Tokyo Tower – A Post-War Reclamation of Lost Power and Glory
Article by Pushpitha Wijesinghe
Tokyo – the city where ancient pride and dreams of grandeur translate into a never-ceasing modern-day chant of bigger, better, faster and newer that drives its citizens at an unbelievable pace. The ground-breaking event today becomes obsolete tomorrow, juggernaut feats of engineering vow its denizens one day only to have others supersede them in a matter of months. It’s an over-achiever among overachieving metropolises, a glamorous yuppie out to prove something to its Western counterparts – an ambition that appears to ever evade its grasp, no matter the pinnacles of achievement it reaches.
Despite the best efforts of this humble pen at anthropomorphism, it is difficult to explain the manic vitality of this city. However, it is possible to pick an architectural masterpiece which appears to carry a certain Freudian symbolism in order to illustrate in steel what cannot be explained in words. To this end, Tokyo Tower emerges as an unconscious self-revelation, being one of the city’s surprisingly few iconic markers as well as a relic of a more conflicted time.
In the post-World War II period, where the proud Japanese were still trying to reconcile their perception of themselves as an indomitable and powerful people in the face of their tragic immolation at the hands of the Allies, an attempt was made to plan and create a list of monuments to re-assert their prestige as a global economic and technological powerhouse, sweeping aside the debris of the proud Imperial heritage that had largely been lost to the bombs. Tokyo Tower was a product of this list, inspired by the Eiffel Tower of Paris. And in true Japanese fashion, it was designed to be at least 8.6meters taller and an astonishing 600 tons lighter than that beloved architectural monument.
However, the grace and dignity of the old Parisian tower was not to be bestowed upon its Japanese counterpart; the Tokyo Tower had to be painted bright orange and white in order to comply with international aviation regulations. Furthermore, city space restrictions dictated the tower be built in the midst of a bustling city block rather than commandeering its own courtly space as its French prototype is privileged to do.
While it lacks the enigmatic prestige of the Eiffel Tower, it must be said that Tokyo Tower is still an eye-catching sight at night, outlined against the light-stained night sky in orange neon. At the time of its unveiling, it was the tallest structure in Tokyo; however, the tides of the city’s own competitive nature has beaten this symbolic ascent to the heavens, as today, at least two other buildings stand taller than the tower. Tokyo Tower appears as much of a movie star in Asian media as the Eiffel Tower does in Hollywood productions, featuring largely in anime, manga and monster movies (this is after all, Japan!). It still is the world’s highest free-standing superstructure, but this title too appears to be in a fair way to have been usurped by some other upstart edifices with whom it will have to share its skies.
Tokyo Tower’s celebrity appears to have started wearing thin of recent years; the words “shameless tourist trap”, “dated facilities” and “overpriced” are whispered on the wind with regards to this structure, whose principle function is now as a broadcasting tower and prime observatory deck famed for affording a spectacular 360 degree view of the cityscape. The interest of children and people who remember its retro charm still lingers in the first floor aquarium, the third floor wax museum and art gallery.
Still, while Tokyo has a predilection for superseding its own successes, Japan as whole has a long and proud memory which is not wont to disregard this grand old dame of superstructures quite as easily as its detractors might believe. Certainly, no trip to the Asian capital is complete without snapping a picture of the edifice rising above the meeker city spires. This is a view that is best captured from the outdoor terrace of the Roppongi Hills complex, whose Somerset Roppongi is a luxury serviced apartment Tokyo which is rapidly gaining vogue as an alternative Tokyo business accommodation to living out of hotels. Whatever your opinion is on Tokyo and its quirks, there are some landmarks which manage to withstand the currents of time and favour – it is fairly certain that Tokyo Tower will prove itself to be among these.
Pushpitha Wijesinghe is an experienced independent freelance writer. He specializes in providing a wide variety of content and articles related to the travel hospitality industry.