The Roppongi area is famous for its nightlife, but it’s also the place to go for shopping and being all artsy. In this area, there are three art galleries and two huge shopping complexes — all of which you can enter for free.
First up is (12) Roppongi Hills, a massive complex with apartments, offices, retail shops, restaurants, and many other fun things. I don’t usually enjoy malls, but the retail space in Roppongi Hills is different. Really. It’s more like a very well-designed maze than a regular shopping center. It’s like they want you to get lost inside. It’s worth going just for the architectural craziness. There’s a green area called Mori Garden in the complex where you can do some people watching.
If you have some money to spare, it’s worth paying the 1,800-yen admission fee to access the Tokyo City View observation deck in the Roppongi Hills complex. The view from this observation deck is better than the free observatories in Shinjuku. The Tokyo Tower is nearby and you get a clear view of the ocean. The ticket includes admission to the Mori Arts Center Gallery. When I was there, there was also a temporary Star Wars exhibit that was included in the price of admission.
For an additional 500 yen, you can access the Sky Deck, which is the top of the building, from where you can enjoy a 360-degree bird’s eye view of Tokyo without any glass separating you and the city. I went up there just before sunset and watched the sun disappear behind the mountains while the city gradually lights up. It’s a great spot to take pictures without worrying about glare or reflection on glass windows.
From Roppongi Hills, (13) National Art Center Tokyo is about 10 minutes away on foot. You won’t miss it — the futuristic glass exterior stands out too much. Entrance into the National Art Center Tokyo is free, but you have to pay if you want to access the special exhibitions. There are smaller art galleries that you can wander into for free, as well as a library, a relaxation area in the basement, restaurants, and shops.
Next on the list is (14) Tokyo Midtown, 10 minutes away. Much like Roppongi Hills, Tokyo Midtown is a complex consisting of retail, office, and residential spaces. The architecture feels more organic than Roppongi Hills, with plenty of wood, stone, bamboo, and other natural elements. Besides shopping areas, there are gardens peppered with sculptures within the Tokyo Midtown complex. There are art galleries as well, but they charge admission fees.
The iconic (15) Tokyo Tower is technically not in Roppongi, but it’s only about 20 minutes’ walk from Tokyo Midtown. You can also take the train from Roppongi Station to either Kamiyacho Station or Akabanebashi Station. I was content with seeing it from the observation deck at Roppongi Hills because I’ve heard that it was a bit of a tourist trap. But if you want, you can access the Foot Town mall underneath the tower for free. Also, you can get clear views of the Tokyo Tower for free from the nearby Shiba Park. Going up the tower to the observatory costs 900 yen and up.