By Jonah Morgan
When one looks at the modern sprawling metropolis of Tokyo, one is looking at a very new cityscape. Take any guided tour of the city and you’ll often be reminded of the fact that the majority of development you see around you came about in only the last 50 years or so. Horribly firebombed in second World War by the allies, when time came to rebuild, Tokyo Tower was to become a symbol of new Tokyo. Not only a place one could look to see the face of technological and engineering prowess that Japan represented but a place where one could goto to look down upon that same progress from horizon to horizon around them in later years as part of arguably the most modern city on Earth.
I visited the tower on the first day on the new millenium, Januray 1st, 2001. It was a cold, crisp and calm morning replacing the chaotic celebratory fervor I witnessed in Shibuya just hours before on New Years Eve. As our tour bus approached the base of the structure the doors opened and our guide stood in the doorway, giving us warning that would later prove quite fair: “We lose alot of people on the tour at this point.” The reason being we were about to enter one of the most visited tourist destinations in all of Japan and we had less than 1 hour to make our way through the lobby, up into the general observatory spend our time there and at the shops, and then back down again, there was a bit of twist on the return trip as well, you see, coming down we would be landed via elevator not in the ground floor lobby at which we first arrived but on the roof of the building immediately beneath the tower and would have to find then take the stairs down to the lobby level. Don’t meet back in time for boarding and you are left to tour on your own. Fair enough, although I would find there are clocks in the tower, it’s a good thing to bring along a watch.
Stepping out of the bus we got a brief look at the base of the tower which is about all you can see as the bus drives up. Here everyone took a stare upwards and got their first up close look of the peak, a few folks took images and video of the quite imposing structure, someone mentioned the quite obvious orange color of the paint compared to pictures. We walked into the lobby which was quite packed and remeniscent of an airline ticket counter with lines all queued up. At this point we were informed our tickets were good for admission into the lower level squarish General Observatory at 150 meters. Our guide pointed toward the counter where one could get a ticket to the higher level Special Observatory at 250 meters but warned time constraints did not allow for for the excursion on that particular day. Perks of the higher level observatory include a true panoramic view of the city which was often less crowded people wise. Most importantly, on a clear day, from the higher observatory one has a view of the other great Japanese landmark, Mount Fuji.
Eventually it was time to board an elevator which made it’s way up into the general observatory, the elevator is composed of a many windows so that one can get the true perspective of the height one is going to. The door opened to the general observatory and although it was generously filled it was not so congested that you couldn’t move about freely and even walk straight up to one of the many windows and look out on the city. Such a view, I thought. Coming from seeing nothing but American cities (in person at least) my whole life, the slight but obvious differences in building construction techniques become apparant, the buildings are quite closely spaced. Open up the pamplet you get coming in and you can easily orient yourself and spot the various districts that comprise the metro area. The Daiba waterfront area held particular interest for me, there one gets a view of Tokyo Bay, the majestic Rainbow Bridge, the huge ferris wheel and Tokyo Big Site where Comike is held. Before I knew it time was almost up, I headed for the elevator which made it’s way down to the building roof and soon found the stars which rounded down to the lobby, finding the exit I walked out to the parking lot and took a few last images of the tower before hopping on the bus. Just in time too!
Coming from the average joe or jill’s knowledge of the most recognizable manmade landmarks on Earth one cannot help but notice a resemblence between Tokyo’s Tower and a structure standing in Paris, France. The statistics that come printed on a complimentary handout when one buys a ticket into the tower reveal this iron monolith is much more than mere pale comparisoned copy. Indeed Japan’s Tower has been the world’s highest self-supporting iron tower since it’s construction in 1958 weighning in at 333 meters. Paris’s Eiffel Tower is 320m high. Representing the advancement in metals technology in the 50 year’s seprating the two towers’ construction dates, Tokyo’s tower weighs a mere 4,000 metric tons. It is much lighter than the Eiffel Tower which weighs 7,000 metric tons. Paint used for the Tower is 28,000 liters, equal to 140 drums. In many pictures it’s color appears to be red and white, however in person the true color becomes noteable as the white and orange scheme regulated by Japan’s aviation agency. This structure serves as the number one crucial communications vector point in the city, where 14 broadcast signals for five FM radio stations and nine TV stations are transmitted. Beyond commercial broadcasts one will notice other antennas junting out from many