Welcome back to my diary about my one-month trip to Japan in December! Last week’s entry was about my visit to Asakusa. Continuing on Monday’s journey, the next stop was Tokyo Skytree!
Tokyo Skytree 東京スカイツリー is easily accessible from Asakusa by train via the Tobu Skytree Line (Tokyo Skytree Station), and since I had a beautiful view from the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center 浅草文化観光センター, I wanted to get a little closer.
The Tokyo Skytree is the tallest tower in the world at 634 m. The building itself has shopping, restaurants, and offices, as well as two observation decks. When you arrive at Tokyo Skytree via the Tobu Skytree Line, you enter through the Tokyo Solamachi 東京ソラマチ.
Solamachi is the main part with the shopping and restaurants. There are a lot of character shops, as well as collaboration souvenirs between popular characters and anime and the Skytree. There are also a lot of traditional Japanese souvenirs like fans, chopsticks, and dinnerware, as well as traditional goods with Skytree patterns or motifs. Mt. Fuji items and collaborations such as towels and straps are popular everywhere in Japan and Tokyo Skytree is no exception. Of course, I had to buy souvenirs for friends, family, and myself…
Speaking of character collaborations… The character Gudetama is really popular right now and I saw a lot of it in Japan, but I am not a huge fan. It’s a lazy raw egg, and it’s kinda weird. It’s insanely popular right now, so there must be something appealing, but not to me!
The Solamachi was packed with lots of tourists milling around in the shops, and the line for the Skytree Tembo Deck 天望デッキ (350 m) and Tembo Galleria 天望回廊 (450 m) was pretty long. The price for the Tembo Deck is ¥1,030 per adult, and to get to the Tembo Galleria it’s another ¥2,060 per adult. We checked the board that they have out front of the line that tells you what the visibility is like from the tower. On that day you could see Asakusa (I hope so, it’s pretty close), but you couldn’t see Yokohama and beyond. This means that it was pretty cloudy up there, and that the chance of seeing Mt. Fuji was zero. Combined with the fact that my fiancé doesn’t like heights, we decided to give up on the Skytree for that day. I think that the view is probably pretty decent in the early mornings and closer to sunset on most days. You can also check the current weather on the Skytree website (also available in English from the drop-down menu on the top).
There also happens to be an aquarium in Tokyo Skytree Town! The Sumida Aquarium すみだ水族館 is ¥2,050 per adult, and it’s a really nice aquarium. When you enter, there are a lot of jellyfish in a variety of pretty colours. As you move along the exhibits become more varied and there are a lot of unique aquatic species, including isopods from the deep ocean (they look like a huge rolypoly) and coral reef ecosystems. The different exhibits represent different places around Japan.
There is also a huge, deep blue tank with sharks and manta rays and huge fish. This tank represents Osagawara, which is a world heritage site. It’s really a spectacular tank, as the animals are constantly moving through the water and the sheer size of the tank combined with your ability to get up close to it makes it almost feel like you are underwater.
I think the highlight of the Sumida Aquarium is the penguins. The penguins are in a large, open enclosure with a viewing area above and a high-walled tank that allows you to watch them swimming underwater. We arrived at the penguins at around 4 pm, which was just in time for feeding. The trainers came out, some inside the enclosure with food, and some came out around the sides of the high-walled tank. The trainers inside the enclosure fed the penguins, who all jumped into the water and swam around in a frenzy while they ate.
The trainers around the perimeter were in charge of keeping track of which penguins ate how much. Every time a penguin caught a fish, they would announce the name. They also called out when a penguin lost its food to another penguin. The trainer nearest to us explained that all the penguins had names of flowers, fruits, and sweets. So they called out names like “Pine” (Pineapple), “Rose,” and “Apple.” A big penguin named Rose kept stealing away fish from the other penguins. It was really great to watch.
Next to the penguins, there were fur seals. The fur seals knew it was dinner time, and so they were yelling when we entered the penguin area. They must have fed the fur seals before the penguins because they didn’t make much noise while the penguins were eating. Seals and sea lions stink, so rather than go to the observation deck above, I went to the observation deck that is below the water level and watched the fur seals swimming and playing underwater.
Before we left, I wanted to go back to Asakusa and Sensou-ji to see the temple at night. It was still busy after night fall, but with the lights the scene looks completely different than during the day. We went back to the Asakusa Tourist Center to see the Tokyo Skytree illumination. Illumination, or lights, are very popular in Japan, and especially at Christmas time. The Tokyo Skytree illumination was not as exciting as my fiancé had hoped, but I still think it made a lovely sight on the Tokyo skyline.
My fiancé’s opinion of the Skytree is middling fair. The tourism industry makes a big deal about it, but he doesn’t really buy into the hype. He has lived in Tokyo his whole life, so maybe that has something to do with it, but he doesn’t get as excited about the sightseeing places as I do. This was his first trip to Tokyo Skytree, even though it opened in 2012. I don’t know that he’d ever visit Sensou-ji and the Tokyo Skytree, other than with me. As for me, even in my hometown I enjoy visiting the famous tourist spots. I like to take photos and to visit places of natural beauty or cultural interest. The one thing that we both get really excited about is animals, so he seemed very interested in the aquarium. I like travelling with him, and we have a lot of fun on our trips together. So, even if he isn’t as excited as I am, we have a great time!
For today, without having seen the view of Tokyo from the Skytree, but having seen a penguin feeding frenzy, we went home for the day. We made buta nabe, which is a pork hot pot, and when I looked up what it’s called in English it came up with “Pork Miso Hot Pot.” Nabe is amazing in the winter! It was especially delicious after all the sweets I ate earlier in Asakusa…
The next day our plans were for Yokohama, so stay tuned for more tourist action next week!
Have you been up the Skytree? Do you think it lives up to its hype? How about the Sumida Aquarium?
Next Up: Japan Diaries Day 5 – Yokohama