In 1889, a Tokyo municipal committee drew up plans for an elevated railway line connecting the Tokaido Main Line terminal at Shinbashi to the Nippon Railway (now Tohoku Main Line) terminal at Ueno. The Imperial Diet resolved in 1896 to construct a new station on this line called Central Station (中央停車場), located directly in front of the gardens of the Imperial Palace.
Construction was delayed due to the outbreak of the First Sino-Japanese War and Russo-Japanese War, but finally commenced in 1908. The three-story station building was designed by architect Tatsuno Kingo (who also designed Manseibashi Station and the nearby Bank of Japan building) as a restrained celebration of Japan's costly victory in the Russo-Japanese War. The building is often rumored to be fashioned after Amsterdam's main station, although there is little evidence to support the opinion. Terunobu Fujimori, a scholar of Western architecture, denies the rumor, having studied Tatsuno's styles as well as the building itself.
Tokyo Station opened on December 18, 1914 with four platforms—two serving electric trains (current Yamanote/Keihin-Tohoku Line platforms) and two serving non-electric trains (current Tokaido Line platforms). The Chuo Main Line extension to the station was completed in 1919 and originally stopped at the platform now used by northbound Yamanote/Keihin-Tohoku trains. During this early era, the station only had gates on the Marunouchi side, with the north side serving as an exit and the south side serving as an entrance.
In 1921, Prime Minister Hara Takashi was assassinated at the south gates. The Yaesu side of the station opened in 1929.
Much of the station was destroyed in two B-29 firebombings on May 25 and June 25, 1945. These bombings shattered the impressive glass domes. The station was quickly rebuilt within the year, but simple angular roofs were built in place of the domes, and the restored building was only two stories tall instead of three.
The Yaesu side was also rebuilt following the war, but the rebuilt structure was damaged by fire in 1949, and the Yaesu side was then significantly upgraded with a contemporary exterior and large Daimaru department store. The new Yaesu side facilities opened in 1953, including two new platforms for Tokaido Main Line services (now used by Shinkansen trains). Two more platforms opened in 1964 to accommodate the first Shinkansen services. The Yaesu side was partially rebuilt again in 1991 to accommodate the Shinkansen extension from Ueno.
The station complex is presently being redeveloped. The Marunouchi side will be restored and the surrounding area converted into a broad plaza extending into a walkway toward the Imperial Palace, with space for bus and taxi ranks: this construction is scheduled for completion in 2010. On the Yaesu side, the current multi-story exterior will be replaced by a much lower structure with a large canopy covering outdoor waiting and loading areas, and twin high-rise towers at each end. This project is due for completion in 2013.