High Drama, Part 1: Otemachi Tower

A few years ago, if you wanted to transfer between the Tozai and Marunouchi lines at Otemachi subway station, you had to walk the length of a city block through a narrow underground passageway. When heavy rush hour crowds came trampling through, it had the ambiance of a cattle chute.

Nowadays, that same walk is far more pleasant. That is because the block under which that old passageway ran is now the site of Mizuho Bank’s new headquarters building, The Otemachi Tower. According to the Emporis skyscraper website, construction of the 38-floor, 200-meter dark glass tower was completed only in April 2014.

The building was designed by the architectural firm Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF), whose own website explains, “The rectilinear form of The Otemachi Tower is modulated by deep vertical and horizontal recesses.” The horizontal one divides the building’s floors of office space from the luxury Aman Hotel tucked away on the upper levels.

While this gives the building a striking external appearance, I most enjoy the view from the basement. The squeeze through the stuffy old passageway has been replaced by a stroll through a gigantic atrium that is connected to a restaurant arcade and receives natural light through windows high overhead on the east and west.

As cheerful as it is, you’ll find a somber touch if you take the escalator up to ground level. In a garden just outside, there is a memorial to the 25 Mizuho Financial Group employees who lost their lives in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York, which housed a Mizuho office. The memorial includes a piece of World Trade Center wreckage.

— Tom Baker

Japan News Staff Writer