Thousands of visitors flocked to the opening of Tokyo’s new landmark on Tuesday 22nd May, as the world’s tallest tower, the Tokyo Skytree (東京スカイツリー Tōkyō Sukaitsurī), was opened to the general public for the first time.
Although Dubai’s 829m (2720 ft) Burj Khalifa remains the tallest building in the world, the Skytree is still able to lay its claims to being the tallest tower on the planet, thanks to a recognised distinction between a building and a tower.
After four years in construction (including special measures to ensure earthquake-resistance) and at a cost of 65 billion yen (£517m) Skytree now stands as the tallest tower on the planer, at a height of 634m (2080 ft), nearly twice that of the Eiffel Tower. Skytree will function as a broadcasting tower, with its unprecedented height allowing for the clear transmission of television and radio signals. The broadcasting of such signals had, until now, been becoming increasingly difficult, with the rise of multi-storey buildings in Tokyo. Skytree will now be used by six different television stations in Japan for transmission.
Of 200,000 visitors to the Skytree on opening day, around 8000 had reserved first-day admissions passes, with some reportedly having waited in line for more than a week to secure the coveted tickets. Unfortunately, the panoramic view was limited somewhat by cloudy weather, but this did not stop visitors climbing to the tower’s two observation decks, at 350 m (1150 ft) and 450 m (1480 ft). A vertigo-inducing glass floor on the first observation deck allows visitors to look straight down to the earth, 350m below. This floor also features the ‘Sky restaurant’.
The Skytree is expected to boost tourism in surrounding areas, particularly the nearby city Nikko, in the Tochigi prefecture, which has seen a sharp decline in both foreign and domestic tourists since the 2011 earthquake. The city suffered considerable damage from the earthquake, its epicentre being located around 250km away and shocks were reportedly felt for two solid minutes. It is hoped that the Skytree, which can be reached in less than two hours by express train from Nikko, will revive the city’s tourist industry, with around 2.5 million visitors to the Tochigi Prefecture now expected each year.
Over 32 million people are expected to visit the Skytree in its first year. Foreign visitors who do not speak any Japanese can download a free app to help them navigate the surrounding area. The app, Shitamachi Sora Sampo (“downtown sky stroll”), has been developed for smartphones running iOS or Android systems and details, in English, over 20 sightseeing routes around the towering landmark. Tickets for the Skytree itself will need to be booked well in advance, as access to the tower’s observation decks is already sold-out until mid-July. Interested tourists can purchase Skytree tickets via http://www.tokyo-skytree.jp/en – although they will require a credit card registered in Japan to do so.
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