Standing at 1,093 feet, Tokyo Tower is the second tallest artificial structure in Japan. Inspired by the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Tokyo Tower is approximately 43 feet taller and painted white and orange in compliance with air safety regulations.
Construction on the tower began in June of 1957 and it was officially opened to the public on December 23, 1958. The cost to complete the tower was ¥2.8 billion (US$8.4 million in 1958). The tower serves as a TV and radio broadcast antenna as well as a tourist attraction.
Japan experienced a communications boom in the 1950s with the inception of NHK in 1953 followed by several private broadcasting companies operating in the months following. The government realized that this boom would eventually lead to the construction of transmission towers all over Tokyo, eventually overrunning the city. They proposed constructing one large tower capable of transmitting to the entire region instead. Further, due to the country’s postwar boom in the 1950s, Japan was searching for a monument to symbolize its growth as a global economic powerhouse.
Tokyo Tower was constructed of steel, a third of which was scrap metal taken from US tanks damaged in the Korean War. When the 90-meter antenna was bolted into place on October 14, 1958, Tokyo Tower was the tallest freestanding tower in the world, taking the title from the Eiffel Tower. Despite being taller than the Eiffel Tower, Tokyo Tower only weighs about 4,000 tons, 3,300 tons less than the Eiffel Tower. While other towers have since surpassed Tokyo Tower’s height, the structure is still the tallest self-supporting steel structure in the world and was the tallest artificial structure in Japan until April 2010, when the new Tokyo Skytree became the tallest building of Japan.
Foot Town, a four-story building located directly under the tower, houses souvenir shops, restaurants, the Tokyo Tower Aquarium and a gallery. On the structure’s roof one can find an amusement park/ roof garden and a playground for kids. With elevators departing from Foot Town, guests can visit two observation decks. The Main Observatory is located at 150 meters (490 ft.), while the Special Observatory reaches a height of 250 meters (820 ft.). There are guides throughout the attraction to point guests in the right direction and answer any questions.
Over 150 million people have visited the tower in total since its opening in 1958. Current estimates indicate that Tokyo Tower attracts approximately 3 million visitors per year! It is recommended to combine a visit to Tokyo Tower with a visit to Zojoji Temple, one of Tokyo’s major temples, just next to the tower.
Naturally, Zojoji Temple can be seen from the Tokyo Tower. Six of the 15 Tokugawa shoguns are buried at the temple cemetery. The graves of Hidetada, Ienobu and Ietsugu had been designated National Treasures of Japan, but were burned in World War II. At present, parts of two of their graves have the distinction of being Important Cultural Properties of Japan. Additional graves are located in the cemetery behind the Great Hall. Sections of the temple grounds are currently occupied by a golf practice range and a hotel.
In one particular garden at the cemetery, called the Unborn Children Garden, there are rows of stone statues known as Jizo dedicated to the unborn children of Japan, including miscarried, aborted and stillborn children. Parents can choose a Jizo (a statue said to be the guardian of unborn children) in the garden and decorate it with small clothing and toys. Usually parents also place a small gift next to the statue to ensure that the spirits of the children are brought to the afterlife safely. Occasionally stones are piled by the statue in an effort to help shorten the amount of suffering a child has to go through on the way to the afterlife.
You can access Tokyo Tower via various modes of public transportation. The Metropolitan Subway Odeo Line, exiting at Akabanebashi Station is the closest, with the tower located 5 minutes on foot from the exit. Alternatively, you can take the Metropolitan Subway Mita Line and exit at Onarimon Station. Your destination from this point is only 6 minutes on foot!
Tokyo from the Special Observation deck of Tokyo Tower
Tokyo Skytree as seen from the Tokyo Tower