St Mary’s Cathedral, Tokyo
4th September 2018
A blisteringly hot day, in a heatwave in a city that swelters in the summer at the best of times. Tokyo challenges the visitor, there is so much to see in a city that’s spread out. With determination and the wrong shoes, we assumed that once we got out of air-conditioned Gokuji Station onto the street we would just need to look up and see the famous 60-metre tall bell tower of St Mary’s Cathedral. Nope, it didn’t work out that way, we wove our way around small streets in the Bunkyo-Ku district with no clue and then suddenly…soaring above us was Kenzo Tange’s triumph.
The design is magnificent
No need to hold back about first impressions, the design is magnificent, the stainless steel exterior skin glinting even twinkling as 38 degrees C beat down on it. Capturing the whole can be a bit if a challenge, but to be honest a wide angled lens is a smart investment for a trip to Japan anyway. But don’t despair if you don’t have one there is so much detail that can be captured anyway, frankly, every angle offers another view of the 3D design of a cross. It cries out for a drone but wisely use of drone photography is banned. The thing is that the building is not just huge, there is something intrinsically in the design which demands full attention and full engagement and that’s before you’ve even stepped inside and encountered endless concrete.
Sekiguchi Catholic Church
In 1964 Kenzo Tange was charged with replacing a gothic style 1900 traditional wooden church destroyed by bombs in World War II. Also known as the Sekiguchi Catholic Church the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese, an important place of worship. Tange’s 3D vision, an interior as if one is standing within a cross, was built with funds raised by churchgoers in Cologne Germany.
When you step inside a feeling of calm sweeps over you, the space of a cross is created by eight curved wing-like walls which serve as both walls and ceiling, the structure is a hyperbolic parabola. Despite its size, 3941 metres, seating for 600 and standing room for 2000 it is an intimate space, much thought has gone into the acoustics. Whilst we were there someone was playing the church organ (Japan’s largest) in the organ loft and if you check out the video you will hear it being played. The sunlight plays an important role, it sends beautiful shafts of light to play on the concrete creating myriad shades of gold and pale sand-coloured light.
We sat and listened to the music floating up to the heavens, watched the sun playing on the concrete, looked up and just drifted in a bubble. The heat had gone and we were cocooned.
Gokokuji Sta. | Exit 6 | 10 mins on foot
Photo Credits: Howard Morris