Shintaro Sato – Risen in the East Gallery

The term Tokyo Tower is familiar to many (not least due to being featured prominently in the legendary Godzilla movies), but mentioning Sky Tree to anyone outside Japan will probably get you blank stares. The Tokyo Sky Tree, formerly known as New Tokyo Tower, is a broadcasting, restaurant and observation tower under construction in Sumida, Tokyo, Japan. It has been the tallest artificial structure in Japan since 2010. The tower reached its full height of 634.0 metres (2,080 ft) in March 2011.

Our friend Shintaro Sato, born and raised in East Tokyo where the tower is located, has followed and documented the construction of the tower over the last few years. Initially he was simply documenting the progress of construction, but later Sato changed his approach to creating panaromics, often from slightly elevated positions like in his Tokyo Twilight Zone work. This work has now been collected into the book Risen in the East, published this month.

Sato succeeds in showing us the many views in the city that now incorporate the structure in the landscape. East Tokyo, the heart of the old Edo, was often seen as slightly neglected and lagging in terms of development. The tower was seen as an opportunity to support this wide area. As the images show, you can now be in the east and Sky Tree will always be with you, like a beacon that sends out strength and self-confidence, no matter whether you are playing football, enjoy your cherry blossom viewing or boat races, as some of the photos show.

Naturally, the tower project was conceived to manifest a symbol of the power and ingenuity of Japan, especially in light of rapid developments in neighbouring China. One cannot help to notice the other side of the coin: in the same week that Tokyo Sky Tree reached its full height as the tallest tower structure in the world, the country that was so eager to show its potency to us was struck by a monumental natural disaster with many consequences, as if to say “the higher you are flying, the deeper you shall fall”. It seems at least to me, that the view towards the tower has become more meaningful since. It is now more about us, the viewers on the ground, and less about the people who planned and executed this amazing feat of creating this man-made structure. All in all, a conundrum that seems typically Japanese.