The Bunkyo Civic Center Observation Deck: One of Tokyo’s Best-Kept Secrets

As regular Tadaima Japan readers well know, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building offers free access to two of the best observation decks in Tokyo. However, if you’re willing to sacrifice 20 stories in height for a quiet, relaxing (and also free) observatory that welcomes amateur photographers, you owe it to yourself to visit the Bunkyo Civic Center. Overshadowed by more iconic locations, this secret sightseeing spot is so enjoyable that I almost feel guilty writing about it. Read on to learn why a visit is worth your time.

2019-02-01   Visit: Modern Japan, Tokyo,

No ordinary city hall

According to the official facility guide, “The Bunkyo Civic Center is a comprehensive facility for Bunkyo City residents and visitors.” It includes large and small public halls, city office facilities, and the city assembly hall. Additional civic facilities for all ages are also available, as well as a panorama lounge and dining facilities that are open to the public.

Let’s focus on that last part: the panorama lounge.

Directly accessible from the Tokyo Metro Korakuen Subway Station (Exit 5), all it takes is a slightly dizzying ride in a glass elevator to reach the 25th floor—a paradise for lovers of tall buildings and scenic photography.

Seeing residents and city employees getting on and off the elevator as you ascend might be awkward at first, but trust me that this facility accommodates visitors. Be it on the first floor or on the 25th, you’ll find plenty of brochures, in a variety of languages, for local attractions.

Reaching the top

Upon reaching the 25th floor, the first thing you’ll notice is the aptly named Civic Sky Restaurant Chinzanso. Although the meal prices aren’t for the thrifty, the restaurant occupies prime real estate for viewing the city and is the only way to gaze upon the Imperial Palace.

As you work your way past the restaurant and around the UFO-shaped observation deck, you’ll most likely encounter several photographers vying for that famous shot of Nishi-shinjuku with Mt. Fuji looming in the background.

Looking down on Tokyo Dome (left) with Shinjuku in the distance (upper right).

During my visit, the observation deck was nearly empty which made for a tranquil experience. All the more surprising is that this was at sunset—typically the busiest time of day for most public observation decks. Keep in mind, however, that this could change if you visit the civic center on a day with pristine weather. Regardless, the calm atmosphere here is a far cry from more well-known observation decks, where you’ll often find yourself shoulder to shoulder with other travelers trying to get that perfect Instagram shot.

Take in the view

A glimpse of the Tokyo Dome City amusement park with the Marunouchi financial district in the background.

Here are just a few of the landmarks you’ll be able to see from the observation deck’s nearly 360-degree panoramic view:

– Tokyo Skytree

– The Marunouchi financial district

– Ikebukuro and Sunshine City

– The Nishi-shinjuku skyscraper district

– Mt. Fuji and Mt. Tsukuba (on a clear day)

Keep in mind that although photography is encouraged, tripods and monopods are not allowed.

A must-visit

The Bunkyo Civic Center Observation Deck offers sweeping vistas, a welcoming atmosphere, and great photo ops—all in a spacious, crowd-free environment. All of this costs nothing more than a ride on the subway which makes the Bunkyo Civic Center a must-visit on your Tokyo travel itinerary. So grab your best zoom lens and head on up to the 25th floor to see if you can capture your own rendition of that classic Nishi-shinjuku shot.

Nishi-shinjuku circa 2009. This classic shot was taken from the Bunkyo Civic Center Observation Deck. (photo credit: Morio via Wikimedia Commons)


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Writer / Translator

Originally from Riverside, California, I've been living, working, and writing in Japan since 2009. Japan has become my second home, and I'm especially fond of Shinjuku, Tokyo. That being said, I also love getting out into the countryside and exploring the entire country. Through Tadaima Japan, I hope to share the wonders of Japan with a wider, international audience. Check out my articles if you enjoy exploring on foot, convenient cafes, and affordable dining.


Address 1 Chome-16-21 Kasuga, Bunkyō, Tokyo 112-0003
Hours 9:00 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Price Free
Close None
Access Direct access from Korakuen Station
(Tokyo Metro Marunouchi and Namboku Lines)
Phone +81-03-3812-7111
Language Japanese