Tokyo Sky Tree: A towering symbol

TOKYO - Although its formal opening is still on May 22, tourists-mostly local-have been flocking to the Oshiage area in northeastern Tokyo to view the Tokyo Sky Tree.

The 634-metre structure will serve as the new broadcasting facility for six terrestrial broadcasters headed by NHK. Tokyo Tower, which stands at 333m, no longer provides complete digital terrestrial TV broadcasting coverage as it is surrounded by many high-rise buildings.

Indeed, the Tokyo Sky Tree towers over the Sumida and Taito wards, and is visible almost everywhere in Asakusa. Many have also taken to the new landmark as a symbol for Tokyo, especially after the March 11, 2011 disaster.

"We hope to be a symbol of a new era in Japan," said Hirotake Takanashi, deputy manager of the Tokyo Sky Tree.

He explained that the tower used modern technology to ensure it is earthquake-proof. It recreates the five-storey pagoda, an architectural technique specific to Japan, wherein each floor is independent with a central pillar at the core.

According to the tower's brochure, the structure and resulting interaction between the pagoda floors minimises the effect of tremors during an earthquake or strong winds.

Takanashi also emphasised that the tower has been designed based on structural calculations stipulated by Japan's Building Standard Law.

The tower's main structure is made up of a steel skeleton using steel frames and doubles the standard strength. It also boasts of a vibration control system that protects the tower against earthquakes and strong winds stronger than those envisioned in conventional high-rise buildings.

"We have followed the safety regulations stipulated by law so we assure people who come here to visit us that we are prepared in case of an earthquake," Takanashi said.

Aside from serving as a broadcasting tower, there will be commercial facilities in the compound where visitors can shop or eat.

At night, the tower will be lit up alternately in two types of design: "iki", which has a tint of blue-green, representing the manly spirit held by the urbane commoders of Edo; and "miyabi", purple, one of the traditional aesthetic ideals that represents elegance.

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