Tokyobling's Blog

Ueno Ghost Station – Hakubutsukan-Dobutsuen Station

Posted in Places by tokyobling on January 29, 2014

Tokyo is really the urban explorer’s dream city. It is such a layered city, starting with the tiny agricultural villages before the 17th century, then growing, adding, fixing, layering new things, all the while keeping some of the old, replacing a lot and creating new systems to interact with the old. One of the most visible aspects of this is the transportation network inside the city, and especially the old abandoned or disused train stations, ghost stations. I have blogged about ghost stations before, but here is one that I have always wanted to write about.

The Hakubutsukan-Dobutsuen station (博物館動物園駅) in Ueno was in daily use as late as 1997, and closed permanently on the first of April that year. I am betting there are readers of this blog that remembers using this station. It opened in 1933 as the second stop on the Keisei Honsen-line, operating between Ueno station and Narita airport in neighboring Chiba Prefecture. The station is named after its proximity to the museums and the zoos in the Ueno park area. The station was the last station in central Tokyo to still use wooden turnstiles right up to the last day of operation, giving the station a very old time feeling even when it was in operation. The bare soot stained concrete walls of the underground platform contributed to the run down look, even when it was fairly new. Students from the nearby Tokyo University of the Arts tried to liven it up a little by two murals of an elephant and a few penguins, still surviving in the old station. The station was never refurbished during its use.

There are several reasons why the station was closed. Firstly the station platform only allowed the very shortest of the trains running the line to stop there, the four car trains. As more and more trains grew longer there were serious safety and scheduling concerns over the operation of the station. The relative closeness to the starting station of Ueno, only 900m away also played a role, as did economics. In the end the station was manned by only one person and had limited opening hours.

Today the main exit of the station remains just like it did while in operation. The secondary exit is unmarked and completely shut up but still used as a storage facility for the nearby university. The building itself was designed by the architect Shunji Nakagawa in the same style as the parliament building, in a greek-roman revival style. Closed up like it is today, the worn concrete makes it look more like a mausoleum. It is fronted by two plain un-fluted tuscan columns, with a prominent parapet decorated sparingly by a balustrade screening. The parapet is lined with antefixes of acroteria, giving it a strangely greco-buddhist look.

If you travel from Ueno you can spot the station platform as you run through it not even a minute after start. It is almost pitch black though, so you’ll have to concentrate to spot it in the tunnel. The only remaining function of the station today is as an emergency exit for the tunnel, but I have been told it looks like it was abandoned only yesterday. I would love to go inside someday! Please let me know in the comments if you ever used it back in the good old days!

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11 Responses

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  1. Noodlect said, on January 29, 2014 at 11:14 am

    Reblogged this on Zone Noodlect! and commented:
    Cool!

    Like

  2. Cathryn said, on January 29, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    This is fascinating – what street/junction is the little station entrance at? Trying to work out where it is!

    Like

    • tokyobling said, on January 30, 2014 at 1:03 am

      Hi! It is on the top northern edge of the park, just before the Tokyo Geidai. Copy and paste this address into Google Maps and you will find it: 東京都台東区上野公園13番地23号

      Like

      • Cathryn said, on January 30, 2014 at 10:33 pm

        Thank you. I ran there several times and missed it…what a fascinating building!

        Like

        • tokyobling said, on January 31, 2014 at 12:28 am

          I have walked past it so many times and missed it as well! The whole area is littered with fancy buildings and monuments so it is excusable… (^-^;)

          Like

  3. Shelli@howsitgoingeh? said, on February 3, 2014 at 12:10 am

    Beautiful! I hope they preserve it + never tear it down!

    Like

  4. yudhistira14 said, on March 16, 2014 at 9:28 am

    Very regrettable, when I visited Ueno, I’m not here

    Like

  5. Bambi said, on April 3, 2014 at 12:00 am

    It is a gorgeous building but in a land where precious little is done to preserve old archiecturesh, I imagine it’s unfortunately only a matter of time before the building is knocked down.

    Like

    • tokyobling said, on April 3, 2014 at 12:16 am

      I am more optimistic! I think the tide has turned and these days they are doing as much as possible to preserve architecture and history. I think the building will survive, having withstood the worst of the modernist wave. (^-^)

      Like

  6. Jean-Philippe Noiville said, on February 17, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    Hello, I’m a French railfan, I used to live in Tokyo as a teenager and I remember quite well stopping at Hakubutsukan-Dobutsuen station around 1972. I might have been the only passenger on my train alighting at that stop. Like the text says, it looked very run down and sinister, with very little lighting and hardly any passengers. Direct trains noisily passing by without stopping added to the impression of gloom. Thanks for the pictures !

    Like


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