Tokyo Skytree thronged with visitors at grand opening

May 22, 2012

Japan's newest landmark, the Tokyo Skytree, had its grand opening May 22 and thousands thronged to catch spectacular views of the capital from the world's tallest free-standing structure.

Such was the rush that a shopping complex at the base of the 634-meter tower in Sumida Ward opened 20 minutes ahead of schedule.

Despite rain and cloudy weather, the crowd kept growing.

The banging of Japanese "taiko" drums kicked off the opening ceremony.

Baseball legend Sadaharu Oh was among those who took part in the ribbon-cutting.

"As someone who was born in Sumida Ward, there is nothing that makes me happier," Oh said in his remarks. "I believe all of my friends are also very happy."

This marvel of engineering and technological innovation eclipses the 332.5-meter Tokyo Tower, an icon in Minato Ward that was completed in 1958.

The first person to arrive on the first observation deck at 350 meters was Ayumi Nakazawa, 42, and her junior high school student son, Kenta, 12.

Nakazawa, who lives in Saitama Prefecture neighboring Tokyo, was chosen for the honor of being the first one up from among those who voted for Skytree as the name for the structure.

The stunning views were ruined by the poor weather. Even the base of the tower was barely visible from up high.

Even so, Nakazawa said she felt moved by the experience as "I had looked forward to this for such a long time."

Regular visitors were allowed up to the observation deck from midday. Only about 8,000 lucky individuals who had obtained reservations for the first day were being allowed to access the first observation deck. The first people in line arrived around 4 a.m.

Due to expected congestion at the observation deck, only those with reservations will be allowed in during the first 50 days. There were 335 as many applicants as slots available for the time period immediately after the official opening.

The Tokyo Skytree has a second observation deck at 450 meters. The Tokyo Solamachi complex at the base of the tower has restaurants, a shopping mall, an aquarium and a planetarium. An estimated 5,000 people formed lines before the opening.

Organizers are expecting 5.4 million visitors to the Tokyo Skytree and 32 million people to the entire complex in the first year.

(This article was written by Kazuhisa Kurokawa and Kenji Katayama.)

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Some of the first visitors to the observation deck at Tokyo Skytree on May 22 (Satoru Sekiguchi)

Some of the first visitors to the observation deck at Tokyo Skytree on May 22 (Satoru Sekiguchi)

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  • Some of the first visitors to the observation deck at Tokyo Skytree on May 22 (Satoru Sekiguchi)
  • Thousands of visitors converge on the Tokyo Skytree complex on May 22 for the grand opening. (Naoko Kawamura)
  • Many visitors rush to the Tokyo Solamachi shopping complex at the base of Tokyo Skytree on May 22. (Kazuhiro Nagashima)

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