As the skycrapers of Tokyo became ever taller the 50-year-old radio and tv broadcasting tower, Tokyo Tower, was unable to provide good coverage and a new broadcasting tower became necessary. Skytree, opened on May 22 2012, is twice as high as Tokyo Tower (and the Eiffel Tower on which that was modelled) and is the world’s tallest freestanding broadcasting tower. The tallest building in the world is Dubai’s Burj Khalifa at 828m but Skytree is the second tallest structure in the world at 634m (2,080ft). Its height was chosen as 634m as this number when spoken in Japanese is virtually identical to the name of the old province of Japan in which it stands.

The Tokyo Skytree has two observation decks, the first at 350m (1,148ft), and a second at 450m (1,476ft). The first observation deck is called Tembo, it covers 3 floors and has 5m-thick glass around its 360 degree views and some glass panels in the floor offering visitors a view right down to the foot of the tower – children walk over these quite happily, it’s only the adults who find them terrifying! There’s also a café, shop and restaurant on the first level and space for 2,000 people.  Lifts take you up to the second observation deck called the Gallery, where there is a glass-walled ramp spiralling around the tower.

Skytree is built on a tripod which then becomes a cylinder, with a central core pillar and double-strength steel skeleton. It is earthquake-proof with a vibration control system and was not damaged by the earthquake of March 2011. It is painted a very very pale bluey white, the colour of ancient Japanese porcelain, and is illuminated at night with LED lights to emphasise the grace and curves of the structure in an enviromentally-friendly way. It has two lighting patterns which display on alternate nights, one a purple glow with gold lights on the outside to symbolise the imperial heritage of Japan, the other a blue light illuminating the central core pillar to represent the strength of the Japanese people.

The buildings around the base house an aquarium, theatre, shops, and are intended to form a town within a tower. Staff have eye-catching uniforms and some of them are obliged to wear rather peculiar hats.

It has two subway stations, Tokyo Skytree Station (the old Narihirabashi station) and Oshiage Station. Tokyo Skytree Station is on the Tobu Skytree line between Hikifune and Asakusa stations, just 2 minutes’ ride from Asakusa which is also on several other lines so you can change here from anywhere in the city. Oshiage Station is also on the Tobu Skytree line as well as the Tokyo Metro Hanzomon line, Keisei Oshiage line, and Toei Asakusa line.

Although the Skytree has been open since May 22 2012 there is restricted access until July 10 2012, with online registration and lottery draws for entry and no ticket sales at the tower itself. After July 11 2012 tickets will be on sale at the desk on level 4 of the tower for entry between 8am and 9pm. You cannot book in advance on the internet unless you can read Japanese as the website is in Japanese only, and you can only pay with a Japanese credit card – so it’s not really practical for foreign visitors, you’re going to have to go to the tower on the day and wait. If you want to book a specific date and time for your visit you can only do this in advance through the Japanese website with your Japanese credit card OR by using a Japanese travel agency. There will be an extra 500 yen charge per ticket for these advance bookings.

Tickets to the 350m Tembo observation deck cost 2,000 yen per adult, 1,500 yen for 12-17 year-olds, 900 yen for 6-11 year-olds, 600 yen for 4-5 year-olds. Tickets to continue up to the 450m Gallery observation deck cost an extra 1,000 yen for adults, 800 yen for 12-17 year-olds, 500 yen for 6-11 year-olds and 300 yen for 4-5 year-olds. If you want to go up to the Gallery level you can only buy the tickets from the Tembo deck ticket desk, I suppose in case you find the first level quite high enough!

To create your own perfect city tour of Tokyo email Tara at for ideas – there are gardens, temples, markets, museums and shops galore, and we can customise a tour to suit you with a private guide to show you around and using the excellent public transport network. See our website for sample sightseeing tours of Tokyo.



About the author: Tara


The travel professional with years of experience in the travel industry – in guiding, reservations, operations, contracting, customer service and product development – and have travelled extensively in Asia and Eastern Europe not just on holiday but also for work, inspecting hotels, visiting attractions and seeing exactly what each destination has to offer. The only way I could do this properly was with my own guide, car and driver and this inspired me to create my own range of customised private day tours for other people to be able to explore in-depth and learn to love their destination as much as I do.