5/5 (2)

I’d seen the photographs before—dusk shots of Tokyo Skytree with the outline of Mount Fuji in the background that at first glance you think have been photoshopped—and wondered from where they’d been taken. The answer: the observation deck of I-Link Town Ichikawa. It’s located on the 45th and 46th floors of a residential building one minute from the South Exit of Ichikawa Station, and it offers 360° views of Chiba, Saitama, the delta of the Edogawa River, and Tokyo itself. And it is the cityscape of Tokyo that really makes I-Link Town Ichikawa so good: no other public observation deck (that I know of at least!) offers a view that lines up Tokyo Skytree with Mount Fuji such that the mountain looks deceptively close to Tokyo (it is in fact 115 kilometers from I-Link Town Ichikawa and 100 kilometers from Tokyo). Moreover, because the observation deck is not so well known and is a little out of the way from central Tokyo, it doesn’t get particularly busy. During the day there might be only 10-20 people on upper viewing deck, and even at night only a relatively small crowd gathers near the southwest corner which faces back on the capital. Oh, and it’s free.

The sun begins to set over Tokyo
Just before the lights from the office blocks come on
Mount Fuji over Tokyo

The express elevator takes you to the 45th floor where you will find a cafe and a “koryu lounge” (交流ラウンジ) which hosts small events and concerts. This floor is surrounded by a wide walkway outside, but unfortunately visitors are not allowed out onto the deck for safety reasons (there is only a low wall and some wires to protect you from the edge). The observation deck (展望台デッキ) is on the floor above. This is open-air, but glass panels surround the entire platform. This provides the best views and it is here that photographers gather to capture the beautiful sunsets.

I-Link Town Ichikawa is worth visiting at any time of the year, but it is best in winter when the clear air lets you see Mount Fuji in the distance. The sun sets just to the left of the mountain making for a sight to behold when it also turns the sky a bright red.

The cafe on the 45th floor looks out onto Chiba
The observation deck during the day

Tips for Photographers

When to get there?

At least 30 minutes before sunset. While nowhere near as busy as the likes of Tokyo Skytree, photographers hoping should secure a spot near the southwest corner before sunset and wait. Although anywhere along the west- or south-facing sides of the deck should give you more or less the same view of Tokyo Skytree with Mount Fuji in the background, a few meters outside the glass panels there are a series of wide pillars which start to obstruct the view if you move too far from the southwest corner. The best shots are about 30 minutes after sunset when the lights of Tokyo Skytree and the high-rise office blocks come on (there is about a 10-15 minute slot when you get both the red skies and the city lights—that’s the strike zone).

Photographers waiting for the sun to set

Can I use a tripod?

While there aren’t any signs up prohibiting the use of tripods, security guards and staff tend to loiter around the corner of the observation platform facing Tokyo and Mount Fuji. It’s a small space and other visitors obviously want to enjoy the view, as well. While you’re likely to get a pat on the shoulder if you start setting up a full-height tripod, small stabilizing devices you can rest on the low-standing ledge at the bottom of the glass panels are fine. Mine was an impromptu visit and so I had to make do with resting my camera on my backpack, but a suction cup tripod stand (for example) would be ideal.

What’s the best lens to take?

To get the “classic” shot of Tokyo Skytree with the shadow of Mount Fuji looming in the distance, you will need at least an 85mm lens. The photograph below was taken at 142mm and the close-up of Mount Fuji at 214mm. Incidentally, if you’re using a telephoto lens with a lens hood you shouldn’t need to worry about light reflections—the viewing platform itself is only dimly lit and 150 meters below is just low-rise residential buildings and street lights.

The top photograph in panoramic

Details

Directions
Ichikawa Station is in fact only 18 minutes from Tokyo Station on the Sobu rapid train, and I-Link Town Ichikawa is just 1-minute from the South Exit of the station (exit the station, walk up the stairs, turn right, walk up another flight of stairs, and you’re there)
Hours
The 45th floor is open from 9am to 10pm every day, but the upper viewing deck shuts at 9pm. It is closed on the first Monday every month, as well as during the New Year period (29/12—3/1). Entrance is free.

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