The world’s highest tower is now in Japan. The recently-completed Tokyo Skytree rockets up a breathtaking 634 meters† (2,080 ft) above the Japanese capital. And now visitors can go up and check out the view.
How high is 634 meters? It’s twice the height of the Eiffel Tower. On a clear, day you can have lunch in the Skytree’s lower observation area and gaze out—way out—to Mt. Fuji on the horizon. From the upper observation deck you can distinctly see the curvature of the planet!
To be clear, the Skytree is not world’s tallest man made structure—that distinction still goes to the Burj Khalifa building in Dubai. Unlike a building, a tower is not have permanently inhabitable floors that go to the top.
The Tokyo Skytower bests the previous record holder for the world’s highest tower, China’s Canton Tower, by 34 meters. The Canton Tower, though, is made of concrete. So is the next tallest tower, Toronto’s CN Tower. In fact, you’d have to go down to #11 on the world’s tallest tower list, the 375-meter high Tashkent Tower in Uzbekistan, to find another made out of steel.
Building a tower this tall using steel as your primary material is a difficult (and expensive!) undertaking. In the case of the Skytower, the strength and flexibility steel was essential to seismic proofing. In order for the tower to be able to withstand Japan’s powerful earthquakes, the engineers had to design a internal pillar that attaches to the outer structure via oil dampers 125 meters above the ground. This pillar acts as a sort of cushion in the event of a quake.
Visiting the Tokyo Skytree
There are two upper areas open to the public:
The Tembo Deck is 350 meters high, a journey the high-speed elevators will make in a mere 50 seconds. The Tembo Deck is awash with restaurants and the obligatory bunch of souvenir shops. Between a meal/drink and looking around, one can easily wile away 90 minutes here.
The Tembo Galleria, at 450 meters above the ground, is another 30 second elevator ride up from the Tembo Deck. This is purely an observation area, with floor-to-ceiling windows of the view. (See pic, below.)
From the Galleria one gets a remarkable vista down on the teeming humanity that is Tokyo. Though you better hope the elevators don’t break while you’re up there—the way down via the emergency staircase involves 2,523 steps.
† Why 634 meters? Because the tower’s architect has a sense of humor. In Japanese, six (“mu”), three (“sa”) and four (“shi”) combine to make “Musashi,” the traditional name of the Tokyo neighborhood where the Skytree stands.
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Planning your trip
Getting there: The Tokyo Skytree best reached by subway; its eponymous station is on the Tobu Isesaki line. If you have a Narita airport stopover you’ll need several hours to get to the Skytree and back. Take the 53-minute Narita Express to Tokyo Station. From there you’ll need to change subway lines twice to get to the Skytree station.
How much? Access to the lower Tembo Deck costs ¥2,500. You can purchase tickets in advance online but at the time of writing the website was only available in Japanese. To get to the upper Tembo Galleria you’ll have to purchase an additional ¥1,000 ticket; they’re sold near the queue for the elevator on the Tembo Deck.
Family friendly? Absolutely! Your kids will likely be more fearless about going up to the glass and looking down than you will.
For your bookshelf: Towering Giants and Other Tall Megastructures
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