5 Free Rooftops for Cityscape Photography in Tokyo
There’s nothing quite like the energy, buzz and liveliness of a large city. In large cities you can capture such a diverse range of scenes and moods. Tokyo has a reputation of being a modern city, and it does not disappoint. Millions of lights shine after the sun goes down and give you the chance to capture stunning night cityscapes. The city has arguably one of the most beautiful cityscape and skyline in the world. One of the things we definitely recommend doing during their visit to Tokyo is to view the city from up above, especially at night. Standing a few hundred meters above ground you feel the scale of the city in essence. Unfortunately both the Skytree and Tokyo Tower, the two iconic landmarks for observations decks cost a hefty price. Here are some free rooftops or observations decks to take pictures at.
The one in shinjuku
This observation deck is located on the 45th floor in one of the busiest districts in Tokyo. Consisting of the South deck and the North deck. The South deck has a better view of the Mt.Fuji, so if you want that in your pictures visit the South deck. Both the observation decks are open till 11pm making it perfect for a quick stop after dinner. Tripods are not allowed but you can get away using a small table tripod or a GorillaPod.
Working hours : North Observation Deck - 9:30 to 23:00South Observation Deck - 9:30 to 17:30 (For days the North Observation Deck is closed till 23:00)
Holidays : North Observation Deck - Every 2nd and 4th Monday of the monthSouth Observation Deck - Every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month
The one in yebisu
One factor that makes the Tokyo Tower stand out against the myriad of buildings is the color. This particular shade of orange is called ‘‘international orange’’ and was painted to abide by aviation laws. The tower glows bright orange amidst the dark buildings surrounding it. It is repainted every five years by 4200 workers and by hand!
This observation deck is perfect for taking a picture of the Tokyo Tower from a distance. The observation deck is located on the 38th and 39th floor along with some restaurants. The observation room itself is small but the good thing for photographers is that you can use a tripod here. You can see the Tokyo Tower at a distance for mounting your camera with a telephoto lens and a tripod would give you the perfect shot.
the one in Korakuen
This spot is famous for its view of Mt.Fuji. Especially during sunset you can juxtapose Tokyo’s skyline with Mt.Fuji in the background. But make sure the weather is clear on the day you go shoot. We cannot stress enough of the weather conditions if you are going there to shoot Mt.Fuji. Check the weather in Tokyo as well as Fujiyoshida where the mountain is located. If the forecast shows that there will be low lying grey blanket of clouds you might be better off re-planing your visit to another day. Instead, you can use that time to photograph something apt for the conditions. You can use a tripod here but make sure to eliminate as much reflection on the windows. Using a black towel to cover the window is recommended.
Working hours : 9:00 to 20:30
Holidays : 29th December to 3rd January and 3rd Sunday of May
the one in sangenjaya
Tokyo offers endless creative possibilities, and locations you can come back to any time of year. Look out for wet evenings, immediately after the rain has stopped, for beautiful reflections on puddles, or shoot on crystal clear nights where light pollution is at its lowest. Usually for cityscape a focal length of 12-35mm works the best, but is not a necessity. But using wide angle lens enables you to capture as much of the skyline as possible without having to go too far from the city.
This spot is located a little away from the city center. It is the tallest building in its suburban neighborhood hence creating an unobstructed view of the cityscape. Here too, you cannot use a tripod as the observation deck is located right next to a restaurant. But you could get away with using a small table tripod or a GorillaPod.
Working hours : 9:30 to 23:00
The one in shiodome
The 46th floor of this building has an observation deck, or better call it an observation room as it is small in size. The floor is mostly occupied with fashionable high end restaurants. The view is perfect for a shot of Tokyo Bay and the Rainbow Bridge. You can use a tripod as long as you are not blocking major paths. But because there is a sill below the window, a small tripod or GorillaPod works the best.
Usually after golden hour, the sky starts turning blue while the city lights start illuminating. This immediate moment right after sunset or before sunrise is called the blue hour. It is when the sky turns blue before turning black. And arguably this is the best time to shoot cityscapes. Compare the above picture with the pictures below, all taken at the same spot. The above picture was taken at blue hour while the pictures below were taken before and after the blue hour respectively.
When planning on going to this spot, or any other spot for that matter, remember to plan how you want your picture to be captured.
Working hours : 11:00 to 23:00