Notable architecture
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Architecture picks

Tokyo International Forum - Notable building: Marunouchi
Designed by New York architect Rafael Vinoli and completed in 1997, TIF contains two theaters and 6,000 square meters of exhibition space as well as restaurants and shops. At the heart of the complex is a sixty-meter-high, hull-shaped glass and...
Yoyogi National Gymnasium - Notable building: Harajuku
Designed by architect Kenzo Tange, this elegant structure, with its dramatically sweeping profile, has become an iconic work of modern architecture. It was completed in 1964, built specifically for the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center - Event space: Asakusa
[Open 9am-8pm (rooftop and cafe -10pm) daily.]
Rising from a relatively narrow (326-square-meter) plot, the seven-story structure is fashioned as a series of irregular horizontal planes stacked precariously on top of each other, with several of the levels bounded by distinctive-looking walls of...
Edo-Tokyo Museum - Museum: Ryogoku
[Open 9:30am-5:30pm (enter by 5pm; Saturdays -7:30pm). Closed Mondays.]
This excellent museum is devoted to the history of Tokyo, formerly known as Edo. Entering the museum via escalator from the third-floor plaza below is an inspiring experience - the massive structure seems to hover several stories over the plaza like...
Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo - Art museum: Kiyosumi-Shirakawa
[Open 10am-6pm (enter by 5:30). Closed Mondays.]
One of Tokyo's best art museums, the MOT puts on well-curated exhibitions showcasing international artists, architecture, design and fashion. The permanent collection is also worth a visit, and the museum's cafe and restaurant are above average. ...
St. Mary's Cathedral - Notable building: Edogawabashi
Designed by Kenzo Tange and completed in 1964, St. Mary's has come to be known as a landmark of twentieth-century Tokyo architecture. The concrete structure is clad in stainless steel, and the swooping, parabolic curves of the walls evoke the image of a bird in flight.

Ginza area

Nakagin Capsule Tower - Notable building: Ginza
The Nakagin Capsule Tower is the most important built example of Metabolism, the Japanese avant-garde architectural movement. The building embodies Metabolist theory, which suggests that cities should mimic biological systems to adapt to rapid...
Shizuoka Press and Broadcasting Center - Notable building: Ginza
One of architect Kenzo Tange's most iconic buildings, this early example of Metabolist architecture was completed in 1967 and occupies a prominent corner location just north of Shimbashi station. Built on a triangular site that's only 189 square meters in size, the building is constructed around a 7.7m-diameter cylindrical core containing elevators and stairways as well as kitchens and bathrooms on each floor. Individual cantilevered office units are attached to the core, which is 57 meters high.
Nicolas G. Hayek Center - Notable building: Ginza
The innovative headquarters building of the Swatch Group in Japan is the work of Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, who is known for implementing outside-the-box concepts such as buildings made from paper tubes. Completed in 2007, the greenery-covered building houses seven separate watch-brand shops, each reached by a separate elevator which also serves as a mini-showroom. The top floor holds an event space.
Maison Hermes - Notable building: Ginza
The slender, 12-meter-wide building housing the Tokyo flagship store of the French fashion house is covered with 13,000 custom-fabricated glass blocks. Designed by architect Renzo Piano, the building was completed in 2001. A small art gallery space on the top floor hosts occasional exhibits.
Dentsu Former Headquarters Building - Notable building: Tsukiji
Completed in 1967, architect Kenzo Tange's iconic building served as the headquarters for Dentsu, then the world's biggest advertising agency, until 2002. After that it was occupied by Dentsu Tec, a subsidiary company, until 2014; it is now vacant. The building stands thirteen stories tall, with two additional penthouse levels.
De Beers Ginza Building - Notable building: Ginza
[Open 11:30am-7:30pm daily.]
The undulating stainless-steel facade of the De Beers Building is fashioned to reflect the sunlight in an ever-changing pattern as the day progresses. The eleven-story building was designed by Jun Mitsui and Associates, and was completed in 2007.
Mikimoto Ginza Honten - Notable building: Ginza
[Open 11am-7pm daily.]
The nine-story Ginza showroom and head office of Mikimoto, the Japanese pearl company, was designed by architect Toyo Ito and completed in 2005.
Tokyo International Forum - Notable building: Marunouchi
Designed by New York architect Rafael Vinoli and completed in 1997, TIF contains two theaters and 6,000 square meters of exhibition space as well as restaurants and shops. At the heart of the complex is a sixty-meter-high, hull-shaped glass and...

Aoyama, Harajuku area

Sia Aoyama Building - Notable building: Omotesando
The facade of this nine-story rental office building is punctuated by seven different types of window, ranging from 1.5 to 2.2 meters in size. Ceilings are a luxurious 4.9 meters in height. The building was designed by Jun Aoki and Associates, and it was completed in 2008.
United Nations University - Notable building: Omotesando
Another marquee project from renowned architect Kenzo Tange, the United Nations University headquarters building occupies a prominent location in Aoyama, across the street from Aoyama Gakuin University. It was completed in 1992.
Ao - Shopping complex: Omotesando
With its striking silhouette, this shopping and office complex stands out against the Aoyama skyline. The building was completed in 2009, designed by the architectural firm of Sakakura Associates.
Spiral Building - Notable building: Omotesando
Pritzker Prize-winning architect Fumihiko Maki designed this Aoyama landmark, which was completed in 1985. There is an excellent design shop on the second floor.
Sunny Hills - Cafe: Omotesando
The three-dimensional wooden lattice of Japanese cypress covering the facade of this building was created using traditional wooden construction techniques. The building houses a Taiwanese pineapple cake shop, and the overall form evokes the image of a bamboo basket. Completed in 2014, it is the work of architect Kengo Kuma, who was also responsible for the nearby Nezu Museum.
Miumiu - Notable building: Omotesando
[Open 11am-8pm daily.]
Completed in 2015, this understated building is the work of the Swiss architectural firm of Herzog & de Meuron. Miu Miu is a sister brand of Prada, and the same architectural firm was responsible for the much more showy Prada building diagonally across the street from here.
Prada - Notable building: Omotesando
[Open 11am-8pm daily.]
The striking lozenge-shaped glass panels that make up the facade of the Prada building are varyingly concave, convex and flat in curvature, resulting in ever-changing visual impressions as you move around the interior or exterior. The building occupies only a small portion of its site, leaving room for an open plaza-like space in front. Completed in 2003, it is the work of the Swiss architectural firm of Herzog & de Meuron.
Nezu Museum - Art museum: Omotesando
[Open 10am-5pm (enter until 4:30pm). Closed Mondays.]
This stunning museum building was designed by architect Kengo Kuma and opened in 2009. If you have time to spare, the museum specializes in pre-modern art from Japan, China, and other Asian countries, with some 7000 items including painting and sculpture, calligraphy, ceramics and lacquerware. The museum cafe is also worth a stop, and it looks out onto a beautiful wooded garden which you can stroll through after taking in the exhibition.
Tod's Omotesando - Notable building: Harajuku
The curving, organic-looking shapes of the glass and concrete facade of Tod's are inspired by the zelkova trees that line the Omotesando boulevard. The building was designed by architect Toyo Ito and was completed in 2004.
Omotesando Hills - Shopping complex: Harajuku
This very stylish seven-story shopping and restaurant complex features mostly small boutiques and luxury brands. The structure was designed by architect Tadao Ando and completed in 2006.
Dior Omotesando - Notable building: Harajuku
The Christian Dior building on Omotesando, completed in 2003, is the work of Tokyo's SANAA firm, founded by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa. The firm were also responsible for the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa. With its shimmering illuminated facade, the building is especially striking after dark.
GYRE - Notable building: Harajuku
Echoing the spiral forms of Fumihiko Maki's Spiral Building and Tadao Ando's Omotesando Hills nearby, the design of this shopping complex is based on the concept of five boxes stacked on top of each other and rotated around a central core, forming a series of terraces accessible by exterior stairs.

The building was designed by the Rotterdam firm of MVRDV, and completed in 2007. It houses retail shops from Bulgari and Chanel as well as a design store from the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku - Shopping complex: Harajuku
[Open 8am-11:30pm daily.]
The most striking feature of this multi-story shopping center is the kaleidoscope-like tunnel that envelopes you as you ride the escalator from the building's street entrance. It's also noteworthy for its spacious sixth-floor terrace area, open from 8:30am every day. The design is by architect Hiroshi Nakamura's firm of NAP Architects, and the building was completed in 2012.
Yoyogi National Gymnasium - Notable building: Harajuku
Designed by architect Kenzo Tange, this elegant structure, with its dramatically sweeping profile, has become an iconic work of modern architecture. It was completed in 1964, built specifically for the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.

More buildings around town

Aoyama Technical College - Notable building: Shibuya
Completed in 1990, the Aoyama Technical College building was the first major work by architect Makoto Sei Watanabe.
Century Tower - Notable building: Ochanomizu
Completed in 1991, Century Tower is comprised of two separate towers, standing nineteen and twenty-one stories, linked by a narrow atrium. Originally built as a rental office building, it is occupied by Juntendo University, a medical school. The...
Fuji Television Headquarters Building - Attraction: Daiba
[Open 10am-6pm. Closed Mondays.]
Designed by architect Kenzo Tange, the Fuji TV building has become a landmark of the Odaiba area thanks to its unusual silhouette. The giant floating ball is set at a height of around 100 meters, and it houses a small observation deck offering an excellent view of the Tokyo Bay waterfront area and Rainbow Bridge. Other than the view, though, there's not too much to see here - a few TV show sets and props on the fifth floor, and souvenirs galore on the first and seventh floors.
GA Gallery - Art gallery: Sendagaya
[Open noon-6:30pm daily.]
Despite their compact gallery space, the Global Architecture Gallery puts on some excellent exhibitions focusing on contemporary Japanese and international architecture. There's also a very well stocked architecture bookstore.
Gallery TOM - Art gallery: Shibuya
This three-story building houses a private residence on the ground floor and gallery spaces upstairs for a private art museum created to help blind and visually impaired people experience art. (In case you're wondering who Tom is, it's an acronym...
Komaba Campus II, Tokyo University - Notable building: Komaba-Todaimae
Completed in January 2001, the Komaba Campus II buliding of Tokyo University is the work of architect Hiroshi Hara, who was also responsible for the Umeda Sky Building in Osaka and Kyoto Station. The massive building is a few city blocks in length,...
Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower - Notable building: Nishi-Shinjuku
The 50-story Cocoon Tower was designed by Tange Associates, after winning a competition entered by around fifty architecture firms. Construction was completed in 2008. The building houses a fashion design college, an IT technology design school and a medical college.
National Art Center, Tokyo - Art museum: Nogizaka
[Open 10am-6pm. Closed Tuesdays.]
While the museum doesn't have a permanent collection, there are usually several small exhibitions going on at any given time, focusing on ceramics, photography, drawings and paintings. The strikingly original building was designed by architect Kisho Kurokawa.
National Museum of Western Art - Museum: Ueno
[Open 9:30am-5:30pm (Fri -8). Closed Mondays.]
This is the only building in Japan designed by renowned French architect Le Corbusier. The three-story reinforced-concrete structure was finished in 1959, based on detailed drawings by three Japanese apprentices of Le Corbusier's - Kunio Maekawa, Junzo Sakakura and Takamasa Yoshizaka. The new wing was completed in 1979 and was designed by Maekawa Kunio Associates.
National Noh Theater - Theater: Sendagaya
This strikingly modern building is a venue for performances of Noh and Kyogen. The auditorium seats 591 people; there is also a reference library, exhibition area and cafeteria.
Pigment - Retail: Tennozu Isle
[Open 11am-8pm. Closed Mondays, Thursdays.]
Tokyo's most gorgeous art supply store, designed by architect Kengo Kuma, may tempt you to pick up a paintbrush, just for an excuse to shop here. The wall of pigments took a full week of chromatic coordination to get right, and they stock more than...
Shinjuku Mitsui Building - Notable building: Nishi-Shinjuku
This 55-story office complex was the tallest building in Tokyo when it was completed in 1974. The firm of Nihon Sekkei was responsible for the design.
Sumida Hokusai Museum - Art museum: Ryogoku
[Open 9:30am-5:30pm (enter by 5pm). Closed Mondays.]
Devoted to the work of Japan's most famous woodblock artist, the five-story Hokusai museum was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Kazuyo Sejima and his firm SANAA, and was completed in November 2016. The building is clad in aluminum, with glass-enclosed tunnel-like spaces on street level that allow you to walk under the building in a couple of different directions as you peer through the glass walls at the different ground-floor spaces. The building It is located conveniently close to the Tokyo-Edo Museum, and the two museums can be easily combined in one trip.
Terrazza Aoyama - Notable building: Gaienmae
Designed by architect Kiyoshi Takeyama of the Amorphe firm and completed in 1991, this five-story building occupies a 1,800-square-meter plot of land, and has four basement levels. There's an appealing triangular open space created by the...
Tokyo Big Sight - Event space: Ariake
More than twelve million people a year visit the halls of this huge convention center, which hosts international conferences, trade shows and design festivals. Designed by the architectural firm of AXS Satow and completed in April 1996, the facility provides a total exhibition area of 80,000 square meters, spread over three main buildings. The center is easily accessible by water bus as well as by rail and bus.
Tokyo Design Center - Notable building: Gotanda
[Most shops open 10am-6pm; closed Wednesdays.]
Designed by Italian architect Mario Bellini, the Tokyo Design Center was completed in 1991. The most prominent feature is a galleria passageway that cuts upward through the building diagonally, leading to a garden area sitting on a steep hill behind...
Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium - Sports facility: Sendagaya
This futuristic-looking building by architect Fumihiko Maki looks like a cross between a spaceship and a samurai helmet. Facilities include two swimming pools and a training gym; there's also a cafe and a French restaurant on the premises.
Watarium Building - Notable building: Gaienmae
The Watarium Building, housing a small art museum and bookstore, was designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta. It opened in 1990.

Outside Tokyo

Osanbashi - Notable building: Yokohama Nihon-Odori
[Open 9am-9:30pm (rooftop 24 hours) daily.]
Osanbashi Yokohama International Passenger Terminal is an inspiring piece of architecture and an exciting addition to Yokohama's vibrant waterfront. The undulating rooftop, with its natural grass lawns and deck finished in Brazilian wood, feels...
Yokohama Museum of Art - Art museum: Yokohama Minato-mirai
[Open 10am-6pm. Closed Thursdays.]
The focus here is primarily on twentieth-century modern art, with works by Dali, Picasso, Cezanne and Magritte as well as notable Japanese artists. Several special exhibitions are held each year. The museum building was designed by Pritzker...
See also our section on architecture and design.