Tokyo Sky Tree: World’s Tallest Freestanding Tower To Open In May [PHOTOS]

By @MarkJohansonIBT on
  • Tokyo Sky Tree
    Tokyo Sky Tree, while under construction, tops the 600-metre (1,969-feet) mark in Tokyo March 1, 2011. Already the tallest stand-alone communications tower in the world, Tokyo Sky Tree now stands at 634 metres (2,080 feet) high upon. Reuters
  • Tokyo Sky Tree
    The 634-metre (2080-feet) Tokyo Sky Tree is seen in Tokyo before its completion the following day, in this photo taken by Kyodo on February 28, 2012. The world's tallest tower was completed on Wednesday, Kyodo reported. Reuters
  • Tokyo Sky Tree
    A photographer takes a picture of a view of the city of Tokyo from the first observatory deck during a press preview at Tokyo Sky Tree in Tokyo October 30, 2011. The Tokyo Sky Tree, which is under construction, will stand 634 metres (2,080 feet) high upon completion, and will be the tallest stand-alone communications tower in the world. The Tokyo Sky Tree's grand opening is on May 22, 2012. Reuters
  • Tokyo Sky Tree
    Photographers observe a panoramic view of the city of Tokyo from the first observatory deck during a media preview at Tokyo Sky Tree in Tokyo October 30, 2011. Reuters
  • Tokyo Sky Tree
    Tokyo skyscrapers are seen blurred from the first observatory deck of Tokyo Sky Tree in Tokyo October 30, 2011. The Tokyo Sky Tree, which is under construction, will stand 634 metres (2,080 feet) high upon completion, and will be the tallest stand-alone communications tower in the world. Reuters
  • Tokyo Sky Tree
    The 634-metre (2080-feet) Tokyo Sky Tree, world's tallest broadcasting tower, is illuminated by LED lights to to mourn victims of March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami and 1945's great Tokyo air raids during World War II in Tokyo March 10, 2012, a day before the disaster's one-year anniversary. The magnitude 9.0 earthquake on March 11 last year unleashed a tsunami that killed about 16,000 and triggered the world's worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl. About 326,000 people are still homeless and nearly 3,300 remain unaccounted for. Reuters
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The 2,080-foot Tokyo Sky Tree, branded as the world's tallest freestanding tower, rises just 640 feet shy of the world-record-holder for tallest building, Dubai's Burj Khalifa.

The world's second-highest building welcomed around 1,000 members of the media on Tuesday and will open to the general public on May 22. Its main attraction will be a restaurant and two observation decks, located at 1,150 feet and 1,475 feet above the Japanese capital.

Once you go up here, you will see the entire Tokyo region, Yoshihito Imamura, deputy manager of the Tokyo Sky Tree Town, told AFP. You will see the curvature of the earth.

The $800 million structure looms above the capital's upscale Sumida Ward and the 1,092-foot Tokyo Tower, built in 1958.

The needlelike radio and television tower was constructed with steel tubes surrounding a central concrete column. It takes just 50 seconds in a high-speed elevator to arrive at the lower observation deck and another 30 seconds to the top deck. A trip down the emergency staircase, however, involves 2,523 steps.

Tokyo's tourism bureau hopes the Sky Tree will be a big draw for foreign tourists, whose numbers plummeted in the aftermath of last year's disastrous earthquake and tsunami.

Earlier this year, the University of Tokyo's Earthquake Research Institute said the Japanese metropolis, which sits at the intersection of four tectonic plates, has a 50 percent chance of suffering a major earthquake in the next four years. Engineers, however, have promised that the Sky Tree was constructed with state-of-the-art technology and will survive the worst of Mother Nature.

Though tourism officials see the structure as a potential draw, the exorbitant entrance fee may keep people away. Tickets to go to the highest accessible point in the world's tallest freestanding broadcast tower will cost a steep $37.50.

Prices at the gift shop are said to be equally dear. The Sky Tree Shop will sell around 600 high-priced items ranging from food and beverages to towels, mugs, and pens holders. Many of the trinkets will sport the Sky Tree's mascot, Sorakara, said to be a young girl with a star-shaped head who descended from the skies to Tokyo Sky Tree.

Six nearby hotels will offer visits to the lower observation deck in combination with a room reservation in an effort to ramp up tourism. Three of them have been branded Tokyo Sky Tree Official Hotels, while the other three are called Tokyo Sky Tree Friendship Hotels.

Local reports indicate that, despite the cost, ticket sales remain high. There have already been 600,000 group tickets created in preparation for the opening weeks, while individual sales have surpassed 140,000.

Press Start to have a look at Tokyo's new vertigo-inducing tourist attraction.

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