Nakagin Capsule Tower´s demolition, yea or nay?

October 8, 2014 Juju Kurihara 2 Comments

cube houseIn the middle of Tokyo, you may find a weird building, which looks like piled up washing machines. This is Nakagin Capsule Tower, designed by Kisho Kurokawa (黒川紀章, 1934-2007) and built in 1972.

Not only the unique design but also this is a metabolic building. Kurokawa´s idea was to change the capsules every 20 years and the building would last for 200 years. However in the reality, since they built it, not over 40 years, none of the cubes has been renewed.

At the moment 20 to 30 capsules out of 144 are occupied by residents but it doesn´t seem to be so easy to live in this "over" avant-garde apartment, according to the public. 

nakagin-capsule-tower-2First, let´s look at the size of the capsule. There is a slight difference but the regular size of the room is about 10m² with a unit bathroom. There is only one window, the round one that looks like a washing machine door.       

There are double windows and actually the window outside does not open. This is one of the problems, each cube is supported by iron plate both on the top and the bottom. In summer, these plates get heated and you are not able to open the window for a breeze. The resident says. "it´s unbearable". An air-conditioning is a must item if you like to live here. 


room original


This is the original interior design. It´s very futuristic and reminds me the film, "My Uncle" by Jacques Tati. Do you remember the house the nephew of Tati lived?

But who wants to have an open reel deck nowadays? I´m sure my Dad would but it´s not so useful now.




room nowMost of the decorative parts have been re-modelled as a storage space, which probably the best option considering the size of the room. 

But the clock shown in the photo is the original. Unfortunately, it refuses to work after many years. 

The bathrooms have a small tub and a shower but there is no hot water. The residents can go to the common shower room inside the building but it closes at midnight, which is not so convenient when you come home late after having drink with your work colleagues. 


old cupsule

Since these capsules were built, which meant to be replaced every 20 years, many problems are coming out and some of them are inhabitable. Water is leaking inside and the carpet has converted into soil….The company simply fixes and rents them out again instead of re-installing them as Kurokawa planned. 

It seems like "metabolism" hasn´t been functioning. The building is quite damaged and since it was built in 1972, asbest is still used for these cubes. Now, there is a demolition plan for Nakagin Capsule Tower. And obviously there is a group who wants to keep this. It is a super design and the concept was very advanced at that time. However the idea of the architect remained as the idea and has never been realised. 


Unfortunately, Kisho Kurokawa passed away seven years ago. He also realised no one was following his concept and wanted to buy the building in order to make it last 200 years. This is him in the interview. 

Would you say Yea or Nay for demolishing this quirky apartment, which influenced now famous capsule hotel? If you want to save the building, I´ve found Save Nakagin Capsule Tower Project where you can find the way to save the building, There is also a group in Facebook if you are interested in. 



Now you can stay at Nakagin Capsule Tower via Airbnb for $75 per night. Booking is HERE.


More about Japanese design

Plastic ambrella

Paper eyelashes

Drawing water

Japanese tattoos

Designer Akiko McQuerrey

Japanese matchboxes designs

Shinkansen, 50 years


  1. Olga M. 8 years Reply

    Minna-san, konnichiwa!
    Thank you for posting about this incredible building and its unique history.
    It was so inspiring for me as an artist and as an individual who loves Japan, that I posted something about it on my own blog.

    It would be lovely to preserve it, however, it would also cost alot of money. I think an alternative would be to keep a few cubes in a museum and once the building has been demolished, build a new one which also has a section which commemorates the Nakagin building.
    Mata yoroshiku ne!

    • juju.kurihara 8 years

      Hi Olga san,

      Very good report in your blog. Despite of the design and coolness, Nakagin Tower seems to be outdated now. I really support for keeping it although it needs a serious renovation. By the way, do they have a common kitchen or the residents eat out all the time? 

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