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4) Overpass the Sky Garden

Meguro Sky Garden: Perhaps the World's Best Freeway Junction


In a perfect world, as far as is concerned, elevated freeways would not exist. Freeway junctions — which typically congeal in the sky as a mess of concrete and steel and make vast swathes of land not only unwalkable, but largely unusable — tend to be even worse.

However, if we must live with elevated freeways, Meguro Sky Garden (目黒天空庭園) very well could be the world's best freeway interchange. Although an architecture critic might lament its large scale and perhaps its interaction with its surrounding neighborhood — its back side toward the canal could be improved with street-facing retail, for example — but as freeway interchanges go, it's remarkably delightful on foot.

First opened on March 30, 2013, and winner of multiple awards that year for its design, Meguro Sky Garden is built essentially as a green cap in an "O-Path" (目黒大橋) shape on top of what has been branded the Ohashi Green Junction (大橋グリーンジャンクション) for vehicular traffic. Meguro Sky Garden provides around 7,000 square meters (75,000 square feet or so) of green space with hundreds of trees, flowers, and other plants, and even garden patches set aside for children and other nearby residents to grow fruit, vegetables, and rice.

Because of extensive sound insulation, there is little road noise in Meguro Sky Garden so it is easy to forget that you effectively are on top of an elevated freeway. Because of the relative quiet and the attractive green environment, it not only makes living nearby possible, but also makes it pleasant. In turn, because the freeway junction is pleasant, instead of making adjacent land effectively worthless like so many other elevated freeways, it made it possible to develop the nearby land and no doubt had the potential to subsidize the construction cost of the entire 1.08 billion yen (roughly US$10 million or so) project.

Accordingly, there are two relatively expensive condo buildings attached to Meguro Sky Garden — the 27-story Prism Tower and the 42-story Cross Air Tower. Prism Tower is connected via its fifth floor just to the right of the entrance of the Meguro Sky Garden, and the Cross Air Tower is connected via its ninth floor on the other side of the development. Cross Air Tower also hosts a public library with a direct connection into the garden as well as a high-quality grocery store named LIFE (ライフ目黒大橋店). LIFE is on the ground floor of Cross Air Tower facing the street and is well designed with those on foot in mind.

It is a safe bet that Meguro Sky Garden will continue to become better and better known over time. However, when first wrote this piece, it had yet to surpass even the top 500 attractions for Tokyo on the big tourist advisory sites, and it very much feels like a hidden gem. On multiple morning visits, we practically had the place to ourselves. If you are interested in unique urbanism, it is definitely a must-see place.

There seems to be some confusion online about the opening hours of Meguro Sky Garden, but based on the sign at the entrance and the city's official Japanese website, the garden is open from 7 AM to 9 PM. On the other hand, the interior sports facilities in the middle of the ground floor "ring" close at 5 PM in colder months and 7 PM in warmer months. Be sure to double check the official hours before your visit to avoid potential disappointment.

To eat nearby, our preferred option always has been to buy a picnic lunch at LIFE downstairs and eat in Meguro Sky Garden itself. In close proximity, there also is a beautiful French-inspired pastry shop, L'atelier MOTOZO (ラトリエモトゾー), and a well-regarded ramen joint, Yakumo (八雲), in addition to dozens of other options near the metro station.

Please note that the aerial photograph of Meguro Sky Garden is a photo of a photo from the management office, edited and recolorized by and provided for context.

How to Get Here: Take the Tokyu Den-en-toshi Line (DT) to Ikejiri-ohashi Station (DT02). Ikejiri-ohashi is one stop from Shibuya (DT01). Only the Semi-Express train stops at this station. The Express train does not stop. Also note that Tokyu is a separate rail company from Tokyo Metro, Toei Metro, and JR East Rail. From Ikejiri-ohashi Station, take the East Exit (東口) and turn right. Meguro Sky Garden will be on your right in about a block and a half (just past the canal).

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  • Writing & Photos By Brock Kyle. All Rights Reserved. Verification Published 11 January 2019. Feedback.