Category Archives: Architektur

The Obsession “Eiffel Tower” (Part 2)

Not every radio tower looks like the Eiffel Tower. But one rule is sure: Every major city has a radio tower.

Kobe-Port-Tower (神戸ポートタワ)
height 108m, viewing platform at 90.3m; opened in 1963

Kobe Port Tower is not a radio tower, but shall be mentioned here too. He opened in 1963 and is located in the Merikan-Park, an old harbour area of Kobe. The steel construction has a hyperbolic shape and resembles the Canton Tower in China a little bit. The tower is 108m high and has an obervation deck at 90,3m. The red steel is illuminated at nights and gives a nice constrast to the also illuminated roof of the aquarium next to it.

Tsutenkaku Tower (通天閣)
height 103m, observation deck at 84/87m; architect: Tachū Naitō; opened in 1956

The tower is for sure and forever the landmark of Oosaka, no, of the whole Kansai area. No mange/anime playing in Oosaka without a reference to the Tsūtenkaku Tower. That by the way can be translated as “Heaven reaching tower”. He is located in Naniwa district close to the station Shin-Imamiya.

The current tower, opened in 1956, is the second tower of Oosaka. The first tower was opened in 1912 but burned down in 1943 and was demolished. This first tower really resembled the Eifffel Tower in Paris but was much smaller, and still the second highest building in Japan. You can say that this first tower is original and all other existing tower are only a copy. The second tower has a diffrent design. It has a eight edged ground shape and neon advertisement for Hitachi mounted to it. There are also two lights at the top that serve as a weather forecast. But the Tsutenkaku Tower has also something in common: the architect Tachū Naitō.

On the fifth floor Billiken is enshrined. This is a Goddess of Happiness or “things as they ought to be” from Amerika(!). It is an import. I still don’t get this thing. But, Billiken seems to be a big number around the tower. Billiken is connected to Tsutenkaku Tower since the opening of the Luna Park in 1910. He got lost in 1923 when the park closed down. A copy was built in 1979 by old pictures.

[Small note on a personal matter: Tsutenkaku Tower is the only tower I ever visited the observation deck. This was on my first journey in 2004 … Added in 2012: I have to add the Sky Tree to this list. But this is a different story and I wouldn’t put the Sky Tree on to the list of the classical radio towers.]

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The Obsession “Eiffel Tower”

Siegmund would have it’s own explaination for the fact, that there is an Eiffel tower in every major city in Japan. You cannot imagine a big city without it. Radio towers are everywhere in Japan. But you cannot image a big japanese city without at least one special radio tower. This one will have a viewing platform and a shape like the Eiffel tower in Paris. The mother of all towers is Tower Tower, even if it was one of the last towers, that was built. Tokyo Tower is 333m high and it really lookes like the Eiffel Tower. But it is 9m higher and totally orange. It was built in 1958 and became the landmark of the city and still is the 3rd highest tower built of steel.

Tokyo Tower

height 332,6m, observation deck at 150m and 250m; architect: Tachū Naitō, opened 1958

He is one of the highest buildings in Tokyo and was the highest radio tower until 2012. At this year the Sky Tree with an height of 634m was opened. He has the potential to succed in beein the landmark of the whole city. It’s design is unique. He represents the Tokyo of the 21st century and will get it’s own blog entry.

Tokyo Tower is 9m higher than the original but only half the weight (4000 tons). But why built it out of steel and not concrete. In the 50ies they decided for steel because it is more stable in the fact of an earthquake. If you use steel it is obvious to decide for a similar shape like the Eiffel tower, that became the blue print for steel towers.

The family

Tokyo Tower is only one of several towers built in the 50ies. Tokyo Tower is just the biggest one. Here is family (the part of it I already visited). You can see the similarity. They were all designed by the architect Tachū Naitō and have a viewing platform.

Sapporo TV Tower (さっぽろテレビ塔)
height 147,2m, observation deck at 90.4m; architect: Tachū Naitō, opened in 1957

Sapporo Toweri is older than Tokyo Tower. He is like the older brother. The reason was the time to built up Tokyo Tower. It just took so long. He has two observation decks. The lower one at 90,4m is a big souvenir shop with windows. In 1961 they mounted a digital watch. Saporro Tower is located in the Odori-Park, that is the origin of the street coordintes in Saporro (the streets in Saporro are numbered in East, West, South, North). At night the tower is illuminated in orange, like the big brother in Tokyo.

Nagoya TV Tower (名古屋テレビ塔)
height 180m, observation deck at 90m and 100m; architect: Tachū Naitō, opened in 1954

It is the oldest radio tower in Japan that has the shape of the Eiffel Tower and is also designed by Tachu Naito. It’s height is 180m and the observation deck is at 90m. The specialty is a free deck at 100m (roof of the viewing platform), called Sky Balcony. You can take the stairway (310 steps), if you want. There are restaurants and souvenir shops at the 30m level. The tower is located in the city center of Nagoya in the Hisaya Odori Park.

Beppu Tower (別府タワー)
height 100m, observation deck at 55m; opened on May 10, 1957

Beppu also has a tower, a tiny one. It was built at the same time as Tokyo Tower. The foundation of this tower is concrete building. He was built on the roof. It is very close to the tiny beach of Beppu on the east side of the main road that leads from the train station to the water line.

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Koban – More than a police box

Koban, with a long o, is a police box; a tiny police station with usually one or two officers. The boxes are a big benefit for tourists. They are everywhere. Every block has a least one. Because there are no house number (and if there are, there is no logical order), the koban is possibly the only place where you can get help to find the house you are looking for. Sometimes there are street maps that will help you. Finding a koban is easier.

Koban in Ueno

Koban are also helpful if you got yourself lost in Tokyo. The description of the way back to the hotel always is to complex for my knowledge of Japanese. I tried it and gave up. Therefore it was easiert to ask for the next koban on the way. Then I asked the next koban for the next koban, and so on. Usually there is a koban every quarter mile.

Finding a koban

A koban is easy to find. At night there are two red lights. Ok, at daylight it is a little more difficult. Usually there is a police officer standing in front of the koban. Looking for an American cop? Donut shop. Looking for a German Cop? Döner Shop. Looking for a Japanese Cop? Standing in front of a koban. Typically Japanese. Often you can also see the white bicylces.

The frog

Some koban are really well camouflaged. The one in Taito had a big japanese police stick mounted on the wall. It more looked like a souvenir shop. On Ginza the koban was some kind of an attraction. There was a big plastic frog on the roof. (The frog was gone 2010.) Because police boxes are everywhere, they are also the aim of architects., like this one in Ueno park.

More about this topic, if I have more pictures and informations.

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Pedestrian Deck

Pedestrian decks are everywhere in Tokyo and all over Japan. What the roundabout for England (sometimes nothing more than a white circle in the center of the junction, os the pedestrian deck for Japan. They are simple ones. Just a tiny bridge with stairs on both side of the street. But there are also very complex constructions; melting into train stations and office buildings. They are art work. They cancel the meaning of “ground level”.

There is a practical reason behind it. There are no traffic lights for pedestrians and also crossing a street on traffic light at a junction is sometimes tricky. The green phase is reduced to a minium. Imagine to stop traffic in Tokyo for people to walk across the street. No way. Tokyo is to complex. You have to seperate car traffic and pedestrians.

Iidabashi und Shimbashi

The pedestrian deck in Iidabashi for example is a complete ring, connection all corners of the junction. Additionally there is an express way above the pedestrian deck. It is next to the JR station and like an starter drug. The next level the one between Ginza is Shimbashi. It is a good example for a pedestrian deck that was built after the streets were built. Shimbashi was on of my first impressions of 3D-Tokyo in 2004. My second walk thru the city passed here while I was heading for Nihonbashi.


One of the most complex pedestrian decks is the one in Shiodome. This one is also mentioned in the book “21st century Tokyo – A guide to Contemporary Architecture”. The architecture in Shiodome will get it’s in blog entry. If you visit this area you can arrive by subway or you walk from Hamarikyu Teien. Do the second one. The garden is really amazing. If you leave the north gate you are mostly in front of the pedestrian deck. It is the entrance to a maze of pathways between the buildings of Shiodome. After visiting the garden the stairs are like stairs into a different world.

Osaka, Saporro, …

The pedestrian decks become more than a passage way to the other side of the street. Japan tries to separate pedestrians from the traffic. It even is part of city development. Sooner or later I will return to Gifu and check how the plan was realized. The trains already stop in the upper level. Why not move the pedestrian up too.

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modern architecture – Yokohama

Like the other articles about architecture also this one is under construction …

In Yokohama you have to know that the whole harbour area was redesigned in a project called Mirai 21. The Queens Plaza and the Landmark Tower are the center of this new area. Another architectural highlight is the pilot office at the harbour and the old brick warehouses. You should visit the area at night.

Landmark Tower
Landmark Tower

Height: 70 floors / 298,5m
Building Time: 03/1990 bis 07/1993
Architect: H. Stubbins & Associates

Before the completion of the Sky Tree in Tokyo, the Landmark Tower was the highest building in Japan. While the Sky Tree is a TV tower, the Landmark Tower is still the highest office / hotel building.

The building is splitted into two functional areas. The lower floors are a shopping mall with 160 shops. Above that until the 48th floor are office space. Above this floor is the Royal Park Hotel. At the floor 69 is a sight seeing platform called “Sky Garden”. The elevator was the fastest in the world (in 2004). He reached 750m/min. The whole ride takes less than 50 seconds including closing the doors.

Queens Plaza
Queens Plaza

The Queens Plaza is a complex of three buildings that are connected at the basement level. In the core of building is the subway station. The station is totally integrated into the building. On on edge of the three buildings is a nose along the whole height.  It is very good to see if you are looking down from the Landmark Tower. The nose is there to break the air stream caused by wind. It prevents turbulences and reduced vibrations of the building.

Station Core
Station Core

In the Mirai 21 project a part of the old train tracks was remodelled as a sidewalk. The tracks are still there and filled up with wood. The Navios Yokohama was built above this sidewalk.

Navios Yokohama
Navios Yokohama

The train tracks are leading from the Landmark Tower to the brick warehouses. 2010 there was unused space to pass. Looks like Mirai 21 is still not complete.

Ware Houses Yokohama
Warehouses in Yokohama

The warehouses are unchanged on the outside. The didn’t touch a thing. The just added big glass elements in the former doors. That was the best thing they could think of. At night, of the buildings are illuminated in yellow/orange light, it looks like the steels frame of the building is glowing. Behind the thick walls are several restaurants and bars. This is a good example for reviving and old object with only tiny, nearly invisible changes.


Not accessable for tourist but still an eyecatcher is the pilot station. It is one of the most important buildings of the Japanese Avantgarde.

Yokohama is a good example that japanese architect are designing their buildings for the night. Nowehere else is the impact of an building that powerful at night. And only at night. During the day they are more or less gray blocks of the steel, glass and concrete.

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modern architecture – Oosaka

Only one article for Oosaka isn’t fair but I was only for two days in Oosaka with a digital camera. And I focused on the tourist attractions. Architecture wasn’t may aim at that time. But even then, one building was outstanding. At it is in walking distance of Umeda station. It also has a obeservation platform on the roof.

Umeda Sky Building (梅田スカイビル)
173m (43 floors), Architekt: Hiroshi Hara, 1993

The building ins’t that high, but it’s concept is unique. It looks like a upside down U with a hole. The both towers of the building are connected at the top by a platform with a restaurant. A special elevator is ending below the platform. From there two elevator are leading to the restaurant area. The platform with the restaurant has a hole in the center. This panaroma glass front provides a good view down. It is obvious that the restaurant and the observation deck above was planned from the beginning. A common approach in Japan for high buildings, that tend the become the city landmark. The approach surely was taken over from the radio towers of the 1950ies (“Eiffel Towers”).

The building was designed by Hiroshi Hara and was part of the “City of Air” project in 1988. Originally there was a plan for 4 connected building but only two were realized. The opening was in 1993. The oberservation deck is called The Floating Garden Observatory.

Other buildings worth mentioning

I don’t verified the identity of the left building. I will provide more information later.  The right building is for sure an eyecatcher. The on-ramp of the expressway is going right thru the building. This happens above the 5th floor. But the street is on no point connected to the building. Therefore no vibrations are transmitted to the building.

NHK building and the museum of Oosaka

Both building are sharing the entrance hall, which is optically a part of the NHK building. The design of the museum is independent from the NHK design. But even if they are so close together it doesn’t bother.

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modern architecture – Shinjuku

The tour thru Tokyo is starting in Shinjuku. Note: Shinjuku is not Tokyo. At least for the Japanese. Gaijins usually mean the whole metropolitain area if the say Tokyo, and also include Shinjuku, Shibuya, Roppongi and other cities. For Japanese Tokyo is only the area around Tokyo central station and the imperial palace. Shinjuku received it’s big rush during the bubble economy. During this time many buildings were built. One of the last was the metropolitain government building.

Shinjuku Skyline

Sompo Japan Building
architect: Yoshikazu Uchida, 1973-1976, 200m, 40 floors

The Sompo building was designed by Yoshikazu Uchida and was built between 1973 and 1976. It was the landmark of Shinjuku for many years. Material, color and shape is a statement to the 70ies. The building has a height of 200m (antenna included) and 43 floors. In the 42 floor is a museum with a version of Vincent van Goghs sunflowers. In amime it was used as an indicator that the story is playing in Shinjuku. (e.g. City Hunter). The new landmark are the “Twin Tower”.

Das alte Wahrzeichen von Shinjuku

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
architect: Kenzo Tange, 1988-1991, 243,3m (No. 4 in Japan), 48 floors

The building is the office of the government of the Tokyo prefecture. It was designed by the architect Kenzo Tange. Before it was located at Tokyo Eki. This old building was from Kenzo Tange too. This old building was demolished. Today there is the Tokyo Itnernational Forum; another layout by Kenzo Tange.

The complex consists of three connected buildings The Twin Tower are building 1. The second building has 37 floors. It has three units with different height. The building is surrounded be streets and sidewalks in two levels.

The design has typical elements of Kenzo Tange. The verticals are dominant. The building is looking like a gothic cathedral, although Kenzo Tange is not using any gothic elements. But the resemblence to Notre Dame is obvious. And the design is just logical. Shinjuku was the center of the Bubble Economy and the money. Kenzo Tange placed the cathedral of this epoche into the center. His design is also a demonstration of the financial and political power of Tokyo. It is a momument of the megalomania of the 80ies. Therefore the building is also called バブルの塔 (Tower of Babel).

Das neue Wahrzeichen von Shinjuku

Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower
architect: Kenzo Tange Associates, 2008, 204m

Beside this building, all other looks some kind of boring. This one really is an eyecatcher. The Cocoon Tower was finished in 2008 and only has a height of 204m which put him on place 17. (Funny, I cannot remember the construction side in 2004 and 2006). The design is from Tange Associates, a group of architects around Kenzo Tange. The building won the medal of Skyscaper of the Year. Tange won against 50 other competitors. There was only one rule: “Everything but rectangular” The building is similar in shape and size to the Swiss Re HQ in London. But thats all. The building is covered with blue glass, that gives a free view to the aluminium construction underneath. This construction is the reason for the name cocoon.

Inside the building is the fashion school. Therefore it is the highest university building in the world. The cocoon shall cover the new ongoing designers and protect them until they are ready to face the world. Maybe it is because of the other architects involved, but Kenzo Tange is leaving his old habit of dominate the verticals. The design misses all his typical elements, that partly originated at Le Cobusier. With breaking with his old rules he also broke with a lot of convention of standard building design.

Universitätsgebäude Coocon Tower

NTT DoCoMo Yoyogi Buildung (links)
architect: Kajima Design, 2000, 270m incl. antenna

This building was part of an development project for the southern region of Shinjuku. It became the landmark of the Yoyogi area. It stands out, because it is not surrounded be other tall buildings, but by Yoyogi park, Meiji shrine and Shinjuku Gyoen. The building is seperated in three funtional units: in the lower third there are restaurants and shops. In the middle 27 floors are the offices of NTT DoCoMo. The upper half of the building is the third unit. It contains all telecommunications technics. Beside its height of 240m the building only has 28 floors above ground level.

The top of the building is stepped and reminds of the american sky scapers of the early 20iest century (like the Chrysler Building). It stepped top takes away the weight of the constructions. Noticeable are the riders at the point where the relief begins. This is a citation of the gothic archtectural language. Also noticeable is the 15m big clock, the can be seen from the Shinjuku side.

Mitsui Building und NTT DoCoMo Building

Shinjuku Mitsui Building (rechts)
architect: Nihon Sekkei Inc., 1974, 225m, 55 floors

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