With Skytree tickets rarer than hens' teeth, we scout out the top photo ops
So, now that May 22 is upon us, Tokyo Skytree is finally open and all the cool people have visited, what are the options for getting vertical and grabbing some air at the city’s newest landmark? Whoa -- not so fast ...
While the ubiquitous Lady Gaga was able to scale the 634-meter tower before it opened, it’s not going to be so easy for the rest of us to get hold of one of Tokyo's rarest ¥2,000 (US$25) hot tickets.
Most visitors won't even be able to get off the ground until the middle of summer. Unless you're a celebrity of Gaga's stature, individual tickets are pretty much (more on that later) sold out until July 11.
Starting back in March, tickets for the first deck were available solely through online drawings, with the day and time specified by the Skytree Internet gods, plus payment could only be made with a Japanese credit card.
That effectively cut out foreign visitors right at the start. Sadly, not unusual in Japan.
Still, there’s no need to give up -- Skytree's almost lace-like exterior and its proximity to Asakusa and the Sumida River present some great photo ops for your Facebook page even if you can’t scale the heights.
We've rounded up a few prime shooting locations, each virtually goof-proof and easy to find. Plus, we discovered a couple of options for die-hard tower fans so they can get their fix on the sly and maybe even get to see the now-notorious Sky Tree staff uniforms.
The temple shot
A visit to the bright red Sensoji is a must on every visitor's list -- the temple, the traditional nakamise stores crowding the approach and the surrounding shitamachi (old downtown) area.
Walk directly back past the shops and all the way through the main gate of the temple. Walk away from the gate towards the left.
Turn and face the giant straw sandals nailed to this side of the gate. (Some visitors jump up and touch them for luck.)
Frame the Skytree tower with the jutting roof beams of the gate.
Sensoji is beautifully illuminated every night until around 11 p.m. and the grounds (though not the temple) remain open for night shots.
The retro-modern shot
Colorful jinricksha, or plain old rickshaw, drivers and their vehicles crowd both sides of the road by Kaminarimon gate and the new Asakusa Tourist Center just across the street.
Stand on the corner right in front of the Tourist Center and wait for your retro-rickshaw/Skytree moment when the traffic light changes.
The new Tourist Center is a great addition to the neighborhood. The English-speaking staff is ready with information on local attractions and transportation from 9 a.m.-8 p.m. seven days a week.
The multi-story center also has restrooms, currency exchange, an ATM and a coffee shop. A must-see is the 8th floor glassed-in deck with a unique bird's-eye view of the Sensoji temple grounds.
The deck is open until 10 p.m. for night shots of Skytree.
Jinricksha rides come in a wide range of prices in case you're considering a jaunt. An hour's “Grand Tour” will run to around ¥12,000 for two. Shorter trips and prices can definitely be negotiated.
A number of the younger drivers speak good English. Don't worry about finding one, as they'll approach you.
Access: From Asakusa Station on the Ginza Line, take Exit 1 and turn right as you reach street level.
More on CNNGo: We climb the Skytree
The bridge shot
Bridges crisscross the Sumida River all over this part of town and Skytree/river/bridge compositions have understandably become favorites with the Japanese press.
The stretch between the bustling Azuma Bridge in front of Asaksua Ginza Line Station and the blue Kototoi Bridge just beyond the overhead Tobu Line tracks provides great vantage points from the pedestrian walk along the river.
The blue light fixtures on Kototoi Bridge give it an old-fashioned feel and the 10-minute walk from the station also lets you cut out the eyesore of the bright gold Asahi building and its giant glistening mound of whatever.
Factoid: Asahi originally wanted the sculpture to stand straight up, making it even more organic looking.
Azuma Bashi is also the departure point for several Sumida River tours.
There are combinations of tickets to cruise to the Hamarikyu Detached Gardens or on to Hinode.
From Hinode, visitors can take the monorail across the bay to Odaiba and the new Diver City shopping mall with its Mobile Suit Gundam attraction, or catch a ferry and cruise by Rainbow Bridge.
The tower's official color is “Skytree White,” which has slight bluish undertones. It's partially those undertones that give pictures of Skytree so much texture.
Though it can show many night-time color combinations, the tower’s default illumination is blue or purple. Blue is to reflect the image of the once-blue Sumida river, while purple symbolizes miyabi, the popular purple kimono color from the Edo era.
Access: From Asakusa Station on the Ginza Line, take Exit 1. Bear left at street level. The big intersection is for Edo Dori boulevard. Cross toward the bridge and make your way down the stairs to the pedestrian walk along the river. Keep the Skytree on your right, walk beneath the train bridge and you will see blue Kototoi Bridge.
The sunset reflections shot
Reflections of the tower in the canal running alongside the huge Skytree entertainment development have become a real money shot for the Japanese media.
It shines there all day and night and is the perfect spot to take shots of the sun setting behind Sky Tree as the shadows lengthen.
Morning is a great time for photos of the tower's full reflection in the water (unless it's windy), but if you want the reflection and the entire tower, you're going to need something better than the average little digital camera.
Access: Oshiage Station. Take Exit B3. At street level, go to your right (with the complex on your right) and you will almost immediately see the sunken, newly landscaped canal area.
Keep the Skytree at your back and follow the canal for about five minutes to the second bridge -- not the one with the big blue gas pipeline behind it. If you are walking from Skytree Station, just follow the canal and keep the tower first on your left, then at your back.
The looking-up shot
With a full-size aquarium, planetarium, restaurants, food court and shopping plaza, the entertainment complex at the foot of the tower is actually worth a look.
Come in the evening for night views of Skytree and a healing -- no, really -- visit to the Konica Minolta Planetarium. Its current “Star Forest” show is an aromatherapy journey through a starlit night forest.
Narration is in Japanese, but who needs words? Just sit back and breathe. Star Forest runs at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. and all tickets are ¥1,300.
The planetarium's regular show takes viewers back to the Tokyo of 300 years ago with CGI city and sky views of that era -- ¥1,000.
If fish and fowl -- watching, not eating -- are more your thing, Sumida Aquarium is open until 9 p.m. and is a good, though slightly pricey, place to cool off in the summer heat. Adults ¥2,000, students ¥1,500, kids ¥1,000.
Access: From Asakusa take the Tobu Line to Tokyo Skytree Station or the Keisei or Hanzomon Lines to Oshiage Station. The stations sit at opposite ends of the development. Ride one line there and return on another to save backtracking (and your feet).
Lastly, if staring longingly at those white, steely and sadly unattainable heights leaves you wanting more, there are a couple of options for getting up high before July.
Tobu Travel runs a one-day self-guided Asakusa/Skytree tour package (minimum of two people) that includes a ticket to the first observation platform and a boat ride.
There’s a calender (be sure to check availability) and reservation service in English online. Prices are ¥3,800 per head and the tour is not available on Monday.
Skytree Friendship Hotels offer packages that include a one-night stay -- some with views of the tower from your room -- and one of those golden tickets to the first observation deck.
It's an expensive elevator ride, though, with prices for a single-room package at the Tobu Hotel Levant starting at ¥9,500. Unfortunately there is only a little information in English on the site.
Otherwise, it’s back in line for the rest of us. Starting July 11, tickets will go on sale at the Skytree's fourth-floor ticket center.
Prices to the first deck: Adults: ¥2,000, students ¥1,500, children ¥900, preschoolers ¥600. Tickets to the second deck attract an additional fee and are sold only on the day.
More on CNNGo: Construction complete on the Skytree