The Tokyo Skytree, twice as tall as the Eiffel Tower, and its surrounding retail and office complex opened today with thousands queuing in the rain for a first look at the JPY143bn (US$1.8bn) development. Owner Tobu Railway had predicted 200,000 first-day visitors, lured by the 300-plus shops and restaurants, along with the lighting up of the tower at night. The development in eastern Tokyo opened before its 10 am schedule to allow the crowds to escape the bad weather. “There are so many stores in one place, and it’s easy to shop,” said Miho Yabe, a 24 year-old-year fitness-club employee, who spent two hours traveling to Tokyo Skytree from neighboring Chiba prefecture. “I’ll come back again when it’s not as crowded.” Tobu Railway expects the 634m (2,080 feet) tower and its surrounding building to draw 32m visitors in its first year, surpassing the numbers at Tokyo Disney Resort. The rail company is counting on the development, which also includes an aquarium and planetarium, to lure shoppers as Japan’s shrinking population threatens to damp rail travel. Tokyo Skytree, which took four years to build, surpasses the 600-meter Canton Tower in Guangzhou, China, as the world’s tallest, according to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. Dubai’s Burj Khalifa is the tallest building at 828 meters. A tower is a structure where less than half the height is occupied by usable floor space, according to the council. Tobu, which also operates buses, hotels, shopping centers, department stores, golf courses and sports clubs, rose 0.8 percent to 389 yen at the close of trading in Tokyo. It’s jumped 25 percent in the past year, compared with an 11 percent decline for the benchmark Topix Index. The tower, which cost JPY65bn yen on its own, has two observation decks, one at 350 meters and another at 450 meters. A trip to the lower deck will cost 2,000 yen. Visits up the tower are fully booked through July 11, said Kenji Aoyagi, a Tobu spokesman. “It’s great,” said Hiromi Kobayashi, a 36-year-old housewife visiting with her mother and two-year-old daughter. “I want to come back and visit the aquarium next time.” Six TV stations, including state-owned NHK, will start using the Skytree for transmissions next year. The tower’s steel frame changes from a triangle at the base to a circle at the top, and its curves and arches reflect a traditional Samurai sword, according to Tobu, the third biggest train operator by ticket sales in Tokyo and surrounding cities. Skytree is also about double the height of Japan’s previous record-holder, the 333-meter Tokyo Tower, which opened in 1958. The new tower looms over Tokyo’s Asakusa district, previously one of the city’s main entertainment areas and still home to geishas and traditional Japanese restaurants. The area also houses Senso-ji temple, a popular tourist site, famed for Kaminarimon, Thunder Gate. “As a local I’m very pleased,” Sadaharu Oh, Japan’s baseball home-run record holder, said at the opening ceremony. He grew up in Sumida City, one of Tokyo’s 23 wards, and home to the tower.