When Japan changes from analog to terrestrial digital TV broadcasting from July 24, 2011, the Tokyo Sky Tree, now under construction in Tokyo’s Sumida Ward, will be the source of these transmissions for the Greater Kanto area. One big question that has remained unanswered up to now is what will become of the existing Tokyo Tower, currently performing these duties.

The 332.5 meter-high landmark, the tallest self-supporting steel structure in the world, has stood in Tokyo’s Minato Ward since its completion in 1958, and receives just under 3 million visitors each year.

It was recently learned via the Huaxin News Agency Web site that a general contractor based in China has placed a bid for the Tokyo Tower.

According to the article posted on the site, dated March 29, Xingfu & Ouyang Associates of Xiamen City has made an offer to Nippon Denpato, the owners and operators of the Tower, of $2.5 million for the structure.

“Since the tower weighs 4,000 tons, our offer equates to $625 per ton, nearly double the current market price for scrap steel girders,” chief engineer Xu Xiongmao is quoted as saying.

According to Xu, following disassembly and transportation of the parts to the Port of Yokohama for shipping, the tower will be erected in China’s Zhejiang Province, adjacent to the recently completed Hangzhou Bay Bridge, a 35.673-km long, six-lane highway bridge linking the cities of Ningbo and Jiaxing that opened on May 1, 2008.

To be renamed the “Dragon Tower,” it would be situated within clear view of the rest stop for drivers located midway along the bridge, addressing recent complaints from drivers over the lack of scenery during the trip.

X&O is reportedly mulling installation of a huge propeller that will transform the tower into the world’s largest windmill, connected to a generator to provide clean renewable energy for the surrounding area. The generator would go into operation on May 1, 2013, the fifth anniversary of the bridge’s opening.

“The annual average wind speed is 8 to 9 meters per second,” says Xu. “And Hangzhou Bay is shallow, making it an ideal place for offshore monopiles on the sea bed. Placed here, the tower would generate 180 megawatts, enough to meet the electrical needs of the rest stop, lighting for the entire bridge and 170,000 households on top of all that, provided we can persuade people to move to the reclaimed land we’re developing out in the bay.”

Idelugtende Prutter ApS of Demark has been retained as consultants and advisors for this phase of the project, with A.C. Gilbert Architects & Engineers Inc. of New Haven, Connecticut, an American firm known for its expertise in steel girder construction, brought in to provide specialist consultancy on the disassembly, transport and relocation of the Tower.

This initial stage, estimated to take about nine months, would employ some 600 Chinese workers, who will be granted special temporary visas while the work is taking place.

If the proposal goes through, about one half of the lot currently occupied by the Tokyo Tower would revert to its original owner, the Zojoji Temple for use as a cemetery. The remaining land would be administered as an amusement and game center by the Minato Ward government, under the tentative name “Tokyo Tower Memorial Park.”

Speaking under promise of anonymity, a high-ranking government official said he was in favor of the Chinese offer.

“It’s a good deal financially, since the Chinese purchasers will take care of the disassembly and transport.

“One-third of the tower’s steel originally came from U.S. Army tanks damaged in the Korean War, and it would be reassuring to know it’s not going to be utilized for military purposes. Of course, we are greatly in favor of its new use for an environmentally friendly purpose.

It would appear that the Tokyo skyline has just over 18 months left until the friendly orange-and-white landmark for the past half century departs on a slow boat to China.

For more information about the planned relocation of Tokyo Tower.

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