The Odaiba Enigma
A stone’s throw from central Tokyo but rarely crowded. What’s up with this place?
Escape within the City
Most of my time in Japan is spent in the city. I live close enough to Tokyo; the bustling metropolis filled with old tradition and new technology- exactly what the usual traveler comes to expect. Time off is spent looking for ways to get out of the rush, but one such find was a little closer to home than I had imagined.
As a now-regular visitor, I first came to Odaiba with friends whilst on holiday. Searching for something to satiate our video-gaming thirst, we found Joypolis, an indoor theme-park run by Sega. It was here that one of my lifelong dreams came true- I met Sonic The Hedgehog. Speaking little Japanese at that time, I gushed to him that I had been waiting for this day since I was an 8-year old girl, playing on her new Sega Megadrive. I doubt he understood, but that didn’t matter to me.
Joypolis itself is a masterpiece. A relatively small-looking building from the outside, we didn’t expect much. Inside lay a restaurant, a performance stage, around 12 different rides and hundreds of games, all across 3 floors. Ever wanted to see what you would look like with your face on a manatee? Your dreams await. We fought zombies whilst spinning upside down, got fairly wet on a jungle ride, rode a half-pipe and bought all the Sega merchandise we could carry home.
The second time Odaiba became my go-to destination was on a beautiful winter night. My parents had come to visit me for a few weeks and I desperately wanted to take them somewhere special for dinner. Aqua City in Odaiba is a relatively large shopping centre, with two upper floors for fine dining. Checking into a steak-house called Brooklyn Bloom, the friendly waiter showed us to the window seat.
I’ll always remember the look on my parents’ faces when they took in the view. The Rainbow Bridge was lit up, prominent and bold against a backdrop of ominous skyscrapers and twinkling office blocks. As tour boats bobbed across the Sumida River below, everything reflected across the waves. My mother was right, it looked just like a movie.
On my most recent venture to Odaiba, I headed to the Emerging Science Museum. Museums might be seen as a safe resting place for the artifacts of history, a place to be admired by curious visitors and to have a cosy home. The Emerging Science museum definitely has historical pieces, but the real attraction here is the future.
Honda showcases some of it’s finest creations, from a new way to travel and a massive globe, to the news reporter androids. Most displays are bilingual (Japanese and English) and there are guides available in several languages for you to take around. Split over 6 floors, they have a cafe, a Dome Theatre showing some of the progressions in science across the fields of space, time and mechanics (for this year at least). Dome tickets must be booked in advance for the most part, unless you get lucky on the day.
The highlight and indeed, the most famed piece here is the Globe- created by the scientists at Honda, this shape-shifting artwork displays a moving, breathing planet, being the closest you can get- save going up in a U2 plane or a rocket- to seeing the world from space. Here you can lie on a sofa underneath the planet, watching the world turn, or through the use of clever displays, find out how many people are tweeting ‘happy birthday!’ right now. (Note:It’s a lot more than you probably think)
Those who love space will also love the international space station (ISS) display which takes you on a tour of one of their shuttle-sectors. Want to see where Astronauts go to the toilet? You’re in the right place. Did you know that Astronauts sleep standing up? Velcro fixes them to the wall to stop them from floating away while they dream.
If you care about the environment, disease, how the human race came to be, or even about Neutrinos- the displays and interactive pieces here are fun and interesting. I learned a lot and I got to see some of the technology that lets us go into outer space, or which keeps us safe here on earth.
For those of us who love to shop, Diver City and Aqua City are two mighty malls filled with designer brands, Japanese kitsch stores and food. Mountains and mountains of food. Gundam fans can also head to Odaiba- a massive working model rests just outside the shopping centre. Food-wise, a treasure trove of delicacies can be sampled from Traditional Japanese, Yaki-Niku, Thai, Buffet, Italian or even French cuisine.
Rainbow Bridge looks impressive night-and-day and can be accessed via car, monorail or even on foot. At night, this constructional work of art gets lit up to the delight of those who grab a drink at the docks. Traveling via monorail, I love looking back at the bright lights of Odaiba, the river swelling beneath my feet and the cars whizzing past me.
After so many trips to Odaiba, one might think there isn’t anything left to experience, but you would be totally wrong. From an extensive car-showroom, a Guinness World-Record-holding Ferris Wheel (Which is absolutely terrifying, by the way), Madame Tussaud’s and even a Legoland, it will be very difficult to get bored of this place.
Odaiba has become one of my favourite places in Tokyo. Despite attracting a reasonable number of visitors everyday and even being somewhat of a commuter-hub, this location rarely seems crowded. Maybe the wide, open spaces it boasts provide Odaiba with the feeling of being very far removed from the usual city chaos. One final recommendation – Come here hungry.
by Emma Price
June 15, 2016