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Hokutopia – a Tokyo observatory for trainspotters

Hokutopia is an interesting building near Oji station.  It has an older observatory on its top floor.  While the view mightn’t be the best in Tokyo, it is free and has something different.  If you are a trainspotter, this place is for you! 

Hokutopia building with Shinkansen passing in front

That is why many photographers go there.  You can get a good view of trains, particularly the Shinkansens.  They pass the building practically right under you!  If you have a zoom or telephoto lens, it is one of Tokyo’s best spots to photograph them.  You can see them approach from a reasonable distance away, so you won’t feel the need to rush your shots.  There are also viewfinders to enjoy the view as well.   

Shinkansen passing through suburban Tokyo

Hokutopia is only seventeen floors high, but it is the tallest building near Oji station.  So, you get great views across the city all the way to Tokyo Skytree.  

The area around the observatory is not highly developed.  It is medium-density commercial and residential.  And it is older too.  Don’t expect it to be like Shinjuku or Shibuya.  

suburban Tokyo with Tokyo Skytree in distance

Hokutopia does have one problem. It suffers from the same design flaw as the Bunkyo Civic Center – the view is only about 270’.  You don’t get a full 360’.  

What can you photograph from Hokutopia?

  • Suburban city areas
  • Tokyo city skyline
  • Tokyo Skytree
  • Trains

What trains can you see?

  • Keihin-Tohoku line
  • Toden-Arakawa line
  • Tohoku line (Shinkansen)
  • Joetsu line (Shinkansen)

Problems photographing from this location

  • You can use tripods, but you can’t place them on the ledges.  That means your lens will be a considerable distance from the windows.
  • Some of the windows are filthy.  You’ll need to deal with that.
suburban Tokyo with Shakuji river in the middle

Where is Hokutopia?

Use the Yamanote line to get to Tabata station.  From Tabata take the Keihin-Tohoku line to Oji station.  Exit Oji station via the North Exit, and Hokutopia is only a two-minute walk away.

Here is a Google map:

Once inside, take the elevator on the left, up to the seventeenth floor.

Admission costs


view from Hokutopia building with Tokyo Skytree on left in distance

Opening hours

Hokutopia is open from 8:30 am to 10 pm, but operating times can change due to bad weather.

medium-density buildings in Tokyo

Other photo spots near Hokutopia

Wrapping up

If you are into trains, the observation deck of Hokutopia would be a great place to visit. But if you prefer a full 360’ experience, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building might be better. Still, the observatory offers a different perspective of the city.

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