by Devon Sponheimer
The newly opened Tokyo Skytree has gotten a lot of press, but the original “sky tree” of Tokyo, the Tokyo Tower isn’t something to be missed, especially if you’re traveling on a budget. Offering great views and complimentary entertainment, check out this observation tower on your next trip!
The Tokyo Tower opened in 1958, serving as both a telecommunications tower and a tourist attraction. With it’s striking red and white design, it quickly became an icon in the Tokyo skyline. Although not as tall as the Skytree, the Tower features two observation decks and a shopping center. The main observation deck at 150 meters and the special observation deck at 250 meters. Let’s start by first exploring the tower itself.
The main observatory has two floors and a few great features including:
360 degree views of the city (and on clear days the ability to see to Mt. Fuji and Mt. Tsubuka)
Cafe La Tour: A cafe selling coffees and treats, raised 60cm higher than the rest of the observation deck so guests can still enjoy the views while enjoying their food
Club 333: Featuring live music on Wednesday (jazz), Thursday (oldies) and Friday nights (a DJ who takes requests…perhaps a good opportunity to impress the locals with your knowledge of J-Pop)
The “Look Down Window”: Not for those with a fear of heights. These charming little windows are built into the floor, so you can look down to the street below.
Not recommended for the faint of heart.
Touch Screen Observation Guides: If you’re there on a foggy night like we were, you can still “see” the view to Mt. Fuji though these awesome monitors. These touch screens also provide a great deal of information about the view. Everything from a day/night view comparison, to the names of buildings in modern and ancient Tokyo are provided. Touch screens are located to the North, South, East and West and are in both English and Japanese.
Tokyo Tower Gift Shop: Buy some cute little keepsakes featuring the Tokyo Tower Mascot.
Binocular Rental: Can’t see far enough? Rent a pair of binoculars for only 500Yen! Binoculars are only for use in the main observatory floors and you must have an ID to rent at the 500 Yen price. Without an ID, you must put down a 3000Yen deposit but are refunded 2500Yen upon return. Rental times are between 9:00 and 18:00 with the latest rental time of 17:30. You can keep them as long as you like within those hours
Great Shinto Shrine of the Tower: If you’re a fan of Anime taking place in contemporary Japan (and usually involving school kids) this tower is often featured quite prominently. Ever wonder why? The tower contains a shrine which is located in the highest place in Tokyo’s 23 wards and is very responsive to prayers for love and school success! Many students visit before entrance exams. Need a good luck charm for exams or some extra luck in love?
Don’t worry, the gift shop next door sells them!
Special Observatory (250m)
The special observatory is reachable by the ground floor or main observatory via elevator. At 100 meters higher than the main observatory, it offers comprehensive and sensational views of Tokyo. At night, the LEDs inlaid under the windows give the visitors a “floating” effect, enhancing the stunning views.
The outside of the tower has two different sets of lights, dependent upon the season. In the winter, the tower will glow orange, while in summer the lights are white. Tower illumination starts at sunset and ends at midnight. For a more colorful view, the tower is also equipped with a “Diamond Veil”. These lights have the ability to change into seven different colors and is displayed from 20:00 to 22:00 on Fridays, Saturdays and some national holidays.
The colors shown depend on the season and the event.
Seasonal Lighting Events:
Tokyo Warm Heart
During the Warm Season, the inside of the tower reflects the warm glow outside with with a glowing heart! Perfect for couples who want to enjoy the view and one another’s company.
When: Around April and May
Where: Main Observatory, 1F
The Milky Way Illumination
For the summer Star Festival, the main observatory is decorated with astrological signs and thousands of blue lights to resemble the Milky Way.
When: June to July 10
Where: Main Observatory, 1F
Join Santa, his reindeer and the Galaxy Express train under a beautiful 15 meter Christmas Tree. Listen to Christmas songs and enjoy the magic of the holidays.
When: November 3 to December 25
Where: Tokyo Tower’s Front Entrance
Shopping Center: Foot Town
Below the observation tower is a 4 floored shopping center with everything from eateries to an aquarium. It even features a roof with a playground under the tower.
- Main Observatory: 9:00 - 22:00 (Last admission 21:45)
- Special Observatory: 9:00 - 21:30 (Last admission 21:00)
- Foot Town: 10:00 - 21:00 (Last admission 20:30)
There is no limit to the amount of time you are allowed to spend in the tower, so make the most of your visit!
*The tower may be closed early for overcrowding or inclement weather. Please note the special observatory is current closed for construction.
Adults (senior high school or older)
- Main Observatory 820 Yen
- Special Observatory 600 Yen
- Main + Special Observatory 1420 Yen
Children (junior high school students and primary school pupils)
- Main Observatory 460 Yen
- Special Observatory 400 Yen
- Main + Special Observatory 860 Yen
Children (4 years old and over)
- Main Observatory 310 Yen
- Special Observatory 350 Yen
- Main + Special Observatory 660 Yen
As you see, there isn’t any discount pricing if you purchase a combo ticket. If you’re being thrifty, purchase only the main observatory ticket. If you then want to proceed on to the special observatory, tickets can be purchased on the main observatory.
For ease of convenience, we recommend taking the subway, but the Tokyo Tower is accessible by Toei Bus, Tokyu bus and car. Parking is located adjacent to the tower for 580 yen for the first hour and 290yen every 30 minutes after.
- Oedo Line - Akabanebashi Station - Akabanebashi Gate (5 minute walk)
- Mita Line - Onarimon Station - Exit No. A1 (6 minute walk)
- Asakusa Line - Daimon Station - Exit A6 (10 minute walk)
- Hibiya Line - Kamiyacho Station - Exit No. 1 (7 minute walk)
- Hamamatsucho Station - North Exit (15 minute walk)
Our recommendation for the best time to go: For free entertainment, the opportunity to see the Diamond Veil AND stunning views of Tokyo during the day and lit up at night, spend a few hours and go on a Friday at dusk. Watch the sunset from the top of the tower and see Tokyo come alive with lights at night while enjoying some free entertainment by the house DJ. At 20:00 head outside and check out the Diamond Veil.