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17 of Tokyo’s Most Unique Buildings

17 of Tokyo's Most Unique Buildings — EYExplore

Tokyo is notorious for its eclectic architectural landscape, ranging from the traditional to the downright bizarre. This includes world famous towers Skytree and Tokyo Tower and temples like Sensoji or the Meiji Shrine, but beyond these tourist attractions there as lesser known but equally interesting buildings scattered around the city. Our crack team of urban explorers at EYExplore have complied a list of their favorites and where to find them.

All of these unique buildings are featured on our Tokyo Photo Spot Map, but we’ve included an excerpt from the map with these 17 locations just for your convenience! The full map features even more architectural points of interest and over 400 locations in total!

1. Tokyo International Forum

Tokyo International Forum — EYExplore
Tokyo International Forum, Interior

The Tokyo International Forum must have been designed with photographers in mind. The amazing architecture, abundance of natural light, constantly changing shadows, and large open spaces all combine to create a photographer’s playground. An architectural masterpiece by the architect Rafael Viñoly, the sprawling convention center is also a great location for street photography, sporting many sections with unusual geometries and austere environments—great for minimal street scenes. The Tokyo International Forum is in Yurakucho, a stone’s throw away from Tokyo Station.

2. Gunkan Higashi Shinjuku | The Battleship Building

Battleship Building — EYExplore
Battleship Building, Shinjuku

Completed in 1970, the building is an example of what happens when Metabolism architecture that stood the test of time, surviving to this day in great condition, unlike it’s Metabolist brethren, The Nakagin Capsule Tower. The building has a striking resemblance to a battleship, hence its nickname, making it really stand out from its neighbors. It’s tricky to get a clear view of the building from the street, but there are some (hidden) vantage points in the area.

The Battleship Building is located in Higashi Shinjuku, not particularly far from Shinjuku main station, but if you couldn’t be bothered to walk the nearest station is Higashi Shinjuku on the Fukutoshin Line or the Oedo Line.

3. Yasuyo Building

Yasuyo Building — EYExplore
Yasuyo Building, Shinjuku

Completed in 1969 the building is currently a commercial and event space. The Yasuyo Building is somewhat easy to miss as despite its striking structure and location right next to Shinjuku station since it is tucked neatly onto a street corner between other buildings and is only really noticeable from the opposite side of the intersection. The building can be found outside the central East exit of Shinjuku station.

Yasuyo Building — EYExplore
The Yasuyo Building from beneath

4. Shizuoka Press Building | The Submarine Tower

Shizuoka Press Building — EYExplore
Shizuoka Press Building

Designed by Kenzō Tange and built in 1967, the Shizuoka Press Building is considered to be the famed architects first entry in the metabolism school of architecture. The tower sits on a very narrow corner on the southwest edge of Ginza, filling it’s space in a novel way. Having recently received a new paint job, it seems the building will last for sometime still—that’s a relief giving that many buildings for the same era are being torn down in recent years, including the famed Nakagin Capsule Tower. The Shizuoka Press Building can be most easily accessed from Shimbashi Station.

Shizuoka Press Building — EYExplore
Shizuoka Press Building

5. Aoyama Technical College | The Gundam Building

Aoyama Technical College | Gundam Building — EYExplore

The Aoyama Technical College is nicknamed the Gundam Building due to its vague resemblance to the iconic Japanese mecha. The building was designed by Makoto Sei Watanabe who has gone on to design a number of unique buildings around Japan, including Entrance C3 to the Iidbashi metro station in Tokyo. The Gundam Building was was completed in 1990 and is located a short walk away from Shibuya station.

6. St. Mary’s Cathedral

St. Mary's Cathedral — EYExplore
St. Mary’s Cathedral, Tokyo

Completed in 1964, the building could easily have been design in 2024, making it quite ahead of its time. The Church has a very unique design especially compared to most churches. It is the brainchild of Kenzō Tange, who is one of Japan’s most prolific architects, responsible for a number of iconic structures around the country, and whose work is featured on our list three times! St. Mary’s Cathedral can be found near Gokokuji Station on the Yurakucho line.

7. Iceberg Building

The Iceberg — EYExplore
The Iceberg, Omotesando

Formerly known as Audi Forum Tokyo, the Iceberg Building is now occupied by WeWork. The building was completed in April 2006 and stands in striking contrast to the more generic Tokyo cityscape that surrounds it. It is located in Omotesando and can be found a short walk from Meijijingu-mae station, Harajuku station, or Shibuya station.

8. Prada Building in Aoyama

Prada Building — EYExplore
Prada Building, Tokyo

The crystalline structure is home to the luxury Italian brand Parada. The building somewhat of an engineering marvel in its construction, utilizing a lattice of rhomboids, each holding a lens-like window, giving the the whole thing an abstract look. The Prada building is located near Omotesando station, and neighbors a few other architectural points of interest, including the The Jewels of Aoyama next door.

9. Dentsu Building

15 of Tokyo's Most Unique Buildings — EYExplore — Dentsu Building
Dentsu Building

At 213m tall, the Dentsu Building is an imposing structure in Shiodome, itself a rich environment for photography. Depending on the weather the building’s appearance can vary significantly. Being essentially a massive mirror, at times it reflects the sky just right, creating the illusion that is transparent.

The mind behind this masterpiece is French architect Jean Nouvel. The architect used the oddly-shaped plot of land on which the building stands to advantage, giving the skyscraper a unique shape the makes it seems as though it is razor-thin from certain angles. The interesting geometry and the vast open space surrounding the building make for many photographic opportunities. The Dentsu Building can be found in Shiodome, a short walk from Shimbashi station.

Dentsu Building — EYExplore
Dentsu Building

10. Okuno Building

Okuno Building — EYExplore
Okuno Building

The first of the Okuno Building’s two parts was completed in 1932 and the second two years later. Being one of the last of its kind, stepping through its doors transports one to an era long gone. It is a miracle that the building survived WWII as most of Tokyo lay in rubble, making it a precious touchstone to the past. Is is now home to many small shops, galleries, and artisans, and well worth a visit. The Okuno Building is found in Ginza.

11. V88 Building | The Dancing Building

15 of Tokyo's Most Unique Buildings — EYExplore — V88 Building
V88 Building, a.k.a. the Dancing Building

Completed in 2007 the V88 Building’s design gives the impression that it is dancing or melting. Especially when looking directly up from the base it becomes very apparent how the buildings facade twists and turns into the sky. Formerly known as the De Beers Ginza Building, V88 is located in the Ginza district.

12. Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower

Mode Gakuen | Cocoon Tower — EYExplore
Mode Gakuen, a.ka. the Cocoon Tower

Completed in 2008 the building houses 3 schools/colleges. A competition was held by Mode Gakuen and this is the winning design. Its organic and futuristic structure evokes an alien aesthetic that stands out amongst its more pedestrian neighbors, making for plenty of photographic opportunities. The building is extremely easy to find as it is directly outside the west exit of Shinjuku station.

Mode Gakuen | Cocoon Tower — EYExplore
Mode Gakuen from underground

13. Fuji Broadcasting Center

Fuji Broadcasting Center — EYExplore
Fuji Broadcasting Center

Looming over Odaiba with its giant, levitating sphere, this building is home to Fuji TV. The iconic sphere contains an observatory and is accessible to the public, offering sweeping views of Tokyo Bay. Like two other entries on our list, this building was designed by Kenzō Tange. The Fuji Building is located on Odaiba, closest to Tokyo Teleport station on the Rinkai line.

Fuji Broadcasting Center — EYExplore
Fuji Broadcasting Center’s Sphere

14. Louis Vuitton Ginza

Louis Vuitton Building — EYExplore

Fashion brands all vie for attention in the high streets of Ginza with their eye-catching designs and this building is no exception. The building’s facade is meant to evoke the smooth, undulating surface of water, a feat that it achieves. The Its lustrous, almost pearlescent skin makes for great creative opportunities. The LV building is somewhat hidden in a location off the main strip in Ginza.

Louis Vuitton Building — EYExplore
A closeup of the Louis Vuitton building’s shimmering facade

15. Octagon Building

Octagon Building — EYExplore
Octagon Building, Ebisu

Emblematic of bubble-era opulence and futurism, the Octagon building, designed by Shin Takamatsu, is a relic of a bygone era. Its postmodern facade features sharp contours and large, black, spherical windows, giving it a vague resemblance to a robotic spider or perhaps a futuristic fortress. This retro-futurist wonder is located a short walk away from Ebisu station.

16. Le Bois Hiraki | Surrealist Building

Le Bois Hiraki — EYExplore
Le Bois Hiraki

Ikebukuro is home to a very unusual, surrealist, almost eerie building known as Le Boi Hiraki, designed by architect Bon Juko, dubbed by some as ‘Japanese Gaudi’. At one time a residence, the building is currently an office space, but the entrance has remained unchanged and visitors are allowed into the lobby. Le Bois Hiraki is located in Ikebukuro. Another work by the same architect, Waseda El Dorado, is also located not too far away in.

17. Reiyukai Shakaden Temple | The Pyramid Temple

Reiyukai Shakaden Temple — EYExplore
Reiyukai Shakaden Temple

Giving the impression than an alien mothership has landed in the middle of the city, the Reiyukai Shakaden Temple opens its doors to the public a short distance away from Tokyo Tower. It is a very modernist take on a typically traditional structure: the Buddhist temple. Visitors are welcome inside it’s spacious interior, which reflects the same pyramidal shape of the exterior. The temple also is said to contain a reservoir of 400 tons of drinking water, to be used during emergencies of an unspecified nature, adding to its somewhat mysterious appearance. The Pyramid Temple can be found in Azabudai, with Kamiyacho station on the Hibiya line being the closest metro access point.

Reiyukai Shakaden Temple — EYExplore
Beneath the Reiyukai Shakaden temple’s eaves

RIP Nakagin Capsule Tower

Nakagin Capsule Tower — EYExplore
Nakagin Capsule Tower

The Nakagin Capsule Tower was originally located on the southern edge of the Ginza district. The crown jewel of the Metabolist architecture movement, it was designed by Kisho Kurokawa and built in 1972 and featured a novel concept: each capsule could be removed and relocated to another tower (which were never built) allowing the owner to keep up with the fast-paced urban professional lifestyle. This was one of the major tenets of the Metabolists: the city can change and reorganize itself ad hoc.

Nakagin met its end in 2022 when it was demolished. Having fallen into significant disrepair, it was no longer economical to renovate and maintain the structure of the building. The capsules themselves were not meant to last more than 10 years, the intention being to replace them over time. In a cruel twist of fate, the building’s demise is in fact an example of the city metabolizing itself—old structures make way for the new.

Nakagin Capsule Tower — EYExplore

Nakagin is sorely missed by camera nerds and architecture nerds alike, but not all is lost—23 capsules in good condition have been saved and placed into storage. Over time, it seems they will end up museum collections. For example, SFMOMA is in possession of one such capsule, though it is not yet on public display. Also, since the building’s demolition, there have already been a few temporary exhibitions of capsules in and around Tokyo. For more info, check out the Nakagin Capsule Tower Instagram account.

Want to find the locations and many more on one convenient digital map? Check out our Tokyo Photo Spot Map!

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