Monday, April 22, 2013

Tokyo Skytree to the top! - Japan 2013 trip report part 2

I previously visited the then-incomplete Tokyo Skytree last March, but it finally opened in May of last year and on this trip, we were able to take a ride to the top.

Tokyo Skytree is the most amazing tower you've probably never heard of (and the tallest in the world). Honestly, I don't really know why it's not more famous outside of Japan - within Japan, it's everywhere. We even saw a giant model of it at Charlie's Tacos in Okinawa! It's become the new icon of Tokyo, and it's so much taller than every other structure in the city that you can literally see it from anywhere.  It's a new anchor point in the skyline, which is something that Tokyo has always lacked.

Because it's so popular in Japan itself, it's best to get there early and hopefully on a weekday. It didn't initially seem too crowded when we went. But when you arrive, you get kind of a pre-ticket telling you when you can buy actual tickets:

I've seen other people complain about this, but I actually think it's pretty cool. The alternative would be waiting in line for like four hours. We got this at around noon, so we were able to hop back on the subway and do some shopping in Ochanomizu while we waited for our scheduled time. It's not like you have to sit around the Skytree twiddling your thumbs - go do something else in the meantime.

We returned at 3 and bought our actual tickets. The tickets have two possible designs - collect them both!(?)

This is the Tembo Deck, which is the lower deck in the pic at the top - you can tell by its shape. This is where you standard ticket takes you, which costs ¥2,000 for an adult. It's 350 meters high (about 1,150 feet). For some people, that's no doubt high enough. But we wanted to go all the way.

For the 450 meter high (1,476 feet) Tembo Galleria, you need to buy the ticket separately on the Tembo Deck. It costs another ¥1,000. So yeah, it's about $30 just to go as high as you can on this thing. Come on, how often are you going to be in Tokyo? Just do it.

This is the Galleria. The Galleria is kind of crazy - it is actually a little scary, and I am not particularly afraid of heights. The wild thing is that it's this tube that is literally just bolted onto the outside of the tower (see this image), and they actually accentuate that fact by making it an upward spiral - so you can see one end of it from the other. (In fact, you can pay them to take your photo through the glass from one end to the other below, which also shows off the city far below you.)

This is Sorakara Point, the highest point you can reach - 451.2 meters (1,480 feet). Skytree itself is much taller, but above this is just broadcast equipment.

Skytree casts a long shadow... this gives you an idea of how much taller it is than surrounding buildings.

Another photo of the Tokyo skyline - this may have been from the Tembo Deck. Tokyo is really amazing to see this way, it just never ends. The only thing that seems able to contain its spread is the ocean on one side. (I'm from New York, and I'm always amazed by the sheer physical size of Tokyo.)

After walking around the Galleria, all you can really do is head back down to the floors below. You go up from floor 350, but floors 345 and 340 have things like cafes, a restaurant, the gift shop and this straight-down glass floor. My wife was too scared to even stand on it. I may look like I'm hedging my bets a little in this photo, but I did fully stand on the glass panes afterwards.

We waited in line to take the elevator back down and then visited some of "Skytree Town", which is a brand new mall that has some really cool stuff in it... but also stuff like this:

That's apparently the history of canned food. Yeah, some of the things they have down there are kind of odd and ill-advised (and deserted), but others are amazing - there is one store I'm going to write a whole post about a little later, because it's completely ridiculous but totally awesome (and I'm not going to tell you what it is yet).

I did get this amazing ice cream:

That's milk flavored ice cream and a black sesame/charcoal cone. (Yes, it said "charcoal" on the menu). And it really tasted like all of those things; it was unique, and tasty. I don't remember the name of this place but it obviously had the number "63" in it, so if you go there, just look for that somewhere on the shop guide. I recommend this.

I also bought this really cool pen as a souvenir, which I have to show you in video form:

It has LED's in the base. But it is a working ballpoint pen too. Cost something like $15.

There are a huge number of souvenirs you can buy there, from the obligatory cookies in the shape of Skytree, to pens, keychains and other trinkets like this, to giant, highly detailed models (some of which are about 7 feet high when complete). It's fun to just browse and look at all the Skytree-related stuff people have dreamed up to try to make money off this place.

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About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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