration of the building’s façade, a modular display unit that is flexible enough to accommodate the specific needs of each product, thus seamlessly communicating the brand’s presence from the inside out. Read more here.
21. The National Museum of Western Art
Architect: Le Corbusier
Location: 7-7 Uenokoen, Taito City, Tokyo 110-0007 (Google)
Description: One of French-Swiss architect Le Corbusier’s lesser-known buildings among the 17 recently added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List is this concrete museum in Tokyo, which holds a collection dedicated to western thought and art. Le Corbusier’s National Museum of Western Art is his only building in the Far East and was originally opened in 1959 to house the personal collection of Japanese industrialist Matsukata Kojiro. When the museum was commissioned, Mr Kojiro’s collection had remained mostly in Europe after the second world war. An agreement was reached between the Japanese and French governments; the latter agreed to return the artworks to Japan, on the condition that they be housed in a museum designed by a Frenchman. Read more here.
22. Musashino Art University Library
Architect: Sou Fujimoto Architects
Location: 1 Chome-736 Ogawacho, Kodaira, Tokyo 187-0032 (Google)
Description: The Musashino Art University Museum & Library proposes a new relation between the user and the books, surrounded and sheltered by them. This project is the new library for a highly distinguished art universities in Japan. It involved designing a new library building and refurbishing the existing building into an art gallery, which will ultimately create a new integration of the Library and the Art Gallery. Read more here.
© Edmund Sumner
23. Moriyama House
Architect: Ryue Nishizawa
Location: 13-chōme-21 Nishikamata, Ota City, Tōkyō-to 144-0051 (Google)
Description: Moriyama House is one of the most iconic houses built at the beginning of the 21st century and it was an experiment. The concept is simple: the program of the Moriyama House is deconstructed and recomposed in 10 individual boxes that range from one to three storeys high. This unique project attempts to challenge the conventional schemes of the domestic architecture by proposing a scheme that redefines public and private space. While the site for the Moriyama House is quite small, its buildings only take up about half its area. The communal space is shared by six tenants, including the owner Yasuo Moriyama. Read more here.