Bunkyo Civic Center is a rather cool-looking building! It kind of looks like a UFO (or half of one) is on the roof, so it a great place to put an observatory. And considering that it is only twenty-five floors up, not that high really, the views are pretty good. I've been there many, many times and enjoy immensely. I think you'd enjoy it too.
One thing I really like about it are the windows. They are quite large are angled out so it is possible to get a good view down . I think they probably help to keep glare and inside reflections to a minimum. Along the windows, you'll find a ledge on which you can put a camera for long exposure photography which is nice as the use of monopods and tripods is banned. The other thing is that the observatory is quite spacious and has some bar tables and drink machines. Usually the viewing deck isn't crowded, unless it's sunset, and then the area on the Shinjuku side will have a lot of people and many, many cameras. So, if you want to get pictures of the sunset there, and they can be beautiful, get there early and get your spot!
The views are very, very nice especially on the side facing Shinjuku, as you can see all of its skyscrapers and Mount Fuji. At sunset this area is incredible, extremely beautiful which is why it is so popular for anyone with a camera. As you walk around the viewing deck, you'll also be able to see Ikebukuro with its Sunshine City skyscraper, Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo University's famous clock tower, Koishikawa-Korakuen Gardens. Sadly, the areas to the north of the observatory don't really contain anything special or interesting, but, they do give you a feel for the size of Tokyo.
One really good thing about the observatory, considering its relatively low height, is that there are very few large buildings nearby to block your view, so you can get a good view across the city. I think that is another one of the reasons why I like it, the perspective it offers is just little different to other observatories in the city (with the exception of Tower Hall Funabori).
Tokyo is often portrayed as a city that is filled with skyscrapers, while there are certainly a lot of them in Tokyo, but they are clustered in certain areas. I think this is easily noticeable from Bunkyo Civic Center. In one corner you'll see all the big buildings in Shinjuku, then across to the left will be more in Ikebukuro and from there all the way across to areas between Akihabara and Ochanomizu there are none.
If there any other faults I could find with this place is that the Civic Center is a bit far from most of Tokyo's major tourist sites, nothing within easy walking distance. The only places worth a visit, that I know, in the immediate area are Tokyo Dome, its amusement park and Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens.
The other flaw with the Civic center is that the observatory has only a 330' view due to there being a restaurant at the back of the floor. And if you want to see Tokyo Tower, you'll need to go into that restaurant. So, if you want an observatory with a 360` view, you'll need to go to places like Tokyo Tower, Skytree, Roppongi Hills or the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building.
The Bunkyo Civic Center observatory isn't the perfect observatory, but it does have some great views, is rarely crowded and is completely free. I think it is definitely worth a visit. You can see its website here.
How to get to Bunkyo Civic Center
The closest station is Korakuen on the Marunouchi and Nanboku lines and it is just a one or two minute walk from either. From the Marunouchi line leave via exit 4a, and from the Nanboku line, leave from exit 5. Kasuga station on the Mita/Oedo lines is also very close, leave from that station via the, "Bunkyo Civic Center", exit.
Here is a Google map here to show you the way:
Bunkyo Civic Center is open from 9am to 8:30pm seven days a week. It closed on the third Sunday in May and over the New Year period, from December 29 to January 3.
If you liked this article, you might also enjoy:
Gotokuji - the home of Japan's maneki neko (or beckoning cats)
Hokutopia - another of Tokyo's free observatories
Jindai Botanical Gardens - the most beautiful rose garden in the city
Omiya Hachiman - one of Tokyo's local shrines
Shitamachi Museum - a great place to find out how some of the old Tokyoites used to live