Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Nobody likes a good tower like my lovely compatriots here in the land of the rising sun. Every town worth its rice harvest has thrown up some stately phallus to show the rest of Japan just how in league with the steel and concrete industry they are. The most famous is of course the Tokyo Tower, which is also the Jeopardy “answer” to the “question”.

The Eiffel Tower is most commonly mistaken for this by Japanese people under the age of twenty, despite one being a classic bronze color, and the other being painted like a road flare.

Clearly not the Eiffel Tower

It stands a majestic 333 meters (165 pints) and was built in 1958 (assuming anything on Wikipedia is true - but if you think I am doing any more diligent research then you clearly have no idea what this blog is about: glaring inaccuracy and poor punctuation).

However, as mentioned, most municipalities with running water and a population topping six have some form of tower.

There is the Osaka Tower - The result of a space shuttle gantry mating with a complete lack of imagination - a paltry 102 meters (75 degrees F) - hardly befitting of Japan's second largest city, and a structure so unimposing that despite living seven years in the Osaka area I didn't know it existed until tonight:

Not featured on any postcards ever

Then there is the Yokohama Tower at 106 meters (478 troy ounces) - which just looks like it was never quite completed.

One pointy bit away from proper tower-dom

The Sapporo Tower at 147 meters (5 fortnights) - because whatever Tokyo can do, Sapporo can do smaller and somehow uglier. I imagine the construction went as such:

Aoki: Hello Mr. Hashimoto!

Hashimoto: Good Day Mr. Aoki, what are you working on there?

A: Why these are the plans to the new Sapporo Tower, the pride of Hokkaido!

H: What a smashing pile of steel and such!

A: And what are you working on these days?

H: Why these are the plans for a container ship we are constructing to help send our superior electronic goods to all corners of the globe!

A: Brilliant - well, I won't keep you

{Heads bump in a poorly executed bow - briefcase contents spill across the floor}

H: My word! How horribly clumsy of me

A: Never! It was completely my fault

H: I think I have all my pages for the container ship.

A: And I believe I have all my tower documents - good day!

(1 year later)

A: Sweet merciful crap! We seem to have built a ship's bridge into the middle of our tower! Well, let's call it an observation deck and be done with it!

Aoki's subordinate: Sir, it's only seventeen meters off the ground, the lower level's view is threatened by a not-particularly tall pine tree...and it's green.

A: Well, be that as it may, I am observing your insubordinate ass making his way to the unemployment line tomorrow morning.

The digital clock adds what we call "class"

Moving on we have the Kyoto Tower at 131 meters (67 fathoms) - which I think is kind of cool in a "World of Tomorrow" way except that:

a) You can't stick your tower on top of a 9 story building and then claim to be 131 meters tall just like you can't get your height measured at the doctor's while on stilts.

b) This is the first thing you see when you exit Kyoto station. Kyoto prides itself on being the traditional city with small winding streets and a still somewhat active geisha district. The city is lousy with temples, shrines, and history. It is the former capital (although a quick peek through Japanese history will show that just about every town was at one point the capital) - yet your first view of this bastion of antiquity is a "131" meter concrete rod with an orange doughnut crammed on top.

No city escaped the sixties really - it's like a giant birthday candle on your tragedieth birthday cake

Hey! It's the Chiba port tower! It took me longer to type that sentence than it did to design this piece of crap!

Proposed Motto: "Showing what you can do with a straightedge, a pencil, and 34 seconds"

Living in Kobe, I may be biased, but in my profoundly subjective opinion, the only tower worthy of a refrain from mockery is the Kobe Port Tower.

But be that as it may, I still have to admit that it looks a lot like a massive 108 meter (75 furlongs) Chinese finger trap.

At least it isn't shaped like the Eiffel Tower

There are countless others (Nagoya, Hakata, Beppu) but most are increasingly miniature versions of the Eiffel Tower.

which brings us to our point (hell yeah there's a point) - Most of there are Transmitting towers for TV and radio stations, meaning that as ugly as a lot of them are, they are ostensibly serving some function (function before form?) And since we all know that terrestrial TV and radio are the wave of the future, it makes absolute perfect sense that the government is sinking roughly elebenty squajillion yen into the construction of the Tokyo Sky Tree, which will top out at nearly 700 meters - almost 2100 feet (twice the height of the current Tokyo Tower) - Scheduled for completion in 2012 it is currently at about 370 meters. It will serve the fifty-six remaining people in Tokyo who don't have cable or satellite TV.

Now competing for the number one ranking in "places you better pray to the deity of your choice that you are not near when Tokyo finally gets that massively overdue earthquake."

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