Home > Focus on Japan 2009, Ikebukuro > New Tokyo Tower

New Tokyo Tower

September 26th, 2009

Oldtt00If you’ve ever been to Tokyo, or at least seen the movie Mothra, then you probably know about Tokyo Tower, a fixture in the city for the past fifty-one years. Built in 1958, at a height of 332.5 meters, it has been perhaps the city’s most famous landmark. Go almost anywhere in the southern half of the city, and it’ll probably be visible–a big, red-and-white tower in the heart of the city.

Tokyo Tower was built as a broadcasting platform, at first for newfangled TV transmissions, and a few years later for radio as well. The problem is that Japan is now switching over to HDTV (called Hi-Vision here), and Tokyo Tower is not tall enough for sending terrestrial digital signals.

As a result, it was figured that a new tower would have to be built. I’d heard about it a few times over the past several years–a big ol’ tower raised in the relatively low-level area around Asakusa, due east of Ueno and north-east of Akihabara, about 1.5 km distant from each.

The new tower is slated to finish construction in December of 2011, opening in Spring of 2012, and is going to reach 610 meters in height, not quite double the old Tokyo Tower. But it won’t be called “New Tokyo Tower” officially. Instead, it has the doubtful monicker “Sky Tree,” a somewhat Japanese-sounding English name. I’m gonna call it “New Tokyo Tower” myself.

I had thought that it would take a while longer before construction was visible–they broke ground about 6 months ago–but when I looked out my window today, I happened to notice a new building on the horizon. Not every day that hap–um, well, actually, in Tokyo, it is about every day that happens, now that I think about it. But this building will be bigger than most. Here’s what I can see now:



According to the tower’s home page, it is currently at 153 meters; sounds about right.

By copying and photoshopping an artist’s rendering of the tower over the images I took, you can get an idea of what it’ll look like:



From our balcony, without the zoom magnification, at about 8.7 km (5.4 miles) distant, it would look like this:


So, naturally, buy 2011, some other building will have cropped up right in the way. Not that we’ll be here to be annoyed by it–we’ll probably move out of our current place by next year sometime, the intent being to buy a place and pay into the equity instead of just bleeding rent.

One other observation about the tower: it is situated almost perfectly for observing fireworks. I imagine that it’ll be booked for years in advance for engagements viewing the Sumida Fireworks show, the most famous in Tokyo, which go on just a few hundred meters away. Wouldn’t be surprised in the tower were already booked for three years from now, and maybe a few years beyond that.

Categories: Focus on Japan 2009, Ikebukuro Tags: by
  1. Troy
    September 27th, 2009 at 05:28 | #1

    Whenever I see the Tokyo skyscape I always think “look at all the wealth!” If every large-ish building were owned free & clear by just one person then there would be thousands and thousands and thousands of really rich people!

    But of course when I was working in Shinkawa in this building:


    I saw the flipside of the property bubble; it’s mostly borrowed money so it’s harder to see who’s making money from the property, if anyone. The owner lived on the penthouse floor — pretty sweet set-up for him (decent views of the river & bay) and more optimal use of the land, but unfortunately he only had 50% occupancy and was in financial distress due to the post-bubble shakeout (dunno if the oya-san owned the land before the bubble).

    But even with all the debt this accumulation of housing wealth is quite stunning!

    Prolly too much build-up if the population keeps declining, but I think Tokyo will retain its population level and might even continue to grow. There’s not much wealth to be wrung from the land (too many farm owners and not enough land to support them all given the small plot sizes) so the cities will continue to collect people. Not entirely sure how *this* human-capital economy is going to support itself either, but we’ll see!

    Japan may be debt up to its eyeballs but much of it was invested in infrastructure or at least wasn’t pissed away on war and non-productive giveaways to a permanent underclass.

    In the late 90s I was living on the top floor (3rd) of an apartment building in Hirou. The owner lived on the first floor, and his son lived on the 2nd, so there were just 3 renters supporting them — I wish I had the $$$ to do the same thing since there is a screaming demand for gaijin-friendly (or at least non-hostile) rentals. Get rid of that key money, agent fee, and renewal fee BS, too. Wouldn’t surprise me to learn that it’s illegal to cut the agents out though. Sometimes I *don’t* miss Japan that much.

    Looking at yahoo.co.jp’s housing search . . . man, Tokyo land is still crazy-expensive. I think it’s because of the 3% mortgage rates . . . borrowing $1M only costs $2500/mo in interest costs. . . this is basically doubling the price of land. The Japan bubble first popped when they tried raising interest rates.

    If & when interest rates *do* go up prices will absolutely tumble!

    Hmm, I see a nice mansion in naka-meguro for $500,000 which is cheaper than renting (not counting principal repayment which is a form of savings). Rents and prices are related so if there’s rents are sticky then maybe prices won’t go down much if interest rates go up (but that’s unexpected).

    Land economics are endlessly fascinating to me. We’re immersed in it like fish in water so it takes some effort to even notice it.

  2. Hachi Gatsu
    September 30th, 2009 at 07:21 | #2

    I remember there used to be an old ramen shop at the end of the alley way behind(ish) the old LCJ building. It was open and operational the first two months I was there, about half-way through the third month, I saw an elderly woman (I assume the owner) standing in front of the store, weeping as a sign in Japanese (I translated it to “Closed for business”) in the door way. About two weeks past and suddenly there was a huge hole there. I didn’t even notice it until I got closer and a yellow-hat construction worker popped out of the hole and pointed me to the other side of the alley, so as to not fall into the giant hole he climbed out of.

    A few days before the graduation ceremony, a new building (looked like a flower shop…I think) was being furnished and painted. That was when I realized how fast things were built in Japan. One day there’s nothing, the next a hole, give it two more day’s and the building’s open…we’ll maybe not that fast, but it certainly is quite a sight compared to how fast (or slow) things are built back in the States.

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