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Nakagin Capsule Tower

The buildings in Tokyo never really get abandoned. They always have an owner who sometimes tend to stop taking care of them or they avoid renewing the contract leases of tenants. Also, the building standards are constantly improving along with new anti-seismic technologies and it doesn’t give much chance to the old ones. The cities also want to attract rich owners and don’t want to keep those old looking remnants of the past. There are more and more derelict buildings in Tokyo but they usually do not stand long in the city scape.

Luckily, the Nakagin Capsule Tower (中銀カプセルタワー) has not been destroyed yet. Designed by Kishi Kurokawa in 1972, this building is the emblem of the Metabolism architecture movement which became popular after World War II. It is the first and last modular capsule apartments tower that was ever built using that concept at its best.

The capsules were manufactured somewhere else, brought to Tokyo and attached to the main frame. They were supposed to be removable easily but this turned out to be a failure. In order to remove a capsule, you had to remove all the capsules on top of it first. The capsules aged and the building started to fall into disrepair. The tremendous usage of asbestos also made the Nakagin an unsafe place to live in. As the building started to face demolition prospects, a lot of architects reacted and bought the capsules independently and renovated them.

I became friend with one of those architects: Maeda-san. He was first intrigued about the mysterious looking building and its very unique interior; he bought his first capsule back in 2010. He managed to make it into a liveable apartment even though he faced numbers of issues, especially leaks from the roof. He is amused by the fact so many people want to live there even though there are no hot showers! Luckily, there is still a sento nearby and a unique shower at the building’s reception.

Maeda-san added that he does not believe the Nakagin will be demolished soon. The capsules are being all bought and restored and that should probably save it. Today, he is buying more capsules and enjoys being there, surrounded by a little but very interesting community of architects and artists. He is amazed by the fact the building also attracts a lot of haikyo explorers. He and other owners listed their capsules for rent on AirBNB.

At one point, the Nakagin has been almost empty, filthy, broken, and faced demolished. But today the Nakagin has life, a community and always a few lights on at night. The architects are trying their best to save it but its future remains uncertain.


– a building from the metabolism architectural movement
– back to the future


  • 1972 – …
  • Architect: Kisho Kurokawa