Although Tokyo’s Marunouchi and Otemachi business district has been seeing multiple skyscrapers go up in recent years, one vintage building from the 1950s has been faithfully protected by its owner.
The 9-storey Otemachi Building built by Mitsubishi Estate in 1958 celebrated its 60th birthday this April. It served as their headquarters until last year when they moved across the street to the recently completed 140 meter tall Otemachi Park Building.
Otemachi Building was the first building in Japan to be fully air-conditioned. There are about 140 office tenants and 60 retail tenants. The maximum floor plate is over 7,000 sqm (75,000 sq.ft), making it one of the largest in the Otemachi area. The Otemachi Kannon deity is enshrined on the rooftop, with a worshipping ceremony attended by tenants each year in April.
Now overshadowed by sparkling new glass skyscrapers, the 31 meter tall building is one of the smaller ones in the district.
Large scale repairs and renovations are scheduled to start this year, with completion by March 2021. An investigation of the building’s structure found that it has another 40 or so years of service life, which would give it a 100-year life span. Rather than raze and redevelop the retro building, Mitsubishi is carrying out a full scale renovation of the existing building, and adding a 4,000 square meter rooftop garden – the largest rooftop garden on any office building in Japan. The structure will also be retrofitted.
Mitsubishi owns over 30 office buildings in the Marunouchi, Otemachi and Yurakucho area. In the late 1990s, with existing office buildings around Tokyo Station starting to show their age, Shinjuku took over as the leading business district. Mitsubishi embarked on a wide scale effort to transform their stronghold, investing over 950 billion Yen (approx. 9 billion USD) in office redevelopments over the past 20 years that have returned the Marunouchi area to the top business hub in the country. In the Marunouchi area alone, the number of retail shops increased from 280 in 2001 to 870 by 2017. As a result, the number of weekend visitors has jumped from 46,000 in 2002 to 114,000 in 2016.
Several hundred years ago the Marunouchi address was home to Daimyo residences. During the Meiji Restoration, the large residences were demolished and the land was taken over by the government. In 1890, Yanosuke Iwasaki, the second president of Mitsubishi and brother of the founder, paid between 1.2 ~ 1.5 million Yen for the entire Marunouchi area, while the adjoining Otemachi district remained under government control. In those days Marunouchi was just an overgrown field of grass, but today it is undoubtably considered the purchase of the century. Four years later the first building in Marunouchi was constructed. The red-brick building still stands today, although the current one is a reconstruction.
Otemachi, meanwhile, housed a number of government offices and ministries and remained under government control until the early 1950s when the land was sold off to private companies. The following post-war years of rapid economic growth saw this district transport rapidly in a business center.
The Kensetsu Tsushin Shimbun, July 3, 2018.
The Tokyo Shimbun, February 4, 2018.