Experience This: Scale the Tokyo Sky Tree

By: Maxine Sheppard

April 20, 2012

The world’s tallest free-standing tower, and the second tallest structure in the world after Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, opens to the public on 22 May 2012.

At 634 metres high, Tokyo Sky Tree is essentially a broadcasting tower, and its main function is to improve radio and television transmissions in the metropolitan Tokyo area. However, the city is hoping that the two public observation decks, restaurants, shops and other facilities will turn the Sky Tree into Tokyo’s most sought-after new visitor experience.

Concept and design

The foot of the tower is triangular-shaped, based on the concept of a tripod; a design that minimises the effect of shadows on the surrounding environment. At the base, the tower is arched and shaped like three open gates, but gradually changes from triangular to cylindrical as it rises, with a central concrete shaft to withstand strong winds and earthquakes.


Tokyo Sky Tree © Solidarité505 on Flickr

Tokyo Sky Tree © Solidarité505 on Flickr

The first observation deck sits at 350 metres above ground and can be reached in 50 seconds via a glass-ceilinged elevator. The second deck, which features a dizzying glass floor, is a further 30 seconds away at 450 metres high. And there’s always the emergency staircase – all 2,523 steps of it – if you’re feeling particularly energetic.


Tokyo Sky Tree observation decks © Solidarité505 on Flickr

Tokyo Sky Tree observation decks © Solidarité505 on Flickr

The tower is painted in an original custom-designed colour, Sky Tree White, based on ajiro, a traditional Japanese colour for the lightest possible shade of indigo dye, chosen to express a classic Japanese sense of beauty. The tower will be illuminated at night by two different lighting designs based on Japanese aesthetic ideals and will alternate daily.


Where is the Sky Tree?

Tokyo Sky Tree is located in Sumida City Ward adjacent to Asakusa, one of the major and most popular tourist zones of Tokyo, and is accessible from two stations on four lines. The closest station is Oshiage, directly below the tower, served by the Tokyo Metro Hanzomon, Tobu Isesaki, Keisei Oshiage and Toei Asakusa lines.


Tokyo Sky Tree and city skyline © Atomark

Tokyo Sky Tree and city skyline © Atomark


Several of Tokyo’s most visited tourist attractions are nearby, including Kaminarimon Gate (or “Thunder Gate”), the outer entrance to Kinryuzan Sensoji Temple, the Edo-Tokyo Museum, and Kokugikan in Ryogoku, the largest sumo arena in Japan.

For more information, including access and opening hours please visit the Tokyo Sky Tree English language website.

Virgin Atlantic operates flights to Tokyo from London Heathrow.

Photos: header and tower shots © Solidarité505, skyline shot © Atomark.


Maxine Sheppard

Maxine is the co-editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.

Categories: Our Places