The inspiration people seek: Before it had its name of “Tokyo Skytree,” it was simply known as the Shin Denpatou (“New Broadcast Tower”), resulting in different reactions from people who heard it. While some felt it symbolized the hope of Japan finally casting away its “Lost Decade,” others were saddened a bit because the completion of the Skytree meant the much-loved Tokyo Tower would lose its title as the tallest tower in Japan. And now that it’s open, we can look back and say that while there was much excitement among those involved in constructing the Skytree and fans of high-rise structures, the public reaction was generally—and unexpectedly—a “quiet” affair and there were no hot debates and discussions like those that occurred when the plan to build the Tokyo Tower was announced.
As the Skytree’s construction proceeded and the tower began to take shape, people began to feel the unique “magnetic pull” that other grand towers of all types and ages have. There are surely few who will disagree that the towering presence of the Skytree actually changed the flow of people in Tokyo; people looking for that perfect spot to photograph it from could be seen in all parts of the city, people lying down on the street with their cameras pointed towards the sky were on the evening news, chitchat on the streets about where it can be seen from and the comments and conversation filling blogs on the internet. Even in anime and tokusatsu action TV shows, the Skytree took on the same symbolic status as its Tokyo Tower “senior.”
What shows how deep the Skytree truly took root in the hearts of people is how many of those that were thrown into a state of “invisible panic” by the March 11 disaster—said to have struck on a once-in-a-millennia scale—felt an indomitable resolve and courage when they saw the world’s tallest free-standing tower still reaching proudly into the sky. In other words, it has unquestionably achieved its original design concept of “Creating a Landscape beyond Time and Space.”
In short: The structure’s official name is “Tokyo Skytree.” In ancient times, the land area comprising Tokyo was once part of Musashi Province, which corresponds with the Skytree’s total height of 634 meters (in Japanese, musashi is a linking of the sounds for the numbers 6, 3 and 4). It’s Japan’s tallest structure and is also listed in the Guinness Book of World Records™ as the world’s tallest tower. Its rounded steel pipes beautifully connect to suggest the branches of a tree while the tower stretches into the sky employing sori (“concave curves”) and mukuri (“convex curves”) shapes found in Japanese katana samurai swords and traditional architecture—hence its name of “Skytree.”
It lies near famous spots along the Sumida River for viewing sakura trees in full bloom during the spring, and the river is referenced in a song frequently hummed in springtime by Japanese people. On the other side of the river from the Skytree is Asakusa, long the number one shopping and entertainment district in Tokyo’s (Edo’s) over-1,000 year history. When night arrives, the tower’s LED illumination begins and showers those enjoying the view from the streets or the river below with impressive colored light displays—named iki (pale blue) and miyabi (purple)—that are steeped in Japanese aesthetics. Also, the presence of the Tokyo Skytree by the Sumida River has added new spice to the massive fireworks displays that are held by the river—said to be the best in the Kanto Plain.
The Skytree stands as a multi-faceted landmark symbolizing modern Japan’s technology, concepts and aesthetics and the metropolis of Tokyo. Of course, you can get some great views of the Skytree while riding or driving on the Shutoko and its many “flight paths.”
Some background: The site for construction of the new tower was decided in March 2006 and its name of “Tokyo Skytree” was chosen from among suggestions made by the public in June 2008, a month before construction began. About a year and a half later in March 2010, it surpassed Tokyo Tower to become Japan’s tallest structure and was recognized as the world’s tallest tower upon passing 600 meters in height on March 1, 2011.
A mere 10 days later, the tower was tested by the worst of circumstances: severe tectonic motion from the Great East Japan Earthquake violently shook the tower. Despite its distance from the epicenter of the quake, Tokyo experienced massive tremors (in the upper range of “5” on Japan’s seismic intensity scale) and everybody who had been enjoying the daily announcements of construction progress and looking forward to the upcoming opening of the world’s tallest tower were surely worried that the still uncompleted structure might be unable to withstand the effects undamaged...but it did and none of the workers on shift when the tremors struck were injured. A week later on March 18, the Skytree reached its final height of 634 meters and the announcement gave people all over the country a shared message of courage to overcome the disaster that had befallen eastern Japan.
Construction was finished on February 29, 2012 and the tower’s lights were lit up on March 11 to mourn the victims of the disaster. In May 2013, just a year after opening to the public, the number of visitors to its observation decks had already reached 6.34 million (a milestone echoing the tower’s height). The tower’s broadcasting operations include NHK and the seven major commercial broadcasting companies in Tokyo.