Tokyo Tower

Tokyo Tower
Tokyo Tower
General information
Type Communications tower
Observation tower
Location 4-2-8 Shiba-Koen, Minato, Tokyo 105-0011
Coordinates 35°39′31″N 139°44′44″E / 35.65861°N 139.74556°E / 35.65861; 139.74556Coordinates: 35°39′31″N 139°44′44″E / 35.65861°N 139.74556°E / 35.65861; 139.74556
Construction started June 1957
Completed 1958
Opening December 23, 1958
Cost ¥2.8 billion
($8.4 million in 1958)
Antenna spire 332.5 m (1,091 ft)
Design and construction
Owner Nihon Denpatō
(Nippon Television City Corp.)
Main contractor Takenaka Corporation[1]
Architect Tachū Naitō[1]
Structural engineer Nikken Sekkei Ltd.[2]

Tokyo Tower (東京タワー Tōkyō tawā?) is a communications and observation tower located in Shiba Park, Minato, Tokyo, Japan. At 332.5 metres (1,091 ft), it is the second tallest artificial structure in Japan. The structure is an Eiffel Tower-inspired lattice tower that is painted white and international orange to comply with air safety regulations.

Built in 1958, the tower's main sources of revenue are tourism and antenna leasing. Over 150 million people have visited the tower since its opening. FootTown, a 4-storey building located directly under the tower, houses museums, restaurants and shops. Departing from here, guests can visit two observation decks. The 2-storey Main Observatory is located at 150 metres (490 ft), while the smaller Special Observatory reaches a height of 250 metres (820 ft).

The tower acts as a support structure for an antenna. Originally intended for television broadcasting, radio antennas were installed in 1961 and the tower is now used to broadcast signals for Japanese media outlets such as NHK, TBS and Fuji TV. Japan's planned digital television transition by July 2011 is problematic, however. Tokyo Tower's current height is not high enough to adequately support complete terrestrial digital broadcasting to the area. A taller digital broadcasting tower, known as Tokyo Sky Tree, is currently planned to open in 2012.



A large broadcasting tower was needed in the Kantō region after NHK, Japan's public broadcasting station, began television broadcasting in 1953. Private broadcasting companies began operating in the months following the construction of NHK's own transmission tower. This communications boom led the Japanese government to believe that transmission towers would soon be built all over Tokyo, eventually overrunning the city. The proposed solution was the construction of one large tower capable of transmitting to the entire region.[3] Furthermore, because of the country's postwar boom in the 1950s, Japan was searching for a monument to symbolize its ascendancy as a global economic powerhouse.[4][5]

Construction underway on February 25, 1958

Hisakichi Maeda, founder and president of Nippon Denpatō, the tower's owner and operator, originally planned for the tower to be taller than the Empire State Building, which at 381 meters was the highest structure in the world. However, the plan fell through because of the lack of both funds and materials. The tower's height was eventually determined by the distance the TV stations needed to transmit throughout the Kantō region, a distance of about 150 kilometres (93 mi). Tachū Naitō, renowned designer of tall buildings in Japan, was chosen to design the newly proposed tower.[3] Looking to the Western world for inspiration, Naitō based his design on the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.[6] With the help of engineering company Nikken Sekkei Ltd., Naitō claimed his design could withstand earthquakes with twice the intensity of the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake or typhoons with wind speeds of up to 220 kilometres per hour (140 mph).[3]

The new construction project attracted hundreds of tobi, traditional Japanese construction workers who specialized in the construction of high-rise structures. The Takenaka Corporation broke ground in June 1957 and each day at least 400 laborers worked on the tower.[3] It was constructed of steel, a third of which was scrap metal taken from US tanks damaged in the Korean War.[7][8] When the 90-metre 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 by 13 metres.[3] Despite being taller than the Eiffel Tower, Tokyo Tower only weighs about 4,000 tons, 3,300 tons less than the Eiffel Tower.[9] 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 Sky Tree became the tallest building of Japan.[6] It was opened to the public on December 23, 1958 at a final cost of ¥2.8 billion ($8.4 million in 1958).[8][10] Tokyo Tower was mortgaged for ¥10 billion in 2000.[11]


The Special Observatory is located directly below the tower's digital television broadcasting equipment.

Tokyo Tower's two main revenue sources are antenna leasing and tourism. It functions as a radio and television broadcasting antenna support structure and is a tourist destination that houses several different attractions. Over 150 million people have visited the tower in total since its opening in late 1958.[5] Tower attendance had been steadily declining until it bottomed out at 2.3 million in 2000.[12] Since then, attendance has been rising, and it has recently been attracting approximately 3 million visitors per year.[5] The first area tourists must visit upon reaching the tower is FootTown, a 4-story building stationed directly under the tower. Here, visitors can eat, shop and visit several museums and galleries. Elevators that depart from the first floor of FootTown can be used to reach the first of two observations decks, the 2-story Main Observatory.[13] For the price of another ticket, visitors can board another set of elevators that from the second floor of the Main Observatory to reach the final observation deck—the Special Observatory.[14]


Tokyo Tower, a member of the World Federation of Great Towers, is utilized by several organizations for various broadcasting purposes. The structure was originally intended for broadcasting television, but radio antennas were installed in 1961 because it could accommodate them.[5] The tower now broadcasts analog television, digital television, radio and digital radio. Stations that use the tower's antenna include:[9]

Tip of Tokyo Tower was bent during the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake.

Japan currently employs both analog and digital broadcasting, but by July 2011 all television broadcasting is to be digital. Tokyo Tower is not a reliable broadcasting antenna for completely digital broadcasting because the tower is not tall enough to transmit the higher frequency waves needed to areas surrounded by forests or high-rise buildings. As an alternative, a new 634-metre-tall (2,080 ft) tower called the Tokyo Sky Tree is planned to open in 2012.[5] To make Tokyo Tower more appealing to NHK and five other commercial broadcasters who plan to move their transmitting stations to the new tower, Nihon Denpatō officials have drafted a plan to extend its digital broadcasting antenna by 80 to 100 metres. To increase the height of the tower's antenna by 100 metres, the structure itself will have to be lengthened by 20 metres, which would cost approximately ¥4 billion. In addition to covering this cost, the company would put ¥3.5 billion into refurbishing the transmitting station, offering four times more area to each broadcaster. Current Tokyo aviation restrictions limit Tokyo Tower's height, but current Nihon Denpatō President Shin Maeda has stated that the company plans to discuss the matter with related ministries and agencies.[15] If these plans are not realized, however, Tokyo Tower is expected to stop transmitting digital TV radio waves with the exception of Open University of Japan, who will continue to broadcast through the tower. FM radio stations will also continue to utilize the tower for broadcasting in the Tokyo area. Masahiro Kawada, the tower's planning director, also pointed out the possibility of the tower becoming a backup for the Tokyo Sky Tree, depending on what the TV broadcasters want or need.[5] The tip of the antenna was damaged on March 11, 2011 as a result of the Tōhoku earthquake.[16]


The base of Tokyo Tower with the FootTown building located underneath


Located in the base of the tower is a 4-storey building known as FootTown. The first floor includes the Aquarium Gallery, a reception hall, the 400-person-capacity "Tower Restaurant," a FamilyMart convenience store and a souvenir shop.[17][18] This floor's main attractions, however, are the three elevators that serve as a direct ride to the Main Observatory.[13] The second floor is primarily a food and shopping area. In addition to the five standalone restaurants, the second floor's food court consists of four restaurants, including a McDonald's and a Pizza-La.[19][20]

A Shinto shrine is located on the second floor of the Main Observatory.

FootTown's third and fourth floors house several tourist attractions. The third floor is home to the Guinness World Records Museum Tokyo, a museum that houses life-size figures, photo panels and memorabilia depicting interesting records that have been authenticated by the Guinness Book.[21] The Tokyo Tower Wax Museum, opened in 1970, displays wax figures imported from London where they were made.[22] The figures on display range from pop culture icons such as The Beatles to historical figures such as Jesus Christ. A hologram gallery named the Gallery DeLux, a lounge and a few specialty stores are also located on this floor.[23] Tokyo Tower's Trick Art Gallery is located on the building's forth and final floor. This gallery displays optical illusions, including paintings and objects that visitors can interact with.[24]

On the roof of the FootTown building is a small amusement park that contains several small rides and hosts live performances for children.[25] On weekends and holidays, visitors can use the roof to access the tower's outside stairwell. At approximately 660 steps, the stairwell is an alternative to the tower's elevators and leads directly to the Main Observatory.[26]

Observation decks

A view through one of the two "look down windows"

Tokyo Tower has two observation decks—the Main Observatory and the Special Observatory; both offer a 360 degree view of Tokyo and, on clear days, Mount Fuji can be seen to the south.[9] The two-floor Main Observatory, located at 145 m, provides visitors with a view of Tokyo and houses several attractions. The first floor is home to a small café and Club 333, a small stage that is used to put on live music shows.[27] Also located on this floor are two "look down windows" that allow visitors to stand over a small clear window and look to the ground 145 m below. The second floor (at 150 m) houses a small souvenir shop and a Shinto shrine, the highest shrine in the special wards of Tokyo. The elevators leading to the Special Observatory are also located on this floor. Departing on these elevators, visitors can reach the Special Observatory. a small, circular, completely enclosed observatory located at 250 m.[14]


Lighting pre-1989. This image is of Tokyo Tower in 1960.

Seasonal lighting

White lighting
Orange lighting; Observatory displays "TOKYO" and "2016" to commemorate Tokyo's 2016 Olympic bid

Tokyo Tower requires a total of 28,000 litres (7,400 USgal) of paint to completely paint the structure white and international orange, complying with air safety regulations.[9] Every five years the tower undergoes a year-long makeover in which it is completely repainted.[3] Before the tower's 30th anniversary in 1987, the only lighting on the tower were light bulbs located on the corner contours that extended from the base to the antenna. In the spring of 1987, Nihon Denpatō invited lighting designer Motoko Ishii to visit the tower. Since its opening 30 years earlier, the tower's annual ticket sales had dropped significantly, and in a bid to revitalize the tower and again establish it as an important tourist attraction and symbol of Tokyo, Ishii was hired to redesign Tokyo Tower's lighting arrangement.[28]

Unveiled in 1989, the new lighting arrangement required the removal of the contour-outlining light bulbs and the installation of 176 floodlights in and around the tower's frame.[28] From dusk to midnight, the floodlights illuminate the entire tower.[9] Sodium vapor lamps are used from October 2 to July 6 to cover the tower in an orange color. From July 7 to October 1, the lights are changed to metal halide lamps to illuminate the tower with a white color. The reasoning behind the change is a seasonal one. Ishii reasoned that orange is a warmer color and helps to offset the cold winter months. Conversely, white is thought a cool color that helps during the hot summer months.[29]

Occasionally, Tokyo Tower's lighting is changed to specific, unique arrangements for special events. The tower is specially lit for some annual events. Since 2000, the entire tower has been illuminated in a pink light on October 1 to highlight the beginning of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The tower has also had a variety of special lighting arrangements for Christmas since 1994. Special Japanese events have also been cause to light the tower in several nontraditional ways. In 2002, alternating sections of the tower were lit blue to help celebrate the opening of the FIFA World Cup in Japan. Alternating sections of the tower were lit green on Saint Patrick's Day in 2007 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Japanese-Irish relations. On a few occasions, Tokyo Tower has even been specially lit to correspond with corporate events. For example, the top half of the tower was lit green to correspond with the Japanese premiere of The Matrix Reloaded and different sections of the tower were lit red, white and black to commemorate the first day of sales of Coca-Cola C2.[29] The tower was also uniquely lit for the new millennium in 2000 with Motoko Ishii again reprising her role as the designer.[30] In December 2008, Nihon Denpatō spent $6.5 million to create a new nighttime illumination scheme—titled the "Diamond Veil"—to celebrate the tower's 50th anniversary. The arrangement featured 276 lights in seven colors equally distributed across the towers four faces.[8]

Portions of the tower lit blue for World Diabetes Day, 2007.

When employing specialty lighting on the tower, the Main Observatory often plays an important role. During the second international "White Band Day" on September 10, 2005, the tower was completely unlit except for the Main Observatory, which was lit with a bright white light. The resulting white ring represented the White Band referenced in the day's name. The two floors of windows that make up the exterior of the Main Observatory are utilized to display words or numbers. When the tower employed unique lighting to commemorate terrestrial digital broadcasting first being available in the Kantō region on December 1, 2005, each side of the Main Observatory displayed the characters 地デジ (chi deji?)—an abbreviation for 地上デジタル放送 (chijō dejitaru hōsō terrestrial digital broadcasting?).[29] More recently, the observatory displayed both "TOKYO" and "2016" to stress Tokyo's 2016 Olympic bid.[31] Primitive images, such as hearts, have also been displayed using the observatory's windows.[29]

In popular culture

Just as the Eiffel Tower is often used in popular culture to immediately locate a scene in Paris, France, Tokyo Tower is often used in the same way for Tokyo. It is used in anime and manga such as Magic Knight Rayearth, Please Save My Earth, Cardcaptor Sakura, Digimon and Sailor Moon.[32] The tower is also frequently used in the Japanese kaiju (giant monster) film genre. It has been the location of the climactic battles between Godzilla, Mothra and King Kong (King Kong Escapes) wherein it is frequently destroyed and rebuilt.[10][33] Based on the popular manga series by Ryōhei Saigan, the 2005 film Always Sanchōme no Yūhi was a nostalgic view of life in the neighbourhoods under the construction of the Tokyo Tower. The Tokyo Tower also makes appearances in Tokyo Mater, a Pixar short film, and in the "Samurai Blue" level of Moero! Nekketsu Rhythm Damashii: Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2, a rhythm game for the Nintendo DS. The Tokyo Tower has 2 mascots named Noppon. There are two brothers, Older Brother who wears blue dungarees and Younger Brother who wears red dungarees. They were 'born' on December 23, 1998 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Tokyo Tower.

See also


  1. ^ a b "Tokyo Tower". Emporis. Retrieved 2008-04-11. 
  2. ^ "Structural Engineering". Nikken Sekkei. Retrieved 2008-04-11. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Gilhooly, Rob (March 17, 2002). "The tower and the story". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2008-09-20. 
  4. ^ Bruan, Stuart. "Big in Japan:Tokyo Tower". Metropolis. Archived from the original on June 10, 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-21. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Ito, Masami (December 30, 2008). "Half century on, Tokyo Tower still dazzles as landmark". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2009-01-21. 
  6. ^ a b "Tokyo Tower 東京タワー". SkyscraperPage. Retrieved 2008-03-29. 
  7. ^ "鉄の豆知識" (in Japanese). Otani Steel Corporation. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  8. ^ a b c Fackler, Martin (December 30, 2008). "Tokyo Tower goes from futuristic hope to symbol of the good old days". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2009-01-21. 
  9. ^ a b c d e "Tokyo Tower Data". Nippon Television City Corporation. Retrieved 2008-03-29. 
  10. ^ a b "Tokyo Tower vs. Super Tower: Crossed Signals?". Colliers International. October 2005. Retrieved 2009-01-21. 
  11. ^ Alex Vega (July 7, 2006). "The Small Print". Metropolis. Archived from the original on February 24, 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  12. ^ Sato, Shigemi (December 23, 2008). "Tokyo Tower turns 50 with big party". Associated Press. Retrieved 2009-01-21. 
  13. ^ a b "Foot Town 1F". Nippon Television City Corporation. Retrieved 2008-04-01. 
  14. ^ a b "View from the Observatory". Nippon Television City Corporation. Retrieved 2008-04-01. 
  15. ^ "Tokyo Tower to add 100 meters". The Japan Times. September 23, 2007. Retrieved 2008-09-18. 
  16. ^ "Tokyo Tower antenna bent, tourists evacuate via stairs" (in Japanese). Jiji Press. 
  17. ^ "Aquarium gallery". Nippon Television City Corporation. Retrieved 2008-04-01. 
  18. ^ "Tower Restaurant". Nippon Television City Corporation. Retrieved 2008-04-01. 
  19. ^ "FoodCourt". Nippon Television City Corporation. Retrieved 2008-04-01. 
  20. ^ "Foot Town 2F". Nippon Television City Corporation. Retrieved 2008-04-01. 
  21. ^ "Guinness World Records Museum Tokyo". Nippon Television City Corporation. Retrieved 2008-04-01. 
  22. ^ "Wax Museum". Nippon Television City Corporation. Retrieved 2008-04-01. 
  23. ^ "Foot Town 3F". Nippon Television City Corporation. Retrieved 2008-04-01. 
  24. ^ "Trick Art Gallery". Nippon Television City Corporation. Retrieved 2008-04-01. 
  25. ^ "Amusement Park". Nippon Television City Corporation. Retrieved 2008-04-01. 
  26. ^ "Direct staircase to the Main Observatory (Starting Point)". Nippon Television City Corporation. Retrieved 2008-04-01. 
  27. ^ "Club333". Nippon Television City Corporation. Retrieved 2008-04-01. 
  28. ^ a b "⑤起死回生のライトアップ" (in Japanese). Yomiuri Shimbun. January 6, 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-19. 
  29. ^ a b c d "特別ライトアップ" (in Japanese). 日本電波塔. Retrieved 2008-03-29. 
  30. ^ "Works". Motoko Ishii. Retrieved 2008-09-19. 
  31. ^ "TOKYO 2016 Lights Up the Tokyo Night". Japanese Olympic Committee. 2007-11-29. Retrieved 2008-09-20. 
  32. ^ Dong, Bamboo (September 17, 2007). "Crashing Japan". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2009-02-23. 
  33. ^ Krafsur, Richard P.; Munden, Kenneth W. (1997). The American Film Institute Catalog of Motion Pictures Produced in the United States: Feature Films, 1961-1970. University of California Press. p. 578. ISBN 0-5202-0970-2. 

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