Almost Forgotten: Tokyo Tower

In the movie Mr. Baseball, about a major leaguer who comes to Japan to play in the NPB, a Japanese woman says that "Japan takes the best from all over the world and makes it Hers." It seems that almost every time I talk about something "Japanese" it turns out it came from another country - even kanji and ramen.   And when a TV tower was needed about 50 years ago, the designers looked to France and copied the Eiffel Tower.
 Opened in 1958, Tokyo Tower stands 333 meters tall (which is taller than the Eiffel Tower), with two observation decks at 150 and 250 meters. At the bottom of the tower is a tourist trap called FootTown, which contains shops, an aquarium, a restraurant, a Guinness World Records museum, a wax museum, and a trick art museum. The roof of FootTown has a small amusement park and access to stairs which lead up to the first observatory level, on weekends and holidays.

 When I visited on a weekday afternoon last year, the place felt almost abandoned. Granted, the skies weren't pretty (see the picture above) so the view wouldn't have been as great. But Tokyo SkyTree seems to always be packed. Due to the weather, I didn't go up to the observatory either. Tokyo doesn't exactly have a recognizable skyline. It's a sprawling metropolis made of dozens of cities and wards, with several recognizable buildings and streetscapes, but they are all spread over a large area.
 Until last year, a collection of 15 dog statues could be found at the base. They represented the dogs taken on the first Japanese expedition to Antarctica; the dogs had been left behind, and only two of them survived when the next expedition group arrived. The surviving dogs became quite famous and there are movies and manga based on them.
 When I uploaded photos for this, Picasa decided - on its own -  to make an extra one with a snowing overlay. It fits the story, so I am leaving it in. The statues were removed last year and relocated to the polar research institute.

Apparently Tokyo Tower gets about 3 million visitors a year. I am not sure how SkyTree has affected its numbers, though 6.5 million went up SkyTree in its first year (an unbelievable 50 million people visited SkyTree and its attached attractions in its first year). People are still visiting Tokyo Tower, though - it just welcomed its 170 millionth visitor last year.
 Near the tower is a small shrine. I just happened to come across it while looking for places to take pictures of the tower.

Tokyo Tower is open 365 days a year from 9 AM until 9:30 or 10 PM. Admission is 820 yen to the first observatory, and 1420 including the special observatory. Of course, entry to the aquarium and other attractions is extra and they have their own hours. The best time to go is on very clear days when Mt. Fuji is visible; this seems to happen more early in the year - I saw Fuji on the way to work yesterday. And on these kinds of days, weekends, and holidays, expect Tokyo Tower and other observatories to be busy, especially in the mornings.

Here are some more photos of Tokyo Tower; the sky started clearing up just a little, later in the afternoon.

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