There is no better way to see the entirety of Tokyo, Japan than to see it from a bird’s eye view. Tourists can experience this by going to one of the city’s high-rise buildings or structures such as the popular Tokyo Skytree and Tokyo Tower. These places provide visitors with observation decks to allow them to enjoy and capture panoramic shots of Japan’s bustling city capital. However, such glorious experiences do come at a price. For those who feel that shelling out a few thousands of yen just to get that wide-range shot may not be too practical, a trip to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building may be more suitable.
History of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, also known as Tocho, is located in the Shinjuku ward of Tokyo, Japan. It stands 243 meters tall and features two towers extruding from its north and south sections. The structure serves as the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s headquarters but visitors are free to enjoy and roam around its top floors for a stunning view of Tokyo, and even Mt. Fuji and the Kanto region when skies are clear.
Years before the planning and designing process for the Tocho even began, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government initially founds its home in the Marunouchi district, located east of the Imperial Palace. During the 1970s, Japan experienced several issues regarding proper space allocation and availability, structural building strength, and building deteriorations. This led to the need for a new headquarters, which Junichi Suzuki, the then Governor of Tokyo, responded to by proposing that the government relocate to one of Japan’s fukutoshins (metropolitan sub-center), particularly Shinjuku.
It was only in 1985 that Suzuki’s proposal was formally approved. The construction phase of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building started in the year 1988 during the month of April. It took a little over two years for the structure to be built. The project accumulated an estimate of 157 billion yen in costs. As such, it is considered as one of Japan’s major monuments, given the country’s bubble economy.
The design of Tocho was made by Kenzo Tange, a pioneer post-war architect of Japan who was also the brains behind the Yoyogi National Gymnasium, Tokyo Dome Hotel, Bunkyo ward’s St. Mary’s Cathedral, and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. It is believed that Kenzo’s inspiration for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building was Paris’ Notre Dame. As compared to other skyscrapers situated in Shinjuku, the Tocho carries a more prominent cathedral-like grandeur.
The decision to move the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s headquarters from Marunouchi to Shinjuku was a relatively bold move, given that its original location was situated in Tokyo’s heart of corporate power. Neighboring cities of Marunouchi include Ginza, Tokyo’s popular shopping destination, and Kasumigaseki and Nagatacho, districts housing Japan’s administrations. Shinjuku, on the other hand, is located nearly 6.5 km away from the Tokyo’s promising area of status, power, and wealth.
But at the end of the day, the relocation reaped benefits, especially for Shinjuku’s geographic and topographic importance. The city’s ability to withstand major earthquakes, such as the 1923 Tokyo Earthquake, was finally given proper recognition, eventually leading to Shinjuku being known as Tokyo’s skyscraper district.
The Layout of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Complex and Each Building’s Height
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Complex is sized at 4.3 hectares and mainly consists of three buildings:
- The Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly Building
The Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly Building stands 135 feet or 41 meters tall and has a total of seven floors and an underground floor. It faces the Building No. 1 of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Complex.
- The Tokyo Metropolitan Main Building No. 1
The Tokyo Metropolitan Main Building No. 1 stands 797 feet or 243 meters tall and has a total of 48 floors. It serves as the main building of the complex and features two towers that both start from the 33rd floor. Each tower has its own observation deck, where visitors can freely enter and enjoy a panoramic view of Tokyo.
- The Tokyo Metropolitan Main Building No. 2
The Tokyo Metropolitan Main Building No. 2 stands 535 feet or 163 meters tall and has a total of 34 floors. It features a stunning architectural design that uses a triple-tower angular effect, making it just as striking as Building No. 1 of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Complex.
The North and South Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Observatory Decks
For no corresponding admission fee, tourists can go up the Tokyo Metropolitan Main Building No. 1 and appreciate Tokyo in all its glory at either the North or South Tower, or even both. The 45th floor of both towers house the observation decks that stand 663 feet or 202 meters from the ground.
Each observatory offers a different perspective and has several photographs presented on the windows to help tourists identify Tokyo’s famous sights and attractions. The North Observatory has longer operation hours, remaining open until the night. There are map brochures and audio guides available in different languages to provide visitors with more information.
On clear days, a stunning landscape can be viewed which sometimes include Mt. Fuji. Tourists are advised to skip a trip to the observatories on the month of June, as it is the peak of Japan’s rainy season.
Other Information about the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building for Tourists (Observation Deck Hours, Restaurant/Cafeteria)
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is quite tourist-friendly in terms of convenience, assistance, and amenities. Some of the things worth noting and remembering before going inside the complex are:
Observatory Deck Hours
- North Observatory: from 9:30 AM to 11:00 PM
- South Observatory: from 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM (or until 11:00 PM in the case that the North Observatory is closed)
Entrance to the observation decks is no longer allowed 30 minutes before closing. In addition, the North Observatory is not open to the public on the 2nd and 4th Mondays of every month, while on the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of every month for the South Observatory. From December 29 to January 3, with the exception of January 1, both observatories are closed.
Tokyo Tourist Information Center
A Tokyo Tourist Information Center is located at the Tokyo Metropolitan Main Building No. 1’s first level. Visitors can approach this center for any of their concerns. Guided tours can also be arranged for free but may cost extra for certain languages. It is open from 9:30 AM to 6:30 PM every day of the year except on New Year Holidays.
Good View Tokyo Café
Good View Tokyo Café is located at the North Observatory. Here, guests can enjoy breakfast, lunch, dinner, or tea amidst an elegant setting and, of course, a panoramic view of Tokyo. Breakfast meals are available from 9:30 AM to 11:00 AM, followed by lunch meals until 5:30 PM, then dinner meals from 6:00 PM to 10:30 PM.
Tokyo Café 202
Tokyo Café 202 is located at the center of the South Observatory. Compared to the North Observatory’s Good View Tokyo Café, this one provides a more casual atmosphere similar to a lounge. Guests can simply relax in this space and enjoy a light snack. The café is open from 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM.
Both observatories have their own souvenir shops that sell a variety of Japanese items. For those looking to purchase toys, the shop of the North Observatory is preferable.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Foreign Residents’ Advisory Center
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Foreign Residents’ Advisory Center is located at the Tokyo Metropolitan Main Building No. 1’s 3rd level. They provide foreign travelers with information on how to address any problems they may encounter throughout their stay. Inquiries are usually made through phone calls, but tourists can stop by the center for any concerns they may have regarding emergencies, social issues, local customs, and more. Their advisers can understand and speak Chinese, Korean, and English.
Getting to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building – Location and Access
Reaching the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is relatively easy using the Toei Oedo Subway Line. Tourists just need to get off at the Tocho-mae Station, which is connected to the basement of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Complex.
An alternative route would be to get off at the JR Shinjuku Station and exit west. From there, the complex can be reached in a span of ten minutes by foot.
Things To Do Before or After Visiting the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building as Recommended by TripAdvisor
Tourists are encouraged to make the most of their trip to Tokyo by doing or visiting at least one of the following activities or places recommended by TripAdvisor:
- Shinjuku Sumitomo Building
The Shinjuku Sumitomo Building is another high-rise building situated in Shinjuku that stands at a height of 210 meters. Just like the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, it also offers tourists with an observation deck, free of charge, all year round.
- Cherry Blossom Viewing
Tokyo is home to several scenic tourist destinations where cherry blossoms can be fully appreciated during the months of March and April. The Shinjuku Gyoen is highly recommended as it is the largest park in Tokyo that features tranquil hill sceneries, various pathways, massive lawns, and hundreds of cherry blossom trees. The park is also quite lovely during the autumn season (mid-November to mid-December), particularly its Japanese garden lined with maple trees. Other recommended places for cherry blossom viewing include the Showa Memorial Park, the Kitanomaru Park, and Chidorigafuchi.
- Watch Sumo Wrestling Practice in the morning
Tokyo has several sumo stables that allow tourists to watch sumo wrestlers practice during the morning. Many travel agencies can arrange a trip to one of these stables, which usually last for two hours. The history and rules of the traditional Japanese martial art form will be taught throughout the practice session.
- Robot Restaurant
The Robot Restaurant is located in Kabukicho, Tokyo’s popular red-light district and entertainment contributor. The place showcases unique 1-hour cabaret shows throughout the day that incorporate techno music, flashing lights, and taiko drums. Tourists are advised to arrive at least 40 minutes before the start of the show to have plenty of time to check in and order a soft drink, beer, or sake.
The experience is absolutely mesmerizing to watch, given its use of robots, samurais, ninjas, and even Godzilla, amidst colorfully and eccentrically dressed girls dancing to the beat of the techno music and live taiko drum performance.
- Omoide Yokocho
Omoide Yokocho literally means memory lane. As such, foreign travelers can enjoy a nostalgic feel in a place they have never been to before. The street is home to roughly sixty restaurants and bars that sell a variety of yakitori (grilled meat skewers) and beer. It is highly recommended for those who want to get an overview of Japan’s state during the early post-war era.
- Isetan Shinjuku
Isetan Shinjuku is the best place for shopaholics looking for the latest cosmetics, shoes, and clothes. The massive shopping mall has been standing in Shinjuku for more than 80 years and continues to be among the city’s top tourist destinations.
- Golden Gai
Golden Gai is the artistic counterpart of Omoide Yokocho, focusing on Shinjuku’s golden era. The street is home to many stores and bars, where literary artists, manga artists, and creative directors, among other talented individuals and entities, used to frequently visit. Tourists are encouraged to explore each and every narrow alley of Golden Gai to gain as much knowledge about Japan’s history as they can.
- Hanazono Shrine
The Hanazono Shrine dates back to the 17th century and continues to stand in East Shinjuku amidst modern buildings and structures. It is frequently visited by many local businessmen praying to Inari, the god of success and fertility.
- Seiji Togo Memorial Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Museum of Art
The Seiji Togo Memorial Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Museum of Art houses the works of Seiji Togo, a highly-talented Japanese oil painter that studied in France for seven years and even got to know Picasso on a personal level. The majority of his paintings revolves around women and depicts them in an enchanting manner. The museum is also quite famous for housing Van Gogh’s Sunflowers.
- Sekai no Yamachan
Sekai no Yamachan is a bar and restaurant that specializes in scrumptious Nagoya chicken wings. They have several branches all over Japan, as well as a few abroad, particularly in Hong Kong and Thailand.
- Calico Cat Café
Calico Cat Café has more than 50 cats for guests to play and interact with while sipping a cup of coffee or tea. It is the largest cat café in Shinjuku, consisting of two floors, particularly the 5th and 6th levels of a building situated near Don Quixote, a local retail store.
- Taito Station
Taito Station is the ultimate haven for gamers, regardless of whether or not they can read and understand Japanese. The popular tourist attraction offers a variety of games including shooting games, dance games, arcade games, and taiko rhythm games that come in easy, medium, and hard difficulty levels.
- Tempura Tsunahachi
Tempura Tsunahachi started back in 1924 as a small restaurant and now has over 30 stores spread across Japan. What makes them one of the best restaurants to visit in Shinjuku other than their undoubtedly delicious food is their preserved traditional Japanese building.