The novel “Gojunoto” (The Five-storied Pagoda) by Koda Rohan (1867-1947) is about an unyielding carpenter who takes pride in his craftsmanship, building a five-storied pagoda by himself.
Just before the dedication ceremony, the pagoda into which he put his heart and soul was hit by a violent storm. But it survived the battering unscathed. Its image somehow overlaps with Tokyo Skytree, which withstood last year’s Great East Japan Earthquake while it was still under construction.
A week after the earthquake, its height reached 634 meters. At a time when Japan was in chaos and spirits were somber, the news was a flicker of hope. I heard the design of Tokyo Skytree that was developed to enhance quake resistance was inspired by traditional architectural technology used for five-storied pagoda.
A pillar called the “shinbashira” stands at the center of a five-storied pagoda. Tokyo Skytree has a similar structure. In addition to earthquakes, it is designed to withstand violent winds with velocities up to 396 kph.
Koda, who lived in the neighborhood of the newly completed tower for a long time, must be happy looking down from heaven.
From its groundbreaking to its completion, the tower serenely and quietly kept reaching upward. The work was carried out by some of the nation's most talented professionals. I wish politicians would take a lesson from them.
The entire structure, including its foundation, lighting, painting and elevators, is said to be the fruit of Japan’s latest technology. When I think about the fundamental power of Japanese manufacturing, I am deeply moved.
In designing the tower, I hear care was taken so as not to make it look intimidating. Gigantic buildings tend to boast and symbolize national prestige and power.
The spirit of “miyabi” (elegance) and “iki” (chicness) embraced by residents of Edo (present-day Tokyo) befits the working-class neighborhood where the tower stands.
It was rainy in Tokyo on May 22, the day of the grand opening, as if the tower gave up good weather to the annular solar eclipse that occurred the day before. But when I looked up at the tower from its base, the sight of clouds moving past its upper half was quite fantastic.
I hope to accompany Tokyo Skytree as Japan moves toward a sunny future after the rain.
--The Asahi Shimbun, May 23
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