Metropolitan Government Building: The Best (FREE!) Views of Tokyo

Discover the stunning vistas from Tokyo's Metropolitan Government Building. Your essential guide to visiting and capturing the city's best panoramic views!

Views from the Metropolitan Government Building - Daytime
Views from the Metropolitan Government Building - Daytime

After Hong Kong and New York City, Tokyo has one of the highest counts of completed skyscrapers in the world, and Dubai is quickly becoming a contender in this category. The Metropolitan Government Building is one of the most famous highrises in the city. Plus, it’s free!

View from the Metropolitan Government Building in Tokyo
View from the Metropolitan Government Building in Tokyo

Tokyo is not just a bustling hub of soaring buildings; it’s a city where architecture takes on exciting forms. Skyscrapers in Tokyo may not reach extreme heights due to the frequent earthquakes in the region; however, they make up for it with their vivid colors and striking designs.

Metropolitan Government Building: A Little History

Metropolitan Government Building from below
Metropolitan Government Building from below

The Metropolitan Government Building in Tokyo, often referred to as Tocho was built to create a new space for the local government that could accommodate all its branches under one roof.

It was completed in 1991. Kenzo Tange, a famous architect, designed the building, which shows the style of postmodern architecture.

Not unlike a Gothic cathedral, the building has two spire-like towers, each 48 stories tall. The height is impressive: 243 meters (800 feet). In good weather, from the observation decks at 202 meters (663 feet), you can see beautiful views of Tokyo and sometimes even Mount Fuji.

Mount Fuji from Tokyo
Mount Fuji from Tokyo

The architect imagined that the building’s shape should resemble a computer chip or a cathedral. This mix of high technology and old design makes the Metropolitan Government Building stand out.

The Metropolitan Government Building in Tokyo looks a bit like a gothic cathedral
The Metropolitan Government Building in Tokyo looks a bit like a Gothic cathedral
Tocho Building entrance
Tocho Building entrance

Special care was also taken to make this building safe during earthquakes.

The Metropolitan Government Building in Pop Culture

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is famous in Japanese and Western pop culture, often symbolizing Tokyo’s skyline. In movies, it has served as a backdrop for action sequences and illustrated Tokyo’s modernity. Television shows have used it to set scenes in Japan’s bustling capital. Beyond the big and small screens, the building crops up in literature and video games, too.

It features prominently in the 1988 anime classic “Akira,” where its imposing structure serves as the government’s nerve center in a futuristic Tokyo. In “Digimon Adventure 02,” this building transforms into the headquarters for DigiDestined.

Cinema often takes advantage of its dramatic silhouette. In “Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah” (1991), it weathers an epic battle as these titanic creatures clash in an unforgettable showdown around Tokyo’s landmarks. Similarly, in “X” (1996), an apocalyptic animation, the building stands at the frontline of an esoteric war between supernatural forces.

Director Sofia Coppola chose the Metropolitan Government Building to be featured in her 2003 movie “Lost in Translation.” Its presence is felt in several cityscape shots that aim to show the vastness and density of Tokyo’s urban environment.

Television series like “Digimon: Digital Monsters” have illustrated the Metropolitan Government Building as a pivotal point for character meet-ups. It often stands in anime backdrops.

Even Western reality shows have featured the building; an episode of “The Amazing Race” sees contestants racing to the observation decks for clues.

Visiting the Panoramic Platforms at the Metropolitan Government Building: Our Personal Experience

We visited Tokyo’s Metropolitan Government Building not just once but twice to see the city in different lights – once when the sun was high and then again at night.

Views from the Metropolitan Government Building - Daytime
Views from the Metropolitan Government Building – Daytime
Tokyo - Panoramic views by night
Tokyo – Panoramic views by night

During our daytime visit, we explored the observatories on the 45th floor (about 663 feet above ground level). We wanted to see the city stretch out beneath us in full daylight. The panoramic view was wide and detailed; the buildings looked like a carefully arranged collection of miniatures.

Tokyo looks neverending from the Metropolitan Building
Tokyo looks neverending from the Metropolitan Building

Later, we returned after sunset. Tokyo transformed into a sea of lights beneath the starless sky. From this high up, the glowing streets created patterns that stretched into the distance.

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden from above
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden from above

Both observatories allowed us to sit and have snacks while enjoying the view. The building also had gift shops where we could buy souvenirs.

Our adventures weren’t limited to looking out of windows. Information panels described key sights in English, too. We learned about interesting places for future visits without feeling overwhelmed by too much detail.

Climbing stairs was unnecessary as elevators whisked us up and down smoothly. Visiting this skyscraper cost us nothing.

With each visit lasting about an hour, we felt that our time spent there was a highlight of our Tokyo trip.

Practical tips for visiting Tokyo’s Metropolitan Government Building

  1. Go early: Arriving early means fewer crowds and clearer views. The morning light also gives the city a soft glow, making for great photos.
  2. Use public transport: The nearest train station is Tochomae. Trains are frequent and reliable, which saves time and avoids traffic.
  3. Travel light: Security checks may slow you down. Carrying less means faster entry and an easier time walking around the observatories.
  4. Check weather reports: On clear days, Mount Fuji is visible. Cloudy or rainy days might not offer the best views of Tokyo.
  5. Be patient: Sometimes, the elevators are busy. Waiting calmly will make the experience more enjoyable.
  6. Visit both towers: There are two observation decks, North and South. Each offers a different perspective, so try to see both.
  7. Just bring your camera and/or phone: Tripods are not allowed, as they can cause trip hazards. Make sure your camera’s battery is charged before arriving.
  8. Enjoy the free entry: Unlike many other high vantage points in cities around the world, you do not need to pay for admission at the Metropolitan Building.
  9. Explore the building too: The Metropolitan Government Building is an architectural feat in itself, with design features worth noticing.
  10. Check the opening hours: It’s important to know when they open and close so that you won’t miss out or get caught inside after hours.
  11. Consider visiting at nighttime: As evening falls, Tokyo lights up with millions of sparkling lights, offering a completely different feel than daytime visits.