ultramarinus – beyond the sea

ST MARY’S CATHEDRAL (東京カテドラル聖マリア大聖堂), Tokyo, Japan

After Ueno Park, we still have time to visit another place before our 18:30 dinner reservation back in Shibuya.  West from Ueno, we took the metro to the residential neighborhood of Sekiguchi in Bunkyo District.  We stepped into the peaceful residential streets of Sekiguchi, and used Google Map to find our way to St. Mary’s Cathedral, the seat of Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Tokyo.  Apart from its religious significance, the cathedral building is also a masterpiece of modernist architecture designed by renowned Japanese architect Kenzo Tange (丹下健三).  The cathedral was completed in 1964, about the same time as Kenzo Tange’s Yoyogi National Gymnasium for the 1964 Olympics.

01The peaceful residential streets of Sekiguchi led us toward’s St. Mary’s Cathedral.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACladded with stainless steel, Kenzo Tange’s St. Mary’s Cathedral replaces its Gothic and wooden predecessor that was destroyed during the Second World War.

03Kenzo Tange’s version of the cathedral was much simpler than a traditional Gothic church.  The essence of the building is expressed through the combination of geometry, lines, shades, and reflections.

04On a plan in the form of a cross, Kenzo Tange extruded eight hyperbolic parabolas upwards to form this unique piece of architecture.

05When seen from above, the cathedral and its skylights would appear exactly in the shape of the cross.

06Reaching 61.68m, the bell tower is separated from the main church building.

07The interior of St. Mary’s Cathedral should be a huge surprise for any first time visitors.  The concrete structural shell is fully exposed, providing a minimalist interior where light and shades play the role to create a spiritual atmosphere.

08Benches inside St. Mary’s Cathedral face toward the main altar, behind which stands the tall window extending all the way to the ceiling, then runs across the ceiling to the opposite end of the building.

09The spiral stair behind the seating is a neat feature that goes up the largest organ in Japan.

11The large organ was manufactured by Italian company Mascioni.  We were lucky to experience its beautiful sound when staff were practicing the organ when we were there.

12After a fantastic architectural treat at St. Mary’s Cathedral, we made a short walk in the neighborhood to Zoshigaya Metro Station (雑司が谷駅) for the Fukutoshin Metro back to Shibuya.

13On our way, we passed through the peaceful residential neighborhood of Mejirodai (目白台).

14The afternoon sunlight of the early summer day was brilliant.  The half-hour walk was pleasant and we hardly saw other tourists along the way.

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