Whilst there are many places to enjoy panoramic views of Tokyo, one of the top places for locals and tourists alike is in the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, Shinjuku. Designed by Kenzo Tange, and costing 157 billion yen to build, the building, as the name suggests, is the headquarters for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, which govern the 23 special wards, and all the towns, cities and villages that the Tokyo Metropolis is comprised of.
Whilst the edifice is easily recognisable with it's twin peaks, it is conveniently located a short walk from Shinjuku Station's west exit, and opposite the scenic Shinjuku Park. The area is well signposted so the entrance is easily found. There is a courtyard area at the buildings' front, which beautifully frames its towers, and is a popular meeting spot.
The building's second floor has a well stocked tourist center with information on things to do in Tokyo and great places to visit in Japan (frequently there are also fairs held, with produce from different regions up for sale), however the main attraction are the buildings two observatories, (North and South) which are open to the general public, and are accessible by elevator from the 1st floor.
On clear days, landmarks such as Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Dome and even Mt. Fuji can be seen from the 202 meter high viewing areas on the 45th (out of 48) floor. Most noticeably though, they are completely free to enter. Other notable buildings which can be seen are the Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Bay, the skyscrapers of Nishi-Shinjuku.
Whilst the two different observatories offer slightly different scenery (you can see Roppongi Hills and the Rainbow Bridge from the North tower for example, whilst the South tower means views of Yoyogi Park and Meiji Jingu) each observation deck boasts 360 degree views with windows going right around the tower.
Both North and South also feature a souvenir shop at their cores, as well as restaurants and bars. Also dotted around are mini dioramas of the area and a commemorative stamp for guests.
The scenery changes at night....
There are also helpful panels which have labelled photographs of each view explaining where and what notable landmarks are – especially useful if the day isn't as clear as you'd like or if you are struggling to find something in particular.
At least one tower is open until 23:00, with final entry being 30 minutes before closing time. This means that it can be a wonderful place to take in the glittery night views of Tokyo, with the whole city lit up. Some skyscrapers are close to the viewing decks and when lit up they are quite the sight. Sunsets are especially popular for photographers, as the sun sinking past the mountainous horizon makes for a beautiful photo opportunity.
Fantastic for travellers on a budget, or even those who just want to see a different side of the city, the observatories within the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building offer unbeatable views completely free, and are well worth a visit.
Please note: before ascending in the elevators, bag checks are carried out as part of the security measures. These are quickly and efficiently done, but may cause queues to be longer at busy times.