The highest tower in Japan
The huge and recently opened Tokyo SkyTree has become an inevitable part of your visit to the Japanese capital. Opened to the public since May 22nd, 2012, the Sky Tree was accessible only by reservation during its first weeks. As for any publicized new release in Japan, the tower is victim of a visitors hit : every day thousands of people try to get to its top.
It rises to 634 meters high, a figure that has not been chosen randomly, as it can be pronounced "Musashi" in Japanese. Musashi Province is the ancient name of Sumida district, where Tokyo SkyTree is located (and whose eponymous river flows right next to it).
A lot of visitors and often long waits
Since its opening, about 6 millions visitors come to the Sky Tree every year.
For most foreigners, it's not possible to book their tickets in advance on the official website (because it requires a Japanese credit card 💳). The door opening is at 8am. As for us, we arrived at 9:30am on a weekday, outside of holidays. The only problem that day was the strong wind that blew across Tokyo and didn't allow all elevators to climb the 350 floors at full speed. Then began our waiting on the fourth floor, dedicated to buying tickets for the same day.
We waited two hours and a half to reach the cashier and buy our ticket. If we have any advice for you not to lose too much time, it's to arrive at 8am. Knowing the Japanese, there must already be a queue. Alternatively, come later in the day to enjoy the views on Tokyo at night (the observatory closes at 10pm). In all cases, keep in mind that the SkyTree is slightly eccentric from downtown Tokyo. You'll have to get to JR Oshiage station which is beyond the Yamanote, almost opposite from Shinjuku (within a half-hour subway 🚇 ride).
Incredible view from the top
The waiting, however, is rewarded after a few seconds in an elevator that goes up to 600 meters per minute. The views from Tembo Deck, 350 meters above ground, are great as long as weather conditions are favorable. The 360 degrees observatory spreads over three floors where you'll find a café, a restaurant, a souvenir shop and toilets 🚽. Few benches, however, the idea being that the flow of visitors doesn't drag to facilitate rotation.
By adding ¥ 1,000 to the 2,000 Yen 💴 you already spent to reach the deck, you can go up to Tembo Galleria, which tops out at 450 meters! The view doesn't change radically but you'll feel like floating above the great Tokyo: from Yokohama to Chiba, from airports to the towers of Shinjuku, even seeing Takao-san and Mount Fuji 🗻 on clear days. We had the opportunity to visit several observatories scattered all over Tokyo, but the Tokyo SkyTree is undoubtedly one of the most impressive and deserves the attention it is given.
At the foot of the beautiful tower, there's a whole economy that is agglomerated in the glamorous name "Solamachi" (which means "City of Heaven"). Dozens of shops align, creating an impressive maze of products, souvenirs of all kinds and restaurants.
-- February 2015 edit -- A new "fast ticket" for TokyoSkyTree grants access to the elevators without queuing. It is reserved for foreign passports holders in Japan, but the price is higher: ¥ 2,820 instead of ¥ 2,060.