Tokyo Tower may be the symbol of Tokyo, but there’s another signature building with an observatory that’s easy to access. Best of all, it’s completely free. That’s the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, or Tocho. It’s in the skyscraper district of Tokyo’s biggest and busiest downtown area, Shinjuku. It’s easy to find, as it’s also the tallest skyscraper in the area. Just exit Shinjuku Station from the west side and keep walking west. You can’t miss it.
The building has a distinctive design. Completed in 1991, it was designed by Kenzo Tange to resemble a computer chip. It was the tallest building in Tokyo until it was surpassed by Tokyo Midtown in 2006. There are actually three buildings in total. Building 1 is the most well-known. Building 2 is to the south, and only 37 floors to Building 1’s 48 floors. The other building is the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly Building, which is attached to Building 1. It’s a circular building with a central courtyard, which is also where the
main entrance to Building 1 is.
In Building 1, there are 2 elevators that go to 2 separate observatories. They are both free. While their views are similar, they offer different facilities, a gift shop and a cafe. When you get to the observatories, the view offered is spectacular. It’s surrounded by skyscrapers that are shorter than itself, so most views are unobstructed. Not only can you see Tokyo Tower, but also Tokyo Skytree. When the air is clear, Mt. Fuji is easily visible.
What I find remarkable about these observatories is that they are less crowded than Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Skytree despite being free. This is a must for anyone who loves high places and city views. It’s open until 11 p.m., so you can check out the night view, as well.