Island News

Visiting Tokyo’s old lady

Written By : MAIKA BOLATIKI. Our third day in Tokyo marked a grand event for visiting Pacific journalists. There was a strong suggestion that we must pay the Tokyo Old
06 Jun 2009 12:00

image Written By : MAIKA BOLATIKI. Our third day in Tokyo marked a grand event for visiting Pacific journalists.
There was a strong suggestion that we must pay the Tokyo Old Lady a visit.
The reasons came quickly.
The Pacific Islands Journalists Group that went included Solomon Star reporter Eddie Osifelo, Papua New Guinea National reporter Isaac Nicholas, Joanna Olsson from Nauru, Matangi Tonga’s Linny Folau, Samoa Observer Editor Kenny Lesa, Helen from Cook Island, Editor Fabe from Palau, Semi Malaki from Tuvalu, Giff Johnson of Marshall Islands, Florence Kuali Iautu of Vanuatu and a lady from Kiribati.
We were in the Japanese capital on the invitation of the Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) to provide coverage of the 5th Pacific Leaders Meeting (PALM 5) in Hokkaido Island.
Our tour guide, Sato san, had told us “Tokyo’s Old Lady” was another name for Tokyo Tower, a fine specimen of a steel structure located just minutes from the Embassy of the Republic of the Fiji Islands.
We had a momentary glimpse of the Tower when we travelled from Narita International Airport to our hotel, New Otani, a five star hotel with 643 rooms.
Hotel New Otani comprises of three different hotel types – Executive House Zen, The Main and Garden Tower.
The Garden Court features offices and administration sections, and together with a variety of restaurants, banquet rooms and a shopping arcade provided visitors with total comfort.
A distinctive feature of the New Otani Hotel is the Art Museum, which houses a prestigious collection of Japanese and Western art. There are other features like a Garden Chapel, a tea house, an outdoor swimming pool, and the breathtaking Japanese Garden.
My Room (22016) on the 22nd Floor has a magnificent bird’s eye view of Tokyo City in the night.
Back to the Old Lady – it’s safe to say that it is a “must-see tourist destination”.
Sato san had explained it became a symbol during the postwar boom of the 1950s. Japan had been looking for a monument to symbolize its ascent as a global economic powerhouse.
The Tokyo Government decided to erect its own Eiffel Tower.
It was completed by the Takenaka Corporation in 1958. At the time it was built it was the tallest structure in Tokyo. It has now become a piece of history because lots of other structures have superseded it in the Shinjuku and Ikebukuro districts.
The original aim in building the Tokyo Tower on 23 December 1958 was that it had to serve as a TV broadcasting antenna for the Kanto region in Hamamatsucho District of Minato Ward.
Modeled after the Eiffel Tower of Paris, Tokyo Tower is nearly 333 meters tall and painted orange and white in accordance with aviation safety rules.
We were told that last year an estimated 3.2 million tourists visited the tower.
It also marked its 150 millionth visitor in 2006 since its opening.
There is a main observatory 150 meters up and a special observatory at 250 meters.
We went up to the observatory tower at 150 meters by lift.
Eddie from the Solomon Star could not stand the height and we all joined in persuading him to go to the observatory 150m above the ground.
He said he was scared of heights and even elevators frightened him. Eddie san went up but never looked down to see a bird’s eye view of the city of Tokyo.
Just imagine looking down at Tokyo city from 150m above the ground. I had the opportunity to step on the glass floor 1560m above the ground on the observatory tower and to be frank I was just scared.
My Fijian mind went as far as “What if glass floors broke!”
Tokyo Tower celebrated its 50th birthday on Dec. 23 last year and it still attracts about three million visitors per year. It has also provided the metropolis with good television reception for decades.
The tower is often regarded as a symbol of Japan’s postwar economic growth and development.
Now the Old Lady has to go. Not that it will be dismantled or demolished.
A taller tower is under construction in Sumida Ward and people are asking – What will happen to the Old Lady after the new one is completed?
Tokyo Tower’s two main revenue sources are antenna leasing and tourism.
A higher tower is needed for transmitting digital terrestrial TV broadcasts and the “one-seg” (one segment) service for mobile phone TV coverage. Japan now has both analog and digital broadcasting, but by July 2011 all broadcasting will be digital.
Digital broadcasts require higher frequency waves that cannot reach areas surrounded by forests or high-rises, thus requiring a taller tower.
The new tower will be 610 meters tall and will become one of the tallest towers in the world, with observation decks at the 350- and 450-meter levels. It is scheduled to open in the spring of 2012.
All of the TV channels will be integrated into the new tower, and thus Tokyo Tower is expected to stop transmitting digital TV radio waves.
It will still operate as an observation tower. The Tower is 333 meters tall (9 meters taller than the Eiffel Tower.
Unlike the Eiffel Tower, Tokyo Tower is located in the middle of a city block.
The tower only weighs about 4000 tons, which is extremely light compared to the 10,100 ton Eiffel Tower, and it is painted in white and orange according to aviation safety regulations.
From dusk to 11 PM, the tower is brilliantly illuminated in orange. The lighting is occasionally changed for special events; for the Japan premiere of the movie The Matrix, for instance, the Tower was lit in neon green.
We spent about an hour visiting the Tower and were part of hundreds of students and people from all walks of life visiting the
Old Lady on that particular day.
Some facts about the Tokyo Tower includes that it was constructed in 1958; soars 333 meters and is 13 meters higher than the Eiffel Tower; is the tallest self-supporting steel tower in the world; has two observatories from which to get panoramic views of Tokyo, and Mount Fuji on a clear day; has its Main Observatory at 150 meters high and the Special Observatory at 250 meters high; is lit by 164 floodlights: orange in winter and incandescent white in summer; has the Tokyo Tower Wax Museum, the Mysterious Walking Zone, and the Trick Art Gallery inside.
As for the new Tokyo Tower; it will be called Tokyo Sky Tree; stand at 610 meter (2003 ft) and will be the tallest structure in Japan; and will be beaming television to the 35 million residents of the Greater Tokyo Area.
The name was chosen by voters who picked it over such choices as Tokyo Edo Tower, Mirai (Future) Tree, and Rising East Tower.
The new tower will incorporate the latest seismic engineering techniques but will also recall the balanced construction of Kyoto’s five-level pagoda that has stood firm for centuries.
It will gradually change in cross-section from triangular at the base to round at the 1,000 ft point, the better to withstand strong winds.
That’s your grand Old Lady from Tokyo and I thank the Embassy of Japan, Suva for the invitation to cover PALM 5, which made it possible for me this magnificent piece of steel structure called the Tokyo Tower.

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