Bunkyo Civic Center: A photo guide

Shinjuku skyscrapers and Mount Fuji blood red sunset
A blood red sunset over the Shinjuku skyscrapers and Mount Fuji.

The Bunkyo Civic Center is one of my favorite observatories in Tokyo.  With its round shape, it looks like a flying saucer (at least half of one) has landed on a building.  And considering that it is only twenty-five floors up, the views are excellent.  I’ve been there many, many times and love it.

If I’m not mistaken, most photographers go there for two views.  One is the Shinjuku skyline.  The other is Tokyo Skytree.  Both are fantastic.

The Shinjuku views are good during the day.  You can see its skyscrapers and even Mount Fuji, weather permitting.  But it is the sunsets that can be incredible.  With the sun behind the buildings, the sight can be magnificent.  On fine days you’ll often see a line of photographers at the windows.

Ikebukuro skyscraper sunset
Ikebukuro in the late afternoon.

You can also see Tokyo Skytree, which offers good opportunities for photography.  During the day, it looks impressive, towering above everything else in the area.  But, at night, it is spectacular – like a lighthouse in an ocean of lights.

If you walk around the viewing deck, you’ll see a lot.  Among the sites are Ikebukuro, Tokyo University’s famous clock tower, and Koishikawa-Korakuen.  Sadly, a new building close to the observatory blocks the views to the north.

Tokyo Skytree over low buildings at night
Tokyo Skytree towering over suburban Tokyo.

Another thing is that the observatory is spacious.  You won’t bump into people.  And it has bar tables, chairs, and drink machines.  If you need a rest, you can do that!

At Bunkyo Civic Center, you’ll learn something interesting about the city.  Most of the buildings are relatively low.  Skyscrapers cluster in specific areas; they aren’t everywhere.  Shinjuku is one, as is Ikebukuro, but between them are none.  And then, from Ikebukuro across to Akihabara, there are hardly any again.  Tokyo seems to be flat in many places!

As for problems, the Center has two small ones.  It is a bit far from most of Tokyo’s major tourist sites.  Only Tokyo Dome, with its amusement park and Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens, are near.

The other is that the observatory has only a 330⁰ view.  That is due to a restaurant at the back of the floor.  And you also need to enter it if you want to see Tokyo Tower. For a 360⁰ view, you need to go somewhere else.

Tokyo buildings around Koishikawa Botanical Garden
Do you see the green mass? That's Koishikawa Botanical Gardens.

What can you photograph from Bunkyo Civic Center Observatory?

  • Ikebukuro
  • Mount Fuji
  • Shinjuku skyline (including Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building)
  • Tokyo Skytree
  • Tokyo Tower (if you enter the restaurant)

Photography tips

  • Most of the windows have ledges.  You can put a camera on them for long-exposure photography.  That is useful as monopods and tripods are banned.
  • The windows are large and angled out, so it’s possible to get a downwards view.
  • Before sunset, it is possible to find some great shadows on the buildings.

Photo spots near Bunkyo Civic Center

Bunkyo Civic Center Observation Deck details

Look at the official website for opening hours and location.

woman crossing pedestrian crossing
Look down!
Ikebukuro skyscrapers and skyline evening
Ikebukuro at night.

Wrapping up

Bunkyo Civic Center observatory is great for cityscape photographs.  It isn’t perfect, but it comes close.  And it is rarely crowded.  Photographers should enjoy it, especially at sunset.  And remember, it is free!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *