Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
I like Tokyo Tower. I will get used to the Tokyo Sky Tree, but for now I feel more for the familiar graceful lines and the more humane proportions of the older tower. It is an architectural icon, and an icon of the Tokyo skyline. The addition of the Sky Tree profile to the skyline will quickly become equally iconic, of course. And even though Tokyo Tower will continue broadcasting I worry that it is not safe in the shadow of its taller brother. In time it could conceivably fall victim to the wrecking ball as the company that owns and operates it - Nippon Television City Corporation - feels the budgetary strain of maintaining an ‘outdated’ property.
Despite the antiquity of its civilization Japan has a precedent of demolishing its own architectural heritage to make way for the new, which I rate as an error. Even allowing that perishable building materials, plus a disaster-prone environment, plus a long history of destructive war don’t help the preservationist sentiment there still seems to be a native disposition deliberately to replace the old with the new.
Maybe I am unduly alarmist about the grand old Tokyo Tower (as well as maudlin about antiques). But when a fiscal challenge does cross the horizon, how will the capitalist corporation that operates it react? I can’t imagine the City of Paris, which operates the Eiffel Tower, ever abandoning it, despite its checkered place in Parisian hearts. But, sadly, based on multiple examples I can well imagine Japanese doing just that. It’s just the sort of thing Japanese would do. I have little trust or affection for commercial, capitalist corporations properly to manage anything of significant public interest - with human worth more than monetary worth in mind - because their motive is not the public good so much as capital, which by itself is an unbecoming motive.
Published on Sunday, April 22, 2012 as “Keep the wrecking ball at bay.”
I think my letters printed so far this year largely lack the moral and intellectual weight of the ones printed by the same date last year, undermining the accuracy or credibility of comparing last year with this year. I don’t seriously think there is a credibly demolition threat to Tokyo Tower, but on the other hand it’s just the sort of crass thing the Japanese would do for financial and budget reasons. This letter was just a whim of mine. It was not motivated by any story or other current event. I just thought,“What sort of thing could I write about for publication?” I was thinking that the Sky Tree Tower is set to open to the public on May 22 but only by reserved tickets. The general public will not be able to ascend the Sky Tree - I mean, without pre-booking a ticket - until the Fall. That kind of annoys me.