The Phenomenonal Highest Tower in Japan
Tokyo SkyTree is a Japanese tower for digital broadcasting inaugurated in 2012 in Sumida ward near Asakusa, in the north-east of the capital. Rising at 634-meters high, it is one of the tallest towers in the world. With two observatories and a shopping center at its foot, it has been one of Tokyo’s main attractions since its opening.
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. It is now freely accessible provided (a lot of) patience! 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). Anyway, its surprising architecture is sure to leave a strong impression.
A lot of visitors and often long waits
At the time of our first visit, the booking system did not handle foreign visitors’ bank cards 💳. Now however, it is possible to book a ticket in advance for Tokyo SkyTree’s official website (a QR code is provided, to show at the entrance). The doors open at 8 a.m. and by the way, we think it is delusional to hope for a quick admission when arriving in the middle of the day without reservation. As for us, we arrived at 9:30 a.m. on a weekday, outside of holidays and on a good weather day. 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. In the meantime, the waiting line after us only grew longer to extent outside (despite the large double hall intended to shelter crowds of waiting people). If we have any advice for you not to lose too much time, it's to arrive at 8 a.m. 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 10 p.m.). 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 (without glassed floor however). 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 cafe, 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 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.
Since July 1, 2016, virtual reality glasses are provided in the galleries to enjoy the view under a clear blue sky, regardless of the actual weather of the visit day.
Attractions at the foot of the Tower
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 countless restaurants. There is also one of the largest Donguri, the official Studio Ghibli shops, just next to Oshiage station (2F East Yard). It makes a good excuse to stay a few hours longer in the vicinity of the Tokyo SkyTree that perfectly knows how to be unforgettable.
In winter, an outdoor skating rink is set at the open-air fourth floor (from early January to early March). Named "Tokyo Sky Tree Town Ice Skating Park", it is open every day from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and until 9 p.m. from Friday to Sunday. The fee of ¥1,800 (~US$12.18) per adult and ¥1,000 (~US$6.76) per under 12 years old child is on top of the Tower’s admission ticket.
Temporary exhibitions are also staged, such as:
- Dragon Ball Super "Broly" from November 2018 to January 2019, with projections on the windows, games, special menus at the cafe and special souvenirs at the shop.
- Final Fantasy VII Remake from February to April 2020, with attractions, limited edition collectibles, original menus, photo booths, previews and posters of the characters. FFVII soundtracks were played in the lifts, that were decorated in the Midgarian style, and the lobby looked like as if designed for the Shinra.
Attendance at the Tokyo SkyTree
-- May 2014 – About 6,19 million visitors came at the Tokyo SkyTree during the fiscal year 2013. About 250,000 more were expected, a gap explained by the closing of the observatories for forty days due to the bad weather. In 2014, 5,94 million visitors were expected.
-- November 2015 (via) – Three years and a half / 1,267 days after its opening, 20 million people have visited the SkyTree. The threshold was passed by a Gunma prefecture Japanese woman who was offered a giant flower bouquet. More than half of the Tower’s visitors are overseas tourists and its representatives are trying to make it a "new symbol of Japan".
-- October 2018 (according to the Yomiuri Shinbun) - The attendance of the Tokyo SkyTree has been declining each year since 2013 (when it received more than 6 million visitors) : in 2017, visitors were only ~4,3 million. In an attempt to re-boost the Towers’ attractiveness, a third observatory was opened in late October, at 155 meters above ground and in the open air.