The Ryōunkaku (凌雲閣, Ryōunkaku, lit. Cloud-Surpassing Pavilion or Cloud-Surpassing Tower) was Japan's first western-style skyscraper. It stood in the Asakusa district of Tokyo from 1890 until its demolition following the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923. The Asakusa Jūnikai (浅草十二階, lit. Asakusa Twelve-stories), as it was called affectionately by Tokyoites, was the most popular attraction in Tokyo, and a showcase for new technologies as it housed Japan's first electric elevator.
Architecture and Technology:
The Ryōunkaku was designed by the Scottish engineer W. K. Burton in the late 1880s, not long after his arrival in Japan. It was a 225-foot (69 m) tower, made from red bricks over a wood frame in renaissance revival style. The twelve floors all had electric lighting. The two electric elevators were designed by Ichisuke Fujioka, a founder of Toshiba, and served from the first to the eight floor, with a ten-person capacity each, however they were shut down only half a year after the opening of the tower for safety reasons.
The Ryōunkaku on the second through seventh floors held forty-six stores selling goods from around the World. A lounge was on the eighth floor, and art exhibitions were held on the ninth floor, while the tenth through twelfth were observation decks. From there, all of Tokyo could be seen and on a clear day also Mount Fuji. Many artistic and cultural events were held in the Ryōunkaku, including Western music concerts, geisha photograph exhibitions, beauty contests etc. Famous was the store where wood-block prints were made for Sugoroku, a popular Japanese board game.