And so begins my final day in Tokyo… for 5 days, and then I’m back again 🙂 And it turns out there’s no better place to finish the first part of my trip than Odaiba. Tokyo’s ultra modern shopping and entertainment waterfront district, it’s home to many mega-malls, mini theme parks and… well… giant robots. I knew this was going to be an all dayer with the sheer amount of things to do here so I got up early and jumped on the subway.
My first stop was a place called Megaweb, which is essentially a Toyota car show room! Although labeling it simply as this barely does it justice. It’s like a car theme park, with exhibits, rides, even a huge test track that runs around and through the complex. And it’s entirely free.
I had a go on a few of the attractions including a Toyota safety feature simulator using an Oculus, a moving rally driving simulator that was used to illustrate how much further a hybrid can drive than a petrol car on the same amount of fuel and a safe driving simulator where I drove from Odaiba to Asakasa that gives you a score based on how safely you drove. All sounds very boring and educational, I’m sure, but the equipment they used to illustrate everything made it really fun.
As for the test track, you need an international driving license or one from a country that drives on the left, which obviously I have, but I didn’t fancy getting involved with all the insurance paperwork to have a go! Plus there was PLENTY more to do!
Next up, I walked through the adjoining Palette Town mall. 3 storeys, the bottom being a normal run of the mill mall, the middle being an outlet and the top being the most extravagant mall I’ve ever seen. This place makes the Trafford Centre look like Nakano Broadway (reference to last blog to see if you’re paying attention!).
While there weren’t that many shops of interest, the building also houses the ‘History Garage’- an annex of Toyota Mega Web displaying classic cars. It’s a beautiful museum, with lots on show from some very vintage and classic cars through to cars that might not be THAT old, but are DEFINITELY classics…
After I was satisfied I’d seen all there was to see, I headed to the next complex- Diver City. Probably the main reason I wanted to visit Odaiba (it’ll become apparent why very soon) it’s yet another mega mall with yet another mini theme park inside! It’s also home to the music venue- Zepp Diver City, which is at least famous to me as a place that a lot of upcoming Japanese bands aim to play.
Before I was to ‘dive’ into the mall (haha, geddit? Dive? Diver City? I can’t believe I had to spell that out to you) it was time for some lunch. I headed to the food court and, as with most of the malls I’d visited, walked aimlessly around in circles until something jumped out at me. This time it was a place selling something called okosoba- a type of okonomiyaka with soba noodles on top. I had the Osaka Okosoba and washed it down with a Sakura Pepsi.
While I was sitting enjoying my lunch, I turned my head and saw what I was most looking forward to seeing at Odaiba… an 18 metre tall, 1:1 scale Gundam! That’s a big robot to the uninitiated. Now there was clearly no chance I WASN’T going to find such a huge thing, but it was nice that I didn’t have to search at all! I finished up my pink Pepsi and headed outside to grab a selfie or 2 with the behemoth.
The Gundam’s presence serves as a giant billboard for Diver City’s mini theme park- Gundam Front, an interactive exhibition based on the ridiculously popular (in Japan at least) anime and toy range. And while the theme park itself didn’t interest me, a 60 foot robot is draw enough for anyone. Especially when night falls… which I’ll come back to later!
The next stop on my tour of Odaiba’s offerings was Aqua City. Not a water park as the name might suggest, it’s… you guessed it… another mall! With another attraction in it! And while this mall was a little underwhelming, it’s attraction was worth a visit- The Sony Explorascience Center. Essentially an interactive science museum featuring Sony technology, it may have been a bit more geared to kids in some areas, but it was well worth the 500¥ admission fee.
Once I finished up here, I headed outside to head to the next mall. Stepping out the door I noticed something I didn’t quite expect to see in Tokyo… The Statue Of Liberty! Albeit a much smaller version, Lady Liberty overlooks Tokyo Bay and the city’s most famous bridge- Rainbow Bridge.
The sun was setting, the city’s lights were beginning to come on and the statue overlooking it all made for one of the best views I’ve ever seen. It’s always hard for photographs to fully capture how a view looks in real life, but the fact that I stayed around here for the next 40 minutes admiring the view and watching the sun go down says more than this photo ever could.
Moving on to the 4th and final mall- Decks. Along with shops it houses 2 fairly interesting attractions. First- Tokyo Takoyaki Museum. This is basically just a food court made up of takoyaki restaurants from all over the country. Might not sound that interesting but it was brilliantly themed and the food smelt amazing. Oh and takoyaki is balls of battered octopus btw. It’s actually delicious.
The second, and much more impressive attraction was Sega Joypolis- a multi-storey Sega themed arcade. But this isn’t your regular arcade. Amongst the standard machines and UFO catchers are around a dozen one of a kind attractions that are like a mix between an arcade game and a theme park ride.
These range from the fairly basic like a Sonic the Hedgehog themed laser shooting ghost train to the extreme like a 360 degree looping Wipeout clone. There are also a few that are just so ridiculous they defy belief, like a ride called Halfpipe where 4 teams of 2 are strapped to a pole that swings up and down a halfpipe. The team members have to hit a marker at the same to score more points and go faster and higher than the other teams. Trust me, it looks more ridiculous than that might sound.
Visitors to Joypolis can either pay 900¥ (£6) just to go in and then between 400-800¥ per ride or you can pay 2800¥ for unlimited rides. Looking at the rides, I was unsure how many I could fully enjoy, firstly with me being on my own and secondly with the potential language barrier. So I was about to approach the ticket counter and just pay for admission when a lady walked up to me and handed me a leaflet in English along with vouchers for 500¥ entry for foreigners, discount in the gift shop and a free go on a UFO catcher! Sold!
500¥ was worth it just to get to go in and see everything, but I had a couple of attractions that caught me eye. The first one was based on Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney, an awesome crime solving lawyer sim on the DS. From what I could tell it looked like it recreated scenes from the game in real life and you had to find clues and solve the case. Awesome if you’ve played the game. So I walked up to the lady at the counter with my ticket and 500¥ in hand, she looked at me and shook her head.
“Nihongo” she said (translation: “Japanese language”).
“OBJECTION!” I said pointing at her face (if you’ve played the game you’d totally get that and be laughing your behind off right now).
Ok, maybe not, but in reality I looked very disappointed and sulked my way off. At least I got a photo with a life size Phoenix and Miles…
Crestfallen, I wandered the place aimlessly trying to find a ride to go on that didn’t hand a ridiculously massive queue, was in English and that looked worth a go. That was when I felt something whizz past my head. Looking up I saw a rollercoaster track with a 4 inverted and petrified looking Japanese teenagers screaming their way above me… looks like my kinda ride!
‘Veil Of Dark’ is a launched spinning coaster that mixes itself with a house of the dead style shooting game and it works so well that I can’t believe no one else has done it. 4 people sit in the car, which then advances steadily around the track, stopping in 3 different sections where you’re placed in front of a video screen. You have a controller attached to your harness with a trigger and a joystick and are subsequently attacked by mutant zombie things. Once you’ve finished in each area the screen lifts away and your car carries on down the track. Of course, once you get through the last area and beat the boss, EVERYTHING goes wrong and the car is launched out into the main arcade where it spins round, turns upside down and delivers you back to the station. If you can stand the presenter’s voice, here’s a Japanese news report from when the ride opened-
Needless to say it was superb (and out of everyone in my car, I won!). But that was enough excitement for one night, it was almost time to head home (right after I used my free UFO catcher voucher and WON A GUDETAMA SOFT TOY!). But first, I had to revisit my 60ft robot friend…
Once darkness falls, Odaiba’s tallest resident comes to life in a 10 minutes show where a specially created version of the Gundam anime is projected onto the shopping center wall. The statue then lights up, smoke comes out of it’s boosters, it’s head moves and projection mapping is used to make it come alive in time with the video. It’s amazing to see and adds a lot to an already ridiculously impressive sight. It’s well worth hanging around to see and on any other day would have been the absolute highlight, but with everything Odaiba gave me, it was just one of many amazing things I did and saw that day.
Odaiba was the perfect way to end my first stint in Tokyo. It summed up all in one place just how incredible this city is. And the view of Tokyo Bay and Rainbow Bridge at night will stay with me forever. Tomorrow I’m heading down south to Osaka and Kyoto for 4 nights for a bit of a change of pace and at least 1 thing that I’m incredibly excited for (let’s just say I have my glowstick ready!)