Thursday, November 10, 2016

on top of Tokyo

Tokyo is a huge city. But I noticed that it doesn't feel as cramped as San Francisco or Sydney. I wondered quite a bit about it and then I realised that maybe it's either of two reasons: (1) because I am now used to seeing skyscrapers (and the first time I saw them in Hong Kong was a disconcerting experience); and/or (2) because the buildings were not so high or were not so close together. My impression was that Tokyo's skyline was as crowded as Brisbane or Los Angeles... or even Makati CBD: not too claustrophobic when seen from a distance, despite the lack of space.

I also wanted to see what Tokyo looked like from high above so I opted to go to Tokyo Sky Tree, said to be the tallest structure in Tokyo AND the tallest tower in the world. It did take me an hour because I got lost somewhere in in the Okachimachi area of the Taito district of Tokyo. When I arrived in the Skytree area, I barely had an hour left before the tower closed down for the night.

I got lucky though because the queue was virtually non-existent. It took me less than five minutes to get a ticket and finally be in the lift to go up the Sky Tree!

As the elevator was ascending, I was surprised to see the speed of the ascent: we were traveling at 600m/min. That translates to 36 kph; definitely not that fast on the road. But this was going up a tower... against gravity! and unlike regular elevators that feel rickety and clumsy, the Sky Tree's elevator was silent. If it weren't for my ears popping, I wouldn't believe that I was actually moving.

The elevator's first stop was the Tembo Deck (350m above ground). But I wanted to see what Tokyo looks like from the topmost observation deck for tourists so I took another elevator (which costs extra) and "flew"another 95m to the Tembo Galleria (445m above ground). Yes, I was almost half a kilometer away from the surface of the Earth. That's nothing compared to the Everest base camp, of course, but still... I was in a tall narrow building on one of the most earthquake-prone countries on the planet, looking at the city below.

I have to admit, the view was not that impressive. I was just too high up! Everything at 445m looked like dots of light. But it was fascinating to watch the tiny cars drive by on the tiny roads and bridges that traverse the tiny rivers. The skyscrapers all looked puny too. Whoever said that people who think very highly of themselves eventually get a perverse view of the world probably haven't seen the view from here. There is nothing to see from this extreme... unless you've equipped yourself with a pair of binoculars, of course.

And so I opted to go back to the lower observation deck, where I expected to have a better perspective of this Japanese metropolis. And the view from this height did not disappoint. It was better than the view at 445m!

Finally, I could see a bit more detail. I could easily recognise Daiba because of the giant Ferris wheel next to the coast. I could also readily see the red Tokyo Tower. Too bad my iPhone wasn't up to the challenge to take good nighttime images of the city. It's just beyond it's capacity! No biggie. I'm sure I'll be back here someday. Then, I'll have a better camera.