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Yebisu Garden Place Winter Illumination

Yebisu Garden Place Winter IlluminationYebisu Garden Place Winter Illumination

When the air is crisp and the nights are long, parts of Tokyo dress up in twinkling lights and are perfumed with roasted chestnuts and sweet potatoes. Yebisu Garden Place is one such place that I feel lucky to have visited while we lived in Tokyo. A fantastically romantic annual display complete with a brilliant Christmas tree and a market filled with pleasurable delicacies.

Baccarat Eternal Lights
November to Mid-January, 11:00 to Midnight

The Yebisu’s Baccarat Chandelier is an ornament of prodigious size. The largest of its kind in the world, it is put on display every year in a custom-made enclosure. All 250 lamps are fully lit in celebration for the holiday season. At three meters wide and five meters tall, the Baccarat Chandelier is comprised of 8,472 crystal pieces, each placed by 70 experienced craftsmen requiring over 5,000 hours of work.

Up until Christmas day, romantics come from all over Tokyo to enjoy sipping the finest French champagne in crystalline flutes beneath the famous Baccarat Chandelier.

Yebisu’s Baccarat Chandelier

The Christmas Tree
November to Christmas Day, 16:00 to 24:00

As soon as the clock ticks over to November, the organizers of the Yebisu Garden Place Illuminations string up over 100,000 individual lights. From the Entrance Pavilion, all throughout the Clock Plaza, to the Promenade, and down to the Chateau Plaza, golden lights adorn nearly every tree and bush. At the center off the Clock Plaza is a radiant 10-meter-tall tree sprinkled with multi-colored ornaments. Possibly the most perfect spot for an Instagram.

Yebisu Garden Christmas Tree
Yebisu Garden Christmas Tree

CoroPura Canal Walk
November to Mid-January, 16:00 to 24:00

Tucked away on the west side Yebisu Garden Place is a length of decorative blue LEDs that bathes a cobbled walkway in a liquid-like glow. The lights saturate the air in a fairy-blue turning the lane into an ethereal waterway or canal. For three times throughout the evening, the canal will have a “Rainbow Minute,” where the glittering blue lights turn into a shimmering rainbow.

CoroPura Canal Walk

Christmas Marche
November to Christmas Day, 12:00 to 20:00

My favorite part of the Yebisu Garden Place Winter Illumination is the Christmas Market or Marche. Here you can find food to warm you up, pretty little gifts to bring home, a bit of sweet something to share, and a nip of hot wine before heading back to your hotel on the train.

Christmas Marche surrounds the tree.
Christmas Marche surrounds the tree.


23 WardsMinato

Tokyo City Sky View at Roppongi Hills Mori Tower

View of Tokyo Tower from Tokyo Sky ViewView of Tokyo Tower from Tokyo Sky View

六本木ヒルズ森タワーの東京シティビュー   
Roppongi Hiruzu Mori Tawā no Tokyo City Sky View

When to Go?

Summers in Japan are oppressively hot and humid which causes atmospheric distortions to the city scenery.  August through mid-October is considered typhoon season and thus rains quite a lot in the Tokyo area and much of Japan.

You’re left with Late Autumn, Winter, and Spring for optimal scenery observing.  Although it can get quite cold, I myself prefer December and January because the air seems clearer for better long distant views. Also, from December through February, the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower area usually features a winter illumination display at night. 

The Autumn season offers fall foliage when looking northwest toward Aoyama Cemetery and from the Roppongi Hills Sky View Observation decks.  If my memory serves me correctly, Sky View also holds a few Gazing Parties on the Rooftop deck.

Regardless of what season you go, be sure to check the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower website for special events and any art exhibits on display.

On the day before you decide to go, check the weather.  All I can say is that the views are very disappointing when it rains, especially during the day. At night the views are better, but not as much as a clear day with the full moon out. 

Tokyo Tower at night from Tokyo Sky View at Mori Tower in Rippongi Hills
Tokyo Tower at night from Tokyo Sky View at Mori Tower in Roppongi Hills

How Much?

Like many of the sky decks, you can buy tickets online the day before you go to Tokyo City Sky View. Advance tickets cost ¥1,500 JPY.  If you purchase online, you’ll get a mobile ticket which you can turn in at the ticket counter. This will give you access to the Mori Art Museum in addition to the indoor observation deck.  If you buy online from places like Viator or Google, your ticket will be valid for 7 days from when you buy them. I should let you know that there are no refunds when purchased, and each ticket is single entry only with no re-entry.

If the Rooftop Sky Deck is open, visiting will cost an extra ¥500 and are sold on the 52nd floor from a ticket machine just before the escalators. Honestly, for the price of a grande latte, the view from the rooftop is worth it.

For art fans, the Mori Art Museum also holds special art exhibits or events, but it will cost you extra.  I’ve seen some exhibits cost as much as ¥2200, but it also includes access to the indoor observation deck.

You can, of course, buy your tickets on the day of your visit on the third floor, but it will cost ¥1,800.

“The Cone” – Tokyo City View & Mori Art Museum Entrance

How to Visit

Roppongi Hills Mori Tower – with its art galleries, exhibits, events and rooftop observatory – is understandably very restrictive about what you can bring into their areas.

They do have coin lockers, but those also cost extra and only for small items.  I highly recommend bringing as little as possible when you visit and leave your large luggage at the hotel or at a train station storage locker.  Small bags, cameras, and smartphones are fine. They outright forbid tripods.

For the art gallery area, it is even more restrictive and there is a whole list of things that you cannot bring.

If you plan on visiting the rooftop Sky Deck, they’ll check you over before letting you up the elevator for access. But in general, they’ll allow you and a camera. If you have any lose clothing like scarves or hats, they’ll ask you to put that in a coin locker since winds can get strong at 270 meters above sea level.  Large items like baby strollers, tripods, umbrellas and such are forbidden.

View of Tokyo Tower and Odaiba from the Sky Deck

Second Floor – Museum Cone & Entrance

To enter, follow the signs to the second floor and enter through the Museum cone. Then take the steps or elevator up one floor to the Ticket Counter.   

Third Floor – Ticket counter

Here you can pick up or buy your tickets at the ticket counter, then be led to the entrance elevators up to the 52nd floor.

Also, on the 3rd floor is the Roppongi Hills A/D Gallery which features a monthly rotating art by various artists. Adjacent to the gallery is the Roppongi Hills Art & Design Store strategically placed near the exit elevators.

Mori Tower with spider sculpture.

52nd Floor – Indoor Observation Deck & Mori Arts Center Gallery

I’ve found the layout of the 52nd floor to be confusing and the throng of crowds can make it hard to navigate.  Both the Observation deck and Gallery have entrances right next to each other, so if you bought tickets for one and not the other, you’ll need to double-check if you’re going into the right area.

As you exit the elevators head toward the Museum Café and Restaurant and then to the right. You’ll see two entrances: the left leads to the observatory, and the right is the Arts Center Gallery.

Upon entering the indoor observatory deck you’ll instantly see Tokyo Tower toward the east and Rainbow Bridge with parts of Odaiba to the southeast.  In the southwest, you’ll see a distant Mt. Fuji, parts of Yokohama, and nearby Ebisu.  Directly west are the glittering towers of Shinjuku, and the swath of green of Yoyogi Park of Shibuya.

After exiting the observatory, you can take a turn on the inner circuit and view the Mori Arts Center Gallery. The gallery typically does not exhibit a permanent collection but rather temporary exhibitions of works by contemporary artists. On occasion, they’ll make an exception and showcase older artworks such as the collection of Marie-Antoinette paintings.

Indoor Observation at Night

53rd Floor – Mori Art Museum

After making the double lap on the 52nd floor, head up the central escalators to the 53rd floor to the Mori Art Museum. Here is the main show as intended by the museum’s founder, Minoru Mori. The museum focuses on contemporary art and primarily exhibits works of Asian artists.  Be sure to check the Mori Art Museum’s website before visiting, you might find it worth the extra yen and include it in your visit.

Escalators up to MAM – the Mori Art Museum

Rooftop – Sky Deck

Personally, I really love the Sky Deck of Mori Tower: True unobstructed views of Tokyo – No glass, just the air and wind, and the city. As you walk near the edge, you can look over the railing and get fantastic photographs, or just marvel at the megacity of Tokyo – the largest city in the world! 

The sky deck is why I suggest going in late Autumn or winter when the weather is dryer and all you need is a warm jacket or a few layers. In the summer the direct sun and heat will quickly drive you inside unless you like getting sunburned. While in late August through early October, the heavy rains of typhoon season will most likely prevent you from visiting.

Tokyo Sky View vs Tokyo Skytree

Although I like Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Sky View has some advantages.  Firstly, Tokyo Sky View is more central to the Tokyo metro area than Sky Tree.  From Roppongi Hills Station, you can easily access Tokyo Tower, Harajuku, Shinjuku, and Chiyoda City by subway or train. 

Second, Sky View costs less than Sky Tree by a good 400 to 800 yen depending on which options you go with. Plus the base ticket price does also includes access to the Mori Art Museum.

Finally, Sky View does have the Sky Deck which allows open-air access to Tokyo Views, which can be a real treat for those who love cityscapes from up high.

Mori Tower at Roppongi Hills
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Tokyo Skytree

Tokyo Skytree DayTokyo Skytree Day

東京スカイツリー
Tōkyō Sukaitsurī

When to Go

If you are a tourist visiting Japan, I would suggest checking the weather and then buying tickets online a day or more before you go. Shop for the best prices because they will be different based on when and who you buy them from. Try to book for a weekday rather than weekends or during Japanese holidays if don’t like crowds. Autumn and Winter mornings are a splendid time for clearer views.

How Much?

The Tokyo Skytree view and “experience” does come at a hefty price and is by far one of the most expensive tourist spots in Tokyo.  To make things worse, it comes with a confusing price system.  But in short, make reservations and buy your tickets online if you want to save money.

If you go to Google maps and search for Tokyo Skytree, you’ll be given the option to buy tickets online via GooglePay portal, just click on the “Buy Tickets” button. The last time I looked prices were ¥2,700 each for adults for access to both the Tembo Deck (350m) and Tembo Galleria (450m). ¥1,800 if you just want to go to the Tembo Deck (350m). This is a pretty good deal especially compared to buying them in-person which is almost twice as much – and potentially more if you end up going on a weekend or holiday.  Other sites that offer decent prices are Viator.com and Voyagin.com.

View from Sumida Park
View from Sumida Park

First & Fourth Floors

Before heading up to claim your tickets, take a quick stop on the first floor. There’s a large digital picture scroll of Sumida River worthy of a quick glance. For you civil engineering & architecture buffs, there’s a window where you can see part of the super thick steel framework that supports the 634-meter (2080 feet) Tokyo Skytree.

Head to the fourth floor to claim or buy your tickets. If you’re really into modern art, there’s a nice display of Tokyo Skytree renditions in the form of several mediums and interpretations by several artists. Otherwise, head for the main entrance for online-purchased reserved tickets. For same-day tickets, head to the North & West entrances and follow the signs. There are also storage lockers for restricted items and large luggage. Yes, they will check your bags at security before they let you into the elevator.

Tokyo Skytree Night
Tokyo Skytree Night

Floor 350 and the Tembo Deck

The elevator ride up Tokyo Skytree is super-fast.  The maximum speed is 600m per minute or roughly 22 miles per hour, which did cause my ears to pop. I found the three HD screens displaying information and an idealized view of Tokyo to be very pretty. A nice touch for the ride up.

I’ll say this upfront, I really like sky views so I’m kind of biased here. Heights don’t really bother me, and I’m easily entertained by most sky decks. I could spend hours looking down trying to identify landmarks and estimate distances. The Tokyo Skytree really delivered on its promise of distant and unobstructed views. I was delighted by how they incorporated technology through multi-lingual touch screen displays equipped with a zoom feature and detailed information on various objects in the Tokyo skyline. Combined with the Tokyo Skytree Panorama Guide on my iPhone, it was easy to discover all the famous places located in the area, both near and far.

For extra fun, I tried out the VR Stations. Intended for inclement weather days, the goggles provide a 360 view outside Tokyo Skytree in Hi-def 3D.

One of the most surprising things I found on the 350th floor of the Tembo Deck was a painted folding screen by the famous Edo Period artist Keisai Kuwagata. Entitled “Edo Hitomezu Byobu” the painting gives a similar view to what can be seen from Tokyo Skytree, except back in the 1800s when Tokyo was called Edo.

Like any good observation deck, there were plenty of photo spots and a souvenir photo service. It costs about ¥1,500 and comes complete with both digital and physical photos decorative display folder. In addition, they’ll even use your own camera or smartphone to take a picture as well.

If you happen to go after 5 pm, projector displays will turn on and play a film right on the top half of the glass. The display roughly covers 255 degrees of the Tembo Deck, which is a rather fun way to watch a film as you walk around.

Tokyo Sky Tree Tembo Deck View
Tokyo Sky Tree Tembo Deck View

Down Floor 345 and Sky Restaurant 634 (Musashi)

The designated path leads you clockwise and downwards via escalators or stairs as you complete the circuit. Much of the views on the 345 floor are the same as the one above it, but here you can enjoy a fusion of Edo and French cuisine at the posh Sky Restaurant 634 (Musashi). Reservations are required. Lunch courses start at roughly ¥6,200 per person, and dinner course at ¥16,000. That’s roughly $60 and $158 respectively. The price reflects the superb quality of food and the above-and-beyond service. If you do decide to treat yourself and that lucky someone, I assure you that you are not just paying for the view.

Following the circuit and down a set of stairs or escalators will lead you to the final level of the Tembo Deck.

Anne at Skytree Tembo Deck
Selfie at Tokyo Skytree Tembo Deck

Floor 340 & the Glass Floor

Frankly, a modern observation deck isn’t complete without a glass floor facing directly down. The area is only 2 × 3 meters, but that’s big enough to take a nice selfie and post it on Instagram. They also offer a souvenir photography service as well. 

There is also the Skytree Café on this floor, but I suggest skipping it since much of what they have to offer is way overpriced for the quality. But if you’re looking to impress your significant other without breaking the bank, then go for that ¥850 ($8) ice cream parfait.

Tokyo Sky Tree View Down
Tokyo Sky Tree View Down

Floors 445 to 450 and the Tembo Galleria

If you bought a combo ticket, you’ll need to head back up to floor 350 to take the elevators up to the 445 floor.

Tembo Galleria is a glass-covered path that starts from the elevators that lead up and around to the 450th floor. At night, it feels kind of like a tunnel of love, with the path lit up in colored lights and the sparkling lights of Tokyo outside. It’s really the perfect place to take your hold hands with a loved one while enjoying the view. At the halfway point, there’s another souvenir photography service if you fancy spending even more money.

At the final floor, there’s an area called Sorakara Point, which marks your altitude at 451.2 meters above the mega-metropolis of Tokyo. To me, it looked like a stage built out of glass and animated LED lights – just a fun area to take photographs.

I know what you’re thinking: an extra ¥900 or so just to walk up a slope. Personally, I think the extra yen is worth it. Especially at night and during the end-of-year illumination season, when everything is decorated with glittering lights for the holidays. Plus, as far as I could tell, there is nothing preventing anyone from walking back down and up again.

Tokyo Skytree Tembo Galleria
Tokyo Skytree Tembo Galleria

Sky Tree Terrace Tours

So, you’ve blown roughly ¥2,700 just to view both the Tembo Deck and Galleria, maybe a few extra on official commemorative photos, souvenirs, and overpriced ice cream. Why not go whole-hog and book a tour at the Terrance for an extra ¥1,700.  Located at 155 meters above the ground, the staff will take you on a guided tour outside to view the Skytree’s structural supports. The tour guides only speak Japanese, but you can get a free audio device giving a similar lecture in English.

The trick to getting into one of these tours is to come on a weekday *before* you pick up or buy your tickets at the counter, and to check and see if the tour is available for that day. If it is, just simply ask to get into one of the time slots.

Tokyo Skytree Reflections
Tokyo Skytree Reflections

Pricy, But Fun.

I think we easily spent over ¥10,000 ($98 USD) Tokyo Skytree including food, souvenirs, and transport. It was also hard to resist some of the cute gatchapon machines scattered around the Skytree and down at the mall. I can see how one could easily spend twice that amount, especially with all the high-class restaurants and boutiques in the area tempting you at every step.  But thankfully, there are plenty of cheap options and a lot of free things to look at too. So no matter what your price range is there’s plenty of fun for everyone at Tokyo Skytree

Tokyo Skytree Illuminations
Tokyo Skytree Illuminations
Sumida River from Tokyo Skytree
Sumida River from Tokyo Skytree
Tokyo Sky Tree Sumida River Night
Tokyo Sky Tree Sumida River Night
Tokyo Skytree
Tokyo Skytree
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Bunkyo Civic Center Observation Lounge

North ward viewNorth ward view

文京シビックセンター展望ラウンジ
Bunkyō shibikkusentā tenbō raunji

The Bunkyo Civic Center Observatory contains views from 130 meters up. With its unique 270-degree semi-circular shape, you can view the Tokyo Skytree at the east, Mt. Tsukuba to the north, and Shinjuku to the west. On a clear winter day, Mt. Fuji will show just behind the Shinjuku skyscrapers. Immediately below the civic center is Tokyo Dome City and the seventeenth-century garden of Koishikawa Korakuen. If you want good photos, use your best zoom lens, which is hopefully a 200mm or better.

The elevators to the observatory deck can get a bit tricky. If you enter from the first floor you first must take the escalators up to the 4th floor, then make your way to the elevators. You then take the elevator up to the 11th floor and then switch elevators which will stop at the 25th floor.  The elevators can get quite congested at around lunchtime and at around 5 pm as folks head out to go home.

If you want a fine meal with your view, make reservations at the Civic Sky Restaurant Chinzanso also on the same floor, but on the southern portion of the building. Lunchtime is from 11:30 to 16:00 and meals cost as little as 1300 yen. Dinner starts at 17:00 and ends at 23:30.

If you’re in the area, I highly recommend visiting Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens, a seventeenth-century garden done in the design of both Chinese and Japanese aesthetics. For more substantial entertainment, go to the Tokyo Dome City for events, amusement rides, matsuri-style foods. Personally, my favorite (although a bit pricy) Tokyo Dome spot is LaQua, a full-service onsen! If you’re looking for something more subdued and free, the University of Tokyo is roughly 20 minutes away by foot and offers a delightful scene of fall colors in November.



Bunkyo Civic Center Building
Bunkyo Civic Center Building
View of Koishikawa Korakuen Garden
View of Koishikawa Korakuen Garden
Bunkyo Civic Center View
Bunkyo Civic Center View
Tokyo Dome City Amusements . . . and Onsen!
Tokyo Dome City Amusements . . . and Onsen!
23 WardsShibuyaTourist SpotsViewing Spots

Yebisu Garden Place Tower Sky Lounge (Top of Yebisu)

Yebisu Garden Place Sky LoungeYebisu Garden Place Sky Lounge

恵比寿ガーデンプレイスタワースカイラウンジ
Yebisu gādenpureisutawā sukairaunji

Yebisu Garden Place (also called Ebisu Garden Place) is a virtual city of delights located in the Ebisu district of Shibuya. This multi-block complex is ripe with entertainments, fancy retail shops, and gastronomical diversions. And within the shining tower resides a romantic’s visual delight: Yebisu Garden Place Tower Sky Lounge, also known as Top of Yebisu

To find Top of Yebisu, you’ll have to head into Yebisu Garden Place Tower – don’t worry, there are plenty of signs and the elevators are clearly marked. Looking out the halls of the 38th and 39th floors, you’ll get unobstructed views of the Tokyo skyline.  Although it’s not a proper observatory, it does have east-facing windows with views of Minato ward, Roppongi Hills and the iconic Tokyo Tower. Shinjuku and Shibuya can be seen from the northside, while to the west is Mt. Fuji but only on a very clear day.

To make the most of your visit, I suggest visiting during the winter illuminations (November through January), when the grounds are dressed in twinkling splendor while you shop at the annual Christmas Bazaar. If you can’t make it during the holiday season, try attending the Yebisu Marche (Ebisu Marche), a farmer’s market held every Sunday throughout the rest of the year.

Regardless of the season, go for a tour of the Museum of Yebisu Beer or the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum before heading up Ebisu Garden Place Tower for a fantastic meal. For extra fun, stop by Cat Cafe Nyafe Melange for cats and coffee in a trendy setting, right next to Ebisu Station.

BTW: The 38th Floor mostly contains some of the best Japanese restaurants in Tokyo, while the 39th floor has an international selection with cuisines from China, Thailand, and Italy. It’s all delightful really and you can’t go wrong with whatever choice you make.



Yebisu Garden Place Tower
Yebisu Garden Place Tower
Yebisu Garden Tower Sky Lounge View toward the east
Yebisu Garden Tower Sky Lounge View toward the east
Yebisu Garden Square Decorated for the Holidays
Yebisu Garden Square Decorated for the holidays
Yebisu Garden Place in Mid Spring
Yebisu Garden Place in Mid Spring
Nyafe melange
Take a Cat Break at Nyafe melange Cafe
23 WardsSetagayaTourist SpotsViewing Spots

Sky Carrot Observation Lobby

View from Carrot TowerView from Carrot Tower

スカイキャロット展望ロビー
Sukai Kyarotto tenbō robī

In Setagaya City, nine minutes from Shibuya Station lives a lesser-known place to view the Tokyo skyline. It’s not a sparkling highrise made of steel and glass like the ones found in Shibuya or Shinjuku. In fact, it looks very orange with its brick facade. This is why the building is called Carrot Tower. According to the story, a contest among local children gave the commercial building its name. The winning child probably named it Carrot Tower due is garish color.

The Observation Lobby is located on the 26th floor and 126 meters high, with east-side views of Tokyo. This means you see much of Shibuya, Tokyo Skytree, and Tokyo Tower. To the west, there are views of Kanagawa and of course Mt. Fuji on a super clear day.

Carrot Tower is fantastic for tripod users. I’ve seen quite a few photographers use the housed ventilation near the windows as a place to set up their cameras. Due to the glass windows, I highly suggest using an adjustable lens hood. Modern technology is grand and they now sell silicone lens hoods that are perfect for reflection reduction when photographing through windows.

On weekday evenings you’ll pretty much have the place to yourself and you can take the time to set up your city night shot of Shibuya with both Tokyo Skytree and Tokyo Tower in the same shot. If you want additional views, visit the Sky Carrot Bar and pay for a set lunch and slightly overpriced beer.

Finding the elevators to the Sky Carrot Tower Observation Lobby is a bit awkward. After you exit Sangenjaya station via the west gates just follow the signs toward Carrot Tower (キャロットタワー). As soon as you enter the building, go up the escalators to the 2nd Floor. From there you’ll find a pair of elevators which will lead you up to the 26th Floor. Just look for blue signs that say “26F展望ロビー レストラン” (26F Observation Lobby Restaurant).

Other than the observation lobby, there really isn’t much to Carrot Tower. Like many Tokyo buildings, it has shopping and food on the lower floors and business offices up in the tower. I suggest visiting interesting locations if you find yourself in Setagaya. One such place is Setagaya park, a great place if you have young kids in tow. On weekends and Wednesdays, they have Mini Steam Locomotive rides. There are also pedal go-carts where kids can drive around in a mini-traffic park with working traffic signals.

If you want additional views of Tokyo, hop back on the train toward Shibuya and stop at Ikejiri-ōhashi Station and follow signs for Meguro Sky Garden. Meguro Sky Garden is rather special: it is a garden constructed on a sloping roof solely to cover the intersection of two major expressways. For more adult fun, head back to Shibuya to see the hustle and bustle of Scramble Crossing and take selfies in front of Hachiko, the famous dog statue.


Carrot Tower
Sunset view from Carrot Tower
Sunset view from Carrot Tower
Model of Meguro Sky Garden
Model of Meguro Sky Garden
Hachiko at Shibuya
Hachiko at Shibuya
Miniature Train at Setagaya park
Miniature Train at Setagaya park
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Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Observation Rooms

TachoTokyo Metropolitan Government Building

東京都庁舎観察室展望室
Tōkyō-to Chōsha kansatsu shitsu

If you are a Godzilla fan, you’ll recognize this building. I certainly did! This building is from when the king lizard himself crashes right through the mid-section in the 1991 film “Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah.”

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (also known by locals as Tocho “都庁”) is home to two observation decks: South Tower and North Tower – Each having their own elevator entrance but both on the 45th floor. As of 2019, the North Tower Observation room is going under renovations but will reopen sometime mid-January 2020. Meanwhile, the South Tower Observation room is open and occasionally hosts live musical performances during your viewing pleasure.

At a height of 202 meters and favorable weather conditions, you can spy Tokyo Tower, Meiji Shrine, Tokyo Dome, Mount Fuji, Tokyo Bay, and Tokyo Skytree. You can even get a glimpse of Yokohama to the west and Chiba to the east. Best time to view is early morning in Autumn or Winter when the air is less hazy. Sorry photographers leave your tripods at the hotel.

To enter the Observation deck, you’ll need to go down to the Observation elevators on the first floor, where security will check your bags before entry. Both towers have a café where you get reasonably priced refreshments and snacks. And of course, there are souvenirs available for purchase to commemorate your visit.

Since Tocho is a government building, the observation deck will be closed on certain holidays. On December 29th and January 3rd, both towers are closed but open on Jan 1st to welcome in the New Year. Because of the holiday period, there is less traffic and factory pollution in the Tokyo area, and you’ll be able to see fantastic views of Mount Fuji. Maybe snap some good pics with a sizable zoom lens.

Last time I checked the South Observation deck closes every first and third Tuesday of the month. Be sure to check the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s twitter account for updates and any closures when you’re in town.

Shinjuku is rife with delights, so if you’ll be making your way down to the Tocho, you might as well make a day trip out of it. I suggest visiting Shinjuku Central Park right next door, or Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden on the other side of Shinjuku Station. For some light family-friendly amusement, visit the TOTO Tokyo Center Show Room to marvel at Japanese toilet and washlet technology. For late-night fun, have your pick from hundreds of themed izakayas or Japanese bars in Golden Gai, but do make a quick stop at the ever instagramable Hanazono Shrine beforehand.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building gets high marks for being a really pretty building where you can really get some nice street photography shots with a decent 55mm lens or just a smartphone camera. The Observation rooms are nice, but not a target destination in themselves since there isn’t much else to do there except take in the views. It’s best as a side destination when visiting Shinjuku for the day.



Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
View of Yoyogi Park from Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
View of Yoyogi Park from Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
Bright likes of Shinjuku Nights`
Bright likes of Shinjuku Nights
Golden Gai
Hanazono Jinja
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Caretta Shiodome Sky View

Carretta Shiodome Illuminations 2019Carretta Shiodome Illuminations 2019

カレッタ汐留 SKY VIEW
Caretta Shiodome Sky View

While not a proper observation deck, Caretta Shiodome Sky View does offer some fine views of the Odaiba, Rainbow bridge, the old Tsukiji fish market, the Harumi passenger ship terminal, Hama-Rikyu Gardens, the Imperial Palace, and Shinjuku. More of a lounge, Caretta is located on 46th and 47th floors and serves as a waiting area for the many restaurants on the same floor. I do have to warn you, there are a few windows and the field of view limited when compared to a real observation deck. The best views are located at the stairwells between the two floors. Caretta does, however, have the best elevator ride with pretty Tokyo views as you’re going up. The views overall are pretty good, but the best time to go is at night when Tokyo is blazing with city lights.

If you want to view Tokyo city proper along with the Imperial Palace and Shinjuku clearly visible, you’ll have to order a beer or meal at one of the restaurants there. Don’t worry it’s all good and tasty! If you go between November to January, you’ll get to see the Caretta light and sound illumination show in the courtyard below – a real romantic treat especially when you combo it with a fancy meal.

Also, in the area is the Hamarikyu Gardens – a beautiful public park built on the site of a 17th-century villa belonging to the Shōgun Tokugawa family. For a mere 300 yen ($2.80 USD) you enjoy perfect peonies, a sweet plum tree grove, and fields filled with flowers for every season. I also suggest visiting Tsukiji Outer Market for some lunchtime grazing. If you’re up for some iconic Tokyo scenery stop by Zōjōji Temple which is an easy 25 minutes walk from Caretta.

Honestly, Caretta Shiodome Sky View is best at night and during the winter illumination season. I just enjoyed bundling up and strolling through the pretty lights, thankful that I remembered to bring my hand warmers. Then heading up to the Sky View lounge to warm up with a warm drink and a light meal. *sigh*



View from Caretta Shiodome at Night
View from Caretta Shiodome at Night
Anne at Carretta Shiodome Illuminations
Obligatory Selfie at Carretta Shiodome Illuminations
Hamarikyu Gardens
View of Hamarikyu Gardens from the moat
Jizō-sama of Zōjōji Temple
Jizō-sama of Zōjōji Temple
23 WardsEdogawaTourist SpotsViewing Spots

Tower Hall Funabori Observation Deck

Night View of Tokyo from  Tower Hall FunaboriNight View of Tokyo

タワーホール船堀 展望室
Tawāhōru Funabori tenbō-shitsu

In the Edogawa ward, beyond the hustle and bustle of central Tokyo is a little-known observation deck. I assume it’s hardly known because many people refuse to take the trip out to the far side of Edogawa. Those who do head out in that direction are most likely going to Tokyo Disney, passing up this viewing spot for more frenzied delights.

Standing at only 115 meters, Tower Hall Funabori is considered small. However, it does boast a full 360 view and one best sunset views in the Tokyo area thanks to it being located east of central Tokyo. On a fantastic day, Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Metro Building, and the multitude of skyscrapers just beyond the river are bathed in the pure golden light of sunset. And yes, on a clear day you can see a very distant Mt. Fuji. At night around 20:00 and toward the south, skies above Tokyo Disney light up with fireworks.

If you do decide to visit, I suggest that you also explore the area to fill out your day. Nearby is Ojima Komatsugawa Park located one stop before Funabori Station at Higashi-Ojima station. During spring Ojima Komatsugawa Park comes alive with a flurry of blossoms thanks to its prized collection of cherry trees. Within a 20 minute walk is the Edogawa Natural Zoo, a small and free zoo filled with adorable animals. Back toward central Tokyo, the Edo-Tokyo Museum and Ryōgoku Kokugikan Sumo Arena are also worth visiting and only takes a 20-minute train ride to reach.

Tower Hall Funabori is possibly the smallest observatory tower in Tokyo that I know of. For good photographs, a smartphone isn’t going to cut it, zoom lenses are the way to go. Since tripods are not allowed, long exposers can get tricky but last time I checked there are a few flat places to set your camera on. A photography support bean bag might help. Regardless of its remote location and photo finagles, I like Tower Hall Funabori because of cozy quiet atmosphere.



Tower Hall Funabori Sunset
Tower Hall Funabori Sunset
Cherry Blossoms are always lovely
Sumo at Ryōgoku Kokugikan
Sumo at Ryōgoku Kokugikan
Edo-Tokyo Museum
Edo-Tokyo Museum
Tower Hall Funabori
Tower Hall Funabori
23 WardsFoodLocal FavoritesTaitō

Yanaka Ginza

YakanaGinza
  • Official Name: Yanaka Ginza [谷中霊園] in Taitō-ku, Tokyo
  • Address: 3-chōme-13-1 Yanaka, Taitō-ku, Tōkyō-to 110-0001
  • Closest Stations: Sendagi Station on the Chiyoda Line, Nippori Station on the JR Yamanote Line
  • Nearby landmarks: Yanaka Cemetery Park (谷中霊園 – Yanaka Reien), Ueno Park (上野公園 – Ueno Kōen), Asakura Museum of Sculpture 台東区立朝倉彫塑館 Taitō kuritsu asakura chōsokan)
  • Website: https://www.yanakaginza.com/

Retro Tokyo

Want to experience a bit of retro Tokyo? Then visit Yakana Ginza in the Northwestern edge of Taitō City. Within a five-minute walk of either Nippori Station or Sendagi Station, resides a collection of locally-owned food stalls, arty shops, and cozy cafes — all lining a short 175-meter street to form what’s known as a shōtengai (商店街) or shopping street.

By modern standards, Yakana Ginza is a small shopping street, but back in 1955 that’s all the locals ever needed. For a community rebuilding from the trials of World War II, Yakana Ginza supplied all their daily needs some of which you can still see today with its small produce stands and kitchen wears. Over the years, locals have tapped into their Edo-period Shitamachi roots to build a bustling tourist attraction on a grassroots scale.

What is Shitamachi (下町) you ask? In the 1600s Tokyo was geographically and economically divided into two: Shitamachi consisted of the physically low marshy part of the city along and east of the Sumida River, home to merchants, artisans, tradesmen, and trivial entrepreneurs. The other half of Tokyo was called Yamanote (山の手) and area refers to the hilly homes of the wealthy, upper-class citizens living just west of the Imperial Palace.

Cats & Shrines

Today, Yanaka is considered a part of the district of Yanesen (谷根千) together with Nezu (根津) and Sendagi (千駄木). Yanesen collectively is home to many restored and relocated Edo-period temples and shrines, and most importantly, home to a sizeable number of stray cats.

The cats appear to be drawn to the area’s extraordinary density of trees (by Tokyo standards), serene shrines, and hushed cemeteries. Yanaka Ginza locals love the kitties and are quick to give treats, so don’t be surprised if a neko-san or two comes strolling along the way. They’ve also have gone so far as to make a stray cat as their mascot. Paying a visit to any of the many stores will yield catty-themed commodities: from cat-shaped confections to feline ornaments and kitty print kimonos.

Going south beyond Yanaka Ginza toward Ueno, you can view numerous Edo period shines and temples from various sects. Also, in the area is Yanaka Cemetery Park, famous for Cherry-blossom Avenue, a path completely covered in beautiful cherry blossoms in April.

Yanaka Ginza Beckoning Cats
Yanaka Ginza Beckoning Cats

When to Visit

Although you can wander the street pretty much any time, the shops in Yanaka Ginza typically don’t open until around 10 AM and they close at around 7 PM at night. Some shops may even have shorter hours and are not even open on Tuesdays or Wednesdays, it all just depends on the owner. If you want to experience the most of what Yanaka has to offer in terms of shopping, visit either on Fridays or weekends since they’ll have sales and specials available ready to entice shoppers.

When it comes to seasons, my favorite time to visit is late Autumn — the temperature is comfortable and the air not too humid. By October and November, the academic season is in full swing, which means there are fewer students on holiday, unlike in the Spring. I should note that Tokyo summers can get oppressively muggy and often rains heavily. While the shops are still open, it’s just not as fun to sit outside as your beer gets diluted with rain. Winter is my second pick on when to visit, only because it’s dry and its fun to buddle up to some warm sake and a piping-hot meat skewer.

How to Visit Yanaka Ginza

Some shop workers will know a bit English, but I suggest downloading a simple Japanese travel phrasebook or get a fancy pocket translator since many are pretty darn good these days. Otherwise, pointing at the thing you want and then holding up the number of items you want on your fingers is your best option. They will usually say how much yen it costs in total.

For food, sample as much food as you want — nearly everything is tasty – just remember to stop when you decide to drink and eat, since eating and drinking while walking is considered rude. When you want to throw garbage away after eating, look for bins and either end of the street – usually one for plastic bottles and another for burnable garbage. Sometimes the shop will throw paper wrappers or skewers away for you after eating, especially if you thank them and tell them how delicious their food was.

If you are staying for longer, consider taking a class or lesson at the Yanesen Tourist Information and Culture Center. The staff speak English and are super friendly. Lessons usually involve various traditional Japanese activities such as how to wear a kimono, making soba, ikebana or flower arranging, tea ceremony and even how to wear kabuki costumes. If you’re looking for a more extensive tour of the area, they’ll introduce you to a local guide who will take you around the area and offer explanations in English.

Yanaka Ginza stores tend to close around 6 or 7 PM, so go early in the day.

Shops to Visit in Yanaka Ginza

Best Shop for Omiyage (aka “Gifts” or “Souvenirs”)

YUZURIHA (谷中店) – Yuzuriha is a cute confectionary shop that features a seasonal rotation of Japanese style sweets. I recommend buying the cute cat paw candies.

Best Spot for a Mid-Morning Pick-me-up

Yanaka Manten Doughnuts – Simple is best! Baked not-fried donuts with a decent cup of coffee or tea. My personal favorites are the matcha and maple donuts.

Best Store for a Cold Beer on a Hot Day

Echigoya Honten – Echigoya is a small-town liquor store, not the hotel that once stood here. The original Echigoya Hotel was founded at the end of the Meiji period. They offer super cheap cold beer and a crate at the front of the shop to sit and enjoy it. If beer is not to your bent, you could also try local fruit wines or Japanese sake.

Kitty and Cold Beer – A good combo

Best Fried Food to Go with Your Beer

Niku-no-Sato (肉のサトー) – Famous for its numerous TV appearances, this butcher shop has been selling croquettes, menchi-katsu, and fried meats since 1933. Their signature Yanaka Mechchi sells for under 200JP¥ ($1.80). I can just imagine the juicy meat and fragrant onions encased in a crispy fried panko. Yummy!

Best Place for Posh Japanese Deserts

Waguriya (和栗や – “Japanese chestnut”) – This cafe is the only place to serve Japanese chestnut desserts throughout the year. Their specialty is a mont blanc, a desert-adapted from its French namesake. The Nipponese mont blanc is an exquisitely layered confection featuring a sponge cake base covered with fresh cream and rich chestnut cream. A whole chestnut is pressed into the cream, followed by a generously pipped heap of chestnut purée. Depending on the season they’ll dress the mont blanc with other flavors like strawberry, matcha, or sweet yam, but rest assured there will be chestnuts within. During autumn weekends, they’ll break out a chestnut roasting engine which billows out steamy goodness.

Chestnut cream & Melons

Best Store for Tea & Accessories

Kinyoshien (金吉園) – Pick from a variety of Japanese green teas including ones you may have not even heard of. Fancy teapots and teacups would also make a fine gift. My personal favorite is the beautiful colorful tea containers and the tiny ceramic kitties to perch your chopsticks upon.

Best Cat Kitch Store

Neko Action – In partnership with local artists, this store sells some of the cutest kitty-themed goods I’ve seen. Also, apart from stationery, accessories, and kitchen accessories, you might also spot the occasional sleeping cat.

Anything with cats is good!

Best Kakigōri “Shaved Ice” for a Super-Hot Day

Himitsudō (ひみつ堂) – This adorable shop is best known for its handmade fruit syrups poured over a heap of hand-cranked shaved ice. Flavors change regularly enough to make you come back almost daily. My personal favorite flavor is the Miyazaki Mango Short. If you visit in the summer, be ready to wait in line because this place is popular. I should note that their menu changes quite often, and if you’re curious as to what the owner has planned for the day, visit the shop’s Twitter account at himitsuno132

A happy Cat