Viewing Spots

KyotoMatsuri & MoreParks & GardensTourist SpotsViewing Spots

Kinkaku-ji – The Golden Pavilion in Kyoto

Kinkaku-ji Golden PavilionKinkaku-ji in Kyoto

金閣寺
Kinkaku-ji
Temple of the Golden Pavilion

Official Name:
鹿苑寺
Rokuon-ji
Deer Garden Temple

  • Website: https://www.shokoku-ji.jp/en/kinkakuji/
  • Address: 1 Kinkakujicho, Kita Ward, Kyoto, 603-8361, Japan
  • Nearest Stations: Kita-Oji Station, Kitanohakubaicho Station
  • Nearest Bus Stop: Kinkakuji-michi
  • Bus Routes: Kyoto City Bus Routes #205 or #101
  • Entrance Fee: ¥400
  • Hours: 9:00-17:00

I’ve been told countless times, that a visit to Kinkaku-ji is a requisite when in Kyoto. Before visiting, I thought it was hype: something said to just snag the typical tourist. I did my research as I always do before a trip by reading over its current information and its history. Interestingly enough, I even found a fictionalized account written in the first-person perspective of the man who burned Kinkaku-ji into a charred husk in 1950. (Give The Temple of the Golden Pavilion a read if you’re interested in true-crime novels.)

I’m happy to report, that I was pleasantly surprised by the Temple of the Golden Pavilion. I expected thick crowds and an overpriced venue with overrated souvenirs.  Instead, I found a beautiful Zen garden with iconic Japanese structures. The entry fee was the low price of ¥400 ($3.80 USD) per person. Plus, showing up a few minutes before the gates open at 9:00 AM proved to be a good idea — the tourist crowds that I was apprehensive about were nearly non-existent.

 Shariden Kinkaku – 舎利殿 金閣 – “Golden Reliquary Hall” that gives Kinkaku-ji its name
Shariden Kinkaku – 舎利殿 金閣 – “Golden Reliquary Hall”

Kinkaku-ji History

Although the Golden Pavilion is over 600 years old, the land upon it has ties to religious traditions over 800 years. There are records and remains to date back to the Heian period (794 -1185 CE) indicating a temple complex with tombs, burials and cremation sites.

In the Kamakura period (1185–1333 CE), the wealthy aristocrat Saionji clan built a luxurious villa and named it Kitayama-dai (North Mountain Residence?). Although no documents remain of its design and construction, there are personal accounts boasting of a magnificent clan temple upon a land designed for “Taoist Immortals” along with an amusing “a forty-five-foot waterfall and a beautiful pond as blue as lapis lazuli.” Sadly, by the end of the Kamakura period, the Saionji Clan fell out of wealth and the villa into disrepair.

The land caught the eye of shōgun Yoshimitsu Ashikaga, who bought and then converted the villa into his palatial retirement residence in 1397 CE. Yoshimitsu designed the Golden Pavilion as a relic’s hall and the garden as “a paradise on earth.” Much of the garden’s design uses various elements of Ming Dynastic aesthetics. He planned to coat the outer surface of the Shariden Kinkaku with gold leaf, but only managed to coat the ceiling of the third floor before dying. Yoshimitsu requested that the residence be converted into a Rinzai Zen Buddhist temple upon his death and following his internment in 1408 CE, the complex was officially renamed to Rokuon-ji. Today Yoshimitsu is considered the founder of Kinkaku-ji.

Much of what you see at Kinkaku-ji today isn’t of the original construction. The Golden Pavilion barely survived a war and fire in the 1470s but was burned a husk in 1950. The buildings and gardens have been faithfully rebuilt and restored over time. The latest restoration being in 2003 with extensive work done on the interior of the Golden Pavilion and roof.

View of the Golden Pavilion across Kyoko-Ike Pond in Kinkaku-ji
View of the Golden Pavilion across Kyoko-Ike Pond in Kinkaku-ji

How to Visit Kinkaku-ji

Go Early, Go Midweek – Kinkaku-ji is a very popular tourist spot, I expected crowds when I set out even on a weekday morning. I felt rather lucky when I showed up a few minutes before 9:00 AM and there were only five people going in by the time the gate opened. But by around 11:00 AM the tour buses had dropped off more than four dozen tourists.

Stay in the Area – If you can I would suggest spending a night or two at a ryokan or hostel within walking distance. There are plenty of other things to do in addition to the Golden Pavilion. One of my few regrets while staying Kyoto was not taking my time to enjoy all the temples, gardens, and other cultural spots in Kita Ward.

Autumn Leaves – My first pick for which season to visit is when the leaves turn to fantastic hues red and gold. The season starts in mid-October and tends to peak in mid-November. November tends to be dryer than October, which is the tail end of the typhoons season.

Winter Snow Temples – Around January to February snow covers the temples, creating just a wonderful almost mystical landscape. Sadly, snow in Kyoto has been scarce in the last few years, and when it does the snow tends to melt quickly.

Spring Cherry Blossoms – From March to April is when Kyoto is splashed with the soft pinks and billowy whites of cherry blossoms. Its also jammed packed with tourists both domestic and international, such that driving or taking a taxi into any site let alone Kinkaku-ji is near impossible. Book your hotel months in advance area and rent a bike or walk.

View of  Shariden Kinkaku from the back garden of Kinkaku-ji
View of Shariden Kinkaku from the back garden of Kinkaku-ji

Highlights of Kinkaku-ji

Shariden Kinkaku – 舎利殿 金閣 – “Golden Reliquary Hall”

I’ll say this now: no one can visit inside this building, but you can marvel at the exterior. I personally think that the best spot is from across Kyoko-ike Pond, where the Golden Pavilion reflects off the water. The second spot is near it through the pines. Frankly, it’s a fantastic edifice to behold. Gold leaf gilds the third and second floors, contrasted to the cypress shingles of the roof. A brilliant bronze phoenix called Hō-ō, brings its benevolence as it descends from the heavens to its apex. The first story seems simple in comparison, due to the older architectural style known as shinden-zukuri, which was popular in 10th century Japan.

Rikushū-no-Matsu – 陸舟の松 – “Land Pine”

This pine is over 600 years old and is said to have been transplanted from a bonsai tree that Yoshimitsu himself trained.  If you look from a certain angle the tree is in the shape of a sailing boat with its bow pointing to the west. Most visitors overlook this tree without a second thought. As for myself, it gave me a bit of a tickle that Rikushū-no-Matsu is roughly two and a half times older than the United States is as a country.

Fudo-do – 不動堂 – “Fudo-do Hall”

This is the only building in Kinkaku-ji that looks like a temple. The original 1225 temple burnt down in the 1400s, but later rebuilt in the late 1500s. Technically it is the oldest existing building on the grounds of Kinkaku-ji, even older than the Golden Pavilion which was burnt down in the 1950s and later rebuilt in the 1980s. Fudo-do is an active temple and regularly holds service for holidays and festivals.

Anmin-taku – 安民沢 – “Peaceful Resting Marsh”

In the middle of this pond in the back of the garden, is a small island. A top the mound rests a five-ringed stone pagoda known as Hakuja-zuka, or White Snake Mound, and houses the Saionji family spirit deity. The island is a perfect birding spot and often hosts several waterfowl such as grey herons, spotted billed ducks, and great egrets.

Hakuja-zuka and a resting grey heron in one of two ponds in Kinkaku-ji.
Hakuja-zuka and a resting grey heron in one of two ponds in Kinkaku-ji.

More to See in Kyoto’s Temple District

Despite the hordes of tourists, Kinkaku-ji is assuredly worth the visit. Especially, if you take your time and include it in a multi-stop visit to the numerous temples and shrines in the Kinukake-no-michi area. Other locations I suggest visiting are Ryoan-ji, Ninna-ji, Myoshin-ji, Toji-in, Hirano Shrine, and Kitano Tenmangu Shrine. All of which are easily enjoyed either on foot or by bike.  

23 WardsBunkyoParks & GardensViewing Spots

Rikugien Garden

Rikugien-Fall-NightRikugien Fall Illumination

六義園
Rikugi-en

  • Address: 6 Chome-16-3 Honkomagome, Bunkyo City, Tokyo 113-0021
  • Nearest Station: Komagome Station
  • Website: https://www.tokyo-park.or.jp/teien/en/rikugien/
  • Hours: 9:00 – 16:00
  • Price: ¥300

Rikugien is one of those places where art mimics art. When the noble samurai Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu founded this garden some 300 plus years ago, he was inspired by classical Waka poetry and sought to give it shape within earth, stone, water, and plant. In fact, the word Rikugi refers to the “Six Forms of Waka Poetry” while en means garden. If you’re lucky to find a full English translation of Kokin Wakashu (古今和歌集) perhaps you gain some insight into Yanagisawa’s own ascetics – seeing as he was inspired by this literature published by an Emperor some 800 years before the Edo period samurai himself!

Today Rikugien is open to the public and is one of Tokyo’s highly renowned gardens in addition to being designated as a “special place of scenic beauty” by the Japanese government.

When to Go

Spring – Weeping Cherry Blossom Viewing

From mid-March to early April, Rikugien lights up its prodigious weeping cherry tree (also known as the Shidarezakura) for an annual illumination viewing. The Shidarezakura is truly a massive tree and measures at 15m high and 20m wide. During the day, the tree looks like a soft pink cloud, while at night the lights create an illusion of cascading blossoms.

Rikugien Cherry Blossom Illumination
Rikugien Cherry Blossom Illumination at Night

Summer – Hydrangeas

Japan has a very long history with the Ajisai (紫陽花) or Hydrangea. It was first cultivated in Japan. There is even a tea called ama-cha (甘茶 “sweet tea”) made from the Hydrangea serrata, a specific breed whose leaves contain an ingredient which develops a sweet taste. A legend has it that on the day Buddha was born, nine dragons poured Amrita over him. So every April 8th, during the Buddha’s birthday ceremony, monks will substitute ama-cha for Amrita and pour the tea over a statue of Buddha.

Sitting next to Rikugien’s hydrangea trellis while enjoying a cup of ama-cha is the perfect way to enjoy the verdant green of high summer. Followed by a stop at the tea house to enjoy wagashi in the shape of hydrangea,

Hydrangeas
Hydrangeas symbolize Gratitude in Japanese culture

Autumn – Fall Foliage Illuminations

From mid-November to December, Rikugien holds its annual Autumn Evening Illumination. As the lights turn on at sunset, the central pond sparkles with the vibrant colors of fall as the water reflects the image of the trees and their foliage. Taking a stroll through the garden circuit will guide you through over 400 maple trees and all their glorious hues of vivid red, deep orange, or flashy yellow.

Rikugien Fall Illumination
Rikugien Fall Illumination

Rikugien Highlights

Tsutsuji-chaya – This Meiji era tea house was built using azalea wood. It avoided damage during World War II and is a style rarely seen today. This is one of the best spots to sit and enjoy the fall foliage of Rikugien.

Togetsukyo – Not to be mistaken for the one in Kyoto, this bridge was created from two large slabs of rock linking a man-made island in the middle of the lake. It was named after the Waka Poem: “Shadow of the moon moving at night and cry of a crane in the mash of reed in the sore of Waka, makes me feel so lonely.”

Takimi-chaya – Takimi means “waterfall viewing” and next to this small tea house, you can enjoy the sounds of cascading water.

Horaijima – In Japanese and Chinese legends “Horaijima” is an island inhabited by immortals and represents a kind of paradise. Its often a feature found in Japanese gardens and is intended to be watched and pondered from a distance. So, find a bench near the pond shore and meditate upon this particular Horaijima.

Fukiage Chaya – Inside the gardens is a tea house that serves tea and sweet wagashi in shapes that reflect the season. In summer, the matcha will be iced and the wagashi in the shape of a hydrangea. In fall, the wagashi will be a maple leaf, while in spring they will offer a sakura shaped confection

Matcha and Wagashi
Matcha and Fall Wagashi

A Garden for Meditation & Art

During the few times I visited Rikugien, it was crowded with people. I have a feeling that if I had a moment of solitude, it would have been easier to enjoy the gardens and to meditate on the original creator’s intention behind each vista and vignette. I also wish I had access to the poems associated with Rikugien. Regardless of these minor regrets, I felt that Rikugien represents a single facet of Japanese art and literature – all in a single perfectly groomed floriferous edifice – and that alone makes it worth visiting.

Shidarezakura
Shidarezakura – the Willow Cherry Tree
23 WardsSumidaTourist SpotsViewing Spots

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
23 WardsBunkyoTourist SpotsViewing Spots

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
23 WardsShinjukuTourist SpotsViewing Spots

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
23 WardsMinatoTourist SpotsViewing Spots

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