From the 25th floor lobby of the Dentsu HQ in Shiodome there’s an awesome view across Tokyo Bay, taking in Hamarikyu gardens, Odaiba, the Rainbow Bridge, and in the distance, fogged by pollution and heat distortion- a weird-looking dome-shaped structure out in the middle of nowhere.
Weird dome, at 200mm zoom from the edge of Odaiba.
What is this bizarre structure? I asked several of my students, and none of them knew. One of them guessed it was the Pan Plaza Hotel in Yokohama, but most weren ‘t even sure if we were looking at Yokohama or all the way over to Chiba.
From the edge of Odaiba with a little zoom.
From Dentsu 25th floor, the dome between Fuji Terebi (on the right) and some other buildings on the left.
My curiosity piqued, I went on the web to hunt this thing down, resorting to scouring the line of sight on Google maps from Dentsu across Odaiba between Fuji Terebi and other buildings.
Line of sight from Dentsu all the way to Chiba.
I started off searching the Chiba coast, looking for a big circular dome perhaps affixed to a power plant or town center. But- nothing. So on a whim I spread the search down the line into Tokyo Bay, and BAM, found it.
What are these things?
Zoom in and we see the dome from above, actually 2 ovoid domes on a circular platform. Is this some weird kind of art?
On the zoomed in googlemaps shot I could read the kanji- which says é¢¨ã®å¡”, kaze no to- or ‘Tower of Winds’.
That sounds awesome- like something out of a Miyazaki movie: the Lilliput floating castle, the mythic bath-house in Sen to Chihiro, the Tower of Wind.
I image searched and came up with these:
From a helicopter- looking great.
Gorgeous shot from the waterline.
The white dome bits.
Wikipedia gave the low-down: The Tower of Wind is a ventilation shaft for the Tokyo Bay Aqualine- the world’s longest undersea tunnel for cars, which cuts under Tokyo Bay from Yokohama to Chiba. It’s 9.6km long underwater, took 31 years to build, cost 11.2 billion dollars, and shaves some 100km off the round the Bay trip to Chiba. It opened in 1997 but hasn’t yet reached traffic capacity- probably due to the hefty Â¥3000 ($30) fee to cross it one way.
Don’t get me started on road tolls in Japan.
A shot from the Umi Hotaru.
So what is the Umi Hotaru? It’s the bridge section of the Aqualine, about 5km long, and looks like an aircraft carrier affixed by a road to the Chiba mainland. Umi Hotaru means ‘sea firefly’, again a great name for a Miyazaki movie- so named because that’s what it looks like. I’ll let you make that determination for yourself:
Sea Firefly? (Image thanks to Mike at Mike’s Blender)
Helicopter shot, Sea Firefly sea airport.
I’ve never been to the Sea Firely myself, having rarely been to Chiba, and not having a car myself. My buddy Mike went there en route to picking mikans in Chiba a few months back, and reported it wasn’t up to much.
This is much nicer. I lost the attribution link- will happily add if anyone knows where it’s from.
Location – Tokyo Bay
Entry – Not to the Kaze no To, but yes to the Umi Hotaru.
Facts – Completed in 1997, took 31 years, cost $11.2 billion, longest undersea tunnel for cars at 9.6km.
Highlights – The hunt.
You can see all MJG’s Tokyo content here:
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