Ask most Tokyoites about the Chiba Port Tower, and you are likely to be greeted with blank stares. Far behind its Tokyo-area tower brothers (Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Tower, and the Yokohama Landmark Tower) in terms of prestige, the Chiba Port Tower is firmly meted in obscurity. And for that I'm glad, because it keeps the crowds down when I'm there.
Built in 1986 to commemorate Chiba Prefecture's population reaching the 5 million people threshold, the tower is 125 meters tall. It overlooks the port in Chiba Bay, providing guests beautiful seascape or cityscape options that are particularly nice at sunset. From the top, it is possible to see sites such as the Tokyo Skytree, Shinjuku, the Rainbow Bridge, and on a clear day (read: winter), Mt. Fuji.
Unlike its more famous brothers, Chiba Port Tower is just an observation spot. It skips many of the touristy frills and, as a result, keeps the cost low: just ¥410 (¥200 for children) to go up. Behind its mirrored glass exterior, the tower has only four floors: the ground floor, and then three at the top. The middle portion of the body of the tower is hollow, which makes for an interesting perspective on the elevator ride. The architecture is sleek and modern, and the tower's unusual shape makes for interesting observation angles from within.
The top (4th) floor is the observatory. Nothing special here save for the view - just big windows in all directions. It is peaceful in its simplicity and good taste. A small corner is dedicated to some of the historic ships that have come through Chiba Port.
The third floor contains a restaurant called Café La Plage, an eatery at 109 meters up in the air with food, drinks and plenty of window seats. The café can be reserved for parties.
The second floor is another observatory, this time with some gimmickry. Called the "Lover's Sanctuary," the floor is an ode to coupledom, with seats set together in close pairs near the windows, a blessing from bridal clothing designer Yumi Katsura, and even a place to pray for matters of the heart. Speaking of hearts, you can buy a heart-shaped lock and, after writing you and your loved one's names on it, fasten it onto a window grate for all to see. Is it all a bit cheesy? Absolutely, but it isn't overdone to the point of nausea.
The ground floor contains the obligatory souvenir shop, as well as some information regarding this and other towers in Japan.
If there is a downside to the tower, it is its neighbors. There is a landfill nearby, and one direction of the tower faces the Keiyo Industrial Zone, making for some less-than-scenic images. That shouldn't discourage you, however, as the surrounding Chiba Port Park is quite nice with a beautiful waterfront, and seeing the big boats going by is a fun plus.
The Chiba Port Tower is an underrated experience that should not be forgotten. It can be reached by the fun Chiba Urban Monorail, making for a day that would be nice for a family outing or a date. It also has a very nice Christmas light display starting in mid-November each year. The tower is a 15 minute walk from the West Exit of Chiba Minato Station, which is serviced by the monorail as well as the JR Keiyo Line.