Japan has plenty of observation decks and towers and arguably the king of viewing towers: Tokyo Skytree. But when it comes to price, Skytree doesn’t exactly cut it. Fortunately for us there are numerous free options all around the city. Everyone loves free stuff, but there’s always a catch right? Nope, no catch. These locations are all free! So, given that you can’t fly drones around metro Tokyo without a permit, this is the next best thing to getting a look over the city from above.
A quick tip for getting the best view from any of the observation decks during daylight hours is to get there early. The main reason for this is as the day progresses the haze over the city will build. Weekends can be better than weekdays, especially Sunday morning. As for seasons, winter will offer the clearest skies and so you get the best chance of seeing Mt Fuji from Tokyo (or even Chiba in the case of I-Link.)
Check out the map below for a comprehensive view of the all the locations and read our list for all of the details!
1. Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is probably one of the most popular observation decks in the city. And it is for good reason. On clear days it will give you a view to Mt Fuji and a large portion of the city including a distant Skytree and Tokyo Tower.
Opening Hours: 9:30 am – 11:00 pm (if one tower is closed, check the other)
2. Carrot Tower
Carrot Tower is a few stops from Shibuya on the Tokyu-Den-entoshi Line at Sangenjaya Station. Its is well worth the visit and offers views of Tokyo Tower, Mt Fuji and a view back onto Shinjuku. The viewing area is on the 25th floor and is accessed via the lift on the second floor.
Opening Hours: 9:30 am – 11:00 pm
3. Yebisu Garden Place Tower
Yebisu Garden Palace Tower is an easy walk from Ebisu Station on the Yamanote Line. There are viewing areas on the 38th and 39th floor, but the 38th floor gives the premium view of Tokyo Tower. With the way the viewing area is setup it was possible for me to use a mini tripod without being in anyone’s way. There are dedicated lifts running to the restaurants and viewing area.
Opening Hours: 11 am – midnight
Hokutopia, located near Oji Station, is probably most suited to those who are interested in seeing Shinkansen (bullet trains) weaving through the city. One can also get a reasonable view to Skytree with a little zoom. The place was quiet when I visited. Keep in mind you get kicked out of the observatory at 9:45pm and the centre closes at 10pm.
Opening Hours: 8:30 to 10:00 pm
5. Bunkyo Civic Center Observation Lounge
Bunkyo Civic Center Observation lounge forms part of the local government office and is located near Tokyo Dome. While others are enjoying filling in paperwork on the lower floors, you can enjoy a sweeping vista of the city! To the east, there are views of Skytree (with minimal zoom required) and on a clear day Mt. Fuji with Shinjuku in the foreground is visible to the west.
Opening Hours: 9:00 am – 8:30 pm
6. Caretta Shiodome Sky View
Caretta Shiodome Sky View offers views over Tsukiji, Rainbow Bridge, and beyond. It’s quite easy to reach on foot from Shimbashi Station. The view, although good, is limited to only one direction. To get to the viewing window take the lift from the ground floor to the 46th floor.
Opening Hours: 11:00 am – 11:30 pm
7. Tokyo Solamachi
Tokyo Solamachi is the tower next to Skytree. If you head to the restaurant floors (30-31) there are 2 viewing areas. One looks back over Chiba (31F) roughly in the Narita direction and the other towards Tokyo (30F). The Tokyo side is of more interest and allows for views onto the side of Skytree. The area doesn’t look very tripod friendly although I didn’t notice any signs. Reflections on the glass were an issue here more so than other places. Also noteworthy was that I was able to achieve reasonable results with a phone by holding it flat against the window, which eliminated all reflections. As for the DSLR, which I had equipped with a wide angle lens, I had to improvise. I covered the area around the lens to block the light and braced it against a window frame for a long exposure. It was tricky, but did not require a tripod.
Opening Hours: 11:00 am – 11:00 pm
8. Tower Hall Funabori
Tower Hall Funabori proved to be a good spot with quality views of Skytree and the city. Signs on the way in make it clear that you can’t use a tripod, but I was able to use one after speaking to the staff, who first checked out my tripod, then took me down a level to where I was given an armband to wear. After that I was left alone. Access is via the lift on the 7th floor which is staffed with people who will guide you all the way to the top.
Opening Hours: 9:00 am – 9:30 pm
9. I-link Town Observation Deck
I-Link Town Observation Deck, while technically not in Tokyo, is one of my favorites as it is a little unknown and allows you to look back over the entire Tokyo metropolis, containing a view of Skytree and Mt. Fuji in one shot. There is a 360° degree view as you make your way around, but the view toward Tokyo is of most interest. To get to this one, jump on the Sobu Line and head in the Chiba/Tsudanuma direction and get off at Ichikawa Station. Its generally quiet, but the sunset shot is popular with the locals if the conditions are right. There are anti-tripod signs, but it was possible to setup a mini tripod here on the ledge. A security guard was monitoring the action in case anyone got any fishy ideas. There are dedicated lifts with a view outside running up the side of the building which are also nice.
Opening Hours: 9:00 am – 10:00 pm (closed on Mondays)
A Useful Tip
One way to get around reflections without a silicone hood is to get as close to the glass as possible. On a tripod, this can be achieved by leaning the lens onto the glass, but be careful taking this approach and watch your equipment.