Friday, March 13, 2015

Photo Friday! フォト金曜日!(ノ^▽^)ノ*:・゚✧

フォト金曜日!Photo Friday!

Every Friday here at, I'm going to be posting a picture I took in Japan. I'm not a professional photographer by any means--I took them with my iPhone!--but I hope my pictures will help bring my stories and experiences to life. I'm particularly excited about this week's photo, as I took it two years ago today (!) during my first visit to Japan. This being the inaugural Photo Friday, it seemed appropriate to choose an extra touristy one; indeed, this famous landmark was one of the first places I visited in Tokyo:

東京タワー : Tokyo Tower
This is a picture I took of Tokyo Tower, one of many Japanese tributes to France and its culture. Open since 1958, it has also become an icon of Japanese culture in its own right: Tokyo Tower has its own mascots (Conehead-esque brothers named Noppon); its own emoji (no, that's not a red and white Eiffel Tower on your phone!); and has appeared in countless anime, manga, TV shows, and movies. Located in Tokyo's Shiba-koen district in Minato, it's used to broadcast radio and TV signals, and also offers breathtaking vistas of the sprawling city below. On a clear day, Mount Fuji (roughly 135 kilometers, or 80 miles away) can be seen from the tower's observation decks. Under the tower is Foot Town, a department store of sorts--after all, it wouldn't be Tokyo without shopping!--offering souvenir shops, restaurants and cafes, a convenience store, an aquarium, an amusement park, and other tourist attractions.

Admittance to the upper reaches of the tower is granted upon paying an entrance fee to access the level of one's choice: at the time of writing, adult fees are 900 yen for the Main Observatory, 150 meters high; 700 yen for the Special Observatory, 250 meters high; or 1,600 yen for both levels. Speedy elevators are available, but ambitious visitors can choose to climb more than 600 steps from Foot Town's roof to reach the Main Observatory.

For tourists unafraid of heights, Lookdown Window is located on the Main Observatory's first floor, and it's exactly what it sounds like: it's a pane of glass laid in the floor, offering a view of the ground from around 48 stories up. (I wasn't brave enough to stand on it, but that's actually encouraged; Tokyo Tower's own website even dares you to "jump as high as you can" on it. Pass!) If the thrill of Lookdown Window is a little too much for you, find peace on the second floor of the Main Observatory; it houses the Great Shinto Shrine of the Tower, the "tallest" shrine in Tokyo, where people come to pray for success with love and school.

At night, Tokyo Tower is certainly hard to miss: not only is it the second highest structure in Tokyo (surpassed only by the newer communications tower, Tokyo Skytree, in Sumida), but depending on the month, holiday, or season, it's illuminated with a variety of lighting effects. While walking from our Tamachi hotel to midnight mass at St. Alban's Episcopal Church in Minato this past Christmas Eve, we were treated to a gorgeous view of the tower lit in whites, blues, and reds with a heart icon on the side of the observation deck; a few days later, we got to see "2015" illuminated on the tower in honor of the new year.

Is it a tourist trap? Well, yes, a bit. But visiting Tokyo Tower should be one of your first stops in Tokyo--not just because it's a famous sightseeing spot, but because it's a great introduction to Japanese culture. Seeing the city from such a high vantage point helps you appreciate just how huge Tokyo really is, making you realize that you're not in Kansas Indiana anymore.

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