The Two Towers of Tokyo
Unlike the two evil towers in The Lord of the Rings, the two towers of Tokyo benefit both Japanese and foreign visitors alike. Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Skytree are both broadcasting signal transmission towers; the former sends digital signals and radio waves, while the latter transmits digital terrestrial signals. Those are their important and practical roles, but most of us know them as popular tourist destinations.
Tokyo Tower was built in 1958 in the midst of Japan’s rapid economic growth, and building the tower reflected the goal of Japanese people after World War II: building a foundation and rising up higher and higher. About half a century after the opening of Tokyo Tower, Skytree was built. Its construction started in 2008, and it opened to the public in 2012, after the devastation of the March 11 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The opening of the tower was an emotional high point during the recovery.
At 333 meters (1,092 feet) high, Tokyo Tower is painted a distinctive reddish-orange and white. Shots of the tower are often used in films for establishing the location. Almost twice as high as Tokyo Tower, Skytree rises 634 meters (2,080 feet) above the ground, and it has a more modern style. Both towers are designed to be earthquake-safe structures. While Tokyo Tower has observatories at 145 meters (476 feet), 150 meters (492 feet), and 250 meters (820 feet), Skytree has two observatories at 350 meters (1,150 feet) and 450 meters (1,480 feet). All of these observatories offer 360-degree panoramic views of an extensive part of the Kanto Plain. If weather permits, you can see Mount Fuji in the southwest.
In addition to offering great opportunities to enjoy magnificent views, both towers have other attractions. Tokyo Tower now houses the upscale amusement park One Piece, which is based on the popular manga of the same name. On Saturdays, Sundays, and national holidays, the tower opens its exterior staircase to the public, allowing people to walk up 600 steps to the first observatory (about 150 meters––492 feet––high). You can look at a scenic Tokyo view while ascending the steps. Skytree has a bigger view of downtown Tokyo and is adjacent to Sumida Aquarium and the expansive Soramachi shopping mall and also has a planetarium, all of which offer extra enjoyment to visitors.
Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Skytree are located about five miles apart, both overlooking the city of Tokyo. Well-developed subway systems allow tourists to visit both of them in one day. If you don’t want any hassle, just take a sightseeing tour bus that includes easy-access passes and English guides. Even if you don’t have time to go up, you can still enjoy the iconic structures from outside, especially at nighttime, when they are beautifully illuminated.
The Japanese movie Always Sanchome no Yuhi (2005) depicts the mindset of people and society during the time when the Tokyo Tower was being constructed in the late 1950s. The tower has a small gallery exhibiting the historical backdrop of the era, including a diorama of locales in the movie.
Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Skytree at a Glance
Height: 333 meters
Address: 4-2-8 Shibakoen, Minato-ku, Tokyo, JAPAN 105-0011
Directions (Walking distance from closest subway/railway stations): 5 min. from Akabanebashi (Oedo Line), 6 min. from Onarimon (Mita Line), 7 min. Kamiya-cho (Hibiya Line), 10 min. from Daimon (Asakusa Line), 15 min. from Hamamatsu-cho (JR)
Height: 634 meters
Address: 1-1-13 Oshiage, Sumida-ku, Tokyo, JAPAN 131-0045
Directions: 1 min. from Tokyo Skytree Station (Tobu Skytree Line), Oshiage (Hanzomon Line, Asakusa Line, Keisei Narita Sky Access Line)