Winter is the season with the best visibility as fas as weather in Japan goes (link: Το Κλίμα της Ιαπωνίας) . Then, why not visit a tall observatory to enjoy the grandiose landscape of Tokyo? I am always baffled by the lack of open spaces at the rooftops of high-rise buildings; so much wasted potential. Imagine the amount of rooftop bars and cafés that Tokyo could host. Anyway, there is a couple of options, apart from the cheapo option of the Tokyo Metropolitan Building, so let’s get started.
Shibuya Sky (Shibuya)
The Shibuya area has been heavily built up in anticipation of the Tokyo 2021 Olympics. To such an extent, that every time I get off at Shibuya station, I get lost, something that didn’t use to happen before. Among the new additions is the Shibuya Scramble Square skyscraper, standing directly next to the JR station. With a total height of 229 meters, at the 46th floor there is an entrance to the rooftop open-air observatory, Shibuya Sky. Unfortunately, it is not free, there’s an entrance fee of 1800 JPY.
The deck offers a 360° unobstructed view of the city. A giant compass on the floor can help you navigate the directions. On the west side there are a few sofas with tables, but on the other side there are some rope hammocks, perfect to chill and sunbathe lazily like a lizard.
To the north, you can see the lush greenery of Yoyogi park, with the towers of Shinjuku behind it. Yoyogi park is the meeting point for foreigners and fitness addicts, as well as dance groups and picnic lovers. In front of Yoyogi two new Olympic facilities stand out, the Yoyogi National Stadium and the gymnasium. The smaller park on the right is Shinjuku Gyoen, an important imperial garden.
Moving clockwise, the overpriced Japan National Stadium, a work of Kengo Kuma, is prominent. The opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics were held at that stadium. Directly next to it lie the gardens of the imperial property of Akasaka, the state guest house for foreign visitors and important guests.
A bit more to the east, and now you can see the Oshiage Skytree (634 m), the tallest structure in Tokyo and Tokyo Tower (333 m), a red mock-up of the Eiffel Tower. That is the district of Minato, the business district, hence all the high-rise buildings. Many company headquarters are located in the vicinity of Tokyo Tower.
Turning south, the view is towards Kanagawa and the city of Kawasaki that separate Tokyo from Yokohama. A sudden cluster of tall buildings is none other than the residential towers of Musashi Kosugi, while the Landmark Tower of Yokohama (296 m, the second-tallest building in Japan) is visible at the back. The horizon turns dark-bluish, because that’s where the sky blends with the Tokyo bay. You could even discern the Wind tower, the ventilation structure of Aqua line tunnel in the middle of Tokyo bay (link: Day hike from Tokyo: The other giant Buddha).
If the cloud gods are in a good mood, they may let you see Mt. Fuji as well, but not this time. There were a lot of amateur photographers at the deck, but they were not allowed to carry any tripods or professional equipment apart from the camera itself.
Mori Tower (Roppongi)
A more traditional alternative is the rooftop of Mori Tower in Roppongi Hills, which also has a sky deck at 270 meters, although much smaller than the one in Shibuya Scramble Square. Alternatively, there is an indoor observation deck, at the 52nd floor, also with a full view. For a fee of 6,600 JPY you can get an annual passport with free entrance to the deck throughout the year.
The advantage of Mori tower is the Mori Art Museum, which constantly holds interesting exhibitions. I visited during a time when an exhibition about “Future and the Arts: AI, Robotics, Cities, Life – How Humanity Will Live Tomorrow” (link: exhibition website) and another about “Tokyo Railway System” were taking place.
Yokohama Landmark Tower (Minato Mirai)
Another option, not in Tokyo, but in nearby Yokohama, is the aforementioned Yokohama Landmark Tower. It used to be the home of the fastest elevator in the world, which now became the second fastest, as a superior one exists in China. For 1000 JPY you get to ride the elevator to the 69th floor and to enjoy the view and events at the indoor observation deck. The futuristic district of Minato Mirai, the ocean, the inner plains of Kanto and the entire Tokyo metropolitan area are visible from this tower.
Carrot Tower (Sangenjaya) and Carreta Shiodome (Shinbashi)
Last but not least, I include two free options, because everyone loves free stuff! The first option is Carrot Tower at Sangenjaya station, which offers an excellent view of Tokyo and Mt. Fuji, although the good views are assigned to the restaurant section. Another option is Caretta Shiodome, which is especially popular in winter for its illuminated decoration.
Surprisingly, unlike Hong Kong, apart from a few cramped high-rise buildings such as in Shinjuku and Musashi Kosugi, the rest of the structures in Tokyo are relatively low. This means, that as long as you find a tall building and climb up to the top floor, you will be able to get a good view of the rest of the city. Try to pick a clear day and go to the top of the tallest building in your area. What do you see?
Do you have a favourite view of Tokyo? Which is it?