Capsule From Dismantled Iconic Building Designed by Architect Kisho Kurokawa Returns to Ginza, Tokyo

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A shopper takes a picture of a capsule being exhibited at the entrance of the Ginza Six commercial complex in Chuo Ward, Tokyo. Music of the 1970s and ’80s is played inside the capsule.

Part of an iconic capsule building in Tokyo’s Ginza district that was demolished in 2022 is now being exhibited at the Ginza Six commercial complex in the same district.

The Nakagin Capsule Tower building was characterized by its exterior design made up of box-shaped housing capsules stacked on top of each other. Now, one of the capsules has returned to the Ginza district for the first time since the demolition of the building and catches the eyes of many shoppers passing by.

Designed by late architect Kisho Kurokawa (1934-2007), the building was completed in 1972 as a housing complex comprising of a total of 140 housing capsules. The design using detachable and replaceable capsules was so new and unique that the building attracted attention both domestically and abroad. It was also famous as the structure representing Japan’s “Metabolism” architectural movement.

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Nakagin Capsule Tower building is seen in the photo taken on Sept. 28, 2021

After the building was dismantled due to aging in 2022, the Nakagin Capsule Tower Preservation and Restoration Project, a citizen group which works to preserve the building, took and stored 23 capsules and discussed how to utilize them.

The Ginza Six commercial complex took advantage of this.

In anticipation of a surge in the number of customers as a result of the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, Ginza Six decided on “Hello Again” as the theme for this year’s Christmas sale season.

“We thought the return of one of the capsules would perfectly embody the theme,” an official at Ginza Six said. Tatsuyuki Maeda, 56, the representative of the preservation project, accepted the request by Ginza Six. As a result, one of the capsules was restored and is now being exhibited.

The capsule measures about 4 meters in width and 2.5 meters in height, and is exhibited at the entrance of Ginza Six. The interior of the capsule is a recreation of the original design which includes a blue carpet. Records that were popular in the 1970s and ’80s are displayed inside, and visitors can feel the atmosphere of the era of the building’s construction.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The interior of the capsule, recreated to match its original design.

While visitors are not allowed to enter the capsule, they can look inside through a round window and take pictures. Foreign tourists stopped in front of the capsule and enthusiastically took pictures of it.

This is not the first time that capsules taken from the Nakagin Capsule Tower building have been utilized. One of the capsules was added to the collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art while another is being exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, Wakayama in Wakayama. Another capsule was remodeled and made into a mobile trailer capsule.

“While the building was dismantled, these capsules will begin their metabolism from now on. We would like to consider what we can do to give them a new life,” Maeda said.

The exhibition of the capsule at Ginza Six will last until Dec. 25. An object modeled on the Nakagin Capsule Tower Building is being exhibited at the Rooftop Star Skating Rink at Ginza Six.