Free alternatives for a bird’s eye view of Tokyo24 August, 2010 by Chad
When visiting Tokyo, the iconic Tokyo Tower and Roppongi Hills are among the two most common spots to survey the city. While it’s tough to beat the romantic significance of the tower, there are a number of options for those looking for a budget view of the city.
Just for comparison. It costs, 820 yen to visit Tokyo Tower’s 150 meter tall main observatory and another 600 yen to enter the special observatory, which at 250 meters high is still the highest observatory point in Tokyo until the Tokyo Sky Tree is completed next year.
It costs 1500 yen (1200 yen if you purchase the tickets in advance from a convenience store) to visit Roppongi Hill’s 52nd floor (218 meters) and 300 yen more to gain access to the building’s roof (238 meters).
The best views of course, don’t come free. However, here’s a lesser known list of free access buildings with (still) spectacular views of the city. In no particular order.
1. Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
Tokyo Tochosha (東京都庁舎) or The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (is the headquarters of the governor and assembly of Tokyo. It’s just a short distance from Shinjuku station.
The large complex actually occupies 3 city blocks and is split into 3 sections. The Tokyo Metropolitan Main Building 1 is the most prominent of the three. At 243 meters, it’s also the 2nd tallest building within the city.
Building 1 has two observatories (one for each tower) which are open free of charge to the public. It offers a viewing of the city from the 45th floors, 202 meters above ground. There’s even a cafe that changes into a bar in the evening in the North tower.
The South Observatory is open from 9.30 AM to 5.30 PM while the North Observatory is open until 11 PM daily. Note that the observatories are closed during 29th December to 3rd January each year.
2. Shinjuku NS Building
The Shinjuku NS Building (新宿NSビル) is located beside the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and Sumitomo buildings. It too has has a free viewing area on its 30th floor.
Though a much lower height than the other buildings in the area (it’s only 134 meters tall), the Shinjuku NS building offers some other points of interest for visitors such as a see through glass elevator and a sky bridge on the 29th floor. Open 11 AM to 10 PM daily.
3. Shinjuku Sumitomo Building
The Shinjuku Sumitomo Building (新宿住友ビルディング) is also located across from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. While this office building only stands at 210 meters tall, it is also the oldest building on this list.
The building’s top 5 floors house a range of restaurants (from budget to extravagant) where you can sit down and enjoy a meal while overlooking the city. Definitely the main draw to visit the building.
There’s also a free view lobby, on the 51st floor (200 meters) that is open from 10 AM to 10 PM daily.
4. Shinjuku Center Building
The Shinjuku Center Building (新宿センタービル) is the closest skyscraper to Shinjuku station that offers a public observatory. The top floor (210 meters) has a restaurant from which you can see Fuji and the Japanese Alps on clear days. For those on a budget, there’s a free viewing area one level below the 52nd floor. You will also be able to enjoy a view of Roppongi, Shinagawa and Shibuya from here. Open 8 AM – 11 PM daily.
5. Shinjuku Nomura Building
Yet another building in the area, the Shinjuku Nomura Building (新宿野村ビル) is located just beside the Shinjuku Center Building. The 203 meter building has a number of posh restaurants on its top floors too. For the rest, it offers a small viewing area on on level 50, outside of the restaurants.
6. Bunkyo Civic Center
The Bunkyo Civic Center (文京シビックセンター) is the government building for Tokyo’s Bunkyo Ward. The 142 meter building has a free observatory lounge on its 25th floor. Though shorter than the buildings in the Shinjuku area, the Civic Center’s protruding observatory offers a clear 270 degree view of Bunkyo, Shinjuku, Akihabara and even Mount Fuji on clear days. It’s open from 9 AM – 8PM.
7. St. Luke’s Tower
St. Luke’s Tower (聖路加タワー) or St. Luke’s Garden is a two tower complex located along the Sumida River at Tsukiji. The 47th floor of the office tower is home to restaurant but also offers a free observatory which has a direct view of Tokyo Tower and Mount Fuji. There’s also a sky bridge linking the two towers on the 32nd floor. The building is open from 9 AM to 10.30 PM daily but the observatory closes at 7 PM.
8. Dentsu Headquarters Building
For another view of the Minato Ward, you can visit the Dentsu Headquarters Building (電通本社ビル), home to the advertising giant, Dentsu. The 213 meter and 48-storey high building has free observatories on the 46th and 47th floors.
Forming the main part of Caretta Shiodome, the building is famous for its iconic sail-like design by the famous French Architect Jean Nouvel. The Dentsu Building is serviced by exactly 70 elevators and the windowed elevators are an experience in their own. There’s also a free advertising museum at the basement of the building. The building is open from 7AM to midnight.
Dentsu Building Elevator:
9. Carrot Tower
Carrot Tower (キャロットタワー) at Setagaya offers a skyline view from a free lounge on the 26th floor. Despite being only 124 meters tall, it is popular among couples as a yakei (night view) spot because of its excellent ambiance. Opens 9.30 AM – 11 PM.
10. Ebisu Garden Place
One of the top date spots in Tokyo, Ebisu Garden Place (恵比寿ガーデンプレイス) is a up class promenade featuring a number of restaurant, bars, luxury boutiques and museums.
There is actually a free viewing area on the 38th and 39th floors of the tower building here that gives a view of the Meguro Ward in the direction of Shibuya and Aoyama. It’s not nearly as popular with the couples though as the viewing rooms are brightly lit. If you’re wondering why, the glare reflected off the windows make viewing difficult at night (among other things).
Open 10 AM to 11 PM.Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.