Introducing Takanawa Gateway! Tokyo’s Newest Railway Station
Tokyo’s newest station, Takanawa Gateway
If you haven’t traveled on the Yamanote Line in a while, you might be in for a surprise the next time you take the iconic JR loop line around Tokyo. There is a new kid on the block, sitting between Shinagawa and Tamachi Stations. Welcome to Takanawa Gateway Station! In fact, this is the first new station to open on the Yamanote Line in almost fifty years, bringing the total number to thirty stations. Incidentally, the twenty-ninth station added was Nishi-Nippori way back in 1971. JR’s latest addition opened to the public officially on March 14, 2020.
Takanawa Gateway Station is located between Shinagawa Station and Tamachi Station.
Takanawa Gateway Station is also on the Keihin-Tohoku Line, which runs through Saitama and connects Tokyo with Yokohama Stations, and it is within walking distance of the Sengakuji Station on the Toei Asakusa Subway Line.
Plans for the new station were first announced in 2014 as part of an ongoing project for extensive business and infrastructure development in the Shinagawa area. The area around Takanawa Gateway will be developed into an exciting commercial, residential, and transportation hub over the next few years.
Breaking New Ground
The style of the station’s name is unique for a JR Yamanote Line station in that the name Takanawa Gateway is a combination of the Japanese characters for Takanawa, the name of the area, and the English loanword “gateway.” The name was designed to represent the hope that the station will become a portal linking the historical downtown area of Tokyo with the innovative development on the horizon for the Takanawa area.
The station building combines elegance with eco-friendly elements.
The three-story station was designed by renowned Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, who also contributed to the direction of the new National Stadium, built for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics. Known for combining Japanese traditional aesthetics with modern design concepts, Kuma drew inspiration from origami (the art of paper folding). While Takanawa Gateway is first and foremost a functioning station, it is also an elegant and innovative architectural work in its own right. The walls of the light-filled building are lined with cedarwood, and eco-friendly features, such as rooftop solar panels, make Takanawa Gateway a blueprint for stations of the future.
Next-Generation Station Staff
Japan’s first “TOUCH TO GO” unmanned AI automated payment convenience store
In keeping with this futuristic vision, the station uses technology that is being unveiled for the first time. For example, Japan’s first “TOUCH TO GO” convenience store allows customers to make purchases without the assistance of human staff. And in furtherance of JR’s experiment with QR-code train tickets, each of the ticket gates has a QR-code reader installed.
The robot workers of Takanawa Gateway Station
If it feels like you are being watched as you move around the station, you’re right—working robots are on the job. But don’t worry, they are friendly, and cute as well. In addition to cleaning and security bots, there is a guidance robot that can assist passengers in several languages with information about facilities at the station and nearby.
While they are not yet ready to meet the general public, other robots are in demonstration testing behind the scenes at the East Japan Railway Trading Company’s AI and robotics solutions department. I was shown around the station by Seiichiro Ono, the general manager of robot operations at the Takanawa Station base.
Personal mobility service robots currently in demonstration testing.
Among the robots currently in demonstration testing are several that will eventually make life easier for travelers. I had a chance to try a personal mobility robot (PMR) that can take people from one end of the station to the other, and I was impressed by its smooth and easy operation. There is also a seated version for families with elderly travelers or others who may want mobility assistance. Another robot is being developed to carry luggage. There was definitely something about this eager little bot, and I couldn’t help giving it a pat after it had gone through its paces.
A lot of people are charmed with cute robots; however, Ono points out that the major requirement is that they be fully functional. In other words, service robots must be capable of performing their specific task with simple and efficient operation. Yes, they must fill in for someone on the job. Otherwise, they are merely a passing attraction.
“We are now in the process of testing various service robots, but there is no point in releasing them into stations, offices and commercial facilities until they are fully ready. For example, there is no benefit in having a robot that has to move between different floors if a human has to push the elevator button every time the robot has to go up or down,” Ono says.
Ono’s team members are not robotics-technology masters, but rather regular employees who work on the practical use of service robots from the viewpoint of regular people. “The service robots that only a person in tech can operate are impractical. Our goal is that any staff member with a little understanding of robot tech can operate them easily. Ono explains. He adds that each member of his team learns how to care for the robots they are working on, thereby helping to take them to the next stage—which is to join their human counterparts at Takanawa Gateway Station.
Takanawa Gateway Station is located on the JR Yamanote and Keihin-Tohoku Lines between Shinagawa Station and Tamachi Station.
This article was written by Louise George Kittaka.