How can you escape the crowds in the largest city in the world with over 38 million people? Maneuvering through neighborhoods and seeking out the most popular sites as you swim through crowds is daunting, exhilarating and exhausting all at once. However, I was happy to learn on my third and most independent trip, that you can escape the overwhelm by getting high. Stop smirking! Look up and enjoy the must see Tokyo viewpoints. Some of the most peaceful and beautiful spots in Tokyo rest far above the crowds.
Discovering the views
We had three and a half days in Tokyo after exploring cities south and east over two weeks. Tokyo kept us moving. We walked, took trains, both local and JR, and filled every minute from dawn to dusk. On the last evening in Japan, we headed over to Rappongi Hills (more details below) where the shops and architecture were breathtaking. The biggest thrill waited on the 52nd floor at the Mori Museum. Broad windows rose floor to ceiling, perfect for watching the sky turn from hazy gold to sparkling ink over a few hours. There was no need to rush through the observatory and the flow of people was managed well. An exhibit of Basquiat’s Japanese artwork and galleries devoted to beloved musician Harry Hosono offered distraction. An interactive coffee experience was there for the asking. The Moon Cafe offered quiet dining and a casual cafe stood to one side. It was all manageable on a Friday night because the main museum was closed for renovations which is slated to reopen early in 2020.
After hours on the high floor with a dip up to the Sky Deck for unobstructed views in the cool night air, we rode the swift elevator down to street level to window shop and grab dinner before returning to our Shinjuku neighborhood Airbnb to pack for our return flight. I hadn’t anticipated how the must see Tokyo viewpoints can be so restorative and enjoyable. They can be romantic as well as pleasing the mulit-objectives of a family group. When I return, and I always desire to return for more of Japan, I’m going to search out more rooftop views of Tokyo.
A short list of must see Tokyo views
Shibuya Sky above Scramble Square
Location: Tokyo, Shibuya ward, Shibuya 2-24-12 (direct access from and right above Shibuya Station)
The famous Shibuya Scramble intersection is just above one of Tokyo’s central train stations. Scores of TV shows, video games, and movies have been set in the neighborhood. Above it all rises a huge new tower full of new shopping, eating and drinking experiences as well as offices. A dizzying view waits at the top of the tallest building in the area.
Unfortunately it opened the morning I flew home but Shibuya Sky is on my radar and should be on yours as well. There are three zones. The ticket office is on the 14th floor. Sky Stage is on the 46th floor with an outdoor observation area as well as Sky Gallery, with indoor spaces. Futuristic, and high tech installations flow across corridors and in elevators. Humane planning has added spacious places to sit indoors and even hammocks outside when the weather is mild. The Sky Stage level offers 360-degree view of Tokyo. There’s a spot to view Mt. Fuji with unobstructed views of landmarks across the metropolis.
The Valley Below
As you look out across the urban expanse from Shibuya (which literally means valley,) it’s hard to imagine that once two rivers, the Shibuya and Uda converged below. After WWII development took off and the Tokyu Railway opened a department store, other large facilities followed in the 1950’s. Today it’s one of the most thriving urban hubs in the world.
The first phase of the complex is open as of November 1 with West and Central buildings scheduled for completion in 2028.
Rappongi Hills Observatory in the Mori Building
Location: 6-10-1, Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 106-6108
Rappongi swirls with energy around the clock. The Mori Building on 52nd floor has one of the must see Tokyo views . The Sky Deck on the roof, is perfect for admiring the starry sky from 270 meters above sea level.
Tokyo Skytree – Highest Must See Tokyo View
Location: 1-1-2, Oshiage, Sumida-ku, Tokyo, 131-0045
The Sky Tree rises over the city like a king’s scepter. I loved glimpsing it as we rode into town and admired it from within shortly after it opened. Read about the experience in this earlier post. When you plan to visit as an international tourist check the website for special tickets which can shorten your wait time considerably, especially on weekends. There are tickets for the different levels with the most expensive access taking you to the highest observatory in the region. Purchase them on the fourth floor.
I loved the panoramic views, especially watching Mt. Fuji emerge in the distance. It was also fascinating to watch the video displays showing past celebrations and fireworks going off far below. The glass floor platform triggered my vertigo so I admired that experience from afar. When you’re standing almost a third a mile (350 meters) above the planet it’s hard to believe you’re still in contact with the ground.
Observation Room of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government
Location: 2-8-1 Nishi Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
If you ask fellow tourists where to catch the must see Tokyo view the best of them will recommend the Tokyo Government Observation Plaza. It’s free! From the rooftop plaza you can see the Tokyo Tower and the Sky Tree in one take and there’s a helpful map in the Observation Room that points out landmark buildings. Tours are available at limited hours during the day. Check the city website for access and hours as rolling renovations have closed some of the platform.
Kitte Office Building
Location: 2-7-2 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Where there was once the Tokyo Central Post Office today there’s the vast KITTE commercial space open to the public on the sixth floor. While not the highest must see Tokyo view, it’s a thrill to watch the plazas change as day turns to night and the Tokyo Station building blazes to life with light. There’s no admission fee to visit the garden but visit on weekday evenings to avoid the office workers and throngs of tourists. Open until 11 pm on weekdays and 10 pm on weekends, with the Station Building lighting at 9 pm. With the station so close there are plenty of choices for a meal and shops to peruse.
Seaside Top of the World Trade Building
Location: 2-4-1 Hamamatsu-cho, Minato-ku, Tokyo
I love seaside vistas and the World Trade Center Building makes the list of must see Tokyo views. It’s no longer the tallest building in Tokyo but you can still see many famous spots and watch the bay traffic. The Seaside Top observatory is on the 40th floor, tripods are accepted which makes it a nighttime mecca for photographers. For the rest of us there are benches for watching the neon excess of the city flow and bay traffic float by. Access if fairly affordable at 660 yen per adult and the building is directly connected to the Hamamatsucho Station.
Sunshine City and Sky Circus
Japan loves cute and Sunshine City with the Sky Circus is over the top. Basically it’s an observation deck with 360 degree views over Shinjuku’s high rises. It’s something of a theme park with VR experiences, Instagram spots and interactive art installations in bright patterns and colors. A fine spot for multi-generational interests. The circus open until 8 pm most nights while the Observatory remains open until 10 pm. Admission costs between 1200 yen to 600 for children.
I hope you enjoyed the suggestions. Have you been to Tokyo? What are your favorite viewpoints in the city?
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