Tokyo is basically a laundry list of world superlatives. Most populated metro area, largest economy, most efficient
public transportation everything, largest fish market, most Michelin Stars, home of minimalist design, TripAdvisor’s World’s Best Overall Experience, RAMEN/SUSHI — after eating them both in this perfectionist city I can’t even decide which has more clout anymore. It shouldn’t take much convincing for Tokyo to climb to the top of anyone’s world bucket list, but much like I felt when I first got there, since returning from my three-week visit last month, I’ve been most overwhelmed about how to approach breaking down the whole experience! So, we’ll start from the top.
If you’ve read around here before, you’ve started to pick up on my enthusiasm about views (see: Aruba by horseback and hiking the Seoul Fortress Wall. It’s the flat-land Florida girl in me, but views get me every time — views from rooftops, views of mountains, views in valleys, views of oceans, sunsets… I just can’t get enough of them. So of Tokyo’s many, many qualities that make it a must, for me, the views are the easiest sell. Let’s take a look:
Tokyo Sky Tree
Tokyo Sky Tree is the world’s second-tallest building to the Burj Khalifa, but Dubai’s skyscape pales in comparison. The Sky Tree has two 360° observation decks at 350m and 450m — spring for the top. It’s far less crowded and from a serious enthusiast, yes, the view is that much better up there. I made my way up in mid-afternoon and stayed well past dark, hours longer than I probably should have.
There’s a cafe, gift shop and restaurant to linger at on the lower deck, and the solo seats at the cafe set you right in front of the looking glass. My eyes have never danced as much as they did watching the afternoon turn to sunset turn to the twinkles of skyscrapers as far as the horizon in every direction. I’m convinced that standing at the top of the Tokyo Sky Tree is the only way to fathom the size of this sprawling metropolis. If you can, make it the first thing you do when you get there. It’ll help you understand what you’re working with.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (City Hall)
For a free view at 250m, check out the city’s government center at Tokyo City Hall. It’s close to panoramic, less isolated than the Sky Tree in terms of other things to do nearby and most notably, free. Heads up to photographers there are no tripods allowed, and as you can imagine, it gets pretty crowded. You can make a reservation at the restaurant for a more intimate setting (and a steady table prop).
Also, the tourism board has an office on the observation floor here with tons of material for travelers, including info on free tours in multiple languages and even free pocket WI-FI for use in certain areas of the city, so this is a useful stop for planning help.
Tokyo Dome City
One word here: ROLLER COASTER. If you’re less into adrenaline, take in a slow view of the nightscape from the world’s first centerless ferris wheel (complete with a personal juke box in each car), but seeing that skyline from the top of Thunder Dolphin’s drop is nothing short of spectacular. Tokyo Dome City is definitely a touristy to-do, complete with a Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. in the lower level plaza, but if getting excited about a permanent neon playland with a <3 minute walk from the train line is wrong, I don’t want to be right.
Two Rooms Bar + Grill
On the opposite end of the tourist spectrum, Two Rooms Bar + Grill above trendy Aoyama, a fashion and lifestyle district, has a modern luxe vibe with a sleek, dark interior, 1800+ bottle wine list, locally-sourced fare from Tskiji Fish Market and Kyoto and an outdoor terrace with, of course, a killer view.
Much to my relief after a full day of exploring, Two Rooms also has English-fluent wait staff and menus because of the areas business centricity, making it an easy meal for visitors. Food-wise the Kyoto carrots were the best veggie I ate in Japan (they’re scarce), and the gastro-style cocktail list also impressed. Just a short walk from other major sights to see in Harajuku and Ometesando Plaza, this is a great inclusive addition for tight travel schedule.
There’s no way the Tokyo Tower could compare to the Sky Tree from the top so I saved my yen from going up, but as the premier vantage point of Tokyo since 1958, I’d be rude to not mention it on this list. Respectfully including a view from the outside looking in from an evening walk in the hills after my favorite bowl of ramen in Roppongi.
The Top… of Anywhere
As a final nod, here’s the view from a rooftop Mexican restaurant with outdoor fire pits and a snakeskin chandelier in Daikanyama. Some views are certainly more worthy than others (that Sky Tree though), but really, there’s no going wrong on top of Tokyo.
There you have it! The first of many installments on Tokyo to come. If there’s anything you’re interested in reading about specifically, please let me know on Twitter or below.