[NewsJapan.net] On May 22, the Tokyo Sky Tree in Sumida Ward will finally open. The construction of the 634 meter-high Sky Tree, the tallest free-standing broadcasting tower in the world, started in November 2008 with a total project cost of 65 billion yen (roughly 813 million US dollars). Although the Great East Japan Earthquake caused some delay in the material procurement, the construction of the tower was completed on February 29, 2012, after three years and eight months. In the Sky Tree, we can enjoy panoramas from its two observation decks at 350 and 450 meters from the ground. Restaurants and shops adjacent to the 350-meter deck provide a panoramic view. The 450- meter deck has a glass-covered “Tembo Galleria,” in which you can feel as if you are walking in the sky.
For constructing the Sky Tree, or the “challenge to an unknown altitude,” cutting-edge technologies were introduced to secure the safety against being shaken by an earthquake or a strong wind. One of these was a new vibration-controlling system called "Shimbashira-Seishin”(Center Column Vibration Control). According to the company that designed the Sky Tree, Nikken Sekkei Ltd., in this system a cylindrical core of reinforced concrete at the center (or, a center column) is structurally isolated from the peripheral steel framing, with the upper part of the core column made to function as “a balancing weight.”This is the same as the structure of the Japanese five-story pagodas. These pagodas have never fallen down in any earthquake to date, and this mysterious fact is ascribed to the existence of the "Shimbashira” (Center Column). Above all, the Sky Tree takes advantages of both the cutting-edge technologies of our time and the Japanese traditional building techniques.
As a broadcasting tower in the age of digital terrestrial broadcasting, the Sky Tree is expected to overcome the effect of high-rise buildings in the center of Tokyo, and to expand the digital broadcast service areas for mobile terminals. In addition, there are high expectations for the tower to benefit tourism. On May 22, the area called “Tokyo Sky Tree Town” will open including not only the tower itself, but also the adjacent commercial facility “Tokyo Solamachi,” a planetarium and an aquarium. This is expected to revitalize the area by attracting a new flow of visitors to the eastern Tokyo area, including Asakusa and Ryogoku, which still has an “old-time” feel.
Various efforts are being made to attract visitors. On March 17, Tobu Railway Co., Ltd. changed the name of the nearest station to the Sky Tree on the Tobu Isezaki line from “Narihirabashi” to “Tokyo Sky Tree”(*). The company also decided to name the section between Asakusa and Oshiage stations and Tobu Dobutsu Kouen station on the same line “Tokyo Sky Tree Line.” In addition, travel agencies are offering package plans to stay in a hotel room with a Sky Tree view plus a ticket for the tower’s observation decks. An application for mobile terminals was also developed to photograph the Sky Tree from the best point and to enjoy a walk through the neighborhood areas.
Local entities concerned are making similar efforts. The Association for Revitalizing the Oshiage-Narihirabashi Area, which comprises five shopping districts surrounding the Sky Tree, created its own character called “Oshinari-kun.” This is a part of the association’s promotional activities. Considering the recent high popularity of “Yurukyara” (artless, rather childish mascots) in Japan, the association intended to use the Sky Tree’s opening as an opportunity for local revitalization. As the opening approaches, the popularity of Oshinari-kun is increasing in step with that of the Sky Tree’s official character, “Sorakara-chan.” When we walk through the local shopping districts, we can see Oshinari-kun in various forms ranging from related products to storefront attractions.
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