Atop one of Tokyo’s oldest skyscrapers, Sunshine 60, is the Sky Circus Sunshine 60 Observatory. At two hundred and fifty meters above the ground, it offers a 360⁰ view of the city. I enjoy it even with its quirks. Photographers should enjoy it.
At first glance, the views from its windows are very panoramic. In the east is Tokyo Skytree. To the south are Shinjuku and Shibuya. To the north and west lie suburban Tokyo (and Saitama prefecture). Everything seems far off. It gives you a good idea of the layout of the city.
If a visitor were to look down, there is little under Sunshine 60 to identify with the naked eye. Okay, I’m sure they could pick out the station! But, Ikebukuro lacks in the way of landmarks. There are few you could call genuinely “famous.” It looks like a concrete maze.
In the east is Tokyo Skytree, which looks small since it is so far away. Shinjuku is about five kilometers away. The clusters of skyscrapers are like monoliths on a vast plain. There is nothing in the gaps.
Observatories like Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building are in built-up areas. They are more urban in feel and have more big buildings around them. You get in them, and from their decks, you can recognize things in the cityscape. Stuff is right in front of your face. Sunshine City is not like that; it is in its own world. The perspective is different.
Unfortunately, when I went for this visit, clouds covered the southwest. They completely obscured Mount Fuji! I’ll be praying for better conditions next time I go.
If you need a break, Tully’s Coffee is on the same floor, and there are some attractions for kids. I only go for photography, so I can’t offer any useful opinions about them. The observatory’s website is here.
What’s to photograph from Sky Circus Sunshine 60 Observatory?
- Mt. Fuji (to the southwest)
- Mt. Tsukuba (the north)
- suburban areas of Saitama prefecture and Tokyo
- city skyline
- Tokyo Skytree
- Tokyo Tower
Photography tips for the observatory
- Ikebukuro doesn’t have many large buildings in the area, so the views are unimpeded.
- The view of Mount Fuji is very weather dependent.
- Sunshine City is an old building built in 1978. So the design of the windows isn’t optimal for photography. Some of them are small and restrict views. Others have a massive gap between you and the glass.
- Glare will also be problematic, but you can use lens hoods.
- For lenses, my choice would be long ones. That will enable you to zoom in on distant buildings and landmarks. It will also allow you to see the details of the nearby streets. Wide angles are still good for panoramas.
Where is Sky Circus Sunshine 60 Observatory?
The Sunshine City building is about a ten-minute walk from the Ikebukuro station. Once inside, follow the signs to the elevators. They are on floor B1 (i.e., basement).
Here is a Google map:
The observatory is open from 10 am to 10 pm, with the last entry at 9 pm.
Tickets bought on the day are ￥1200. You can get them at a discount if you purchase them in advance online. You can see its website here.
Other photo spots near Sky Circus Sunshine 60
- Jiyu Gakuen Myonichikan (a school designed by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright)
- Rikugien (a garden near Komagome station, just within walking distance)
Sky Circus Sunshine City Observatory is quite good. Even though it fails to make it into my top five, I like it. Here are my reasons why:
- It is on the Yamanote line.
- Entry isn’t expensive.
- It is in the far northwest of the city, so it offers a different perspective of the city.
This observatory might be old, but it has a lot of positive points. If you are a visitor to Tokyo, Ikebukuro is a major train station, so there are many places to stay nearby which is a bonus. It would be a good idea to include it in your itinerary. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.