Nagoya Station JR Towers and Chicago’s Sears (Willis) Tower

Nagoya Station JR Towers and Chicago's Sears Tower
Nagoya JR Station Towers and Chicago’s Sears Tower. (Photo JNTO/Wikipedia)


There are many parallels and similarities between these 2 buildings…  From a personal point of view, the most obvious one is me.

Chicago and Nagoya are my hometowns. For the longest time, they were the only two cites I have ever lived in. When I started living in Nagoya, it took me a while to understand why I felt so comfortable there. In Chicago, the capital of Middle America, you wear its Second City nickname like a badge of honor. No matter what influences come from the east and West coasts of the US, you know that deep down, you are the one holding them both up on your broad shoulders. There is a similar vibe that the Japanese have in Nagoya. I could not see it or understand for quite some time. I only new that to feel at home in the face of such massive daily culture shock was a strange feeling.

Over time, the similarities between Chicago and Nagoya would slowly start to reveal themselves:

They are both centrally located working class cities. The locations of the two cities have allowed them at one time to claim these very prestigious rankings.


  • The busiest airport in the world.
  • The largest train yard in the world.
Chicago's Train Line with The Sears Tower to the left
Chicago’s train yard with the Sears Tower looming on the left


  • The largest train station in the world.
  • The largest and busiest port in Japan.
Nagoya Station Towers under construction as seen from the top of Nagoya Castle
Nagoya Station Towers under construction as seen from the top of Nagoya Castle. (completed on December 20, 1999)

They are both cities that first-time tourist never quite make it to. This is due to more popular destinations within their respected countries.

They are both known as culinary capitals, becoming famous for some of their unique and original foods.

At the heart of each of these cites is a huge tower that has become a symbol of that particular city: Chicago’s Sears (Willis) Tower, and Nagoya’s JR Station Towers.

Nagoya Station Towers rising form the Shinkansen (bullet train) platform
Nagoya Station Towers rising form the Shinkansen (bullet train) platform. Completed on December 20, 1999

I have emotional ties to both buildings. I used to work at a travel store right across the street form the Sears (Willis) Tower and I would eat lunch in their basement cafeteria. In the summer I would sit on the patch of grass in front of 311 S Wacker Drive building and stare up at the tower in awe. It was the travel store that allowed me to read up on Japan and its culture. The irony being that one day I would be working my first job in Japan almost the same distance across from the Nagoya Station Towers, and eating lunch in its basement. I would stare in awe at the bullet trains quietly sliding in and out of the station platform.

On the list of the world’s largest buildings, Chicago’s Sears Willis is snuggled right between two Japanese buildings that I spend a lot of time in. Narita Airport, and yes. The Nagoya JR Station Towers.

Of all the buildings, in all the world, the two that mean so much to me are right next to each other on the list. I feel like it’s a relationship by fate.

The towers themselves have very impressive resumes:

The legendary Sears Tower dominating the world’s tallest building rank for almost 25 years, and still number one in the United States based on floors of the buildings and not silly antenna poles . The Sears Roebuck Co. was the largest retailer in the world when they built the largest building in the world. Another parallel with Nagoya station is that Richard Sears (company founder of Sears Roebuck Co.) was working for the Railroad when he started selling catalog items as a second job.

The Nagoya JR Station Towers are the world’s largest train station. Home to Japan Railway’s (JR) Central Headquarters. It is also a station for two other train companies, two subways, and and the Shinkansen (bullet train). The JR Towers host the tallest hotel in Japan, The Nagoya Marriott Associa Hotel. Where there are 759 rooms. yet none of those rooms are available below the 20th floor.

The rankings for tallest and largest buildings are changing as fast as I can type. Osaka is renovating their massive train station and Tokyo has the mind boggling Tokyo Sky Tree. The US has several proposed buildings in the New York area. Asia and the Middle East have gone bonkers with possible skyscraper ideas.

With all this exciting building going on I feel comfortable calling these two buildings my homes. I’m not sure if it’s the numerous similarities of the towers or that they each have had such an important impact on my life.

They are the symbols of huge cites that I never feel lost in. Nagoya and Chicago have made me who I am.


Photo Credit: Japan National Tourism Organization.