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Tokyo Tower Still Rises to the Occasion


By Johan Hjelm, about.com

When it was new, Tokyo Tower stood proudly over the surrounding city. The orange-red and white tower, modelled after the Eiffel Tower in Paris but a tad taller, was briefly the tallest television tower in the world.
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But time has passed by the icon of the Japanese recovery, a symbol of an age when the goal of every family was to own a washing machine, a refrigerator and a TV set. And not only time: Today, you can look down on the once tall tower from the surrounding high-rise buildings – the view is best from the Mori Tower in Roppongi Hills. As an observation tower, it has long ago lost out to the skyscrapers in Shinjuku, Shiodome and Roppongi.

And when Japan switched off its analog TV signals a few years ago, the reflection from the surrounding buildings became too much for the new digital system to handle. Television broadcast was already in the process of switching over to the newly constructed Tokyo Skytree, the tallest television tower in the world.
Just a couple years before its 55th anniversary in 2013, the largely outdated tower became mostly used for limited digital telivision and radio sygnals, but it can still act as a spare for its taller replacement in case of an emergency. However, it is a member of the World Federation of Great Towers.

[post_ads]Tokyo Tower was constructed in 1957 to 1958 and reaches about 1,092 feet, if you include the antenna and lightning rod. However, the Great Northeastern Japan earthquake on March 11, 2011 damaged the antenna and its replacement is somewhat shorter. The observation platform is significantly lower – the special observatory is situated below the antenna, but that still means only 820 feet up. And the two-story main observatory, with restaurants (including a McDonald's) and cafes, is lower than most of the surrounding buildings.

The main attraction today is Foot Town, a four-story exhibition and event center which is constructed directly beneath the tower. Exhibitions draw visitors from all around Tokyo, especially those for school children during vacations, and probably make up a large part of the 150 million people who have visited the tower. Standing exhibits include an aquarium, a wax museum, and a small amusement park on the roof.

The tower is painted in the internationally standardized orange color for broadcasting towers, but while it has safety lights for aircraft, the lighting of the tower can be changed for special events. These include advertising – both mobile phone operator AU and Coca-Cola have used the tower as part of commercials for their products, and it was lit up green when the movie Matrix Reloaded had its Japanese premiere.
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In a city like Tokyo, with its red-hot real-estate market, a prime piece of land like the one where Tokyo Tower sits is attractive. Yet there are still no offical plans to tear down the tower. While tour buses still stop here, Tokyo Tower is more interesting to those looking for the special exhibitions in the Foot Town, or in search of Japanese icons. Tokyo Tower will live on in popular culture, if nothing else – the climactic battle of "King Kong Escapes" took place at the Tokyo Tower.

Address and access: The tower is at 4-2-8 Shiba-koen, Minato ward. Phone: 03-3433-5111; To get there, walk from Akabanebashi station; Kamiyacho station; Onarimon station, Daimon station; or the JR Yamanote Line Hamamatsucho station. To get in the main observatory costs 820 yen; the special observatory, 600 yen.

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Travel Magazine: Tokyo Tower Still Rises to the Occasion
Tokyo Tower Still Rises to the Occasion
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