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Tourists apprehensive about climbing tower

Date Posted: 2006-02-10

Iriomote Island is an isolated island to Okinawa’s far south, just north of Taiwan.

Tourism plays a key role in life on this 334 square mile island, which is more than 90% virgin forest and tropical rain forest. On its Taketomi Town island area, officials are concerned about a key tourist site.

The Prefecture’s tangible cultural asset is its Tower of Soften, and now the tower is causing alarm to some tourists. The Tower of Soften is supposed to be a relaxing experience for tourists, but now visitors are saying “Oh my God! It’s scary!” and “I’m afraid. It looks like it is falling down below.”

Tourists are referring to the tower’s very steep, very narrow 60 degree steps. Taketomi Island’s Board of Education, which oversees the Tower, says “we would like to reform the site, but it’s registered as a tangible culture asset so we can’t touch it.” Until now, he says, there have been no accidents, “but we are now warning people to please be careful.

The Tower was built in 1953 by villagers, stretching 8.7 meters into the sky. Each of the steps are only 45cm long and at 16cm, even more narrow. “There’s not even enough room for feet,” said an official, “so people have to walk by their toes.” He says tourists must climb the 60 degree stairwell holding on tightly to the guardrail as they maneuver the steps, which are 35cm high (13.65” each).
“I feel like falling down,” said another tourist, but “I came to the island and I will make enough courage to climb to the top of the tower. A Board of Education staff member called the stairs steep and narrow, and said “that’s why people are paying so much attention to being careful. That’s actually better,” he added, “because everybody pays attention.

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