Sky Circus Sunshine 60: Exploring Ikebukuro’s Historic Observation Deck

Tokyo is constantly evolving. Its towering office buildings and mixed-use skyscrapers are embroiled in a constant game of one-upmanship. With each new decade, what once were the tallest and most splendid structures gradually become second fiddle to newer skyscrapers designed with the latest aesthetics and amenities in mind.

Enter Sunshine 60, a monolithic icon that juts into the skies of Ikebukuro, a Tokyo urban center just north of Shinjuku. When this skyscraper was completed in 1978, it was the tallest building in Asia. Even though several buildings, including the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, have eclipsed its height since then, Sunshine 60’s namesake 60th floor observation deck still offers one of the best panoramic views of Tokyo’s infinite urban sprawl.

2019-03-08   Visit: Modern Japan, Tokyo,


More than just a building

Sunshine 60 is the centerpiece of Sunshine City, a mixed-use urban complex that includes shopping centers, office space, restaurants, hotels, and event venues. It’s a hub of activity for the 2.5 million passengers that use the nearby Ikebukuro Station daily.

In addition to its observation deck, Sunshine City houses an aquarium and a planetarium. For this article, let’s take a closer look at the observation deck, starting with what it takes to get there.

Getting to the top

In order to reach the Sunshine 60 observation deck, you’ll need to navigate your way out of the labyrinthine corridors of the massive Ikebukuro Station. You can find a handy guide on the official website, but in short, take Exit 35 from the station and head east. Despite the dense urban skyline, you should be able to catch a few glimpses of the towering Sunshine 60 to keep you on track as you make your way there.

Sunshine 60 looms in the distance.

Upon arrival, look for the ticket counter on the B1 level of the Sunshine City complex. It will cost you 1,200 yen to jet up to the 60th floor in one of the world’s fastest elevators (600 meters per minute). Due to the 2016 renovation of the observation deck, the ride to the sky is not as cheap as it used to be, but on a brisk, clear day, it’s well worth the price of entry.

A circus in the sky

By the time you hand your ticket over to the staff on the 60th floor, you’ll be keenly aware of the observation deck’s theme: a circus in the sky. In fact, to reach your first breathtaking viewpoint, you literally have to pull back a circus curtain.

The first thing you’ll see upon pulling back the circus curtain.

If you reflect deeply on this theme (or simply read the provided pamphlet), you’ll realize that this observation deck is all about playing with perception. This theme not only challenges how you perceive Tokyo, now 251 meters beneath your feet, but it also plays with how you perceive your immediate surroundings via several interactive exhibits. It’s an enthralling place for photographers, with several attractions that actively encourage you to play with your camera. If that’s not enough, there’s even a hall of mirrors and VR experiences (for an extra fee) to further alter your view on reality.

It’s all about perception.

However, as a photography buff who loves to mull over Tokyo’s perplexing geography from above, the thing I appreciated most about Sunshine 60 was the lack of crowds. There were times when I felt that I had the whole building to myself, and that’s a rare opportunity in Tokyo, a city that grows more and more crowded with each passing year.

Right up to the glass.

Sure, I was fortunate enough to visit Sunshine 60 on a weekday, but I still expected many more visitors—especially at sunset. Perhaps this is a result of Sunshine 60’s own sunset. After all, it’s a late 70s icon that has been overshadowed by modern marvels such as Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Skytree.

Looking down on an ever-evolving skyline.

One of the best in the business

There are basically two kinds of observation decks found throughout Tokyo. Some, such as Tokyo Tower, give you a splendid aerial view from within the city proper. Observing the city from these perches is like seeing the forest within the trees.Observation decks positioned on the edge of Tokyo, however, offer magnificent vistas of the city in its entirety, with glimpses into what lies beyond. And when it comes to this second category, Sunshine 60 is second only to the unbeatable Tokyo Skytree.

Considering that a visit to Sky Circus Sunshine 60 is only a fraction of the cost and has none of the crowds of its iconic rival, I’m quite content with the occasional trip to Ikebukuro to spend a lazy afternoon gazing across the city. Doing so is a humbling experience—a reminder of how miniscule we are against the backdrop of Tokyo, a metropolis that spans as far as the eye can see.

Plan your visit on a clear day and you can see everything from Yokohama to Mt. Fuji.

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AUTHOR

Anthony

Anthony

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.

Information

Address Sunshine 60 Bldg.
60F,
3-1 Higashi Ikebukuro,
Toshima-ku,
Tokyo 170-0013
Hours 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Price 1,200 yen
Close None
Access Eight-minute walk
from JR Ikebukuro Station (East Exit)
Three-minute walk
from Tokyo Metro Higashi-Ikebukuro Station (Exit 6)
Phone 03-3989-3457
Language Japanese
English
Website http://www.skycircus.jp/english/index.html