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The Tokyo Tower and the World Trade Center

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Although it’s been unseated from its position as Japan’s tallest structure (and, at 333 meters, is positively Lilliputian in comparison to the new champion, Oshiage’s 634-meter SkyTree), the Tokyo Tower remains a popular tourist attraction. Modeled on the Eiffel Tower and painted bright orange, the tower has been a part of the city’s skyline since opening in 1958.

Tokyo Tower

Our reaction to the Tokyo Tower was mixed. It’s a shameless copy of the much grander Eiffel Tower, but still an impressive sight. Maybe it’s the bold orange color which contrasts so strikingly against the normal steel gray of the city’s skyscrapers. Or maybe it’s the weirdness of seeing the Eiffel Tower in Japan. Regardless, we consider the Tokyo Tower to be one of the city’s coolest structures.

Unfortunately, visiting its observation deck isn’t all that great of an experience. The view is nice, but the observation deck is always crowded, and more than a little annoying. Besides, when you’re inside the Tokyo Tower looking out, the best-looking building has effectively been removed from sight.

World Trade Center Tokyo Video

For a superior view, walk to the nearby World Trade Center. It’s not as tall as the Tokyo Tower, but the observation deck at the top of this building is cheaper to visit and much more serene. The huge windows are spotlessly clean and you can sit at them for as long as you want, without impatient tourists trying to shove you aside. You’re even allowed to bring in your own food and drinks. And there, in the foreground, is the Tokyo Tower in all its bright orange glory.

Locations on our Map: Tokyo Tower | World Trade Center

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More Views from the Tokyo Tower
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More Views from Tokyo’s World Trade Center
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May 21, 2014 at 8:52 am Comments (3)

Shiodome

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Shiodome, the onetime railway center of Tokyo, has blossomed into one of the city’s most modern and important financial districts. We spent a day wandering around its skyscrapers, like ants in the presence of giants.

Just like Ginza, the neighborhood immediately to its north, Shiodome was originally swamp land, filled on the orders of Lord Tokugawa in the early seventeenth century. In 1872, during the Meiji Era, Shiodome became the terminal of Japan’s first railway line. With the closure of the train station in 1986 and the dismantling of its yards, a prime piece of real estate opened up, and Tokyo decided to build what Tokyo builds best: skyscrapers. Today, Shiodome is home to the headquarters of some of Japan’s biggest firms, including Fujitsu, All Nippon Air, Bandai, Dentsu and Softbank.

We were visiting on a Sunday, when Shiodome was taking a breather from the standard corporate hustle, so we didn’t really experience its true spirit. But that was fine. While in Tokyo, we wouldn’t exactly be suffering from a lack of “crushing crowds of businessmen,” and it was fun to have this ultra-modern skyscraper park largely to ourselves.

For lunch, we went to the top of the sleek Dentsu building, one of the tallest skyscrapers in Tokyo. Though we had expected outrageous prices, we found an excellent and extremely reasonable meal at a restaurant dedicated to the cuisine of Hokkaido. The view from here was perhaps even better than that of the SkyTree; not nearly as high, but closer to the city and far less crowded.

In the bottom levels of the nearby Caretta Building we came across the Advertising Museum of Tokyo (ADMT). With engaging exhibitions that take visitors on a chronological journey through the history of Japanese advertising from the 1700s into the present day, the museum is a lot of fun. I especially enjoyed the interactive booths where you could view television ads from throughout the years. Did you know that Orson Welles did an ad for Japanese whiskey? He did, and it’s as awesome as you’d expect. The ADMT is sponsored by Dentsu, Japan’s leading advertising firm, and is free to visit. Fair enough, considering that, while inside, you’ll be watching advertisements.

Before leaving Shiodome, we made sure to watch the hour strike at a giant copper clock outside the Nippon Television Building. Presented by Studio Ghibli, this clock marks the hour with a clanking, noisy show of copper robots, puffing engines and and tinpail percussion… like something straight out of a steampunk anime flick.

Location of the ADMT on our Map
Advertising Museum of Tokyo – Website

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March 17, 2014 at 2:41 am Comments (3)

The Tokyo SkyTree and Solamachi Mall

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After arriving in a new city, we often try and find a panoramic viewpoint for a bird’s eye view of our new home. So our first activity in Tokyo was destined to be the SkyTree which, at 634 meters, is the world’s tallest tower.

Tokyo Skytree

We planned to get moving early on our first day in Tokyo, and visit the SkyTree as soon as it opened. Rising early wasn’t a problem; Japan is fourteen hours ahead of New York, and our jet lag was of comical proportions. Wide awake by four in the morning, we were polishing off a third cup of coffee before the sun had risen. So how was it possible that we didn’t reach the top of the SkyTree until late afternoon?

The short answer is that we got distracted. In the sprawling complex attached to the SkyTree, we encountered our first Japanese shopping mall. I knew we were in trouble, when I saw the Studio Ghibli store at the mall’s entrance: Jürgen and I have been obsessed with the studio’s films for years. Unable to resist, we spent an hour inside the shop, admiring miniature figurines of Howl’s Moving Castle and Ponyo.

The rest of our morning was devoured by the Solamachi Mall. It was such a different shopping experience to anything we were used to. Smiling workers bowed as we passed by stores dedicated to anime, chocolate, clothing and sake. We visited a couple art exhibitions, including one that featured a life-size jet/robot fighting machine. We were introduced to Nanoblocks, which are like mini-Legos, and even marveled at the mall’s toilets, complete with butt-warmers and automatic bidet. Before we knew it, lunch time had rolled around.

Our first lunch in Japan! Yes, the SkyTree could wait. On the upper floors of the Solamachi Mall, we found a wealth of mouth-watering restaurants on its upper floors. We got into the longest line we could find, at a place called Rokurinsha. After a 30-minute wait, we were led to a vending machine in the restaurant’s doorway where we chose and paid for our meals and then we sat down to steaming, delicious bowls of ramen.

Having had our fill of both shopping and food, we could finally scale the SkyTree, and joined the unbelievably long queue for tickets. Unfortunately, the weather which had been so lovely in the morning was clouding over dramatically. As we progressed slowly toward the counter, the sky continued to darken. By the time we were on the observation deck, the SkyTree had been completely enveloped in a blinding snowstorm and we couldn’t see a thing. Oh well. At least the tickets only cost $60 apiece.

We’d been in Tokyo less than 24 hours, but had already started to learn that patience pays off, even in the world’s fastest city. Whether you’re squeezing onto a crowded train, waiting for a seat at a popular restaurant, standing in an hour-long queue to scale a tower, or hoping for better weather, the key to sanity in Tokyo is to take a few deep breaths and remain calm. Eventually, you’ll get on the train. You’ll get your table, or reach the end of the line. And eventually, the weather will clear up. We had to wait two hours at the top of the SkyTree, but when the clouds finally did part, the view over the sprawling, endless city was unforgettable.

Location of the SkyTree on our Map

Great Hotels In Tokyo

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March 13, 2014 at 8:47 am Comments (10)
The Tokyo Tower and the World Trade Center Although it's been unseated from its position as Japan's tallest structure (and, at 333 meters, is positively Lilliputian in comparison to the new champion, Oshiage's 634-meter SkyTree), the Tokyo Tower remains a popular tourist attraction. Modeled on the Eiffel Tower and painted bright orange, the tower has been a part of the city's skyline since opening in 1958.
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