My Faves: Top towers to visit in Japan

Photos by Takahiro Takiguchi
Photos by Takahiro Takiguchi

My Faves: Top towers to visit in Japan

by Takahiro Takiguchi
Stripes Japan

One of my strategies whenever I visit a city for the first time is to visit a tower or castle there. These usually offer an observatory deck or floor where I can get a birds’ eye view of the city, which also helps me in mapping out the best route to make the most out of my visit.

In Japan, every major city has a castle or tower. Be sure to check them out to enjoy a great view of the unique landscape of the city offers. Here are some of my favorite towers that symbolize each city’s culture and history.

ASPAM (Aomori Pref.)

Just a short walk from Aomori Station is a 250-foot pyramid-shaped building named ASPAM, or the Aomori Prefecture Tourist Center. This symbol tower of Aomori City was designed to resemble the letter A for Aomori.

If you walk up to the observatory on the 13th floor, you can enjoy panoramic vistas of the city’s center against the backdrop of the Hakkoda Mountain Range and Shimokita Peninsula, as well as Mutsu Bay.

On the second floor, a movie theater with a panoramic screen showcases scenes of Aomori Prefecture’s natural beauty and the famous Nebuta Festival. If you are lucky, you may see local musicians playing Tsugaru “jamisen,” a local traditional stringed instrument, at the performance space next to the theater.

On the first floor, there are various shops selling Aomori’s signature products, such as apples, sake, embroidery, kokeshi dolls and various woodwork and lacquerware.

LOCATION: 1-1-40 Yasukata, Aomori City, Aomori Prefecture
HOURS: 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. *Shortened time operation due to COVID-19
ADMISSION: Adults - 850 yen ($7.50); high school students- 650 yen; elementary students - 450 yen.
TEL: 017-735-5311


The Akita City Port Tower Selion is a 469-foot-tall structure at Akita Port. The futuristic spacecraft-like tower is made of steel frames and 6,272 pieces of enforced glass.

From high up on the observatory deck, you can down at the entire city with port and factory facilities in the foggy air. On a fine day, there is a view of blue sea against the backdrop of the Oga Peninsula and Mount Chokai.

Down below on the first floor, Selion Garden is a large market where you can get all your Akita souvenirs and local products.

LOCATION: 1-9-1 Tsuchisakiko-nishi, Akita City, Akita Pref.
HOURS: 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.
TEL: 018-857-3381

TOKYO TOWER (Tokyo Pref.)

Many Japanese people consider the 62-year-old Tokyo Tower to be the symbol of Tokyo, despite the much taller, much flashier Tokyo Skytree built in 2012 near touristy Asakusa District.

I do, too! I like Tokyo Tower’s elegant triangular lattice tower in orange and white. Despite a lot of skyscrapers packed in Tokyo, the eye-caching triangle is easily spotted in the skyline, especially at night when it is brightly lit.

The 1,093-foot-tall tower was built in 1958 and is modeled after Paris’ Eiffel Tower. It once functioned as a radio tower and broadcasted 14 signals for radio and television. Up until 2012, Tokyo Tower was the world’s tallest self-supporting iron tower until another radio tower, Tokyo Skytree, took that designation.

Visitors can ascend to two observatories – one at 492 feet and the other at 820 feet. Both offer an excellent panoramic view of the entire city, and on a clear day you can see Mount Fuji to the west and the Chichibu Mountain range to the northwest. On the ground floor, there are various gift shops and restaurants to grab a bite.

LOCATION: 4-2-8 Shibakoen, Minato-ku, Tokyo
HOURS: 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. *Shortened time operation due to Covid-19
ADMISSION (MAIN DECK): Adults - 1,200 yen; high schoolers - 1,000 yen; Junior high and elementary schoolers - 700 yen; ages 4-5 500 yen.
TEL: 03-3433-5121

KYOTO TOWER (Kyoto Pref.)

This gem near the central Kyoto Station was built in 1964. Kyoto Tower boasts an elegant candle shape and at 430 feet tall, it is the world’s tallest non steel-frame construction. During my visits to Kyoto, this tower beautifully illuminates the evening sky.

On Kyoto Tower’s observation deck, 328 feet from the ground, you can check out a fantastic panoramic view over Japan’s old capital. The two-story deck is spacious and has free telescopes that give you a 360-degree view of Kyoto.

When I visited the tower with my family, I was surprised to learn there is a large public bath in the tower’s basement floor. Locals said that many tourists and visitors on business trips take advantage of the baths for a quick soak before departing on the Shinkansen from Kyoto Station. We did, too. While waiting for our train back to Yokohama, we relaxed after all the walking we did in Kyoto in this public bath resembling an old fashion sento.

LOCATION: 721-1 Higashishiokojimachi, Karasumadori Shichijo kudaru, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture
HOURS: 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. (Public Bath in the B3 floor: 1 - 9 p.m.) *Shortened time operation due to COVID-19
ADMISSION: Adults - 800 yen; high schoolers - 650 yen; middle and elementary schoolers - 550 yen; ages 3-5 150 yen.
TEL: 075-361-3215


This 354-foot-tall latticed tower is the symbol of Kobe and is considered the country’s first illuminated building. The 295-foot-high observation deck is a must-see and offers a spectacular view of the bay and surrounding cityscape.

A pedestrian overpass connects the tower to Kobe Maritime Museum/Kawasaki Good Times World. The museum features a variety of exhibits that chronicle the more than century-old history of Kobe’s port. Kawasaki Good Time World, a separate section of the museum, brings to life the technological ingenuity of Kawasaki Heavy Industries for all ages. You can enjoy such hands-on exhibits as the first Shinkansen (bullet train) model, historical motorcycles, jet skis and a helicopter. There are various vehicle simulators, and you can even try your hand at a simulated takeoff and landing of a passenger plane.

LOCATION: 2-2 Hatobacho, Chuo-ku, Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture
HOURS: Mar- Nov, 9 a.m. – 9 p.m., Dec- Feb, 9 a.m. -7 p.m.
ADMISSION: Adults - 700 yen; elementary to high schoolers - 300 yen.
TEL: 078-391-6751


Tsutenkaku, or Heaven-Reaching Tower, is one of Osaka’s most famous points of interest. The octagonal 338-foot-high structure is in the center of Shinsenkai District where visitors and locals enjoy kushikatsu restaurants. Kushikatsu is a specialty of the city and consists of battered meats and vegetables deep-fried on skewers. From the main observation deck on the fifth floor, visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the entire Osaka Plain against the backdrop of Mount Ikoma.

Don’t forget to check out the wooden statue of Billiken, an American charm doll and a symbol of good luck for visitors. Every year, thousands of visitors place a coin in his box and rub the soles of his feet to make their wishes come true. The second floor of the tower has a souvenir shop selling various comical Osaka gifts.

Originally constructed in 1912 as a copy of the Eiffel Tower, Tsutenkaku was scrapped during World War II. The Tsutenkaku you see today was reconstructed in 1956.

LOCATION: 1-18-6 Ebisu Higashi, Naniwa-ku, Osaka Prefecture
HOURS: 9 a.m. - 9 p.m.
ADMISSION: Adult - 800 yen; middle and elementary schoolers - 400 yen.
TEL: 06-6641-9555

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