The Tōkyō Tower 東京タワー is the second tallest structure in Japan. The building is a communications and observation tower currently used as a relay by nine TV stations and five radio stations. The year 2012 put an end to its supremacy as the tallest tower in the whole country, when the 634 mt-tall Tōkyō Sky Tree Tower 東京スカイツリー, was finally finished. Although the Tōkyō Tower only possesses the silver medal in the contest of towers nowadays, the cultural impact it has had in the modern story of the city certainly makes this iconic ironed structure worthy of the gold one.
The idea of the Tōkyō Tower arose in the early 50s, when the necessity to give the Kantō 関東 area a TV and radio broadcasting station became drastically pressing. At that time, the USA troops had just left the country after seven years of occupation, and Japan had been struggling with the atrocities of the war. For this reason, the Tower could not be only a mere relay but rather a beacon of hope for a flourishing, better future for the years ahead. Moreover, it also had to be a global symbol whose second goal was also cleansing the horrible reputation that the nation had gained during World War II. The politician and businessman Maeda Hisakichi 前田久吉with his company, the Nippon Denpatō, took charge of the entire project, officially becoming the owner of the Tower itself. Naitō Tachū内藤多仲, the pioneer of the Japanese earthquake-proof building, was the named architect to manage the project. Maeda and Naitō established that the Tower-to-be had to be modelled after the most emblematic engineering and architectural design of their era, hence they chose the Tour Eiffel in Paris and the Empire State Building in NY as the main source of inspiration. The work started in 1957, shortly after the foundation of Maeda’s company. To erect the Tower, Naitō hired several hundreds of tobi 鳶, Japanese builders specialised in high structures.The Tower was completed at the end of the following year, while Japan had been living a glorious economic boom. The elected colours were white and a particular hue of orange called “international”, the same one used in aerospace engineering. Moreover, by 1964, its lights are turned on every night, and their colours change according to season and occasion.
The Tōkyō Tower managed to steal the title of the tallest freestanding tower in the world from its Parisian competitor, but unfortunately, it never reached the height of the Empire State Building. Despite that, it soon grew into the main landmark in the city to the point that it also became Godzilla’s favourite target in films. Since the buildings erected that far were not high enough to cover it, from the 60s to the 80s the Tower was the tallest construction in Tōkyō, majestically looming the rest of the urban landscape. Therefore, it could be admired almost from any position in the city by anybody who raised their gaze in the sky. If we also consider that the Kantō region is largely consisted of quite flat valleys, not only the Tokyoites but even the inhabitants of the rest of the area had not to make many efforts to enjoy its sight. The Tōkyō Tower had truly accomplished its duty, becoming the ironed representation of that prosperous new time in which the post-war generation had been hoping for much time. However, the primacy as the tallest communication tower in the world lasted for only nine years, when the construction of 540 metre-tall Ostankino Tower in Moskow was completed in 1967.
By the 80s, with the coming of the economic bubble period, new, gigantic skyscrapers started to appear in the many districts of Tōkyō. Consequentially, the Tower lost its dominance in the cityscape of the Kantō area, fusing with the modern skyline. The golden era of architecture and design eventually shifted it from being an emblem of the future to be a romantic, dreamlike location where to have the perfect time for a date or, as an alternative, the ideal place to bring groups of students for their school trip. Many manga and anime released in the 90s, for instance, would frequently set their most romantic scenes in one of the two observatories of the Tower, when the main characters of the story finally managed to plan a date. On the other hand, other stories would rather use the Tōkyō Tower as the main location to start their tale.
When the Tōkyō Sky Tree Tower was completed in 2012, the then fifty-four-years-old Tōkyō Tower alas became stuck in a vintage scenario, unavoidably shifting into a nostalgic building of the good, old times. Nonetheless, its modern “sister” did not block it from being a symbolic landmark in the city. Nowadays, in fact, the Tōkyō Tower still attracts millions of tourists from all over the world, thanks to the several attractions both inside and outside the Tower. In the first place, the Tower is located in the Shiba kōen 芝公園 in the Minato district港区, very close to the trendy zone of Roppongi Hills 六本木. That area is still famed for its bustling nightlife, thus many tourists do not mind visiting the Tower before spending their night among eccentric restaurants and fancy clubs. Other than that, the Tower itself has several highlights as well. The Aquarium, the Wax Museum, and the restaurant on the first floor seldom lack guests, and the same can be affirmed for the numerous shops and shopping areas. However, the major attractions of the Tower undoubtedly are the Trick Art Gallery, which hosts exhibitions of optical illusions, and its two main observatories, the Main Deck and the Top Deck. In addition, the rooftop of the Foot Town Building allows its visitors to enjoy the best, stunning sigh of Mount Fuji 富士山when the day is particularly clear and take pleasure in admiring some spots of the Tōkyō contemporary skyline.
Although it is far from being that futuristic beacon of hope that it was supposed to be in the beginning by now, the many changes that Tōkyō has faced so far have not yet stopped its Tower to be probably the most iconic marker in the capital of Japan.