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Tokyo’s No. 1 Free Observation Deck: 360° Panoramic Views From These Downtown Skyscrapers!

Tokyo’s No. 1 Free Observation Deck: 360° Panoramic Views From These Downtown Skyscrapers!

Date published: 13 December 2018
Last updated: 18 December 2018

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is a well-known spot and crowded with tourists from all over the world. It offers a stunning view on Tokyo from 202m above the ground, entirely for free, while even boasting a restaurant and a souvenir shop.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government complex includes Buildings #1 and #2, as well as the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly Building.

The observation deck is located in Building #1, split into north and south. It’s worth visiting both! There’s no reservation required, and entry is entirely free! Today, we’ll head to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building from Shinjuku Station to show you the way.

Walking from Shinjuku Station – It’s Close!

First, head to the underground rotary at Shinjuku Station’s West Exit. From there, moving walkways take you towards the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building and save you a bit of legwork.

Once you’re back on the surface, you will find the Keio Plaza Hotel to your left-hand side. Simply go straight for about three minutes until you reach a passage leading right to the building, also on your left. Follow the signs saying “Observatory” (展望室).

The passage is wide, so keep an eye out for signs.

The 10-minute walk takes you right to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Ride an elevator to the 45th floor where the observation deck is located.

The entrance to the “North Observatory Elevator” at Building #1.
The North Observatory Elevator.

The elevator going to the South Observatory is on the other side, across the main entrance.

The South Observatory Elevator.

Here are the opening hours for the two observation decks:
North Observatory
9:30 a.m. – 11:00 p.m. (closed every second and fourth Monday of each month)
South Observatory
9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. (open until 11:00 p.m. when the North Observatory is closed. Closed every first and third Monday of each month)
*Last admission is 30 minutes before closing time for both observation decks.

We decided to visit the North Observatory first. After the check at the entrance of the elevator, we arrived at the observation deck at 202m height in just 55 seconds!

The observatory. The ceiling is shaped like a dome, boasting a pleasant feeling of openness.

Time Flows Slowly at the North Observatory

The sun shines gently through the large windows and the observation deck is crowded with visitors since morning. As soon as you step up to the panorama windows, you’ll be overwhelmed by Tokyo sprawling right at your feet.

You can even see Mount Fuji from the North Observatory if you’re lucky. During our visit, the air was rather hazy, unfortunately, but we could still see as far as Chofu, Yokohama, Izu, and Chichibu.

Mt. Fuji at sunset, as seen from Tokyo the Metropolitan Government Building observatory. Image courtesy @thetimsullivan (Instagram).
The nature of Okutama, Chichibu, and Kofu spreads beyond the buildings.

Leisurely walk along the windows and try to spot some of Tokyo’s prominent landmarks, such as Tokyo Skytree and Tokyo Dome.

Information plaques point you towards sights and landmarks.

If you want to savor the view of Tokyo in all its majestic glory, we highly recommend the restaurant “Good View Tokyo.” About half of the windows in the North Observatory are used for the restaurant space, giving it a wonderfully luxurious atmosphere.

Relax at a table or in one of the comfortable sofa seats. Enjoy a drink at the counter and take in the view.
Close to the windows, the restaurant feels like a café high above the ground.

Good View Tokyo doesn’t only offer a stunning view, however. The menu features seasonal ingredients, drinks, and dishes as well. We treated ourselves to the “Afternoon Tea Set,” one of the most sought-after items on the menu. It usually requires a reservation, but you can order it regularly if the restaurant prepared it for the day. (Offered after 1:30 p.m., limited quantity.)

The top and middle tier feature carefully made sweets served in a luxurious fashion. The bottom plate is an arrangement of select cheese, prosciutto, and warm, fluffy muffins. The cost is 2,800 yen per person (includes a glass of sparkling wine and a drink of your choice, tax excluded).
*The picture shows a 2-people serving.

The desserts aren’t too sweet and have an elegant taste. It’s a flavorful blend of berries, chocolate, cookies, and more. Enjoying the cheese and prosciutto afterward will leave a nice umami flavor lingering on your tongue.

The elegant “Afternoon Tea Set” is perfect for taking in the city view.

“People often come here to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and other occasions. The mornings are also relatively quiet, offering to start the day leisurely. I also highly recommend dinner time, the atmosphere is entirely different then,” says store manager Masahito Sekine.

Dinner time transforms the place into a bar lounge.
The night view of landmarks such as Tokyo Tower and Roppongi Hills (on the right) is beautiful as well.
  • Good View Tokyo
    グッドビュー東京
    • Address Inside Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building #1 45F, 2-8-1 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tōkyō-to 160-0023
    • Nearest Station Shinjuku Station
    • Phone Number 03-3345-1250

    Hours: 9:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (last order at 4:30 p.m.), 5:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. (last order at 9:30 p.m.)
    Closed: every second and fourth Monday of the month (open on national holidays, closed the following day), New Year’s, inspection days

Get a Unique Tokyo Souvenir!

A toy shop from Ginza called Hakuhinkan Toy Park is on the same floor. Its opening hours are the same as the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building #1 from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., closed on the second and fourth Monday of the month (open on national holidays, closed the following day), and during New Year’s.

Next to toys, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building also offers a nice selection of interesting souvenirs!

“Tokyosui” (500ml, 103 yen, tax included), Tokyo tap water, is one of the most popular choices. This tap water is highly purified at the water purification plants (Kanamachi, Asaka, Misono, Higashimurayama). Managed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Bureau of Waterworks, it’s tap water of the highest standards.

There are the “Tokyo Metropolitan Government Cookies” (12 in a box, 648 yen, tax included). The characters for “Tokyo” and “Metropolitan Government” are printed on the surface, making them a perfect souvenir.

Tokyo Sprawls at Your Feet From the South Observatory

After spending a wonderful, laid-back morning at the North Observatory, we went back down to the ground level to see the South Observatory.

Again, there’s a baggage check and then an elevator ride to the 45th floor.

The Tokyo Café 202 is in the center of the floor. (Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. *open until 11:00 p.m. when the North Observatory is closed. Closed every first and third Monday of each month.)

Since the café sits in the center of the floor, it’s possible to wander along the large panorama windows and lose yourself in the view from the South Observatory.

From time to time, events are held on the spacious floor.

There are a lot of tourists in the South Observatory! Looking outside, you can see the green forest surrounding Meiji Shrine. This scenery of modern high-rise buildings merging almost seamlessly into nature is unique to Tokyo.

Meiji Shrine’s forest can be seen on the right.

The Shinjuku Park Tower (in the center) and the Tokyo Opera City Tower (center right) are right in front of you while Oyama and Tanzawa can be seen in the distance. IT’s a rare opportunity to admire the different architectural styles from up close.

Some of the buildings can be seen from the North Observatory as well, and it’s fun to compare the different angles.

Until the end of August 2018, the Japan Foods and Products Fair was held in the South Observatory as well, featuring specialties from around Japan. The observation deck often features such events, giving visitors the opportunity to find a perfect souvenir.

You’re sure to find a gift you haven’t even thought of before!

Watching the amazing cityscape of Tokyo from the two observation decks doesn’t only give you a fresh perspective on the city, it’s also a relaxing start to your day!

The observation decks even have commemorative stamps! (They’re the same at both observatories.
  • Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Observatories
    東京都庁 展望室
    • Address 2-8-1 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tōkyō-to 160-0023
    • Nearest Station Shinjuku Station
    • Phone Number 03-5320-7890

    Hours
    North Observatory: 9:30 a.m. – 11:00 p.m. (closed every second and fourth Monday of each month)
    South Observatory: 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. (open until 11:00 p.m. when the North Observatory is closed. Closed every first and third Monday of each month)
    *Last admission is 30 minutes before closing time for both observation decks.
    *For renovation, the South Observatory will be closed from September 1 and is scheduled to reopen in spring 2019.
    *The observatories may be spontaneously closed in case of bad weather, etc. Please see the official Twitter account of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building for further details.
    *Closed December 29 to 31, January 2 to 3, and on inspection days.
    Admission: free

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Node for the Nation

There’s more to discover inside the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building than just the observation decks, however.

The Tourist Information Center Tokyo is on the first floor and has been renewed in February 2018, and the Japanese Prefectural Tourism Promotion Corner has also just been renewed in April 2018. You won’t only find plenty of information about Tokyo but about the entirety of Japan. As the people going to the observatories have special elevators, you can just casually drop by.

The Tourist Information Center Tokyo (open from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., closed on New Year’s and inspection days). Find a hidden sightseeing gem here!
The “Cultural Experience Corner” offers a first-hand experience of traditional Japanese culture such as Origami and Kendama (held irregularly).
The Japanese Prefectural Tourism Promotion Corner (open from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., closed on New Year’s and inspection days). This spot offers free maps and pamphlets of 46 prefectures for free, helping you planning your trip.
Events are also held in a food stall space on a weekly basis. This time, there was produce from Tomisato City in Chiba Prefecture.

The staff cafeteria is open to the public as well. The official cafeteria of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building #1 is undergoing renovations as of right now (to be reopened in autumn 2018), but you can use the staff cafeteria on the second floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building #2 instead.

For that purpose, guests are temporarily allowed on the second floor and there is a passage on the first floor for that purpose.

The official cafeteria of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building #2 opened in February 2017 after renewal. It offers 776 seats on one floor in a bright and open space.

There are ten different kinds of daily changing set meals (from 500 yen, tax included), such as the Tokyo Vegetable Lunch with plenty of fresh produce, as well as udon, ramen, freshly baked bread, and more. After lunch, the cafeteria transforms into a charming café, so make sure to stop by if you need a break.

  • Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Staff Cafeteria
    東京都庁 職員食堂
    • Address Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building #2 4F, 2-8-1 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tōkyō-to 160-0023
    • Nearest Station Shinjuku Station
    • Phone Number 03-5320-7516

    Hours: 8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m., 11:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
    Café: 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
    Closed: weekends, national holidays, New Year’s

The Beautiful Architecture

After exploring the inside of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings, we headed to the Tomin Hiroba (Citizen’s Plaza). From there, the tall buildings tower majestically over you, rising into the blue sky. Especially Building #1 boasts three basement levels, 48 floors, and is a full 243 meters tall. As you look up, remember that you saw the city from that height!

Building #1 seen from the Tomin Hiroba (Citizen’s Plaza). On the left is part of Building #2.

The current Tokyo Metropolitan Government complex is fairly new, having been opened in 1990. The famous architect Kezo Tange was in charge of its construction and one of the features is the numerous little windows, neatly arranged. They’re said to represent both the culture and progress of Tokyo, evoking the image of a lattice-style shoji (Japanese paper) door, as well as that of an integrated circuit.

Building #1 is also adorned with a two-part monument called “my sky hole 91 Tokyo,” created by Bukichi Inoue. There is a total of 38 such artworks set up on the premises of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government complex.
These are the two adorable “Tento Mushi” ladybugs created by Nobuo Miyamoto. Find them around the buildings!

Exploring the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly Building

Just opposite of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building #1 is the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly Building. We decided to take a look inside, visiting the room where plenary sessions are held, as well as the committee rooms, where topics such as the budget are discussed.

The building with the big, beautiful arch is the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly Building. It rises to 7 floors above ground. The picture shows the assembly hall, shaped like a disc.
The building seems to be wrapped around the square.

There are a few entrance procedures when visiting the assembly hall and the committee rooms. Fill in your name, what you want to visit and other information at the reception.

Go to the seventh floor via elevator to see the assembly hall. Here is where the elected officials gather for plenary sessions, discussions various matters concerning the city administration. You can actually listen in on sessions simply by getting a ticket distributed on the day it takes place. If there’s no session, you can freely visit the room.

The assembly hall, free to visit (open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., closed on weekends and national holidays, as well as New Year’s).
You can see the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building from the window in the corridor outside the assembly hall.

Important deliberations regarding the Metropolitan Assembly happen in the committee rooms. Room #15 (special budget) on the sixth floor can be visited by the public. These special budget sessions are televised, so a lot of Japanese people are familiar with it already.

Room #15 (special budget) (open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., closed on closed on weekends and national holidays, as well as New Year’s).

Important discussions happen inside this room and the atmosphere is somewhat solemn as well.

On the first floor is the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Restaurant, open to the public as well. Set meals are served for lunch and it transforms into an atmospheric pub after the sun has set, so if you feel like you could use a break and a snack, feel free to stop by.

The exterior, seen from the Tomin Hiroba (Citizen’s Plaza).

We especially recommend the “Tokyo Metropolitan Fry Tower” (1,010 yen, tax included), as well as the very seasonable all-you-can-drink plan (60 minutes for 600 yen per person, tax included). The restaurant might sound very official, but you’ll be surprised by how laid-back it is!

The restaurant, bright and spacious.
  • Tokyo Metropolitan Government Restaurant
    TOKYO都庁議事堂レストラン
    • Address Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly Building 1F, 2-8-1 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tōkyō-to 160-0023
    • Nearest Station Shinjuku Station
    • Phone Number 03-3345-8703

    Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. (last order at 9:00 p.m. for food, 9:30 p.m. for drinks)
    Closed: weekends, national holidays, New Year’s

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government complex has a lot of unique and interesting sights to offer, from the beautiful view from the observatories to tours of assembly halls and other facilities. And why not grab a bite at one of the delicious restaurants? Exploring this spot thoroughly is sure to give you a new perspective on the massive city of Tokyo!

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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