Review: Is Tokyo Skytree Worth Doing?

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Tokyo Skytree is the tallest building in Tokyo, with an observatory and restaurant at its higher levels overlooking downtown Tokyo, and a large shopping structure at lower levels. This post provides tips and a review of what the Skytree complex has to offer.

First, some basics. The Skytree is a relatively new addition to the skyline of Tokyo, opening 5 years ago and drawing record crowds since. The Tokyo Skytree main tower is a modern, neo-futuristic design making the tower itself quite photogenic. As you’ll see in this post, there are numerous vantages nearby for photographing the Skytree, so even if you don’t want spend the money to go up, you can enjoy some of what the Skytree has to offer from the ground.

More than anything else, you should visit the Tokyo Skytree to be more like rapping legend Pitbull. You know that line where he says, “reporting live from the tallest building in Tokyo”? THAT’S RIGHT, HE WAS RECORDING FEEL THIS MOMENT FROM THE SKYTREE! Ten years from now, I picture Pitbull “reporting live” from up there quite often, giving traffic updates and words of wisdom on some bizarre Japanese television station.

For views of Tokyo, here are two tiers to the Skytree, both in terms of pricing and height. The 350 meter observation platform costs a little under $20 per person, while the 450 meter observation platform costs a little under $30 per person. We did the $20 option, as that already seemed steep in terms of price to us.

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You purchase tickets on the 4th floor, where you can find the current wait time to go up, and also visibility conditions. Air quality can vary dramatically in Japan, so this is definitely something to consider when going up. On the day we went, visibility was moderate to good.

If you have the opportunity, go on the day after a National Holiday. Factories are closed on National Holidays, and the day after is your best chance at seeing Mount Fuji (assuming weather conditions otherwise cooperate). We have noticed that we are able to see Mt. Fuji from Tokyo Disney Resort the day after National Holidays, but no other times.

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We had heard horror stories of long lines to access the top, but we went right at sunset on a weekday and there was no wait. Lines are going to be worst on weekends and during the middle of the day.

I’d highly recommend going just before sunset, and staying until night falls over the city to see this dramatic transition. Just check out the difference between the above and below photos! (They are not the same view, but you get the idea.)

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If you go any other time of day, you may feel like you didn’t get your money’s worth. Or maybe that’s just me. I’ve done several towers like this, from New York City to Chicago to Macau, and every one of them has been a one-and-done experience. I keep going for the unique photo ops, but the reality is that if I weren’t interested in photography, I’d probably stop. These towers have little else to offer, and Tokyo Skytree is no exception.

Even at “only” 350m, we were dramatically higher than any nearby buildings, so I can’t imagine the view being better at the higher Tembō Galleria level. This higher observation deck is directly below the digital broadcasting antennas (the main practical use of Tokyo Skytree) and features a circular glass corridor. At such heights, visibility is going to be limited by air quality, not elevation. In other words, you essentially pay more for bragging rights at the higher level.

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We have been to other high spots in the city (namely, Park Hyatt Tokyo) and the Tokyo Skytree’s view was superior not because of the added height, but because of its prime location in the heart of the city. I think the Tokyo Tower (250 meter high observation deck)–the orange tower in the nighttime photo above–would offer just as striking of a view for less than half the cost. Better yet, the free Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (202 meter high observation deck) would offer a great view looking south.

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On the 350m Tembō Deck level, in addition to the 360-degree view, you’ll find an overpriced coffee shop with little seating, a small section of glass floor panels where you can see to the ground, and historical displays. I felt that these historical displays were the highlight, as they depicted how the city used to look–or how it was envisioned by artists. These displays elevated the Tokyo Skytree from a 20 minute, “yep, nice view!” experience to something more like 45 minutes.

At the base is Tokyo Skytree Town, which includes a water fountain display, and a multi-story shopping center. We had to pick up a few items, so we spent a bit of time in the shopping center, and we also dined at a Japanese curry place in the mall. None of the restaurants or stores struck me as exceptional. They were mostly generic and safe options, much like what you’d find in a mall in the United States.

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Overall, I’m not sure how much of a “review” is actually necessary for Tokyo Skytree. It’s a tall observation deck that’s one of those what-you-see-is-what-you-get type of experiences. Aside from the historical displays, it’s pretty much the same as any observation deck in any major city. If you are already in the area and you want a cool view, go for it. I would not recommend making a special trip here, especially if that means having to wait in line to go up or spending a lot of time on the JR lines en route. This is a 30-60 minute experience, so you probably don’t want to spend 3-4 hours on the commute and waiting in line for something that short. There’s a ton to do in Tokyo, and while killer views are cool, there are many unique experiences I’d recommend over this.

If you’re planning a visit to Tokyo, Japan, please check out my other posts about Tokyo for ideas of things to do (or not do) while there. Tokyo has a lot of things to see and do, so I also highly recommend the Lonely Planet Japan Guide to help better develop an efficient plan while there.

Your Thoughts

Have you visited the Tokyo Skytree? Gone to any other observation decks–in Tokyo or elsewhere? Is it a place you’d like to visit? Any thoughts or tips of your own to add? Share any other questions or thoughts you have in the comments!

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15 replies
  1. Matt S
    Matt S says:

    TBO, Tokyo looks really ugly from the Skytree. Tokyo’s merits are the lively energy on the ground not the tepid view from above.

    Reply
  2. Scott
    Scott says:

    I enjoyed Skytree because I recognized what I was seeing, but for people who don’t, I wouldn’t recommend ANY observatory where you have to pay. The reason is that unless you know what you’re looking at, Tokyo is a big sprawling gray mass without the natural beauty of San Francisco or instantly recognizable landmarks like New York. Definitely not worth the $20 admission fee.

    Reply
    • Tom Bricker
      Tom Bricker says:

      That’s a fair point. Aside from the Skytree (which you cannot see, because you’re in it) and the Tokyo Tower, there’s not much to the Tokyo skyline that’s pretty. Even if you don’t recognize what you’re seeing, there’s a guide that tells you, but if the places listed are meaningless to you, it’s still not going to be a compelling experience.

      Reply
  3. Katherine
    Katherine says:

    Oh my gosh, my husband and I were in NYC a few months ago and I hadn’t been in so long (esp. the Times Square/Rockefeller Center areas) and I said it looked more like Tokyo than I was remembering it looking like actually NY. Now I’m not feeling it so much after all! That being said, we went to the “top of the rock” (which I hadn’t done in the past) which I feel seems better than this SkyTree, though I’ve not done the SkyTree so not a fair comparison. (Comfairison?) But since it’s more of a tower than a building I guess my closes to it that I have down is the EIffel Tower…and this just…well. People didn’t like the Eiffel Tower st first, either. Thanks for the review!

    Reply
  4. Spencer
    Spencer says:

    Awesome pictures! We did the Skytree this summer and went all the way to the higher deck. You’re right, it’s just an observation tower. But personally, I love observation towers so I really liked Skytree. The top deck had kind of an exhibit featuring TV show artifacts from some old Japanese sci-fi show they were reviving. I guess Japan recycles IP just like the US.

    One review from the mall – Right at the base where that fountain is in your shot there is a Hawaiian Burger place. Seems odd at first since Hawaii is US, but it seems the Japanese really like to vacation there so there is lots of Hawaiian stuff around. Anyway – A+ rating for the burger place. We loved our burger and fries there, and they had some pretty unique (i.e., not available in the US) toppings and flavors for the burgers.

    Reply
    • Tom Bricker
      Tom Bricker says:

      I recall seeing that burger place (I can’t recall the name) a few places in Japan. Not surprisingly, it’s also in Hawaii.

      Hawaii and Paris are both popular vacation spots for the Japanese, and you’ll see a lot of culinary influences from both (and America) throughout Japan. It’s interesting.

      Reply
      • Scott
        Scott says:

        The burger joint is Kua’aina. It’s also in Odaiba (interesting place that’s worth a review), near a “California” restaurant that serves loco moco. It’s like the two restaurants got their food mixed up.

        Reply
  5. aidasu
    aidasu says:

    Too expensive, not worth the money and the Jap people manning the tower are probably ‘liars’. I guess photo enthusiasts would love going up there but those who have height phobia and want to do other things should avoid it. We were told to return the next day because that night the view was supposedly ‘fuzzy’. But felt like it was a trick to make us return the next day to pay for the express ticket as we are foreigners.

    Reply
  6. Albert
    Albert says:

    I’m more taken aback with your photos OF Tokyo Skytree. Those incredible skies help a lot, but these are some fantastic wide angle shots, taking great advantage of your lens. I missed Skytree when I visited Tokyo last year, but I’d love to go back under nice sky conditions (it was pretty much all gray my entire trip, except for 2 of my 3 Tokyo Disney days–which is all that really mattered, I suppose).

    Thanks for the review. Good information to have for my next trip! =)

    Reply
  7. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    Clearly, you are forgetting curling.

    I went up in the CN tower as a kid with my parents. When we were there a couple years ago, we opted not to. It was a 90-minute wait and would have been after sunset when we went up. Nearly $100 and a 90-min wait to see darkness didn’t appeal.(We did visit Casa Loma and the Royal Ontario Museum, as well as walk around the city. So I guess there is *a little* more to do in Canada…).

    Reply
  8. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    The CN tower in Toronto is $35 and One world Trade Center is $32, so I guess this is the normal price. It makes the 15-euro Eiffel tower seem a bargain.

    Reply
    • Tom Bricker
      Tom Bricker says:

      Yeah, but in fairness, the only other entertainment options in Canada are caribou hunting and snowmobile racing, so “going up in a tall building, eh” can command a higher price there.

      Reply

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