History of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
Sights to See at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

Shinjuku’s lucrative growth into one of the biggest cities in the world can be distinguished through its avant-garde cityscape. One building in particular representing Shinjuku, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, stands proudly in the bustling city. The government building comprises the main building, second building and parliament building. Although visiting a government institution could sound a bit tedious, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building proves to be an exciting institution with an impressive (and free!) observation deck and introductions of Tokyo and Japan’s local attractions.

History of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Main Building

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Main Building

Here, we will introduce the history of Tokyo from the Meiji to Heisei Period, from Tokyo Prefecture to the Tokyo Metropolis.

In the Meiji - Taisho Period

Long ago, in the Meiji Period, what is now known as the Tokyo Metropolis (Tokyo-to) was "Tokyo Prefecture". Its capital was "Tokyo City", and what is now the "Tokyo Metropolitan Government" was the "Tokyo Prefectural Government".

The original Tokyo Prefectural Government Building was built in the Chiyoda Ward, then moved to Marunouchi in 1894. Its design was left in the hands of Tsumaki Yorinaka, one of the three greats of the Meiji-period architecture world. Using German-style red-brick construction, the Tokyo Prefectural Government Building at the time was a two-story building with a great western-style roman numeral clock on its side.
The "Tokyo International Forum" currently stands on the land that formerly housed the Tokyo Prefectural Government.

In the Showa Period

In 1943, Tokyo Prefecture and Tokyo City were abolished as jurisdictions, and replaced with the Tokyo Metropolis. At the same time, the red-brick Tokyo Prefectural Government Building became the first Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. However, this incarnation of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government did not last long. The building was torn down by the flames of World War II that came soon after.

After reconstruction efforts, the main building of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is completed in Marunouchi, in 1957. The architect behind was Tange Kenzo, whose hands were also responsible for the designs of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. A widely recognizable characteristic of Tange's designs was the modernism that they implemented.
Tange sought to express "lightweight-ness" in his design of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Using modern materials such as glass and rebar, he constructed an 8-story tall, horizontally-long building that was truly beautiful in its demeanor.

As time passed, this building too began to show signs of weathering. Not only that, but the operations of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government were greatly expanding and diversifying by 1979, when the new governor Suzuki Shunichi began plans for a relocation of the government. Once again, Tange Kenzo was chosen as the architectural mastermind.

Heisei Period

The new metropolitan government building was opened in 1991. The main building, whose exterior is said by Tange to have been greatly influenced by the Notre Dam Cathedral of Paris, boasted a height of 243m. This was the tallest building in Japan at the time, and it was characterized by its design that made use of many small windows. Tange sought to convey "culture" and "innovation" through his design, and he expressed this by weaving patterns resembling both wood and electrical circuits into the architecture.

With its impressive exterior, the new Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building immediately became a new iconic landmark of Tokyo. Currently, the full complex is composed by the main building, secondary building, and parliament building, all of whose construction costs combine to a total of 156.9 billion Japanese yen (approximately 1.49 billion USD as of September 2020). Just like the main buliding, the secondary building was designed by Tange Kenzo.

Sights to see at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

Main Building Observation Decks

The main building from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building observatory

The view from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building observatory

The two observation decks on the main building, the northern and southern, have their distinct features. Each are located in different towers, so you must choose which one to go up before you enter. Two different elevators take you to the respective decks, both on the 45th floor. At 202 meters above ground level, each deck gives off a spectacular view of Tokyo, and even as far as Mount Fuji on clear days. The North deck is open until late at night for visitors to enjoy the Tokyo night view.

Tokyo Tourism Information Center/Japan Tourism PR Corner

The Tokyo Tourism Information Center is located on the first floor of the Main Building. At the center, information on all the must-do tourism is introduced. Also, inside the center, there is a gift shop with all the traditional Japanese gifts, including crafts, foods, alcohol and more! Specialty items from the Izu Islands and Ogasawara Islands are also available.
Check the official website of the Tokyo Tourism Information Center for more details.

The Japanese Prefectural Tourism PR Corner is located on the north side/second floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Main Building. Here, localities from around Japan take turns transmitting their local tourism information to the people of Tokyo. A variety of services such as tourism PR videos and itinerary consulting are in place.
Thanks to the great amount of tourism information that intersects here from all over Japan, it is a great place for putting together a travel plan. You might find special exhibitions depending on the season too!
Check the official website of the Japanese Prefectural Tourism PR Corner for more details.

Tokyo Metropolitan Parliament

Tokyo Metropolitan Parliament

Tokyo Metropolitan Parliament

The smallest building of the three is the Tokyo Metropolitan Parliament. You can tour around the building for free and learn about the Tokyo parliament system through displays and free pamphlets. For avid politics fans, there are special tickets available for sitting in on an actual debate. The tickets are handed out about an hour before they start, and are free of charge. Tickets are handed out at the reception center on the second floor. A total of 186 tickets are given out on a first come first served basis.

Staff Cafeteria

On the 32nd floor of the main building and on the 4th floor of the second buildings are the staff cafeterias for the government workers of the buildings. The cafeterias are open for all visitors, but you must first check in at the 1st or 2nd floor of the respective building.


Nearest stations:
・Shinjuku Station 新宿駅 (JR Yamanote Line JY17, Saikyo Line JA11, Shonan Shinjuku Lione JS20, Chuo Line JC05, Chuo Sobu Line JB10/Keio Line KO01/Odakyu Line OH01/Toei Shinjuku Line S01 and Oedo LineE07/Tokyo Metro Lines Marunouchi Line M08)
・Tochomae Station 都庁前駅 (Toei Oedo Line E27)

From Tokyo Station 東京駅

【Tokyo Sta.】JR Chuo Line / for Shinjuku
→【Shinjuku Sta.】from Exit 8 → about a 10-minute walk

From Narita Airport 成田空港

【Narita Airport Sta.】Keisei Narita Sky Access Line / for Keisei Ueno
→【Keisei Takasago Sta.】Keisei Line / for Haneda Airport
→【Kuramae Sta.】Toei Oedo Line / for Higashi-shinjuku
→【Tochomae Sta.】from Exit A4 → about a 1-minute walk

From Haneda Airport 羽田空港

【Haneda Airport Sta. Keikyu Line / for Shinagawa
→【Daimon Sta.】Toei Oedo Line / for Higashi Shinjuku
→【Tochomae Sta.】from Exit A4 → about a 1-minute walk

See the center of Tokyo with your very own eyes!

How often do you see an observatory deck in a government building in a busy city like Tokyo? It does not happen very often. Even though the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is located in the busy Shinjuku, the building and observatory does not get too crowded, so you can enjoy a nice, relaxing time at the observatory deck. Also, because it is open until very late in the night, visitors can casually stop by after a day of sightseeing, working, or even after eating dinner.
Seeing the amazing view with free of charge is also another perk. It would be such a waste not go to!

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