Photo/IllutrationThe World Trade Center Building’s observatory offers a dazzling view of Tokyo Tower and other skyscrapers as city lights start to sparkle brightly after sunset on June 25. (Hiroyuki Yamamoto)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

For almost 50 years, one of the most mesmerizing night views of Tokyo skyscrapers has captivated visitors to a famed observatory in the heart of the capital.

But time is running out on the Seaside Top observatory deck on the 40th floor of the World Trade Center Building (WTCB) in the Hamamatsucho district of Minato Ward.

The entire building is scheduled for demolition and will be replaced with a new one.

The WTCB, completed in 1970, was Japan’s tallest skyscraper at the time.

At 152 meters high, the Seaside Top is ideally situated--not too high, not too low--to take pictures of Tokyo Tower and the cityscape, particularly when the sun sets next to the tower and makes it glow orange.

From there, visitors can also marvel at the spectacular views of Tokyo Skytree, Rainbow Bridge and many other landmarks.

The observation deck, shaped like a corridor, allows visitors to get different views of the capital from every direction. With redevelopment projects going on in the surrounding area, construction work to replace the building is set to begin in 2021. But it remains undecided on whether the new building will have an observation deck.

Particularly popular among families during the day is the southeast side, which offers a bird’s-eye view of Tokyo Bay. They can watch ships leaving wakes on the water surface after they depart from the nearby Takeshiba Passenger Terminal and airplanes touching down at Haneda Airport.

They can also see a wide variety of vehicles, ranging from Shinkansens, monorail trains and cars to cranes used at construction sites.

Tsuneo Shibusawa, 63, has been watching the transition of Tokyo from the observatory over the years.

“During the asset-inflated economy (of the 1980s and early 1990s), I saw real estate industry professionals who were looking for vacant plots of land from here with a map in their hands,” he said.

Shibusawa landed a job at a company that manages the WTCB in 1980 and has experienced many events over the past 40 years.

When buildings of the same name in the United States were destroyed during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he became worried that the WTCB could also be similarly targeted.

And when the elevators stopped soon after the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, he had to climb the stairs from the fourth floor to the 40th floor, where the observatory is located.

The vistas have also changed. As the lights of buildings increased in number, the Seaside Top became known as a spot with a panoramic night view.

Shibusawa recommends visiting the observatory on weekdays to see the night view because office buildings are brightly lit up. With more and more high-rise buildings rising in the surrounding areas, Asakusa and other districts have gone out of sight.

But the developed waterfront district of Odaiba can be seen well.

“There was nothing there when I joined the company, but now it has become bustling,” he said.

Shibusawa thinks it is a waste to demolish and replace the building, but he is also delighted to see a new landmark added to the skyline of the ever-changing city.

The Seaside Top observatory is directly linked to Hamamatsucho Station on the JR and Tokyo Monorail lines and Daimon Station on the Toei Oedo Line. Admission is 620 yen ($5.80) for high school students or older, 360 yen for junior high school and elementary school students and 260 yen for preschoolers.