For a city that is situated near the intersection of three tectonic plates, with earthquakes to match, Tokyo still has an astonishing number of skyscrapers. And, of course, they are built to handle some rumbling -- constructed with rubber feet, gigantic ball bearings and other technology to keep them standing. What does all this mean for the tourist to Tokyo? It means more than just a picturesque skyline -- it means beautiful views of the skyline itself.
Many of the high-rises have observation decks on the top floors; others have restaurants, often on the highest two floors, offering vistas of the metropolis along with lunch, dinner, and desert.
Top 3 Places to Dine
Tokyo Skytree: Sky Restaurant 634
Address: Tokyo-to Sumida-ku Oshiage 1-1-2, Tokyo
When it comes to eating in high places, the top spot has to go to the Tokyo Skytree. Standing more than 2,000 feet, Tokyo Skytree is the tallest broadcast tower in the world, and among the world's tallest buildings. Of course, the very top is occupied by antenna equipment, near which visitors are not allowed.
Even before it was completed in 2012, Tokyo Skytree had already become a major tourist attraction. The base of the tower houses shops, an aquarium, and restaurants. But they do not have any view to speak of. To dine with a view, you have to go to Sky Restaurant 634, named for the height of the tower in meters (the restaurant, however, is only at the 350-meter mark).
The cuisine uses traditional Japanese ingredients in Italian and French dishes. The food is worth the price but what you really pay for is the view, which no other restaurant in Tokyo -- or Japan -- can beat, with the cityscape of downtown below your feet and Mount Fuji towering to the west.
Park Hyatt/Shinjuku Park Tower: Girandole, New York Grill and Kozue
Address: 3-7-1-2 Nishi Shinjuku, Shinjuku-Ku, Tokyo, 163-1055
Some of those who live in Japan will claim that the film "Lost in Translation" is a documentary and the hotel where the movie was filmed certainly exists. It is the Park Hyatt, situated on the top floors of the Shinjuku Park Tower. Standing at one end of the Shinjuku skyscraper district, the hotel and its restaurants have a relatively free view of Tokyo, but it is the skyscrapers next door that make for the most dramatic views.
There are both restaurants and bars in the Park Hyatt, but the Top 3 restaurants are Girandole, Kozue, and New York Grill. New York Grill on the 52nd floor is just what the name says -- an American grill, and the menu is what you would expect: Meat. Both Japanese high-grade and imported beef feature heavily on the menu and the restaurant also has a wine cellar with more than 1,600 bottles.
Kozue, on the other hand, is a traditional Japanese restaurant that serves modern versions of kaiseki-ryouri, traditional Japanese high cooking. The food varies with the seasons and consists of a variety of small dishes served at the same time, intended to be enjoyed as much with the eyes as with the mouth.
Girandole tries to be a French bistro, but the views betray it. If you book the private dining room you can not only enjoy traditional French food but also your own private city view.
You also might find something a bit less expensive than at the other two Hyatt restaurants.
Mandarin Oriental Hotel: Signature, Sense, Tapas Molecular Bar, Sushi Sora, and others
Address: 2-1-1 Nihonbashi Muromachi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, 103-8328
The Mandarin Oriental hotel is located in the Nihonbashi Mitsui Tower, in the financial district of Nihonbashi, northeast of Ginza. While it is not very high as skyscrapers go, there are no other tall buildings around it, giving the hotel and its restaurant-wide and unobstructed views of Tokyo and Mount Fuji to the west. Many traditional Japanese baths feature pictures of Mount Fuji, but the hotel's spa is one of the few with an actual view of the mountain -- over the Tokyo cityscape.
The restaurants in the hotel are located on the 38th floor, and while all have the same stunning views, they feature completely different cuisines.
They do it so well that three of them have been given stars by the Michelin Guide, which means reservations are not only recommended but required. In winter, make it an early dinner as the sunset over Mount Fuji is stunning, but is already gone by 6:30.
The French restaurant, Signature, is one of the Michelin-star recipients. Food is traditionally French. If you close your eyes you can imagine yourself somewhere in Paris, but open them and your breath is taken away by the view of Tokyo.
The second Michelin restaurant is the Cantonese restaurant, Sense. The Japanese have a long love affair with Chinese cuisine, and some of the best Chinese cooking outside China can be enjoyed in Tokyo. This is one of the places where you will get better Chinese food than many top-class restaurants in China, and the view is unmatchable.
The third recipient of the Michelin star is the experimental Tapas Molecular Bar, inspired by the new Spanish cooking that has made restaurants such as Barcelona's El Bulli famous. The portions are small but the taste is large.
On the restaurant floor of the Mandarin Oriental, you will also find Sushi Sora, serving traditional sushi made in full view -- that is, if you can tear your eyes away from the view outside.