Measuring in at 634 meters, the Tokyo Skytree is the largest free-standing tower in the world. It sits in the northeastern part of Tokyo, in an area known colloquially as a shitamachi, or old downtown. The tower’s height is a nod to both its current location and the area’s history – 634 is a another reading of the characters for musashi, the ancient name of the province where the tower current stands.
Construction on the tower began in 2008, with the project reaching its completion in 2012. While the upper half of the tower looks like a long cylinder, the base actually forms a triangle shape, allowing for extra support. The Tokyo Skytree also draws on historic Japanese building techniques common to temple pagodas with the addition of a central pillar, or shinbashira. This core cylinder acts as a pendulum in the case of an earthquake and works to counterbalance the effects a massive tremblor may have. Such a technique was actually seen in action during the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, mere weeks before the tower reached its completed height.
Tokyo Skytree is popular for its two observatories, both of which offer impressive views over Tokyo and surrounding area. The Tembo deck is the lower of the two observatories, sitting at 350 meters above ground. The deck actually spans three floors and houses both a souvenir shop and the Musashi restaurant, a lauded French-Japanese eatery.
From the Tembo deck, a second elevator delivers ticketholders to the 450-meter high Tembo Gallery, where a spiral viewing gallery swirls around the tower up to the final observation deck at 451 meters.
Tickets for the observation decks can be purchased both online and on-site. At the tower itself, tickets for the lower Tembo deck can be purchased on the 4th floor, while tickets for the upper Tembo Gallery can only be purchased from the Tembo deck.
While the view from the top is certainly incomparable, Tokyo Skytree’s other big attraction is the Solamachi Mall at the tower’s base. Floors 1 through 4 boast a wide selection of popular retail shops (such as Uniqlo and Onitsuka Tiger) and copious eateries, offering everything from ramen to takoyaki to Hawaiian-style burgers. There’s also an aquarium and a museum devoted to Japan’s postal service. With so many attractions, it’s possible to spend hours exploring the site and still not see it all!
Tokyo Skytree Station, Oshiage Station, Asakusa Station,
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