We generally recommend free, less-crowded alternatives to Tokyo Skytree, but since the cheapo tribe has spoken and it seems y’all are going anyway, we thought we’d put together a list of tips and tricks that you can use to save money at the super-tall tourist attraction. One could say we’ve reached new heights with this article (we can’t promise not to be punny, but you should keep reading anyway).
What to know before you go
You’ve probably heard that Tokyo Skytree is the tallest structure in the world, built like a pagoda, and all sorts of other stories. Parts of these are true. Firstly, it is the tallest structure in Japan, currently, at 634m. It’s the second-highest in the world, falling short of the 829.8m Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai—but since the Middle Eastern building is technically classed as a skyscraper, Tokyo Skytree wins the title of the world’s tallest tower. Now you know. And yes, it was built using the same principle as pagodas; relying on a central pole to keep everything nice and stable.
Despite the massive crowds that suggest the contrary, Skytree’s primary use is that of a broadcasting tower. It beams out both TV signal and radio waves for national broadcaster NHK, as well as TV Asahi, TV Tokyo, and a number of other channels. Until Skytree officially opened in 2012, the 332.9m Tokyo Tower was the main structure in the business of transmission.
Tickets to Tokyo Skytree
Right, now for the money-saving part. No matter what you do, Tokyo Skytree is, at the end of the day, one of the city’s pricier tourist destinations. That said, there are ways to slash the costs.
tl;dr: This ticket package is a good budget option.
New Video: Shinjuku Travel Guide For Beginners
Never been to Shinjuku before? Watch this essential guide to getting around Tokyo's busiest district.
Walking around the bottom bit of Skytree and window shopping in Skytown, or Solamachi (the surrounding shopping and entertainment area), is free. A lot of people go no further than this, happy to crane their necks skywards and snap pictures from the tower’s base. If you want to see the view from the top, you have different ticket options.
A basic adult ticket that you buy on the day costs ¥2,060 and gives you access to the first of two observation areas, the Tembo Deck. At 350m, this gives you an awesome view over the city—and all the way to Mount Fuji on clear days. For an extra ¥1,030, you can ascend another 100 meters to the Tembo Galleria. Here’s the first way to save money—make do with the 350m deck. The views from the higher one aren’t much different.
Special Fast Tickets
The trouble with buying a ticket on the same day is a) you might have to queue for a very long time, and b) you might not get a ticket— a maximum of 10,000 are sold each day. Tourists are eligible for a Fast Ticket, which, for ¥3,000 for the basic deal or ¥4,000 for Galleria access, is more expensive but substantially cuts down the waiting time. Our advice? Unless you’re pressed for time, don’t bother with these. Opt instead for a regular same-day ticket; get there early (Skytree is open from 8am to 9pm) and try your luck.
You’re probably wondering why we don’t just recommend that you reserve a ticket in advance. Like hello, internets and all! You can reserve tickets on the official Skytree website, but you’ll need to be fluent in Japanese to do so. You also might be charged an extra fee for time-specific reservations. A combo ticket package from an official re-seller often works out to be much easier, as well as a lot more reasonable. This ticket package gives you admission to the Tembo Deck, a shopping coupon for the Solamachi shopping mall next door, and a train pass for ¥3,900, which works out to be a pretty good deal.
Food and souvenirs
There are restaurants on the observation levels of Tokyo Skytree, but our yen-preserving tip is to skip ’em, taking in nothing but the view. It usually works out cheaper to eat at one of the places in Solamachi, like frugal family favorite Denny’s. If that’s not your jam, the food court is a better bet than the fancy joints. Serious cheapos, however, take their own snacks like sandwiches and rice balls, pre-packed or bought from a supermarket or convenience store.
As for souvenirs, you’ll be tempted to take home a cute plushy, Skytree-shaped cake or some other memento—but this is not the place to do the bulk of your gift shopping for friends and family back home. Instead, take a look at these 25 cheaper souvenir ideas.
Alternative views of Skytree
If you want to appreciate the architectural feat from a little further away, and save your blood pressure and bank balance in the process, you can head to nearby Asakusa, which is just across the Sumida River. From there, you’ll get a grand view of Tokyo Skytree, as well as the glorious
poo flame atop the Asahi Breweries HQ. (Head to the free viewing deck at the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center.) Asakusa is Tokyo’s old downtown area, home to the must-see Sensoji Temple, as well as Japan’s first cinema and lots of other cool things. It’s well worth taking a couple of hours to explore.
Watch this next
New Video: A Beginner's Guide to Akihabara
Ready to experience Japan's Otaku ground zero? Anime, gaming, maid cafes, get your bearings amongst the weird and wonderful.