Odaiba – now and then
Odaiba is one of the most attractive areas of Tokyo. Nowadays, the area that once was just a landfill has now developed into a place full of things to do and visited by millions each year as interesting new attractions pop up one after the other. Odaiba, although very close to central Tokyo is essentially a day-trip but with enough to see and do that a one or two night stay is by no means out of the question. Indeed, Odaiba makes a good base from which to visit other places in Tokyo.
Odaiba began life as a six-gun battery barrier, or arsenal, put in place by the Edo era (1603-1867) Shogunate to protect it against foreign ships coming too close to the city. Much has now gone but the third battery remains in place below Rainbow Bridge and has been designated a national historical landmark, The gun placement is open for observation and is set in a pleasant area to take a stroll.
There are several ways to access Odaiba and modes of transport include buses, waterbuses (ferries), the Rinakai Line, and more. Try the Yurikamome, a line running from Shimbashi Station. The Yurikamome Line was opened 10 years ago and will be extended to include a stop at Toyosu Station come March, 2006, a point that will enable passengers to change to the Tokyo Metro Yurakucho Line. By buying a eOne-day Open Pass,’ unlimited use of the Yurikamome is permissible and cuts out the need to purchase a ticket at every stop you decide to get off. After departing Shimbashi, when passing Shibaura-futo Station, and crossing Rainbow Bridge, the view is of Odaiba floating atop the waters of Tokyo Bay and makes for a magnificent scene. Looking to the south west, it may be possible to see Mount Fuji in the still air of a clear winter’s day.
Aomi Station and its surrounds
When disembarking at Aomi Station, the ninth stop from Shimbashi, a look at the nearby giant Ferris wheel makes you realize just how big it really is. Not surprisingly, the wheel is one of the main landmarks in Odaiba.
Begin a walk around this area by visiting VenusFort. Once inside, start to feel old world as you find yourself in an astonishing Medieval European town. Essentially a theme park interspersed with fountains, real wedding chapels, and their plazas, VenusFort contains 140 shops selling everything from the latest fashions to jewelry, cosmetics to designer variety goods, and a coffee shop or restaurant is never far away. The ceiling continuously changes in appearance and features images of morning blue, sunset, and nightfall. A day spent in VenusFort is like a day spent in 18th century Europe.
From November 12th, 2005 to March 14th, 2006, visitors to VenusFort will see an elegant display of illumination and lights combining under the theme “Dream Planets,” a Milky Way of stars in VenusFort’s ‘other sky.’ This mixture of stars will intoxicate with their twinkling yet fiery colors.
Another plus to visiting was introduced last month when the Chinese Ginren Card first appeared on Dec. 12th, 2005. Its use will be greatly appreciated as it can be used in 46 shops and offers tax free shopping at 30.
After VenusFort, walk to Sun Walk, located beneath VenusFort. The concept of this shopping mall is “a walk on a sunny path,” but the mall itself contains far more than a mere path. A large numbers of outlets offering children’s clothing await at Dear Kid’s Park, and a wide range of pet related goods in addition to animals themselves can be purchased at one of the largest pet stores in the capital.
MEGA WEB, adjacent to the VenusFort complex is a car themed spot with approximately 150 kinds of car displayed. Many Toyota models are on permanent display at Toyota City Showcase and the newest models and remodeled cars are displayed at the same time as they are released. A ride in one of these cars can be had for just 300 yen at the Ride On, but prior booking is required – reservations can be made 1 month ahead of time on the website and a reservation in advance is recommended to help you make the most of your time in Japan. (http://www.megaweb.gr.jp/index.html) With displays and exhibitions centered on Toyota sports cars, hybrid cars and the company’s user-friendly advanced technology, MEGA WEB is the place to see for car lovers.
The giant Odaiba Ferris Wheel is 115-meters in height and an amazing 100-meters in diameter making it one of the largest such wheels in the world. From the top of the wheel those taking the round trip can see Rainbow Bridge, the Shinjuku high-rise complexes to the west and as far out as the Boso Peninsula (Chiba Prefecture) on a sunny day. A full rotation takes just 16 minutes so why not give it a go?
Tokyo Leisureland, next to the Ferris wheel, is another biggie – one of the largest complex leisure facilities in Tokyo. Well known are the range of instant photo machines which will help you make tiny stickers. (called prikura) The collection here is unrivaled in Japan so make the most of the opportunity and make your own prikura as a memento of Odaiba? With various attractions, Ninja-Karakuri-Yashiki offers something for everyone – from child to adult.
Odaiba Kaihin Koen Station / Daiba
If you next walk down towards, and pass the Tokyo Rinkai Line, the Teleport Station, and walk along the Teleport Bridge, before long, you will find yourself at Yurikamome Odaiba Kaihin Koen Station. Daiba Park, or Daiba Historic Park No.3 – site of the third gun battery and very close to the station on foot.
Gaze out at the sea from the wooden terrace of DECKS Tokyo Beach, and you are hit with the exciting feeling that you are on vacation at a high class resort – in the middle of a city! See Rainbow Bridge from close up or bimble around the two malls: “Seaside Mall” and “Island Mall,” if in need of shops to visit, snacks or meals and entertainment. Or, like taking a step back to the Japan of the 1950s, Daiba Ichome Shotengai Shopping Street is a venue at which the fun never seems to die. Replicated 1950s Tokyo streets, authentic in every detail will have you feeling as if you have taken a mental step back half a century even if the body remains in the present. Of particular note on this mental trip are the picture-story shows (check in advance for timings) and Begoma Dojo (old Japanese toy school) – opened every second weekend. A feel for exoticism? – Try “Little Hong Kong, Odaiba.” For activities based on virtual reality – “Tokyo Joypolis” with its many attractions that aren’t really there but exist in virtual reality space.
Walking along the wooden deck terrace, you will reach Mediage. Relax by seeing that movie you’ve been wanting to watch in Cinema Mediage. The newest products of Sony are displayed at the Sony Style Shop on the third and fourth floors and those dropping in can experience the principle of science and Sony’s latest digital technology at Sony ExploraScience on the fifth floor.
All is not technology and shopping mind, if in the mood for food, Odaiba’s Aqua City is the place to go. A positive down side though is the perplexing choice you face as some 50 restaurants all offer their wares in types of food including Japanese, sushi, Western, Italian, Chinese, and Korean barbeque. Furthermore, ‘Ramen Kokugikan,’ a ramen based theme park, was added to the line-up from 2005. Cafes are also scattered around and a food court offers a bit of everything while a large number of the restaurants offer the backdrop of Tokyo Bay.
With over 80 shops selling a unique variety of goods, fashions, food, and souvenirs you won’t be disappointed. The shops have a wide range of interesting goods for children and adults alike and take into account both genders. Useful, and easy to understand floor guide brochures are available in English, Chinese and Korean and announcements in the facilities are made in English, Chinese and Korean as well as Japanese. The view from the third floor Statue of Liberty Terrace is remarkable and many people like to have their pictures taken with the Statue of Liberty and Rainbow Bridge in the background – but two of the highlights of Odaiba. A glimpse of Mount Fuji on a clear day triggers an instinctive oohing and awing and sunset leaking out from between the city’s skyscrapers as stars start their show provide for rare but stunningly romantic scenery.
Every Wednesday in Odaiba is Ladies Day and is centered on women receiving discounts on movie tickets at Cinema Mediage and many other benefits at Aqua City Odaiba, DECKS Tokyo Beach, VenusFort and Hotel Nikko Tokyo. It’s great being a woman.
On the other side of Aqua City can be seen the main Fuji Television building. 100 meters at its peak and with 25 floors, the panoramic oceanfront view from the spherical observation deck is fantastic.
A full day of Odaiba fun and frolics can be tiring so a stay at a local hotel is not at all a bad idea. Once checked in – all that’s left is the relaxation yet to come. Hotel Nikko Tokyo and Le Meridien Grand Pacific Tokyo are just a couple of the hotels in the area to choose from. Hotel Nikko Tokyo offers an ocean view from every room and is based on an urban resort atmosphere. Tokyo Bay is visible from the lobby at the back of the entrance hall and each room has breathtaking scenes of Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo Bay. The glittering view of skyscrapers in the center of Tokyo against the night sky is another feature worth the wait for nightfall. Le Meridien Grand Pacific Tokyo was designed with the notion of becoming the 21st arrondissement of Paris. Its European atmosphere is simply elegant.
Museum of Maritime Science / Telecom Center
The morning sky is oftentimes clear and blue in Odaiba and an accompanying chilly wind both alerts and awakens. For a second day in the area lets check out some other locales.
After a hotel breakfast, why not take a leisurely walk to the Museum of Maritime Science? The Museum was built on the theme “the culture of the ship and the sea.” Many items and models explain the mechanisms and layouts of ships as well as individual history and are exhibited throughout the museum. The Japanese Antarctic exploration ship, “Soya,” is also at the museum.
The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation is a hands-on museum where visitors can touch state-of-the-art science and technology. Various events are held based on the theme of “creating a new dream for the 21st century.” Many events are held annually so feel free to join any one of them if it so piques your interest. Japanese Astronaut Mamoru Mori is this museum’s curator.
Tokyo Port Museum is a museum where visitors can learn about the history of Tokyo Bay and future plans for the redevelopment of the Tokyo Bay area. Learn via large-scale models, films, and aerial photos. The museum is located 100 meters above ground and its front area is glass-walled, so the museum offers great views of the Bay. Take some time to enjoy the view.
Another attraction can be reached after you walk for about 2 minutes from the Yurikamome Line to get to the Telecom Center Station then to the Oedo-Onsen Monogatari (Hot Spring). A theme-park hot spring based on the Edo era culture, after receiving a paper key (a ticket of sorts) at the front desk, choose your favorite yukata at “Echigo-Ya” and change clothes. At this point your water based “tour of Edo” begins. Enjoy various baths, such as the “Natural Hot Spring Big Bath” which resembles a public bath dating from the Edo period. Other baths include the “Outdoor Hot Spring Bath,” and “Mist Sauna.” “Foot Bath,” – encountered by walking barefoot in a shallow bath while wearing the yukata – meant to stimulate the energy points in your feet, it is an effective way of restoring lost energy. Walk the streets, take in the atmosphere of old Edo and you’ll be feeling like a native of the city in no time.
Now we head towards Kokusai Tenjijo Seimon Station from Telecom Station.
Tokyo Big Site / Ariake
Get off the Yurikamome at Kokusai Tenjijo Seimon Station. An example of unique architecture, this is the Tokyo Big Sight. The Big Sight is the largest convention center in Japan, is fully equipped with restaurants, and shops and over 280 exhibitions and events are held here throughout the year. Why not check for interesting events in the near future on the website? Tokyo International Anime Fair, held from Saturday, March 25th to Sunday 26th, is a must-see for the anime buff.
Wanza Ariake Bay Mall is on the opposite side of the Tokyo Big Site – across the Yurikamome line. Shower Tree 35, one of the largest indoor waterfalls in the world, can be seen there and features around 2 tons of water cascading down from a height of 35 meters over a period of 7 minutes. This magnificent water show, to lights and music can be seen every hour.
AstroWall is a big screen, is on the way to Kokusai Tenjijo Station on the Rinkai Line. The dynamic images displayed on the screen are fascinating and the Panasonic Center, hosts of the AstroWall, offers a hands-on experience so you can see and touch the latest Panasonic products. There are many things to see at Ubiquitous Digital Network Showcase and Environmental Showcase. At the Nintendo Game Front, you can enjoy Nintendo game software but if dinosaurs are your thing, go to the Dinosaur Factory inside the Panasonic Center and experience dinosaur fossil research.
2 days in Odaiba just fly by and the time is up before you know it. Time to head back to the center of Tokyo from Kokusai Tenjijo Station on the Rinkai Line.