Friday, May 25, 2012

Tokyo Sky Tree: Japan's new fascination

Over the last few days, there seems to be only thing on everyone's mind : The Tokyo Sky Tree. This newly opened broadcasting tower seems to have caught everyone’s fascination. It’s opening on May 22nd 2012 was a much awaited event. Within days of it’s opening the Sky tree is being touted as Tokyo’s newest landmark with an estimate of 32 million expected visitors in it’s first year. 
Tokyo Sky Tree at 634 meters is Japan’s tallest structure having displaced Yokohama’s Landmark Tower which previously held this distinction. Tokyo Sky Tree also displaced China’s Canton Tower to become the second highest tower in the world after Dubai’s Burj Al Khalifa. The Guinness Book of records has certified the Sky tree as the world’s tallest free standing structure.

The Sky Tree was constructed to broadcast television and radio broadcast signals. The Tokyo Tower which served this purpose earlier was unable to broadcast digital terrestrial television signals as it’s height (333 metres) was not enough especially since it is surrounded by many high rise buildings. Most of Japan’s top broadcasters including NHK, TBS, Fuji Television, TV Tokyo, TV Asahi moved their broadcasting antennae to the Tokyo Sky Tree.

The Sky Tree was constructed at a cost of 40 billion JPY ( equivalent 440 million USD). The construction work commenced on 14th July 2008 and construction was completed on 29th February 2012. The Sky Tree was opened to public on 22nd May 2012 in a grand ceremony making it one of the most highlighted events in Japan in recent days.

The Sky Tree’s height of 634 meters was selected for a reason. It’s Japanese Kanji characters can be read as Mu-Sa-Shi ( 6-3-4) which is the old name for the area where the Sky tree stands. Even it’s name was selected by a nationwide voting !

The Sky Tree has already become the No 1 tourist attraction in Tokyo. Its dual observation decks at 350 meters (Tembo Deck) and 450 meters (Tembo Gallery) above ground offer spectacular views of Tokyo city and beyond. The decks rank among some of the highest observation decks in the world and definitely the highest in Japan. The decks put together have a capacity to accommodate 2,900 people. The Musashi restaurant (on the lower deck) , souvenir shops and other shops and restaurants make it a total tourist cum shopping destination. The tower is in fact the centrepiece of the Tokyo Sky Tree Town, a commercial centre  which includes Tokyo Solamachi complete with an aquarium, shops, planetarium, restaurants and entertainment complex . The tower is illuminated using LED lights and two illumination patterns: blue and white will be used on alternative days to light up the tower.

In earthquake prone Japan, where even the smallest of houses is built using earthquake proof architecture, it is no wonder that the Sky tree is constructed using the most advanced earthquake resistant architecture. It has seismic proofing and is said that the tower’s structure can absorb upto 50 % of the energy released during an earthquake.

Japan seems to be banking on the Sky tree boosting the tourism industry which  saw a fall in number of tourists ever since the March 11 earthquake. Perhaps with this hope, Japan seems to have gone all out to create a hype about the Tokyo Sky tree and succeeded. Here’s how the Tokyo Sky Tree became the “talk of the town” :

  1. Sale of tickets for the attraction began a few months before the opening date  and tickets upto 10th July 2012 were sold out within hours. Only advance internet reservations were accepted till 10th July 2012. Sale of same day tickets will commence from 11th July 2012, making the visit even more coveted.
  1. On Tuesday May 22nd  2012, the opening date, thousands of people thronged the Sky Tree making it’s opening a grand success, despite rainy weather playing a spoilsport to the much hyped event. Views from the observation deck were blocked due to the rainy condition. 2 of the tower’s 13 elevators were closed due to the inclement weather. But that didn’t deter the enthusiasm of the visitors. People queued up from 4 am on the opening day to make it to the top deck. The opening was marked with the playing of the traditional Taiko drums. Amongst the people who cut the ribbon was Japanese baseball legend Sadaharu Oh. 
  1. The tower’s construction stages have been well covered in the media. Much was also written about how the construction work was resumed within few days of the March 11 Great East Japan earthquake and how the construction was completed with only a two month delay, on February 29th 2012. The delay was due to shortage of supplies in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami. 
  1. In the weeks before it’s grand opening, various merchandise promoting the Sky tree were launched for sale. Merchandise included souvenirs, limited edition collectibles and even ice lollies shaped like the Sky Tree. 
  1. On New Year’s Day 2012, the Tokyo Sky Tree was lit up and people were encouraged to capture it’s pictures and send in the entries. This prompted thousands of entries from the public, some taken from hundreds of kilometres away showing the tiniest view of the Tower. 
  1. The Tokyo Sky tree was complemented with the renaming of the Narihirabashi station as the Tokyo Sky Tree station which in turn led the Tobu Isesaki Line to be nicknamed as the Tokyo Sky Tree Line. 
  1. The Imperial Couple’s visit in April followed by the Crown Prince’s visit in early May only added to the public’s enthusiasm. 
  1. Lady Gaga’s visit to the Sky tree on May 15th even before it’s opening added  glamour to the already hyped media coverage. 
  1. The name Tokyo Sky Tree was selected from a wide number of suggestions from the general public. Eight names were shortlisted and in a nationwide voting, 33000 of the 110,000 votes were cast in favour of the name “Tokyo Sky Tree”. The entrant  who had suggested the name was given the honour of being the first visitor on the top deck on the opening day.
Location: Sumida ward, Tokyo, Japan

Timings: 8:00 -22:00 hrs

Closing Days: Open on all 365 days.

Entrance: Adults 2000 yen ( 350 mtr deck) ;  Additional 1000 yen (450 mtr deck)

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