Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Towers of Japan


I recently went to the Umeda Sky Building, which is one of Osaka's most famous landmarks as well as one of its tallest buildings. I had gone to Tokyo Tower once last year, so besides getting to see an amazing view of Osaka from the observation area of this 170-meter tall building, I hadn't really thought too much about the Sky Building itself until I was in the gift shop. There they sold souvenirs for the Sky Building, but they also sold collectables with a "20 Towers" theme--for not just the Umeda Sky Building, but for all of towers located throughout Japan. Although I went to Tokyo Tower last year as a tourist thing to do, it wasn't until I happened to see these souvenirs that I realized how little I knew about the different towers around Japan. I didn't even know just how many famous ones there were, from the Sapporo TV Tower to Osaka's Tsūtenkaku, which made me look into some of the towers' history.

One thing I found interesting about Japan's 20 Towers is that the Sky Building seems to be one of the few non-towers of the group, as it is more of a building containing various company's offices (such as one of Mazda's offices) than an actual communications tower like Tokyo Tower, Beppu Tower, and many of the others are. Instead, the Sky Building's unique structure is actually composed of two separate skyscrapers connected at the top by its so-called "floating garden" observatory (空中庭園展望台 / kūchū teien tenbōdai) (although I wonder if its structure is what gives it the prestige of being included with the other towers).

The observatory offers an amazing view of Osaka from all angles, and just like the Tokyo Tower, the Sky Building's observatory is a prime spot for tourists (as well as for couples in its special romantic seating area). When I was at the building there was a large group of tourists from Germany and other countries there to see the view, well outnumbering the amount of Japanese tourists during the time I was there, at least. One thing that made the Sky Building different from the Tokyo Tower, however, was that the Floating Garden is outside rather than being like Tokyo Tower's enclosed observation decks, which gave it a more special, closer feeling to the city rather than being separated from the view by a window. Similar to the Tokyo Tower, however, is that at the base of both are shopping areas and more spots for tourists, although the Sky Building boasts a special Showa-themed "Takimi Lane of Restaurants."

While there are currently twenty famous towers considered representatives of Japan, there will soon be a new addition to Japan's family of towers: the Tokyo Sky Tree, which should be open early next year, although it is currently at its full height of around 600 meters (for comparison, Tokyo Tower is only 333 meters tall). In addition, the Sky Tree holds the record of being the largest tower in the world as well as the second largest structure in the world. Like the Tokyo Tower's purpose as a communications tower, the Sky Tree will serve primarily as a broadcasting tower for radio and digital television, but its height will give it much better reception as the increasing number of skyscrapers around Tokyo Tower are interfering with its signals.

Even the escalator ride down
provided a unique view.
While America has its own high-rising towers and buildings such as the Empire State Building, with its various portrayals in dramas and anime, the Tokyo Tower is iconically Tokyo (and I always think of the Tsūtenkaku when I hear Kanjani8's Sukiyanen, Osaka), which makes me wonder if the Sky Tree will soon overtake Tokyo Tower's fame, or if it will become the icon for not only Tokyo, but for all of Japan.






Sources & Links

Umeda Sky Building / Floating Garden (Official English Site)
Tokyo Tower (Official English Site)
Tokyo Sky Tree (Official English Site)
All-Japan Tower Association [20 Towers]

2 comments:

  1. Interesting topic. I like going to these towers for the view. Great places to take pictures.

    The Sky Building in Umeda usually has a German Christmas Festival in December. If you are around you should check it out - good sausages and hot wine.

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