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Will Tokyo Sky Tree's completion bring down 'skyscraper curse' on Japan?

36 Comments

"And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth." But when the Almighty felt displeasure with the builders' intent, "He confused their languages and scattered the people throughout the earth." (Genesis 11)

The Old Testament's account of the Tower of Babel happened a long, long time ago, and its allegorical message has been subject to a variety of interpretations. One is that when humans lose sight of humility and behave with impudence, they get deservedly smitten. With a little tweaking, the allegory can easily be applied to modern-day capitalism.

Shukan Jitsuwa (July 15) is worried because it's stumbled on a jinx. Completion of the Tokyo Sky Tree next year, it frets, may invoke a modern-day jinx that will send what's left of Japan's economy crashing down.

The basis for this concern was an article by Bloomberg News columnist William Pesek Jr about the so-called "Skyscraper Curse," the uncanny correlation between completion dates of world's tallest building projects and financial meltdowns.

Take the 828-meter-high Burj Khalifa building in Dubai, UAE, which stood out as a symbol of that country's spectacular financial crash last year.

The curse goes back to completion of two Manhattan buildings that stood as the world's tallest in 1908, the 47-story Singer Building and the 50-story Metropolitan Life Building. Their completion came just after the Wall Street crash of 1907.

A quarter century later, history repeated itself: Manhattan's 77-story Chrysler Building was completed in 1930, only months after the stock market crash of 1929. The 102-story Empire State Building was finished the following year.

New York's ill-fated World Trade Center was completed in 1973 and Chicago's Sears Tower (currently Willis Tower) in 1974, and soon thereafter, the U.S. economy was reeling from the effects of the Mideast oil embargo.

Communist North Korea has its own example of man's folly, in the form of Pyongyang's 330-meter-high Ryugyong Hotel. Begun in 1987, it would have been the world's tallest hotel at the time; but work was halted in 1992 and it remains incomplete -- "a symbol of the economic collapse of North Korea," as one political observer puts it.

South of the 38th Parallel, Seoul's 580-meter International Business Center was completed in 2008. The following year, former President Roh Moo-hyun committed suicide and now the country is beset by threats from North Korea.

So as completion of the Tokyo Sky Tree looms, Japanese should have good reason be worried -- although for numerous reasons, their country is not normally in the running for world's highest.

"Financing such buildings in Japan is discouraged by such factors as requirements for earthquake-resistant construction and stable foundations, not to mention the prolonged recession," says a reporter for a construction industry trade publication. "The Aviation Law also restricts building height. The highest building in the country is Yokohama's Landmark Tower (70 stories, 296 meters). The Tokyo Sky Tree scheduled for completion in 2011 was planned to be 610.6 meters in height, but this was extended to 634 meters to make it the world's highest free-standing communications tower."

The new tower is needed to avoid signal interference caused by the larger numbers of high-rise buildings in Tokyo, which weren't a problem when the existing Tokyo Tower was completed in 1958.

So then, will the Sky Tree's completion foreshadow yet another economic slump? Tetsuo Kaneko, a journalist covering retailing and distribution, tells Shukan Jitsuwa, "Since the consumption tax will probably be hiked about the time Tokyo Sky Tree is completed, demand for nonessential consumer goods is likely to plummet. The government might adopt measures to stimulate a the market for replacement goods, but concerns will remain over this 'curse.'"

Shukan Jitsuwa at last gets down to the crux of the article, which is how soon Prime Minister Naoto Kan will boost the consumption tax to 10%.

The skyscraper jinx aside, Japan seems to be confronting two equally unappealing options: becoming Asia's Greece, or snuffing out its sputtering economy with a major tax hike.

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

36 Comments
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right on about capitalism. There would be no tall building without capital investment.

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very silly

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I have never understood why men (and it usually is men who are behind these projects) want to build ridiculously high buildings in areas prone to earthquakes. Or is it tall poppy (big willy) syndrome??

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Or is it tall poppy (big willy) syndrome??

Oh buddy - you just got my weekend off to a great start! Thank you!

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Will Tokyo Sky Tree's completion bring down 'skyscraper curse' on Japan?

No, it won't. Next

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The basis for this concern was an article by Bloomberg News columnist William Pesek

So someone actually did read one of his articles!

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Terrible press here

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Kirakira25, you are most welcome. But I think I meant to say 'SMALL willy syndrome'! They probably drive big red sports cars too...

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I do not see how (or like) the bible refference is relevant in this article. Just silly needless quoting. Furthermore, starting the article out with a ficticious quote is a good way to make readers disregard anything written after it.

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Superstitions, schmuperstitions.

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I expect there's a direct correlation between building extreme skyscrapers and an increase in folks quoting the bible on the tower of babel...

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I dont think the message of Genesis is the slightest bit allegorical. It is a historical record of what happened when puny mankind reached out arrogantly to the skies and built the first skyscraper. This article made interesting reading. Judging by the way Japan is going at present, Sky tree or no Sky Tree, I think Japan is headed for a mighty fall.

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I think they forgot to mention the most obvious tower - Tokyo Tower. When completed in 1958, the economy didn't tank. In fact, it continued on its historic rise for the next 30 years.

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When completed in 1958, the economy didn't tank.

Maybe because the steel used for part of the Tokyo Tower was from tanks (U.S. Army tanks, damaged in the Korean War.) Swords into ploughshares?

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This is a pretty big stretch. All the buildings mentioned weren't communication towers but actual buildings. Lots of very tall communication towers have been built yet there isn't one reference to one of them being tied to a recession or depression.

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I love tall buildings & man-made structures! The higher the better! Love to be in Tokyo next year with my trusted Canon 20x zoom camera for the acsend up the SkyTree. See you there!

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becoming Asia’s Greece

Not likely. Unlike Greece, Japan can always print Yen and sell govt bonds to itself, delaying the inevitable just long enough for the next batch of puppets to take the stage.

Modern symbols of arrogance go way beyond skyscraping. …like building unsustainable economies on mountains of debt.

Impotence needs a phallic symbol at least this big.

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With selective editing, I could find a correlation between anything and anything.

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I read this article TWO times (which took 10 minutes of my time, far more than it deserves)... and still have big problems seeing the point it tries to make,,

So which is it:

1 - Tall building somehow curse the countries that build them, causing economic collapses (a truckload of BS)

2 - Tall buildings are signs of arrogance? The persons saying this shows that he/she really has no clue. For ex. the Skytree is a sign of progress, being built out of necessity to support the upcoming digital broadcasting technologies - and one can not compare it with other far more useless projects.

3 - Other hidden messages, my humble mind can not see?!?

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I built a tree fort as a kid and lost $2 the next day. Could be some truth to the story...

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This seems to be the original article that inspired the Japanese story

In each case, Thornton's study finds, a record-breaking skyscraper project was announced during the boom phase of a business cycle. It was followed by a sharp decline in financial markets and a deep recession. Each was completed as the fallout from the crisis was still settling.

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&cid=pesek&sid=a3Di3SzK1Dc8

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Extravagant building projects are started during boom times, and by the time they finish this has often changed to bust - so the correlation may be there but not causation. Anyway, as ebisen stated the Sky Tree is a project of necessity not luxury so I wouldn't think Japan has much to worry about.

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@yokomoc - agreed, and also, Japan is not in a time of boom, so it's unlikely that the sky tree should cause a bust (bust of what?). macroeconomic trends almost invariable go in waves of growth and stagnation, making it natural that big projects started in boom times are completed during a recession or bust. This article was not very interesting and it's hard to see any good arguments or even a main theme.

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I noticed that other tall buildings were not mentioned... the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur and the Shanghai World Financial Center. Should we assume they didn't go bust after the buildings were completed? Selective reporting strikes again.

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Fadamor, the Petronas Towers were completed a year before the Asian financial crisis; the China real estate bust is coming. The point is, these buildings don't cause financial crises - they're a product of the same mentality of excessive borrowing, risk taking and short-term thinking of inflated markets that inevitably lead to crashes along the line. It's quite natural their completion should coincide somewhat with 'meltdowns' given the time difference between project conception/financing and eventual completion.

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the China real estate bust is coming

Yeah, along with the end of the world. As has been noted previously, these things run in cycles so I'm sure the Chinese real estate market will fall... at some point in the future... but it has nothing to do with the tower that was built in Shanghai two years ago. Ergo: selective reporting.

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The problem is not the tower itself, it's the bubble mentality that built them. In Japan's case, that bubble popped quite fantastically.

In any case, you can't even see one of these towers from outer space. I don't think god even noticed. Rather, it is the pure arrogance of man to invent stories that god even cared.

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"you can't even see one of these towers from outer space"

They're tall, not wide. If they were wide as they were tall, you'd be able to see them from space.

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“And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.” But when the Almighty felt displeasure with the builders’ intent, “He confused their languages and scattered the people throughout the earth.” (Genesis 11)"

Please the belief that building anything as a symbol will collapse your economy is complete nonsense.

How silly some people are with superstitions and jinxes. What age are we living in, the dark ages?

Hay how about we all throw salt over our shoulders and run around in circles just to make sure nothing goes bad with Japan's economy.....LOL

I d love the Sky Tree, it is really a fantastic sight to behold. I can not wait for it to be completed!!!!! I want to be one of the first 1000 to go up.....

It is doing wonders for the Narihirabashi area economy. I have seen new shops opening up in the area......

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Latest big TV tower: Guangzhou TV Tower. To be completed in October. Maybe China is going to experience a downturn...

Actually it's interesting to see that Tokyo Sky Tree will be 20 meters taller... BSD territory.

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Whatever. You can write the same thing about how the completion of these towers correlate to new hotels opening up and boosting the local economy.

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societymike at 07:08 PM JST - 10th July I do not see how (or like) the bible refference is relevant in this article. Just silly needless quoting. Furthermore, starting the article out with a ficticious quote is a good way to make readers disregard anything written

I don't get what you don't see. The Tower of Babel is a well known story with a universal moral lesson (lose sight of who you are and fall apart) and then it's correlated to a series of coincidences where the economy has been in a slump around the time major structures are completed.

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Stupid article.

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Communist North Korea has its own example of man’s folly, in the form of Pyongyang’s 330-meter-high Ryugyong Hotel. Begun in 1987, it would have been the world’s tallest hotel at the time; but work was halted in 1992 and it remains incomplete—“a symbol of the economic collapse of North Korea,” as one political observer puts it.

It's a good thing they have those Noko Jeans to fall back on!

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I agree that in Japan's case the Sky Tree is needed as in many others cases of other such projects is not. You look at the Burj Khalifa building in Dubai in contrast. What was the purpose for such a massive building there. It may be the tallest now but not for long. The Madinat al-Hareer in Kawait City will topple that. The Tower Of Russia being 3rd and Incheon Tower in Seoul being 4th. All of which should be finished late this year.

The new Freedom Tower in NYC is bairly going to be in the top 10 at only 1,776 feet. Just slightly taller then the twin towers in Malaysia. In New York's case though is more symbolic in nature then out of necessity. The Chicago Spire although will eventually be tallest in North America at 2,000 feet 609 meters which is expected to finish later this year. In contract Dubai's was likely trying to sell itself to the world but at what cost? So I feel in the end Sky Tree won't be seen as a white elephant. It has a practical purpose unlike everything else on the table.

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Most of Japan's tax issues, similar to the USA, were caused by corporate flight to Asia - where labor is cheaper, companies can pollute out the wazoo with impunity, and workers have no rights. The loss of those domestic jobs and taxes carved an incredible chunk out of a government tax machine used to sucking blood out of stones and lavish corrupt spending on ludicrous programs and bailouts.

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