Skytree has elevator glitch on first day

by Hiroko Nakata

Staff Writer

Despite cold and rainy springtime weather Tuesday, Tokyo Skytree attracted thousands of people to the new landmark as the world’s tallest tower opened to the public.

But the first day didn’t go off without a hitch. High winds forced two elevators to halt at around 6 p.m., stranding visitors in the No. 2 observatory, 450 meters above the ground.

The elevators soon resumed operations, but at 7:36 p.m. the No. 2 observatory was closed due to the wind.

A total of 200,000 people were expected to visit Tokyo Skytree Town, the complex in which the tower stands in Sumida Ward, on the first day alone.

Skytree Town is a commercial complex combining the 634-meter-tall broadcast tower, an aquarium, a planetarium and the Tokyo Solamachi complex, which boasts 312 shops and restaurants.

About 8,000 people made reservations to be whisked up in an elevator to the tower’s two observation decks, which stand at 350 meters and 450 meters above the ground, according to operator Tobu Tower Skytree Co. and its parent, Tobu Railway Co.

The tower, located near the Asakusa district known for its old streets and Sensoji Temple, is taller by 34 meters than the old record-holder, Canton Tower in Guangzhou, China.

As many as 32 million people are expected to visit Tokyo Skytree Town in its first year, and about 25 million people are predicted to visit each year after that, Tobu Railway said.

“I left my house at 5 a.m. to get on the first shinkansen of the day,” said Norio Sone, a 77-year-old visitor from Niigata Prefecture, while waiting in a long line for an elevator up to the observation deck.

“I wanted to climb up the world’s tallest building,” Sone said, but he added that he was disappointed by the cloudy weather.

Until July 10, only people with advance reservations will be allowed to go up the tower. After that a certain number of tickets for each day will be made available in advance, and the rest will be sold on a same-day basis at the ticket office at the base of the tower.

“We will try our best to let visitors experience the newest attraction in Tokyo and Japan, and make it the world’s most beloved tower,” Tobu Tower Skytree President Michiaki Suzuki said during an opening ceremony.

Before the tower officially opened, as many as 100 people waited to go up, and almost 5,000 waited to enter the shopping complex.

The first visitor to enter the complex had waited since 8:30 p.m. Monday, according to the operator.

The Tobu group and Sumida Ward say the new tourist spot will eventually have a big impact on the area’s economy.

The Tobu group expects a total of ¥28.3 billion in sales and a ¥3.2 billion operating profit for the business year ending next March year.

That includes entrance fees for the tower and sales at restaurants, souvenir shops, hotels and railroads run by the group.

From the tower and the attached complex, Tobu expects as much as ¥66 billion in sales and a ¥9.3 billion operating profit for the three-year period ending in March 2015.

Sumida Ward expects the tower to bring economic benefits of some ¥88 billion to the area per year, according to a report issued by the ward office in 2007.

Most of the revenue is expected to come from consumption, such as at restaurants and souvenir shops, at the tower and shopping complex, according to the report.

The ward expects about 5.5 million people to visit the tower and about 20 million to visit the overall complex in the first year.

“Sumida Ward has high hopes for the economic impact,” said Hiroshi Tomonaga, a ward official in charge of talks with the Tobu group on the project.

The tower was primarily built to broadcast clear TV and radio signals without interference from the many skyscrapers that have been built in central Tokyo.

Information from Kyodo added

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