The current cathedral's design dates back to 1961 when Kenzo Tange won the competition for the reconstruction of the cathedral. A contest held 16 years after the great Tokyo air raid that burned down the former (gothic) church entirely. Kenzo Tange designed this new cathedral partially along the concept of metabolism (shinchintaisha), where the design combines technology with an organic design language. A symbiosis that aims to create an architecture that is used by and for all people independent of one's background.
The almost vertical hyperbolic walls rising up from a diamond-like base are forming a crucifix of light in the ceiling. A three-dimensional Latin cross with each of the four edges at a different height. The highest point is located in the east, behind the altar, reaching a height of almost 40 meters.
The Cathedral is an iconic building within a dense urban surrounding. Located along a four lane-road, hidden behind a row of houses. Revealing only a shimmering of its beauty while walking around the area. Within this urban block, a (gated) square reveals itself, where one can appreciate the full beauty of the stainless-steel cladding that forms a sharp contrast against the surroundings and the blue sky.
"There is a powerful need for symbolism, and that means the architecture must have something that appeals to the human heart." - Kenzo Tange
Once inside, the smooth metal appearance transforms into a rough concrete shell that follows the curvature of the outside. A transition not only tangible in material but also apparent in one's state of mind, after arriving in this large column-less space it feels like you are wandering in one of Utah's canyon, where light slips through the cracks. These dark grey concrete walls act as a backdrop for the sun to cast its light on as sunlight enters through vertical glass slits in the north and south wing. Creating a continually changing atmosphere inside the cathedral depending on the time of day and season. With the most spectacular light coming in through the east, where the rising sun comes through a yellow stained-glass wall behind the altar during the morning mass.
In 2004, the fortieth anniversary of the cathedral, an Italian company installed a pipe organ tailor-made for this curved interior. The Mascioni Organ, Opus 1165 is one of the largest organs in Japan. To enjoy the rich sound through the acoustically shaped church, an Organ Meditation is held every second Friday of the month. Sometimes the organ can be heard during a mass as well that starts every Saturday at 18:00, and at 8:00 and 10:00 on Sunday. The language spoken during these masses is Japanese
name St. Mary's Cathedral (カテドラル聖マリア大聖堂)
architects Kenzō Tange
open from 9:00 to 17:00
access 15-minute walk from Gokokuji Station (exit 6)
15-minute walk from Edogawabashi Station (exit 1a)
address 3-16-15 Sekiguchi, Bunkyo, Tokyo 〒112-0014