Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Observatory

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
Projection mapping on the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.

Where is the best free observatory in Tokyo?  It is the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku.  At 243 meters in height, it is one of the city’s tallest and most iconic structures in the city. Some people say it looks like a gigantic computer chip or Gothic cathedral.  And while it mightn’t be as high as Tokyo Tower or Tokyo Skytree, it has excellent city views! Photographers and digital art lovers are crazy about it.

We’ll get to the digital art part later. Its two towers have observatories on their 45th floors. The north has fewer points of interest and is often closed. Yes, you can see Mount Fuji and skyscrapers, but the view is primarily of residential areas.  My advice is to skip it.

The southern one is best.  It offers views of the central part of the city.  At night, the scene is incredible.  Unfortunately, the north can’t match that. Seriously, get your camera out and click away as there is so much to see.  This is one great place for your Japanese travel photography.

snowy Mount Fuji
Mount Fuji is the southwest (taken with a 55-200 mm lens).

Photography at Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

What can you see?

  1.   Mt. Fuji (when the weather is fine)
  2.   Roppongi Hills (with its Tokyo City View and Sky Deck)
  3. Shinjuku Gyoen
  4. Shinjuku Park Tower (houses the Park Hyatt that featured in Sofia Coppola’s movie, Lost in Translation)
  5.   the skyscrapers of Nishi-Shinjuku
  6.   Tokyo Bay
  7.   Tokyo Dome
  8. Tokyo Tower (mostly obscured)
  9.   Tokyo Skytree
  10. Yoyogi Park

This isn’t a comprehensive list. There are so many other things you can see from this fabulously free observatory. If you think I’ve made a serious omission, please tell me by writing it in the comments section.

tallest Nishi-Shinjuku skyscrapers
The Nishi-Shinjuku skyscrapers.

Photographing problems

  • It can get very crowded.
  • Tokyo Tower has almost disappeared!  Over the last year, some new buildings have gone up and decimated the view.
  • Tripods are not allowed.  But, the ledges along some windows can serve almost as well.  Be careful of people dropping their bags right next to your camera, though.
  • Glare on the windows can be terrible.  Unfortunately, you can’t use hoods.
  • The wait for elevators on the ground floor can be long. I have had to wait up to 45 minutes on especially busy days.
Tokyo Skytree in concrete jungle
Tokyo Skytree is in the distance.

Photo spots near the observatory

None of the following locations are more than 1.7 km away (in a straight line):

Shinjuku Park Tower and Tokyo Opera City
Shinjuku Park Tower which houses the Park Hyatt Hotel (featured in Lost in Translation).

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building observatory details

See the observatory’s opening hours and location on the official website.

It’s the world’s largest projection mapping canvas

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building made history on February 25, 2024. Its east facade became a canvas for digital art. Guinness World Records certified it as the largest projection-mapping show. Shows run nightly (unless canceled due to unforeseen circumstances).

Wrapping up

If I had to pick a time to photograph at Tocho, I’d choose sunset as the light at that time can make the whole city beautiful.  And, if the weather is good, you might luck out and get a fantastic view of Mount Fuji.  But, be wary of the mountain’s magic.  Some people focus on it and forget about everything else!

The one bad thing is Tokyo Tower.  You can hardly see it anymore due to other buildings in the way.  That was a tremendous blow. Now that it has gone, the view seems strange to me. The march of city development is always onward and upward. It does not halt for us mere photographers.

evening Tokyo Skytree
Tokyo Skytree in the early evening (taken with a 55-200 mm lens).

Still, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is a fantastic place for photographers.  I recommend it.  If you look at the images here or on the net, I’m sure you’ll agree.  It is one of the best places to take your Japan travel pictures. And remember, it has also become a piece of digital art, so visit it at night to get both the view and projection mapping!

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