Coming from rural Devon, where buildings of any size are a tourist attraction, I am not used to monster skyscrapers. Only quite recently did I learn the difference between an escalator and an elevator and I still don`t know the difference between the ground floor and the first floor.
Tokyo has been tall for a while though, and for many years, Asakusa had the tallest: the 12 Storey Tower pictured below (12 storeys are equal to roughly 8 to 16 floors).
69 metres high and built of brick in 1890, it was designed by a British architect (in hindsight, that was probably a mistake).
It was a lively and much-loved tourist attraction, holding art exhibitions, displaying geisha photos and introducing all sorts of foreign novelties – like Japan`s first elevator. From the observation tower at the top (the 13th floor?) you could see all across Tokyo to Mount Fuji (3,776.24metres 0 Storeys).
Tourists were on the observation deck on a summer afternoon when the huge Kanto earthquake struck in 1923. Although the tower just about kept upright, the top floors were decapitated and Army engineers blew the rest of the building up a few days later.
The loss of the 12 Storey was insignificant when compared to damage done to the rest of the city, but the desire for very highness has not gone away. Near Asakusa right now a new tower is being built almost ten times higher than the 12 Storey.
Ryounkaku after the quake.
The Skytree tower when finished next year will be 634 metres tall; that`s equal to….erm….alot of……. storeys/floors – whatever you want to call them. The Skytree has two big advantages over the 12 Storey though: firstly, it`s not made of brick; secondly, no British architects have been involved.
If worst comes to the worst, and a big quake does hit Tokyo, hopefully it can sway like this Shinjuku skyscraper did.
Tokyo Skytree, April 2011.