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Shinjuku Cocoon Tower

Up close with one of Tokyo's most striking buildings

A few minutes west of Shinjuku station, you'll find one of Tokyo's most striking buildings. Completed in 2008, Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower may only be the 17th tallest skyscraper in the city, but I think its unique design makes it the most memorable. This was a deliberate choice: the rules for design submissions stated that the building couldn't be rectangular.

Some facts: it's 204 meters tall, has fifty floors above ground, three below. It's home to three schools run by Tokyo Mode Gakuen University, making it the second tallest educational building in the world (the tallest is Moscow State University's main building).

Designers Tange Associates say that the cocoon shape is a symbol for how the students inside are nurtured. They aimed also to use the building to revitalize and enliven the area between Shinjuku station and the business-oriented 'skyscraper district' of Nishi-Shinjuku. The design won them the 2008 Skyscraper of the Year Award from building website Emporis.

It certainly makes a great impression from the ground, with its sleek, futuristic appearance. Go to the neighbouring Sompo Museum of Art and you can get a view from higher up with the rest of the city in the background.

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