Record-breaking Sky Tree opens to visitors

An estimated 200,000 people braved heavy rain in the Japanese capital on Tuesday to take part in the opening of the record-breaking Tokyo Sky Tree.

The tallest free-standing communications tower in the world and the second-highest building ever constructed, tourism officials have high hopes that the 634-meter tower will attract visitors to the relatively neglected northeast districts of Tokyo.

The tower - an eye-catching, triangular design in white with graceful curves that are meant to be reminiscent of the blade of a samurai sword - has two observation decks, one at 350 meters and the second at 450 meters above the streets of the city.

One of the biggest attractions on the first day proved to be the glass floor at the upper observation deck with an unobstructed view of the pavement nearly half a kilometer below.

The tower is part of a wider 37,000 square meter commercial complex of some 300 shops, entertainment facilities and attractions, including offices and an aquarium.

Demand for tickets to get to the top of Tokyo's latest attraction has been so fierce that the operator has limited admissions by only selling reserved tickets for specific days until July 14.

Tobu Tower Skytree Co. said the chances of winning the lottery for a ticket to visit the lower observation deck at noon on the opening day were one in 335. The company is selling a maximum of 6,000 tickets for each day online and a further 2,000 through its network of affiliated Tobu Travel Co. agents across Japan.

Work on the tower began in July 2008 and some 580,000 people were involved in the construction. The cost of the tower alone has been put at Y65 billion (€640.5 million).

At 634 meters, the Sky Tree soars above Tokyo's previous landmark high, the 333-meter high Tokyo Tower, as well as the Yokohama Landmark Tower, a mere 296 meters tall.

It surpassed the 600-meter Canon Tower in the Chinese city of Guangzhou, but still comes a distant second to the 828-meter Burj Dubai, although that is listed in the Guinness World Records as a building instead of a tower.

Prominent at Tuesday's opening events was Sorakara-chan, the official mascot for the Sky Tree.
According to the designer, Sorakara-chan is a girl with a star for a head and who came to Earth from another planet, from where she has seen the Sky Tree poking through the clouds with her favorite telescope.

Her dress replicates the criss-cross design of the struts of the tower and merchandising for Sorakara-chan - which can be translated literally as "Child From the Sky" - is already very much in evidence.


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