Tokyo: 10 Things to Do

6. City Views

Roppongi Hills complex Tom Bonaventure / Getty
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There's a lot going on at and around the popular Roppongi Hills complex — a garden, a cinema, loads of shops, cafés and restaurants — but if you stay focused, you can be in and out in an hour and hit all the highlights. Start at Louise Bourgeois's giant spider sculpture, Maman, then move on to the Mori Tower for the 52nd-floor observation deck called Tokyo City View. The $15 ticket includes admission to the Mori Art Museum, where exhibits range from the intriguingly modern to the truly bizarre (one recent show had my kids running for the door). For an extra $3, you can go up to the 54th floor Sky Deck, which runs the perimeter of the rooftop heliport. There's a bilingual photographer on hand who will take your picture, Tokyo Tower behind you, with his nice camera. Purchasing the $15 print, which will be waiting for you downstairs, is entirely optional.

If you decide to stick around for lunch, I recommend sushi at Pintokona. Take the escalators, which are near the spider sculpture, down two flights (follow signs for the Tokyo Metro's Hibiya station). The restaurant is kaiten-style, so you simply help yourself to the artfully arranged dishes as they roll by on a conveyor belt, or use the picture menu to let the chef know what you want. At the end of the meal, a member of the wait staff will wave a scanner at your stack of plates to tally the bill; prices are stored on a chip embedded in each plate, and generally range from $2 to $7, although some cost more.

Alternatively, you can see the skyline for free from the top of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Offices building (TMGO), which boasts two towers and two observation decks on the 45th floor. The TMGO stands at the west end of the Shinjuku skyscraper district near the Washington hotel, which, incidentally, is a good spot for dinner — one of the hotel restaurants is Zauo Fishing Boat Café, where you can catch the fish that ultimately ends up on your plate (you use a net to scoop a live one out of the big tank). The Park Hyatt Tokyo, the hotel featured in the movie Lost in Translation, is also nearby, and the money you save on the free view at TMGO might just cover two drinks at the Hyatt's swanky New York Bar.

If you want the after-dark view — you'll get the pretty lights, but you won't see the mountains — check the schedules: the TMGO towers are open late, until 11 p.m., only four nights a month (the North tower on the first and third Tuesday, and the South tower, the second and fourth Monday). Roppongi's observation deck is open until 1 a.m. (last entry at midnight) every night.

Regular adult admission to the Mori Tower observation deck is $15 ($10 for students, $5 for children). It includes entry to the Mori Art Museum, which is open daily 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Tuesday until 5 p.m.), and usually closes for two weeks between shows. If that is the case, the combo ticket will include admission to the separate Mori Arts Center Gallery, which normally costs an extra $5. To get to Roppongi Hills, take the Hibiya or Toei Oedo line to Roppongi station. Click here for directions.

The TMGO towers' regular hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; to get there or to the Park Hyatt hotel, take the Toei Oedo line to Tochomae, the Toei Shinjuku line to Shinjuku, or the JR Yamanote line to Shinjuku, and exit west.

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