Tokyo Skytree, the world’s tallest broadcast tower, opened to visitors Tuesday, and Tokyo Skytree Town, which includes the tower, is now in full swing. The opening of the tower is a bright spot for Japan, still reeling from the effects of the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami and the subsequent Fukushima nuclear crisis. It is hoped that the landmark tower will serve as an attraction for millions of people for many years.

The primary purpose of the tower, which is 634 meters high and weighs 40,000 tons, is to broadcast clear television and radio signals without interference from skyscrapers. Its construction became necessary to replace the famous 333-meter-high Tokyo Tower after Japan switched from analog to the terrestrial digital TV broadcast format. The tower’s main attractions are its 350-meter-high and a 450-meter-high observatories.

Advanced technology was mobilized to build the tower. The tower’s construction, involving a total of 580,000 workers, took over 3½ years and cost ¥65 billion. More than 37,000 steel frames were used in the construction, almost all of different shapes. The allowable error in the frames was 3 mm per 10 meters. One remarkable feature is that engineers borrowed a method of construction employed in Japan’s traditional five-story Buddhist pagodas to reduce vibrations caused by earthquakes. The steel frames and the concrete cylindrical central pillar are designed to offset the other’s vibrations. It is claimed the tower can withstand a quake as powerful as the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake. It is hoped that the completion of Tokyo Skytree will rekindle enthusiasm among corporate executives and engineers for advancing Japan’s manufacturing technologies.

In the first year, about 32 million people are expected to visit Tokyo Skytree Town, which includes Tokyo Skytree, an aquarium, a planetarium and Tokyo Solamachi (solar town) with its 312 shops. Hopefully Tokyo Skytree and the traditional tourist spot Asakusa will create the synergy to revitalize tourism and local economies.

Nikko and Kinugawa, well-known tourist spots in Tochigi Prefecture, can be reached in less than two hours by express train from Tokyo Skytree station. Traveling northeast from there, one can reach Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate — prefectures hit by the 3/11 disasters. An estimated 2.5 million people are expected to visit Tochigi Prefecture each year.

Tokyo Skytree’s 2,000 lights are all LED, and Tokyo Skytree Town has an advanced eco-friendly community cooling and heating system, which sets a good example for the nation’s power-saving efforts.

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