Some locals might still hold a candle for the more retro Tokyo Tower but the Skytree is a competing favorite for good reason.
The Tokyo Skytree is, in a word, tall. Completed in 2011 at a height of 634 meters, it’s the biggest tower in the world and a dominant feature of the Tokyo skyline as well as being the new tourist spot à la mode (that’s French for crowded).
Whatever your feelings on giant freestanding structures, the views from the two observation decks are absolutely spectacular, and there’s no denying that the LED display, which lights up the entire tower in different colors each night, is pretty to see. What really makes a trip to the Skytree worthwhile though are the numerous related attractions built at the tower’s base, including an enormous shopping complex, an aquarium, a planetarium, restaurants, parks and even a museum.
The Skytree tower has two enclosed observation decks; the Tembo Deck, at 350 meters, and the Tembo Gallery at 450 meters. A glass-ceilinged elevator will whizz you up to the first deck in 50 seconds and it takes another 30 to get to the gallery. Alternatively you could take the 2523 emergency steps if you were feeling particularly energetic.
Both decks feature dizzying glass windows with panoramic views across different levels. The upper gallery also has a spiral glass skywalk where you can look down as you climb the tower. The pleasant cafe, restaurant and souvenir shop are par for the course.
Tickets are available from the 4th floor and the Tembo Deck (for the upper gallery). There are advanced assigned day tickets, day and time tickets and ordinary on-the-day tickets costing from 2,000 – 2500 yen for adults to the Tembo Deck only. Add on another 1000 yen to go to the upper gallery. International tourists with a valid visa can get a special discount from the Fast Skytree Ticket Counter.
At the base of the tower you can spend some time shopping and being entertained among over 300 shops and restaurants across the sprawling Tokyo Skytree Town which links Tokyo Skytree station and Oshiage station. A huge range of products from Japanese and western food to souvenirs and designer clothes is on offer. There’s also an aquarium and planetarium in there somewhere. The Solamachi tower right next to the Skytree offers great views of the tower from up close and is a cheap alternative to a sky-high view of the area if you don’t want to fork out for the main event. Lots of the diverse restaurants here have windows looking across to the tower.
Soaring above the district of Sumida just across from historic Asakusa, the Tokyo Skytree is a good stopping point on a tour of eastern Tokyo. Start with a fresh sushi breakfast at the world’s largest fish market, Tsukiji, and an exploration of the sumo town of Ryogoku, before heading to the iconic Senso-ji. From there you can take the boat across to Odaiba or to Hama-rikyu gardens and walk to Ginza.