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No.169 (8/13/10)

Birth Of A Tower: Tokyo's Sky Tree

By Robert Finley
Chief Writer

In 2012, the Tokyo's Sumida skyline will officially welcome a new landmark to its fold with the unveiling of what will be the city's tallest structure -- the Tokyo Sky Tree (東京スカイツリー).

“But Tokyo already has a tower!” you may say to yourself. Yes, it's true ? Since 1958, Tokyo's Shiba park skyline has been home to Tokyo Tower (東京タワー), an Eiffel Tower-esque communications and observation tower that has been a hugely popular tourist destination since its inception. The tower served its purpose well, but unfortunately, Japan's technological needs can no longer be met by the 333-meter giant. In July 2011, Japan's television broadcasts will convert from analog to digital signals, and require a taller structure to broadcast from, which led to the Sky Tree project’s birth.

Once complete, the Tokyo Sky Tree will stand at an impressive 634 meters, a whole 301 meters taller than its predecessor. In the fall of 2007, a contest was held to determine the name of the new structure, which was informally dubbed “The New Tokyo Tower.” Many names were up for consideration, such as “Sumida Tower,” “Tokyo Edo Tower,” “Mirai Tree,” “Yume Miyagura,” “Rising Tower,” and “Rising East Tower.” With all the votes tallied, “Tokyo Sky Tree” won after garnering an astonishing 32,000 votes (Tokyo Edo Tower came in a distant second place with 1,500 votes). 110,000 votes were cast all-together.

Construction began on the 40 billion yen (approximately $440.4 million) project in the summer of 2008, and is scheduled to be completed by the Obayashi Corporation in December 2011, with hopes that the tower will be open to the public by Spring 2012. Construction appears to have gone relatively smoothly, with over 200 meters of the tower standing today.

There are conflicting reports on the fate of Tokyo Tower once the Tokyo Sky Tree is opened. Some claim it will be demolished, as it will no longer serve any functional purpose to the city, although the Shiba-area citizens may not approve of their beloved landmark being permanently removed from their skyline, a landmark that has been the subject of numerous films and ingrained itself into Japanese culture. Whatever the case may be, 2012 will be the end of one era and the beginning of another as the Sky Tree opens for business.

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