Tokyo Tower is a communications and observation tower located in Shiba Park, Minato, Tokyo, Japan. At 332.5 metres (1,091 ft), it is the tallest self-supporting steel structure in the world and the tallest artificial structure in Japan. The structure is an Eiffel Tower-inspired lattice tower that is painted white and international orange to comply with air safety regulations.
Built in 1958, the tower's main sources of revenue are tourism and antenna leasing. Over 150 million people have visited the tower since its opening. FootTown, a 4-story building located directly under the tower, houses museums, restaurants and shops. Departing from here, guests can visit two observation decks. The 2-story Main Observatory is located at 150 meters (492 ft), while the smaller Special Observatory reaches a height of 250 meters (820 ft).
The tower acts as a support structure for an antenna. Originally intended for television broadcasting, radio antennas were installed in 1961 and the tower is now used to broadcast both signals for Japanese media outlets such as NHK, TBS and Fuji TV. Japan's planned switch from analog to digital for all television broadcasting by July 2011 is problematic, however. Tokyo Tower's current height is not high enough to adequately support complete terrestrial digital broadcasting to the area. A taller digital broadcasting tower known as Tokyo Sky Tree is currently planned to open in 2011.
A large broadcasting tower was needed in the Kanto region after NHK, Japan's public broadcasting station, began television broadcasting in 1953. Private broadcasting companies began operating in the months following the construction of NHK's own transmission tower. This communications boom led the Japanese government to believe that transmission towers would soon be built all over Tokyo, eventually overrunning the city. The proposed solution was the construction of one large tower capable of transmitting to the entire region. Furthermore, because of the country's postwar boom in the 1950s, Japan was searching for a monument to symbolize its ascendancy as a global economic powerhouse.
Hisakichi Maeda, founder and president of Nippon Denpatou, the tower's owner and operator, originally planned for the tower to be taller than the Empire State Building, which at 381 meters was the highest structure in the world. However, the plan fell through because of the lack of both funds and materials. The tower's height was eventually determined by the distance the TV stations needed to transmit throughout the Kanto region, a distance of about 150 kilometers (93 mi). Tachuu Naitou, renowned designer of tall buildings in Japan, was chosen to design the newly proposed tower. Looking to the Western world for inspiration, Naitou based his design on the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. With the help of engineering company Nikken Sekkei Ltd., Naitou claimed his design could withstand earthquakes with twice the intensity of the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake or typhoons with wind speeds of up to 220 kilometres per hour (140 mph).
The new construction project attracted hundreds of tobi, traditional Japanese construction workers who specialized in the construction of high-rise structures. The Takenaka Corporation broke ground in June 1957 and each day at least 400 laborers worked on the tower. It was constructed of steel, a third of which was scrap metal taken from US tanks damaged in the Korean War. When the 90-meter antenna was bolted into place on October 14, 1958, Tokyo Tower was the tallest freestanding tower in the world, taking the title from the Eiffel Tower by 13 meters. Despite being taller than the Eiffel Tower, Tokyo Tower only weighs about 4,000 tons, 3,300 tons less than the Eiffel Tower. While other towers have since surpassed Tokyo Tower's height, the structure is still the tallest self-supporting steel structure in the world and the tallest artificial structure in Japan. It was opened to the public on December 23, 1958 at a final cost of ￥2.8 billion (＄8.4 million in 1958). Tokyo Tower was mortgaged for ￥10 billion in 2000.