Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Eye Over Tokyo

Magnet # 124: Downtown Tokyo cityscape, Mount Fuji

Material: Resin

Purchased By: Dad

Today is a particularly important day in Japan - it's Emperor's Day, when they celebrate the birth of their current Emperor, Akihito, in 1933. This is one holiday that fluctuates with time, and as one emperor replaces another, Emperor's Day moves around the calendar. Still, some previous Emperor's Days remain important, like November 3, the birthday of former Emperor Meiji, which is now Culture Day.

On this day, Emperor Akihito will address a crowd filled with well-wishers and tourists alike, many of them carrying banners and flags. The entire imperial family is also likely to put in an appearance for the crowd, waving from the windows of their Imperial Palace in Tokyo. This is one of only two days in the year that the inner areas of the palace are open to the general public. During Emperor Akihito's lifetime, a great deal of change has been made to the thousand year plus tradition from which he descends. He was the first of his line to attend school with regular children, rather than be separated from normal people all of his life, which was the standard until then. This was done in the hope that he would form an empathy for those he would rule over and their plight. When Emperor Akihito was grown, he shocked his people by choosing not to marry an aristocrat. And when he and his wife had three children, they decided not to send them away at the age of three to live with nurses and tutors, as was the tradition, but to raise them in their home. When their only daughter was an adult, she followed her father's example and married a commoner, which required her to relinquish her position in the Imperial Family. However, she did so with the full support of her family. There seems to be a sense of progress in the current Imperial Family that was not always there in previous times.

Historically, some significant Japanese events have been scheduled to coincide with this celebration. The most important came in 1958, when Tokyo Tower was dedicated. It's the large red and white structure depicted on this magnet. Many know that it was designed after the Eiffel Tower in Paris, but it also takes after the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Both are painted in International Orange, but while it's necessary to protect the bridge from rusting in such a moist environment, the Tokyo Tower is painted with that shade due to air safety rules.  Around the 1950's, as broadcast stations boomed all around Tokyo, leaders became concerned that a large amount of unattractive towers would detract from the city's aesthetics, and decided instead to construct one giant tower that could handle all of the signals.  They also wanted a symbol to show the rest of the world what a powerful, modern nation they were becoming.  Although a Japanese architect was hired to design the structure, he choose to draw his influence for the tower from the Western World.  When the Tokyo Tower was completed, it stood 13 meters higher than its French predecessor and took the title of the largest freestanding tower in the world.  Nowadays, it is still a very important broadcasting center for the region, and it's also become a popular tourist destination.  At the tower's base, there is a 4-story building called FootTown.  There, visitors can stop by destinations ranging from an aquarium to a wax museum, to an amusement park.  And if they choose to head up to the tower, there are two observation decks for them to choose from.  Tokyo Tower now has two mascots, cartoon brothers named Noppon, that were introduced to the world on December 23, 1998.  And on this day in 2008, they debuted the Diamond Veil, a new nighttime lighting motif that cost $6.5 to complete.  The tower is now one of the most easily recognizable symbols of its city, one that brings this ancient nation a touch of the modern world.

There is one other noteworthy Japanese event that took place on this day in 1948, although it's a bit notorious. And I highly doubt it was scheduled to occur along with the Emperor's Birthday. This was when seven Japanese men convicted of war crimes during World War II were executed by hanging at Tokyo's Sugamo Prison. One was the infamous former Prime Minister Hideki Tojo who, along with his fellow prisoners, helped perpetrate such atrocities as the Nanking Massacre, the attack at Pearl Harbor, the Bataan Death March, and the inhumane treatment of countless Allied POWs. They died with the blood of millions of Asian and Pacific civilians on their hands. Hopefully, by purging Japan of the influence of these and other war criminals, the nation became better able to move away from the sins of its recent past toward a better tomorrow. As evidenced by Emperor Akihito and his family's behavior, the country is now more willing to embrace new ideals and break from traditions that are no longer prudent in modern times. Japan seems to be on the right track, under the guidance of its Emperor, to reach a bright and prosperous future.


  1. Thats a nice one. Love the detail and colors.

  2. Yep, it's one of my favorites. But the best part is this (and the other Japanese one I've posted) glows in the dark, so I can see it even when the lights are out. How cool is that!