(Photo: Kyodo News/Associated Press)
Japan really needed some good news. After the disastrous trifecta of the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown, the country finally got some on May 22, when the Skytree tower opened in Tokyo. Officially the tallest freestanding tower in the world at 634 metres, it bumps China’s Canton Tower to second place, and—sadly—Canada’s own CN Tower to third. (Dubai’s 829-metre Burj Khalifa tops them all, but is considered a skyscraper, not a tower.)
Skytree’s primary purpose is to replace Tokyo Tower, which was no longer tall enough to reliably broadcast TV and radio in the densely built-up capital. But Japan’s limping tourism industry is more interested in marketing Skytree as a tourist attraction.
Visits to Japan following the Fukushima meltdown dropped by almost 30%, and locals are hoping Skytree will lure curious foreigners to the country once again. The tower’s attractions include a glass floor, a glass-roofed elevator, a glass-walled room called Sorakara Point and sweeping views of Tokyo and Mount Fuji from two different (glass-enclosed) observation levels. And, of course, no Japanese tourist attraction would be complete without an adorable cartoon mascot, in this case Sorakara, a wide-eyed girl toting a jaunty red telescope with which to enjoy the panoramic view.
Early indicators are good: Skytree has received around 200,000 visitors a day since it opened, and the Japanese tourism authority projects it will pump more than $1 billion a year into the local economy.
The steel lattice surrounding the central concrete shaft is designed to stabilize Skytree during earthquakes, but authorities refused to comment on the tower’s state-of-the-art Godzilla-deterrence measures, citing national security.