Beacon of Japan’s Future, Sparkling With Nostalgia

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TOKYO —- It was erected in a city still scarred by war, on the grounds of an ancient Buddhist temple, using steel from scrapped American battle tanks. But when finished in 1958, Tokyo Tower gripped Japan’s imagination by pointing the way to a brighter future.

The 1,093-foot structure, which resembles the Eiffel Tower but with orange and white stripes, was the world’s tallest self-supported steel structure, a title it still holds. That, and the fact it was used to broadcast color television, then in its infancy, made the tower an instant symbol of the nation’s peacetime ambitions to excel in technology.

While it never gained the global recognition of its Parisian twin or the Statue of Liberty, the tower remains a landmark in this now affluent, sprawling city. But after a half century, the aging spire is no longer as prominent, or inspiring, as it once was.

Tokyo Tower turned 50 last week amid a wave of nostalgic national media coverage. Television news showed grainy black-and-white film of the tower, describing it as part of a bygone era of heady achievements that also included Japan’s bullet train and the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Indeed, the tower seems to have won a new place in the national imagination, this time as a monument to a sepia-toned past...

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