Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower
One interesting aspect of Tokyo is the cities mix of different architectural styles and neighborhoods. Unlike many other cities in the world, Tokyo has managed to grow the city in a way that many areas stand out quite visibly in character and style. When watching movies and TV dramas set in Tokyo I can often tell where it was shot by looking at the way the streets are laid out, the age and quality of the buildings and the character of people populating the streets. A few areas stand out so much that any shot from any street corner in the area is enough to give the location away. One of my weirder hobbies is to look at old Japanese movies and try to figure out where they were shot!
One of these peculiar areas is next to Shinjuku station, to the west. Every area around Shinjuku station has it’s own feel and character and I have always thought that the area between the station and the huge business and government district called Nishi Shinjuku looks and feels just like Akihabara. So I call it Mini-Akihabara (even though my Japanese friends have no idea what I’m talking about). The difference is that in Mini-Akihabara in Shinjuku, you are surrounded in every direction by huge sky scrapers, leaving the old, run down almost dingy area in the middle and isolated island of post-war small businesses and shops. Here’s a street view down Mini-Akihabara, with the towering Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower at the end. It looks very much like all the other steel band buildings that have sprung up around the world since then. This 50 story building was built between May and October 2008 and at the time I was living in the area so I saw it go up, growing a little taller every day. It even won a gold medal in the Emporis Skyscraper Award of 2008. At the same time in Beijing the famous Bird’s Nest Stadium was completed, which in turn was inspired by an even earlier building by famous icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. The Cocoon Tower is the home of three vocational schools and is the second tallest educational building in the world (there’s a fashion school, an IT school and medical school) and currently has 10 000 students studying there every weekday. I’d really like to go inside some day! Does anyone know anyone who studies there?
Someday I’ll try to get better photos than this. It is really difficult to shoot such a tall building from so close beneath it! The whole area of Nishi Shinjuku is extremely interesting from an architectural and engineering viewpoint, the combination of extremely soft ground with extremely tall buildings has created one of the most complex built up areas in the world. I’ll tell you more about it some other time!