Tokyo Skytree, written 東京スカイツリー and pronounced "Tōkyō Sukaitsurī" in Japanese, is 634m tall broadcasting tower in eastern Tokyo. I'd only ever looked at the structure either from afar, or from the very position pictured above, until now...
We went up Skytree during the 2-year anniversary of its completion... it really has gone quickly. Before going up, we were treated to an "Asahi beer" sponsored Kabuki and Japanese drum performance. Both were fantastic.
The process to get up Skytree is rather complicated, it must be said. To those with some experience of Japanese paperwork and seemingly illogical practices, it won't seem that strange (though it is complicated). A friend of ours (you know who you are – thank you!!) met us at Skytree and had already got hold of the tickets... which allow us to queue to get tickets. Yes, that's right, a ticket to get tickets. I hope they recycle them!
Our ticket to get tickets, said to start queuing at 2pm. By around 3pm we had our tickets to get up to the Tembo Deck (350m – the first viewing platform). We joined the hundreds of others, in queuing for the lifts. After cramming into the lifts in a similar fashion to the daily commuter train, we sped up to the viewing deck in a matter of seconds – the lifts move at an impressive 10 m/s at full speed. The inside of the lifts is beautiful - each one a different colour and design for the seasons.
I was a little surprised at how surprised people were when exiting the lifts and seeing the view for the first time. It could be because I'm a misery guts, a scientist, or just me, but it was kind of what I expected. A view from 350m. It was rather hazy (it's that time of year), but it was still a cool view. It wasn't amazing. Perhaps I've taken too many aeroplane journeys, or I'm just boring. I tend only to exclaim when I see/eat/hear/feel something which truly shocks my senses.
The entire place was rammed. People everywhere. Some with babies (why bring a baby up here – they were in a pram, facing mother), others as part of tour groups. We had to wait to get to the windows, but as I am usually taller than most, I didn't find that annoying. I did find myself a little concerned about the fire/earthquake evacuation procedures at one point, but decided that there was little I could do in any case.
The sheer number of people reminded me of an article I read a couple of years ago, on the topic of the impact of Skytree on the local districts. I think the photo above sums it up quite well. The gist of the piece, is that thousands of people now swarm to the train stations next to the tower, go up the tower, shop in the mall, and leave by train for the next destination. Before Skytree was finished, the local area was assured of a strong economic boost from all the tourists... but it's mostly just noise of teens on motorbikes driving around the giant neon tower, waking the 80 year old locals. Not all positive, then.
We were guilty of the same – we all had to get back across town for our restaurant reservation. We killed a little time in the mall (somewhat ironically named "Skytree town"), rather than traipse the local streets in the heat, looking for an ice cream, when all they sell is soba and eel.
And I imagine that's how many people feel. Regular readers will know that the backstreets of Tokyo are one of my favourite places to explore, but when pressed for time, the modern "go see something, then go to the modern mall at the train station" is certainly more convenient.
Besides, one climbs to 350m to see the town from above.
At the Tembo Deck one can purchase tickets to the Tembo Galleria. At 450m tall, this is the highest observation point in Skytree – it's well worth going up.
The view is probably best in winter, though it was humbling to see the magnitude of the urban sprawl that is Tokyo-to.
We had a great time, and a very unique way of seeing Tokyo. I'd probably recommend going up Skytree on a weekday, preferably in the winter. And I would recommend going all the way up to the Tembo Galleria.
Go big, or go home.