A Business Run Like a Government Office Run by Committee

Today I took She Who Must Be Obeyed and our youngest daughter to Tokyo Skytree to make up for not taking them back in August.

Although we had a great time, even with a foggy view, and I even walked across the dangerous death glass floor twice, the trip was complicated because Tokyo Skytree is run suspiciously like a government office with half-nods to high tech but nothing that could be described as a full-nod.

First, we decided to see if we could reserve tickets on Sunday night for Monday. It turns out that all reservations have to be made three days in advance or they can’t be made. In the era of the internet, I do not fully understand the reasoning behind this.  Because it’s off season, every day for the next two months shows a circle, which means there are lots of tickets available, however, rather than providing a convenience, the Powers What Are at Skytree would rather have you stand in line.

This brings out something else I don’t understand: reserved tickets are 500 yen more than non-reserved. By shutting down the computer reservations, the Powers What Are at Skytree are actually losing money. Adding to the fun, reservations can only be made with Japanese issued credit cards meaning the tens of thousands of foreign visitors arriving every year have to stand in line.

Once we got in line, there was another odd thing I didn’t understand. Although the “maze” started as the usual narrow path, it suddenly opened up to four or five people across before eventually squeezing back down to a narrow path. This allowed people who’d got in line later to cut the line with the full blessing of the Powers What Are at Tokyo Skytree.

Imagine a Department of Motor Vehicles line that suddenly opened up and let people cut the line. It wouldn’t end pretty.

I suspect this is because Tokyo Skytree’s main purpose is to broadcast terrestrial digital television not to provide entertainment for tourists, especially those from outside Japan. Tokyo Skytree was funded by Tobu Railway (who I’m guessing provided the property) and a coalition of six television networks headed by NHK. It’s the NHK connection that I think is telling. NHK is a “publicly owned” and “independent” corporation that everyone is technically, sort of, supposed to support via fees that are technically, sort of mandatory. Its annual budget has to be approved by the government.

This means there’s no real interest in making Tokyo Skytree user friendly. It will continue to exist even if no one visits it. And, in defense of the Powers What Are, a lot of people visit it every year despite the annoyances.

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