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Tokyo Sky Tree March 27, 2012

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokyo Sky Tree” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-Nv

Tokyo Sky Tree is the newest landmark in Tokyo.  It is a culmination of planning and building that spanned over 5 years.  Tokyo Sky Tree was officially unveiled to the public when the designs were published at the end of 2006.  Tokyo Sky Tree is currently the tallest tower in the world and second tallest structure in the world after the Burj Khalifa.  Sky Tree was built because of the rapid growth of skyscrapers in Tokyo.  In the past, Tokyo Tower, which stands at 333m, was the tallest structure in Japan.  With an ever changing landscape and advances in technology, Tokyo Tower was quickly becoming a regular structure rather than the tall tower that was needed.  Tokyo Tower is a fully functioning TV Tower that broadcasts terrestrial television and radio programs across Tokyo.  With the large towers in Roppongi creating greater problems for Tokyo Tower, the need for a new taller structure was conceived and Tokyo Sky Tree was built.

In 2008, the ground-breaking ceremony for Tokyo Sky Tree was held and the pace of construction has been furious.  Like many buildings, the foundation is the hardest part of any construction.  It took almost one complete year before the foundations were finished and the main structure could begin to be built.  From that point it was very noticeable that Sky Tree was growing daily.  It took two full years to reach a height of 600m and aside from a few moments where the tower seemed to stop growing for a month or so, it was very easy to see progress being made to the external structure of the tower.  Tokyo Sky Tree is topped by a large antenna that stands 36m tall.  The 36m tall antenna was built inside the base of the tower and jacked up to its final position.  It was about 10m from its final resting height when the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake struck.  Thankfully the main structure held up and the tower structure was completed soon after checks were made along the entire tower.

There is a lot of symbolism and technology within Tokyo Sky Tree.  The first aspect of Tokyo Sky Tree is the shape.  While most pictures will show a circular structure, it is far more complex than that.  The design was created to start as a triangular base as it slowly transforms into a circular design by the time it reaches the observation decks.  The triangular base was designed to minimize the effect of shadows on the surrounding area.  Whether this is true or not is unknown by myself as I don’t have the means to test it out.  The next piece of technology is the use of old technology.  It is often promoted by the designers that Tokyo Sky Tree was built using old ideas with modern technology.  Utilizing the ancient designs of pagoda in Japan, they created a centre column with the structure hanging from it at the top.  This allows the centre column to “float” independently from the outer structure and help protect it from catastrophic failure in the event of an earthquake.  Of course this is using modern upgrades to the design and modern technology and materials.  The final symbolism in the structure is the height.  Tokyo Sky Tree stands at 634m tall.  634 can also be read as “mu(tsu) (6), san (3), shi (4)” or “musashi”.  Musashi is the old name of the region.  Musashi Province was an area that encompassed Tokyo, Saitama, and part of Kanagawa.  It can easily be thought of as the entire region that also includes Chiba.

The official mascot of Tokyo Sky Tree is Sorakara-chan.  Sorakara-chan can be loosely translated as the girl from the sky.  The simple backstory of Sorakara-chan is that she found Tokyo because Tokyo Sky Tree was able to cut above the clouds and shine very brightly.  You can already find her items and souvenirs at the base of Tokyo Sky Tree before the tower has even been opened to the public.  It is a typical marketing ploy by the operators of Tokyo Sky Tree and she will definitely make money for them.  Tokyo Sky Tree is not just a TV tower.  It is also a full scale shopping complex.  The main floors are occupied by Tokyo Solamachi.  Tokyo Solamachi is the name of the shopping complex that occupies the main building at the base of Tokyo Sky Tree that stands a mere 7 stories tall.  Tokyo Solamachi isn’t very special as it consists mainly of a typical shopping mall but they have added a dome theatre and aquarium to the top floors.  It will be the focal point for the entire neighbourhood and create a bit of competition for neighbouring Asakusa and Kinshicho.  It is unlikely that the new area, coined “Sky Tree Town” by the developer will take off immediately.  It will take time to build up but it will be very popular once it opens in May.

While Tokyo Sky Tree itself is complete, the entire structure and Solamachi won’t be open to the public until May 22nd, assuming there are no last second delays.  It will be a very popular destination at first and there are sure to be lines to go to the observation deck and lines to get into the shopping complex for the first year or so.  Whether or not it will give people enough reason to keep visiting is anyone’s guess.  It is likely that the complex will do well into the future.  It has the potential to draw a lot of people to the tower as it is located just a stone throw’s away from Asakusa.

This is the first in a series of posts about Tokyo Sky Tree.  To read more, please head over to Tokyo Sky Tree (Opening Day)

2009 Sapporo Snow Festival (Part I) April 28, 2009

Posted by Dru in Hokkaido, Japan, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “2009 Sapporo Snow Festival (Part I)” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-ai

Note: Any and all descriptions of sculptures and activities are for 2009.  The sculptures are guaranteed to change, and some of the activities may also change. It’s best to check just prior to going.
Every year in February, Sapporo holds its biggest festival.  The Snow Festival is by far the most famous and popular festival in Japan, during the winter.  In January, the Japanese Self Defence Force trucks in hundreds of tons of snow that will be used in snow sculptures that range in size of a one metre to the size of a small building.  All of the sculptures are located along all 12 blocks of Odori Park, which is where the main action takes place.  There is a secondary site located at Sapporo Dome.  This site is geared towards families and having fun.  A third unofficial site is located in Susukino.  This is actually the Susukino Ice Festival, and as the name implies, this festival contains nothing but ice sculptures.

The traditional starting point of the Sapporo Snow Festival would be the Sapporo TV Tower located at 1-chome of Odori Park.  Heading up the Sapporo TV Tower is something I would recommend, however, I didn’t go up as it was too busy.  From the observation deck, you’ll be granted with a beautiful view of the entire festival.  If you are in the mood, I’d also recommend a quick pint at the Otaru Beer restaurant located on the ground floor of the TV Tower.  1-chome is also the site of a small skating rink.  It’s reminiscent of Rockefeller Centre in New York, only the surrounding buildings aren’t as tall.  In 2009, they had a sculpture of Tsuyoink, which means strong ink.  It was obviously sponsored by Epson, as it’s their personal mascot.  1-chome is also the location of a small stage where they have a few concerts and lots of information for everyone.  This was one of the most crowded areas as well.

Upon entering 2-chome, I was graced with the sight of some beautiful ice sculptures.  This year, they had various tropical sea animals swimming.  They also had a sculpture to promote the Nippon Ham Fighters; Sapporo’s very own Japanese baseball team.  This section of the festival wasn’t very good.  It was very difficult to see the sculpture properly, and large ice sculptures didn’t come off well when they are as detailed as this one.  The smaller, simpler sculptures worked out better.  In my own opinion, it’s not worth the time and effort as you can’t get close enough to see the actual detail of the sculptures.

3-chome provided another dynamic to the festival.  In 3-chome, the festival had two different sculptures.  The first is a small shrine and maze for good luck.  They had a few special items if you walked the maze.  You could get a picture taken with Hiyokochan, a popular character.  I didn’t know this character at all, but they said they are popular.  The shrine is also a major place for people to pray and to bring some good luck to the festival.  Unfortunately, this attraction was closed when I visited.  The other attraction to see was the TAKA and TOSHI slide.  TAKA and TOSHI are a popular comedy duo in Japan who comes from Hokkaido.  This comedy duo designed this slide.  It was a nice and I wish I could try it, but alas, it was closed when I went.

4-chome had another set of commercialized sculptures.  Unlike 1-chome, these were more tasteful and had an actual meaning.  The first was “~Dreams~”.  This huge sculpture was to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the opening of Tokyo Disneyland.  It featured all of the major Disney characters.  Mickey, Minnie, and even Tinkerbelle were featured.  They also had a plane that had working lights to provide an interesting dynamic to the sculpture.  On the other side of the block was a huge sculpture to promote the possible Tokyo Olympics in 2016.  It featured 3 of Japan’s most recent, and famous, gold medalists from the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  Kousuke Kitajima was the prominent figure.  He won a lot of swimming medals and was pictured in his victory pose after winning gold.  On either side of him were Yukiko Ueno and Masae Ueno.  Yukiko was the pitcher and captain of the Japanese women’s softball team, and Masae was a Judo gold medalist.  Tokyo is currently in the running for the 2016 Olympics.  The other candidates include Chicago, USA; Madrid, Spain; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  Currently, Tokyo isn’t doing well, but they do have a chance.

Information:

Sapporo Snow Festival (English):  http://www.snowfes.com/english/place/index.html
Sapporo Snow Festival (Japanese):  http://www.snowfes.com/
Sapporo Snow Festival (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sapporo_Snow_Festival

Note:  Part I of a 3 part series .  (Part II) (Part III)

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

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