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See Tokyo in a completely different view, both literally and figuratively. Discover the prided architecture of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, to which it by itself is a tourist attraction, with its rich history and grand symbolism. Expand your views! Experience Tokyo in new heights and for free.
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Japan is a country widely admired for being able to progress through innovation while remaining true to its culture. Tokyo, Japan’s busy capital, prides itself in having some of the tallest skyscrapers that can adhere to this. What is a better way there to immerse oneself in the country’s mix of modernity and tradition at a vantage point than to visit a high-rise building, admission free? The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building can assist with this.
In Japanese, the Metropolitan Government Building is called Tōkyō-to Chōsha or Tochō for short. It is located in Shinjuku, Tokyo, where the construction started in 1988 and finished in 1991. Kenzō Tange, the architect for the building, designed an administrative building for the Metropolitan Government for the second time. The architect’s first metropolitan building that he was commissioned to design was in Yūrakuchō.
※ Tokyo Metropolitan Government, "Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings"
Tange’s architectural style comprises a mix of traditional Japanese and modern principles. Between his incorporation of the past with the future, he also contributed to the Metabolist movement in the 1960s. The pattern of his design for Tochō can be recalled from the traditional screen panels of Japanese houses and the twin towers of gothic cathedrals. It can also be said that the building reflects the appearance of a microchip, signifying the technology which continues to lead Japan. Tange’s intention with his design was to be sophisticated and futuristic as to reflect the government organization.
Although commonly regarded as a single building, Tochō can be divided into three sections: main building 1, main building 2, and assembly building. Their heights being two hundred forty-three (243) meters, one hundred sixty-three (163) meters, and forty-one (41) meters, respectively. The observation decks are located in building 1. The decks are separated as the floors of building one are divided to form its twin towers, providing observatories in the north and south.
※ Tokyo Metropolitan Government, "Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings - Appendices"
The Metropolitan Government Building observatories will provide you the Tokyo view, two hundred two (202) meters above ground, free of charge. At the forty-fifth (45th) floor of building 1, the north and south observatories can be found. According to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the visit to these observatories is meant to “inform and educate” the visitors about the country and its policies as an organization. Similar to Tange’s take, the government organization hopes the commanding views will lead people to ponder about Tokyo’s future.
※ Tokyo Metropolitan Government - Visitor's Guide, "Visiting the observatories"
The free admission to Tochō will provide a three hundred sixty (360) degree view of Tokyo. In the direction facing the East, multiple famous towers of Japan can be seen. The famous Tokyo Skytree, known for being the tallest tower in the world, is visible at the North-east. Meanwhile, on the South-east, can the Tokyo Tower be seen standing three hundred thirty-three (333) meters tall with its shape being similar to that of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The Metropolitan Government has curated a special viewing guide called the Tokyo Sky Guide, available in different languages, to provide information on the observatories' spots. Without the need for a special application, this is made possible by QR or Quick Response codes.
The sightseeing in Japan through Tochō does not stop there. The Shinjuku Park Tower and Tokyo Opera City Tower can be visible from the South-west direction. The former, also designed by Kenzō Tange, serves as an office space, an information center for home improvement, a hotel, and a spot for boutiques and restaurants. The latter is two hundred thirty-four (234) meters tall, housing the NTT Intercommunication Center, Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall, Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery, Tokyo Opera Recital Hall, restaurants, and shops. As another bonus, Mt. Fuji can be seen in the West direction, especially from December to February and of course on clear days.
Tochō’s North and South observatories do not just offer remarkable views. They also have cafes and souvenir shops. Different drinks, light meals, and limited edition souvenirs are offered at the South observatory from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM during the days the observatory is open. And there’s even a street piano in the South observatory, that can be played from 10:00-12:00 and 14:00-16:00 (5 minutes per person).
Opposite to this is HAREBA-Rei, a cafe which caters to the visitors of the North observatory. It is open from 10:00 AM until 5:30 PM, sometimes until 8:00 PM, when the South observatory is closed. Through reservation, HAREBA-Rei can also cater to parties and gatherings from 7:00 PM to 11:00 PM.
※ Tokyo Metropolitan Government - Visitor's Guide, "How and where"
As Tochō is a big building, here is a list of other establishments you could visit apart from those in the observatories:
· Citizens' Information Room
· Tokyo Tourist Information Center
· Japanese Prefectural Tourism Promotion Corner
· Book Store Kumazawa
· KURUMIRU (sells products made by persons with disabilities)
· Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly Hall (You can sign up for a tour)
The South observatory is not available for visits during the first and third Tuesdays of every month. So is the North observatory on the second and fourth Mondays of every month. If those days fall on a holiday, the observatories are to be opened but closed the next day. During the holiday season, the observatories will definitely be closed from December 29 to 31 and January 2 to 3. They will also be closed on October 24 for inspection. The observatory schedule from July 2020 to March 2021 can be accessed through the following. Please note, however, that this is subject to change, especially in light of COVID-19.
As it is a government building, there will be a quick scan of your belongings by security before you can go inside the elevator leading up to the observatories.
Tochō, apart from being well-known for its free observatories and its Pritzker Prize-winning architect, has appeared in multiple films. Your Name, also known as Kimi no Na Wa and the highest-grossing Japanese film worldwide (at the time of publication), was one to feature the building. In the film Godzilla vs King Ghidorah, Tochō was the building left standing after having Godzilla crash into it after the battle. The other shows Tochō did a cameo appearance in are The Garden of Words, 5 Centimeters per Second, and Digimon Tamers.
The Metropolitan Government Building comes with a rich sense of history. Its architecture is not only grand but with extensive representation of Japan as a country. The admission-free view from its observatories allows visitors to tour Tokyo from just one spot. In addition, it also houses tourist-friendly establishments. Experience all of these, after just a 20-30 minute queuing time (often times shorter!) and an elevator ride.
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