Subscribe
Although it has been dethroned as the city's tallest structure, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building west of Shinjuku Station still offers incredible views from its twin observatories.

Although it has been dethroned as the city's tallest structure, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building west of Shinjuku Station still offers incredible views from its twin observatories. (Leon Cook/Stars and Stripes)

Although it has been dethroned as the city's tallest structure, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building west of Shinjuku Station still offers incredible views from its twin observatories.

Although it has been dethroned as the city's tallest structure, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building west of Shinjuku Station still offers incredible views from its twin observatories. (Leon Cook/Stars and Stripes)

Yoyogi Park and the Meiji Shrine can be seen from the free south observatory of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building west of Shinjuku Station.

Yoyogi Park and the Meiji Shrine can be seen from the free south observatory of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building west of Shinjuku Station. (Leon Cook/Stars and Stripes)

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building offers sweeping views of Yoyogi Park and Meiji Shrine, Tokyo Dome, Tokyo Tower and Skytree, Roppongi Hills, Odaiba, Midtown Tower and more.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building offers sweeping views of Yoyogi Park and Meiji Shrine, Tokyo Dome, Tokyo Tower and Skytree, Roppongi Hills, Odaiba, Midtown Tower and more. (Leon Cook/Stars and Stripes)

“Local municipal building” never comes to mind when I’m thinking of amazing travel destinations.

However, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, which was the city’s tallest skyscraper until 2006, may change that.

The 48-story, nearly 800-foot-tall structure in the “skyscraper district” just west of Shinjuku Station splits into two towers on its 33rd floor.

Architect Kenzo Tange designed the building — which houses government offices for a metropolitan area that’s home to about 38 million people — to resemble a cross between a computer chip and a Gothic cathedral.

But what really makes the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building worth visiting are its twin observation galleries on the north and south towers’ 45th floors. They have a major advantage over the iconic Tokyo Tower and super-tall Tokyo Skytree: the views are free. Rather than paying the equivalent of $35 per person to ascend the Skytree or about $8 dollars at Tokyo Tower, visiting the government building’s observatories won’t cost you one red cent (or even a single, silver yen).

The building’s location offers sweeping views of Yoyogi Park and Meiji Shrine, Tokyo Dome, Tokyo Tower and Skytree, Roppongi Hills, Odaiba and Midtown Tower. In the right conditions, you might also get a glimpse of Mount Fuji to the west.

I’d recommend a daytime visit, because nighttime views just aren’t as good.

If you can peel yourself away from the amazing views at the windows, both the north and south observatories have cafes. I didn’t go to the north observatory, which also hosts a bar with live music; however, the one in the south observatory serves pancakes, crepes and waffles. The average price for an entree is 1,000 yen, or about $9.

The gift shop sells specialty foods from every prefecture in Japan, along with badly translated descriptions of how some of them came to prominence.

The line to go up to the observation deck didn’t take very long, even with security guards checking our bags, but I stood in line to leave for 10-15 minutes.

All in all, a visit to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is well worth your time. The views are incredible, and you definitely can’t beat the price.

cook.leon@stripes.com

www.twitter.com/LeonCook12

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building DIRECTIONS The Oedo Line’s Tochomae Station is in the basement of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. It’s a 10-minute walk from Shinjuku Station. TIMES Both observatories open at 9:30 a.m. The north observatory closes at 11 p.m. and the south observatory closes at 5:30 p.m. COSTS Free FOOD Both observatories offer a cafe, and there are more restaurants on the building’s bottom floor. INFORMATIONwww.metro.tokyo.jp/ENGLISH/OFFICES/observat.htm

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up