Call out to the World from Downtown Landmarks


“Ryounkaku (Asakusa Twelve-Stories)”/ On Collection at the Edo-Tokyo Museum

The Ryounkaku in Asakusa and the History of High-Rise Views
A working-class area since antiquity, the ward of Asakusa was divided into six wards during the Meiji era, with Asakusa Park built around Senso-ji Temple. Among these, the sixth ward, with its playhouses and moving picture theaters, turned into a festive entertainment area. In 1890, a twelve-story brick building with an octagonal observation deck called the Ryounkaku (also known as the Asakusa Twelve-Stories) was built outside the sixth ward. In One Day Outings Around Tokyo, literary master Katai Tayama writes, “In fact, the observatory deck on the twelfth floor offers a natural panorama. It is definitely worth visiting at least once,” extolling the view from the observatory deck. Also famous for having the first electric elevator in Japan, this building delighted many until its collapse in the Great Kanto Earthquake.
European-Style Social Gatherings at the Rokumeikan, a Symbol of the New Era
As Edo was renamed Tokyo, it was necessary to have Western countries recognize Japan’s progress as well as promote a policy of Westernization among the Japanese upper class. For this reason, the Western-Style Rokumeikan, designed by the eminent English architect Conder, was built as a place for social gatherings on the remains of a former Satsuma clan residence in Uchisaiwaicho. After its completion in 1883, receptions and balls for state guests were hosted nearly every day until it was sold off in 1889. Afterward, it was used as a royal peerage hall and a private office until it was demolished in 1941. The Rokumeikan stood as a symbol of several buildings built using European architectural styles in Tokyo at the time. South of the Imperial Hotel Tokyo, a plaque dedicated to the Rokumeikan quietly remains.

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Tokyo Skytree®︎and Tokyo Tower: Two Observatory Towers, Old and New
While skyscrapers have been sprouting up all over modern Tokyo since Japan’s post-war economic boom, the most famous landmarks among these would have to be Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Skytree®. While both were built as television broadcast towers, they are also famous as observatories. Tokyo Tower was completed in 1958. 333 meters high and built on high ground (20 meters in altitude), Tokyo Tower is a familiar symbol of Tokyo for many. Following the digitization of television broadcasting, Tokyo Skytree®︎ was built in downtown Tokyo near the Sumida River in 2012 as a new radio tower. It has a height of 634 meters (which can be read “Musashi” in Japanese) after the name of the kingdom Tokyo once belonged to, and it serves as the new symbol of Tokyo – following Tokyo Tower – as the world’s highest free-standing iron tower (at the time of completion). Guests can take in sprawling views of Tokyo Bay and the Boso Peninsula from the Tembo Galleria, located inside the tower at a height of 450 meters, and at night the tower lights up the skies of Tokyo with illuminations tailored to the season and special events.