Annamarie Ruelle’s Experiences like Tokyo

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Annamarie Ruelle’s Experiences like Tokyo

Temples, Drinks, and Nighttime Views in the Tokyo Tower Neighborhood

Until Tokyo Sky Tree opened in 2012, Tokyo Tower had enjoyed 54 years of glory as the tallest free-standing steel tower in Japan. At 333 meters tall, Tokyo Tower is now only a bit over half the height of 634-meter Sky Tree, but just because it’s the second tallest doesn’t mean it’s second best. Not only does Tokyo Tower still stand proudly in Tokyo’s Minato Ward, offering fabulous nighttime views of the city, but the neighborhood surrounding it also contains some unique nighttime charms.

When it was built in 1958, Tokyo Tower was a symbol of the new vitality of post-war Japan. The feeling of a fresh start that the tower evoked was made more powerful by its location in a very old part of the city. Tokyo Tower is just west of Shiba Park, now a leafy oasis of tall trees and gentle ponds. Before it was turned into a public park in the late 19th century, the area had been part of the grounds of Zojoji Temple for about 300 years. Zojoji Temple is still there. It’s the head temple of the Jodo sect of Japanese Buddhism, and open to visitors from 9am-5pm. It may sound odd to start your exploration of Tokyo Tower neighborhood nighttime spots at a peaceful Buddhist temple, but a visit to Zojoji in the late afternoon, as the sun starts to set and bars and restaurants open for the night, is a perfect way to capture the atmosphere of a Tokyo evening.

Don’t linger too long at Zojoji, though, because next on the list of must-visit evening spots near Tokyo Tower is the Prince Park Tower Hotel. At the south end of Shiba Park, this luxury hotel has a lounge bar on its 33rd floor called Stellar Garden that has beautiful views of the city at night. There’s no shortage of places to enjoy cocktails and city views in Tokyo’s many skyscraper hotels, but what makes this one worth visiting is its location right next to Tokyo Tower. Get here as the sun goes down and enjoy a drink while you enjoy up-close views of the tower and the nighttime lights of Roppongi and Azabu neighborhoods beyond.

When the sun has set and it’s nighttime in the city, walk up the street from the Prince Park Tower to the main attraction, Tokyo Tower. The tower has two observation decks, one at 150 meters above the ground and another at 250 meters high. The lower deck has a dizzying glass floor ‘lookdown window’ through which you can look down (way down) at the city below you, and the upper deck offers 360-degree views of the city, from Tokyo Bay all the way to Yokohama on a clear night. At night, the whole of Tokyo stretches out below you like pinpoints of light on a dark carpet all the way to the mountains at the far edge of the metropolis.

The final flourish to this evening of temples, sky bar cocktails, and Tokyo Tower night views is an evening ride across Tokyo Bay on the Yurikamome train. This elevated train leaves from Takeshiba station, a twenty-minute walk from Tokyo Tower, and when you ride it you’ll feel like you’re flying through the city, slipping right between buildings and over Tokyo Bay. Take the train from Takeshiba three stops south to Odaiba Kaihin Koen station and back again (9 minutes; 310 yen each way). The trains are centrally controlled without drivers in the front car. Grab the very front seats in the front car and fly through nighttime Tokyo for a final experience to a memorable night.

The closest stations to Zojoji Temple are Onarimon and Shiba-koen, both on the Toei Mita subway line (three minutes on foot). It’s free to visit, and the temple is open from 9am-5pm
Tokyo Tower: The closest station to Tokyo Tower is Akabane-bashi on the Toei Oedo subway line (5 minutes on foot). The best option for visiting Tokyo Tower is the combination ticket for 1420yen, which gets you access to the lower and higher observation decks.
Stellar Garden: The Prince Park Hotel Steller Garden lounge bar is open from 5pm-2am weekdays, 3pm-2am the day before a holiday, and 3pm-midnight on holidays. Phone: 03-5400-1111