With so many tall buildings in Tokyo, one thing I wanted was to see was the city from high above street level. The two most popular options would be to visit either Tokyo Tower or Skytree. However, the viewing decks at both locations cost a pretty penny, and since we were in Shinjuku to catch our coach to Kyoto, and were working to time constraints and a budget, we decided to visit Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (東京都庁舎 Tōkyō-to Chōsha), AKA Tochō (都庁).
While not as famous as Tokyo Tower or Skytree to those outside of Japan, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building is a well known symbol of the city to many Tokyoites. Completed in 1990, it was the tallest building in Tokyo (discounting Tokyo Tower) before the completion of Midtown Tower in Akasaka ward in 2007. Each of the twin towers house observation decks on floor 45, 202 metres above ground, and the best part is that they are completely free.
When we arrived, there seemed to be a long line. Since it’s a centre of government, bag checks are mandatory before entering. These ended up being swift, with the well-versed guards dealing with the copious visitors with typical Japanese efficiency, and after only five minutes in the queue, a group of us were being chaperoned into the spacious lift and whizzed up to the 202 metre high observation deck.
Our group dispersed onto the deck, joining those already at the windows, jostling for the best views. As I was the first out of the doors, it wasn’t long before I got a good spot. We had arrived not long after sunset; a shadow of orange lingered in the clouds, while the city lights burst through the grey dusk down below. Tokyo sprawled out before me, all the way to the horizon; the bright lights of high rises and street lamps glowed like fireflies against the dark shadows of the city’s glass towers, and I felt as small as one as I gazed across the metropolis.
Each observation deck houses a gift shop and a restaurant, and I suspected the best views of Tokyo were reserved for those who paid to sit down and dine. Nevertheless, I couldn’t complain about the view. Supposedly, on clear days, you can see all the way to Mount Fuji, and Tokyo landmarks such as Roppongi Hills, Tokyo Tower and Skytree are visible. To be honest, I was glad we weren’t visiting either of those towers, as waiting times to enter either did not seem like they’d be worth the price of admission, and I’d prefer to see them as part of the skyline.
Below us, the floodlights on a football pitch had been ignited, and two teams seemed to be playing five-a-side, most likely salary men blowing off steam. The working day was over, but in surrounding office buildings the lights remained on, with men at their desks putting in the extra hours.
I looked out into the distance, the last orange embers of sunlight were beginning to fade behind the horizon to the west. We’d be following soon enough, on our coach to Kyoto.