by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) May 22, 2012
Strong winds forced the operators of the Tokyo Skytree, the world's tallest tower, to shut down its lifts on its opening day Tuesday, leaving some visitors stranded on a 450-metre-high observation deck.
Tens of thousands of people had flocked to the 634-metre (2,080-foot) tower as the Japanese capital's newest attraction opened to the public for the first time, hoping to catch the spectacular views from the top.
The glitch occurred at around 6pm, when the attraction's operators decided to shut down two lifts linking an observation deck at 350 metres with another at 450 metres for around 30 minutes due to safety concerns.
Skytree spokeswoman Maki Yamazaki was unable to say how many of the tens of thousands of visitors were affected by the closure, adding that all were later able to return to the lower level once the lift service resumed.
Rainy weather also put a damper on the proceedings, with visitors saying they were unable to enjoy the tower's far-stretching views.
"I have long been looking forward to coming here," said Ayumi Nakazawa, who won tickets to the opening ceremony of the tower, which ranks as the world's second-tallest structure.
"I can't see the view (because of the rain), but it was exciting," Nakazawa told reporters after becoming the first official visitor to the observation deck.
Japan's hard-hit tourism sector is hoping the tower will boost the number of visitors from abroad after figures plummeted in the wake of Japan's quake-tsunami disaster last year.
The disaster, which sparked the worst nuclear crisis in a generation, saw the number of visitors to Japan fall 27.8 percent from the previous year to 6.22 million, according to the Japan National Tourist Organisation.
Amid safety concerns, the tower's operator said Tokyo Skytree was equipped with state-of-art technology to counter the earth tremors that regularly shake Japan, one of the world's most seismically active nations.
The Tokyo Skytree is the world's second-tallest manmade structure, topped only by the 828-metre Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
It stands taller than the 600-metre Canton Tower in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou and the 553-metre CN Tower in the Canadian city of Toronto.
In Japan's capital the Tokyo Skytree overshadows landmarks in the upscale western district including the 333-metre Tokyo Tower, which was built in 1958 and became a byword for the country's rapid post-war growth.
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