Tokyo Views at NightArea Guide
So many visitors and locals alike agree that Tokyo is most captivating after dark. Concrete blocks that are strictly functional by day gain a new appeal when lit up at night, while history-seeped shrines and temples take on an almost mystical air. However you’ll be getting around, we have the best night views lined up.
Hato Bus is one of the biggest operators of guided bus tours around Tokyo, and its Sola Mio open-top bus is highly recommended since it permits views, such as towering skyscrapers and magnificent trees, that are blocked by the roof of a regular bus.
The route varies between day and night: both day and night tours depart from (and return to) Tokyo Station’s Marunouchi South Exit, and pass landmarks including Ginza’s Kabukiza theater, Tokyo Tower, and the spectacularly illuminated Rainbow Bridge spanning Tokyo Bay. This takes around one hour during the day, at a cost of 1,800 yen (kids 4-11 years 900 yen).
Sola Mio’s night tour expands the route by heading further west to also take in Aoyama and Roppongi, with a round trip time of roughly 150 mins (2,900 yen; kids 1,710 yen). On both tours, audio commentary via headphones is offered in eight languages.
Yakatabune are traditional Japanese pleasure boats that have been popular since way back in the Edo period (1603-1868) when they were the preserve of daimyo lords and wealthy merchants. These days they are accessible to all, and in Tokyo a number of operators run leisurely-paced cruises around Tokyo Bay or along the Sumidagawa River.
Though the boats are nowadays made of lightweight fiber-reinforced plastic instead of the original wood, many still retain seating on traditional tatami mats. The Tokyo Yakatabune Association’s homepage brings together details of the various operators, and enables online reservations. Cruises start at around 5,000 yen per person.
Driving gives yet another perspective on Tokyo at night. Several major roads loop around the city, forming a series of concentric circles that get progressively wider. The 5km-long Uchibori-dori forms part of the innermost ring, and makes for one of Tokyo’s most pleasant night drives as its passes the Imperial Palace and the National Diet building. A refreshing change from the cramped highways that are more common in Tokyo.
New Transit Yurikamome is a futuristic driverless transit system that runs eastwards from Shimbashi to Toyosu. The Yurikamome was Tokyo’s first fully-automated transport network, and while often mistaken for a monorail it employs different technology. Views from its elevated route are particularly impressive as the Yurikamome crosses the Rainbow Bridge over to the artificial island of Odaiba.
Many of Tokyo’s most magnificent night views can be accessed on foot, and some of the best this way alone. Districts such as Shinjuku and Shibuya take on a different aspect once they are flooded with neon after sundown, and the effect is dazzling no matter how familiar these views are from Instagram. For an almost 360-degree nighttime view of the city from 202 meters above (and free-of-charge too), head to Shinjuku’s Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Observation decks in one of the twin towers (usually the North) remains open until 11pm.
Two of Tokyo’s most emblematic modern constructions, Tokyo Skytree and the Tokyo Tower, both make for charming night viewing, while for more traditional scenery Asakusa’s Senso-ji temple is powerfully imposing when its fiery red hues are illuminated.
Cherry blossom is something else that takes on a different character when lit up at night: the Japanese call these views yozakura. One of the city’s most popular sakura viewing spots, the Nakameguro stretch of the Meguro River, delights after-dark crowds each spring with a long ‘avenue’ of blossom lit by traditional paper lanterns.