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Tokyo Sky Tree: commercial glitz vs harsh reality

We return to normal blogging with – what else? – a post about Tokyo Sky Tree.

I'm starting at the tail end of the story, as is my wont. A while ago I went to Katori Jinja in Chiba. It's one of the oldest in Japan: it was established in 643 BC, in other words, dear readers, it's 2656 years old. It's the head shrine of approximately four hundred Katori shrines in Japan, so when I returned to Tokyo, I tracked down a few local versions. (Post to follow.)
                                           
The nearest Katori shrine is in Kameido, which is within easy walking distance. (Remember my definition of "easy walking distance": five kilometers or one hour.) What's a nomad to do but put on her sneakers and set off?

Once I had finished taking pictures of Kameido Katori Jinja, I sat under a tree and consulted Google Maps, because I suspected I was very near my beloved Sky Tree. Indeed. What's a nomad to do but continue her journey?

Approaching Sky Tree from Kameido

I walked along Kitajukkengawa (北十間川), stalking Sky Tree yet again. When I arrived in the tower's neighbourhood, I veered off into a few side streets, and that's what I really want to talk about today: the glamour of Sky Tree versus the harsh reality of ordinary life.


Sky Tree stands in Sumida Ward, in an area that used to be and still is everything but wealthy and upmarket. When the project was announced in 2008, the ward issued a report in which they optimistically estimated that the area would enjoy an economic stimulus of ¥88 billion.

Now it's five years later, and the tower has been a mixed blessing. Tobu Railway Company, the tower's owner, announced that 5,54 million people visited Sky Tree (the tower itself) from the opening day on 22 May 2012 to the end of the fiscal year on 31 March 2013.

The total number of visitors to Sky Tree Solamachi, the shopping complex, was 44,76 million. To put that into perspective, approximately 14 million people visit Tokyo Disneyland every year.

What about the rest of Sumida Ward? Nearby businesses haven't lost customers yet, but there hasn't been any increase either: enterprises in nearby Oshinari Shōtengai (50 shops) and Honjo Azumabashi Shōtengai (70 shops) have reported practically no increase in their turnover.

A narrow residential alley near Sky Tree

There have been complaints from local residents about noise, visitors trespassing on their property, too many jinrikisha from Asakusa obstructing traffic. I don't know if all these complaints are justified, but then again, I don't live in that area. I do walk through it fairly often, and don't see many jinrikisha. I've never trespassed on private property, but I've certainly walked down very narrow alleys to photograph clean (not dirty!) (yet) laundry juxtaposed against Sky Tree.

What I do notice, though, is the total lack of glitz and commercial success – the truth of poverty – only a few hundred meters from Sky Tree.

Not so glamorous. You can see Sky Tree in the background.

It's probably abandoned, but not necessarily.


This one is definitely not abandoned.

Government, politicians, construction companies, big business and big banks are raking it in; for many ordinary shitamachi residents, it remains a daily struggle.

Notes

Read more about Sky Tree's effect on the local community here, herehere and here.


Ru was trying to be creative.


Sky tree and wires ... what could be more Tokyo?

OK, Sky Tree, wires and Japan Post!

Solamachi is just behind the boat. The river is Kitajukkengawa.


Local businesses might not be flourishing, but there's always room for
another pachinko parler quote unquote. This one is next to Keiseibashi.

I spotted this new hair salon. Yes. Well.

I keep reading articles that Tokyo wants to have "foreigner-friendly" signs
for the Olympics. This explains why it's necessary: this notice tells you that
you can't access certain Metro lines at Oshiage Station from this particular
entrance; you have to walk around the corner to another entrance.
Potential monumental confusion.

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