On Monday, July 17th I visited Tokyo Tower in Minato Ward with my 8-year-old son. In 17-years in Tokyo it was only the second time I have visited the tower, near Kamiyacho Station on the Hibiya Subway Line. It was the “umi no hi,” Sea Day national public holiday, a fact which I had forgotten until just the night before, and therefore a convenient occasion for taking my son, who is very interested in towers and other mighty male apparati.
Coincidentally, I also recently ascended the CN Tower in Toronto Canada (with my son). At 553 meters the CN Tower is the tallest building, tower, and man-made structure on the planet. But if a New Tokyo Tower is built as planned, then it will supersede the Torontolandmark and become the new record holder for height, and a lucrative tourist draw
By comparison, I enjoyed the Tokyo Tower more. I visited it on a week day with marginal weather, so crowds were light. The costs of getting there and gaining admittance were surprisingly reasonable. Most of all, though, the smaller size of the tower made it feel less confusing, more user-friendly and more humanly proportional. I mean, less monstrously gigantic, which was a comfortable feeling.
One noteworthy thing, however, was the total absence of visible security at the Tokyo Tower. There was no screening of visitors at
all, which feels wrong in this day and age of security and terrorism safety concerns. At the CN Tower all visitors were screened for explosives. I don’t know if that is a recent measure introduced after a significant terrorist conspiracy uncovered there, or not. But it feels like a basic security measure these days, like metal detectors and X-rays machines at airports.
Japan is not a neutral nation but rather a major U.S. ally, militarily engaged in some hot spots in the world, and Japanese should understand that they are not immune to terrorism. Naivety makes them and their landmarks easy targets both here at home and overseas as well.
I used to think ill of Japanese for making statements like “Japan is a peaceful / harmonious / safe society,”or “Japan has four seasons,” etc., because I thought they were making what to their minds were statements of fact, when actually any intelligent person could tell that they were not statements of fact. But now I know that ridiculous statements like that are not intended as statements of truth so much as metaphors. Similarly, the American declarations about their “moral authority,” “liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” or their commitment to spread of“freedom” to the world, human rights, democracy, etc. are equally metaphors.
Tokyo Tower is standing with no security to guard it as a witness to the power of the metaphors of Japanese culture. So long as everyone pretends that the metaphors are true, then they appear to be so. It’s a bubble waiting to burst.