After the death of analog, whither Tokyo Tower?

July 27th, 2011 by Philip Brasor & Masako Tsubuku

As everybody by now knows, Sunday, July 24 marked the end of analog TV broadcasts in Japan. However, the capital’s new broadcast tower, Tokyo Sky Tree, won’t begin sending out digital signals until May 12 next year, which means the iconic Tokyo Tower still has a reason to exist until then. The big question is: Will it have a reason afterwards?

Hey, don't forget me!

According to Tokyo Shimbun, the operators of Tokyo Tower lobbied the key broadcast companies to retain some of their business after Tokyo Sky Tree itself becomes operational. However, all six TV networks have decided to move their broadcast functions to TST. In terms of broadcasting, Tokyo Tower will remain a backup facility in the very unlikely event that TST is down. This will be a big blow to Tokyo Tower. Its revenues in 2010 amounted to ¥5.48 billion — ¥2.9 billion for tourism and ¥2.58 for renting out broadcast functions to TV and FM radio stations.

With the broadcast functions gone, Tokyo Tower will have to rely almost completely on tourism for its income; that and cutting expenses. And even there, TST had the advantage of being newer and taller. It opens to the public on May 22, and Tobu, the main investor, projects a whopping 25 million visitors in the first year. Tokyo Tower’s peak tourist year was 1989, when 3.8 million people visited. Afterwards, attendance dropped to a bit over 2 million by the turn of the century, and then the management implemented an image makeover that included live performances and special events. Attendance creeped up to about 3 million by 2006.

That, in fact, seems to be the strategy. Rather than compete with TST for out-of-towners, Tokyo Tower will makes its appeal to Tokyoites, whom the management hopes will look at the iconic structure with both nostalgia and a sense of permanence. Construction of Tokyo Tower started in 1956 from discarded armaments used in the Korean War, and represents to many Japan’s emergence from its darkest period. Another advantage Tokyo Tower will have over the younger upstart is pricing. Total costs of the Tokyo Sky Tree is estimated at ¥65 billion, and the price of a ticket to the main observatory will be ¥3,000 for adults. Tokyo Tower only charges ¥600 just to get to the top, and ¥1,420 to go to both observatory stations. Will that make a difference? Apparently, the insurance company Daiichi Seimei thinks so. According to a study the company carried out, it projects only 3 million visitors a year will come to TST, the same as Tokyo Tower now.

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7 Responses

  1. where will Mothra build her cocoon now?

  2. I hope the tower remains a part of Tokyo’s skyline because it seems to me like a part of the city’s identity. I’m an out-of-towner myself (Mexican, actually) and I remember the tower being in practically every shot of the city since I can remember. To me it represents Japan’s industriousness, and perhaps even the city of Tokyo itself. I don’t want to miss this landmark!

    My best regards to Japan! :)

  3. Sky Tree…sigh. Katakana names hurt my eyes. Were all the good kanji already taken?

  4. It will always be an iconic feature that Godzilla destroyed in almost every movie.

  5. The same is true for the Nagoya TV Tower. Built 5 years earlier than Tokyo Tower and to a similar design, its main income was from analog TV, plus tourism. TV income is now gone, so it is struggling financially. As a symbol of Nagoya, and located right in the center of the city, one can expect it to remain, although it is unclear who will pay for it.

  6. I hope i get to Tokyo and see it live before it will be teared down!

  7. It will still be here. There are no plans to tear it down.

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