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 buildings. Some people say it looks like a gigantic computer chip or Gothic cathedral. It mightn’t be as high as Tokyo Tower or Tokyo Skytree, but it has excellent city views and is FREE!
It has north and south towers with observatories on the 45th floor. The north has fewer points of interest, but it is open until 11 pm (for some reason, the other closes at 5:30 pm). Yes, you can see Mount Fuji and skyscrapers, but the view is of primarily residential areas. My advice is to skip it and go to the southern.
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. I’m sure you won’t be bored.
What can you see from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building?
1. Mt. Fuji (when the weather is fine)
2. Roppongi Hills (with its Tokyo City View and Sky Deck)
4. the skyscrapers of Nishi-Shinjuku
5. Tokyo Bay
6. Tokyo Dome
7. Tokyo Gate Bridge (if you have good eyes!)
8. Tokyo Tower (mostly obscured)
9. Tokyo Skytree
10. Yoyogi park (with Meiji Shrine)
Problems photographing at Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
- It can get very crowded;
- Tokyo Tower has almost disappeared! Over the last year, some new buildings have gone up and have 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, and;
- Glare on the windows can be terrible. Unfortunately, you can’t use hoods.
Where is the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building?
It is in Nishi-Shinjuku with the following stations closest:
- Shinjuku Station is about a ten-minute walk away. The Yamanote, Chuo, Sobu, Keio, and the Marunouchi Metro lines use it.
- Tochomae Station (Toei Oedo Line) is next to the Metropolitan building. Exits A4 and E1 are closest.
Here is a Google Map:
- Currently, only the south observatory is open, from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm (with the last entry at 5:00 pm). It is closed on the first and third Tuesday of every month.
- If one of those days listed above falls on a holiday, the observatory will be open but closed the following day. The observatories are closed over the New Year’s holiday season (December 29 to 31 and January 2 to 3).
- Due to the pandemic, opening times often change. Before going, please consult the website for accurate details.
Nearby photo spots
None of the following locations are more than 1.7 km away (in a straight line):
- Love (artwork) in Shinjuku
- Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower (a famous skyscraper)
- Shinjuku Eye
- Godzilla in Kabukicho
- Shinjuku Golden Gai (drinking street)
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.
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 pictures of the city.
One last thing! Yes, I know a picture of Mount Fuji is missing. It should be here but it isn’t. I apologize for that. But, when possible I will add it.