Since 2012, Japan has been the home to the world’s tallest tower. That’s when the top section was added to the Tokyo Skytree; it reaches up a breathtaking 634 meters† (2,080 ft) above the Japanese capital. Visitors can now 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!
WHOLE Family Travel
This post is part of our ongoing series featuring family travel ideas that are as much fun for adults as they are for children. It’s brought to you in cooperation with Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, whose properties are as luxurious and welcoming for adults as they are for children. For more kid-friendly travel ideas in Four Seasons locations check out their Have Family Will Travel blog.
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 does 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 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.
Planning your trip
Where to stay: The Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Marunouchi is an intimate boutique hotel for parents. Kids get welcome amenities, child-sized bathrobes and a bedtime snack (to say nothing of complimentary PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo games!).
Getting there via public transportation: From the Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Marunouchi, walk to the Takaracho Station (about 10 mins), take the Asakusa Line towards Keiseitakasago and exit at the Skytree Station.
On a Narita airport stopover: Time between flights? 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’s eponymous 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