Sky Tree

View across Tokyo towards Sky Tree as the sun drops lower

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マンションの廊下から見えるスカイツリーの景色が大好きです。密度の濃い都市生活はワクワクさせてくれます。

I love this view of Tokyo from the window next to our elevator. Tokyo is at once dense and variegated, with a mix of two story residential buildings and ten story mid-rises, the towers of Higashi Nakano and Nakano Sakaue, and in the far distance, Sky Tree.

Sky Tree, the view from below and from up top

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日立さんのおかげで、やっとスカイツリーに登ることができました。構造と景色がすばらしいです。夕暮れのときがおすすめです。

Hitachi recently invited me to visit Sky Tree this summer. I’d delayed visiting because it seems far away from where we live, and because of the long lines. Seeing it complete, however, is very impressive with its exposed structure and unbelievable city views. I recommend going at twilight when the sunlight is dramatic, and then slowly the city lights up as the sky darkens.

Hitachi is responsible for the elevator between the first and the top observatory decks. In addition to its large capacity, the elevator ascends very quickly and is thus a showcase for Hitachi’s latest technologies. I was surprised to learn that when it is windy, this upper elevator is often closed for passenger safety.

I loved seeing the bay, the Sumida River, Marunouchi and in the distance Shinjuku.

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A clan assembles in front of Sky Tree in an Asakusa side street

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スカイツリーの前に、人が集まっています。御神輿は時代を通して変わらない儀式なようです。

Alongside the worship of local dieties, who are physically carried through the streets, Tokyo matsuris bring clans together and express group identity with matching jackets. Sky Tree in the background provides a contemporary marker to what feels like a timeless ritual .

Sky Tree at night, with willow tree in foreground

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浅草から、柳とスカイツリーが一緒に見えます。

Viewed from Asakusa, not only is Sky Tree bigger, but you can see more details of the lighting scheme.  From Nakano, you hardly notice the blue light, and the more subtle red trim. I also like how the willow references Tokyo’s Edo past, and Sky Tree, although newly built, appears to be a 1960s’ vision of the future.

Sky Tree viewed from Sumida River with Still City

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隅田川から見えるスカイツリーは、とても大きいですね。オランダの「Still City』のワークショップのツアーで。

This photo from the banks of the Sumida, in Asakusa, is my favorite from the Still City workshop on post-growth urban life. With A Small Lab’s Chris Berthelsen, 27 of us explored Tokyo by water.

Layers of new and old, luxury and public, with a telephone booth!

東京では、いつもどこかが工事をしています。辰巳団地から、たくさんの重なる層が見えます。背景に、スカイツリーとヘリポートがある高級マンション。前景には、団地や電話ボックス。

Tokyo is a city always being re-built. In this frame, you see the telephone booth in the midst of street repair, the 1960s Bauhaus-style public housing called “danchi,” and in the distance Sky Tree and a recent luxury tower with heliport. I am fascinated by the heliports on the new luxury towers by the waterfront. Are they a requirement for safety? Or a marketing tool for real estate companies? Should the 99% without access to heliports be concerned?

Sumida river sparkles at night. Is Tokyo best experienced by dark?

日中より、夜の東京のほうがきれいですね。国技館を出て、橋を渡るときに見える隅田川や神田川やスカイツリーはロマンチックな感じがあります。

Tokyo looks more magical at night. Walking across the Sumida River after seeing a sumo tournament, we admired the retro modern view of the bridges, elevated freeways, railway tracks, and inky black river. Even Sky Tree, the latest addition to this skyline, projects a futuristic image that is oddly familiar.

The green neon marks the Kanda river’s last bridge before joining the Sumida river. This river starts at Inokashira park in Kichijoji, west of where we live and winds for 26 kilometers before joining the Sumida and flowing into Tokyo Bay. A few years ago, I co-wrote an article about the Kanda river’s history and potential for new urbanism in Tokyo. You can download the 6 MB document in PDF form here.

At the bottom, you can see that there are still pleasure boats parked at the bottom of the Kanda for river dining and drinking. I’ve never been on these smaller boats.

Timber dock in Koto-ku, with view of Sky Tree and jumping fish

江東区の貯木場は素敵だと思います。飛び跳ねる魚やスカイツリーが背景に見えます。この橋は電車しか走りません。

This wide stretch of water, between the Tokyo Bay and the Sunamachi canal, was originally used in Edo times as a timber dock. Now it includes a bridge for trains and features fish that spend the summer jumping out of the water. In the distance, you can see Sky Tree. View from Tatsumi International Swimming Center.

Did anyone see Sky Tree lit up for the new year?

大みそかにスカイツリーは特別な照明をつけました。観れなくて残念だったけれど、マザちゃんという写真家のブログにこのきれいなイーメジが載りました。

am sorry I didn’t see Sky Tree lit up for one of the first times this new year’s eve. Fortunately, the fantastic photographer and blogger Muza Chan shared this lovely image.

Sky Tree is almost finished

スカイツリーはほとんど出来上がりました。英語をしゃべる人にこの片仮名の名前はちょっと変です。錦糸町駅で写真をとりました。

Sky Tree, Tokyo’s tallest landmark, will be finished at the end of this year, and opening next spring. In Japanese it’s pronounced Sukai Tsurii. This is the view from Kinshichou station just south of the tower.

Sky Tree rises above Tokyo skyline

「東京スカイツリー」は日本語英語です。ネイティブにはこの名前はちょっと変です。もう遠くにスカイツリーが見える。ところで、この写真の中で、本当の木はどこですか?

Tokyo Sky Tree is rising on the eastern side of Tokyo. As the new digital television tower, it replaces Tokyo Tower as a symbol of “new” Tokyo. It’s scheduled for completion at the end of this year, and is already visible across Tokyo. In this picture, you can see Nakano Sakaue on the right and Sky Tree in the center.

The Japanese name for Sky Tree sounds funny in English, with two syllables becoming five unrecognizable ones. It’s スカイツリー, or Su-ka-i Tsu-rii. Japanese English is truly its own language. It’s also funny that they chose to use “tree” as a metaphor for this giant tower. In this view from here to there, across Tokyo, there are very few if any trees, green walls or roofs.

Tokyu Hospital covered in vines and plants

The Tokyu Hospital building in Ookayama is truly stunning. I blogged about it last fall, when I noticed that the Tokyu rail/construction/retail conglomerate was advertising “we do eco” in the Tokyo Metro. Seeing the hospital in person exceeded my expectations: a huge building on top of a rail station and enveloped in plant life that will only become more attractive over time as the plants mature.

In addition to the two large facades with vines climbing the height of the building on tension wires, another side has deep balconies that are lushly planted. The landscape is meant to promote healing for the patients who can see and access the balconies from their rooms. I imagine it is also calming for visitors and workers, plus it makes an amazing contribution to the neighborhood and all the people using the rail station.

I would love to see the landscape from the inside of the hospital, and to learn more about the plant selection of this fantastic vertical garden.

Between reading about this project and seeing it recently, I was also very fortunate to meet Tokyu Hospital’s landscape designer, Hiraga Tatsuya (平賀 達也). After working at Japan’s largest architecture firm Nikken Sekkei, designers of Tokyo’s new Sky Tree, Hiraga-san now runs his own successful landscape architecture firm called Landscape Plus.

Alongside institutional and private projects, Hiraga-san contributed to Ando Tadao’s master plan calling for a new Sea Forest in Tokyo Bay (Umi no Mori or 海の森) linked to a network of old and new green spaces that would improve wind circulation throughout Tokyo. This was part of Tokyo’s failed bid for the 2016 Olympics.

Speaking with Hiraga-san, I was very impressed by his vision that an individual site design’s performance and aesthetics are improved when it responds to its context. Hiraga-san also told me about his love for Tokyo’s hills and soil.

It seems very courageous that he has created his own practice despite the poor economy for architects in general, and also Japan’s still limited understanding of the value of landscape architecture. I wish him great success, since I am certain that Tokyo as a city will continue to benefit from his projects.

Shitamachi walk before new year

Before the new year, I took a walk with Alastair Townsend, an American architect in Tokyo, from Yanaka to the new Sky Tree in Mukojima. Above is a sushi restaurant in Kiyokawa, a mostly desolate stretch in the middle of the walk. I was impressed how the shop owners created such a dense jungle in the small space between the restaurant and the sidewalk. The variety and density are magnificent, and it is only with careful observation can you observe the plastic pots supporting this small forest, and the chain link fence buried many years ago in plants.

After the jump, some more images including a decorative rope and bamboo structure covering a sculpted pine tree, the contrast between old and new houses, a residential orange and bonsai persimmon, a pygmy date palm that survives the Tokyo winter, and the oddly named “Sky Tree.”

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