Odaiba is a place that was meant for night owls.
Monique and I visited during the day and, overall, we weren’t that impressed. Maybe it was because the day was horribly overcast and smoggy but Odaiba seemed like Tokyo stripped of all it’s charm – a tourist trap laid bare.
But then sunset came – the Tokyo Ferris Wheel (Daikanransha) lit up, the Rainbow Bridge twinkled into light and the Gundam’s eyes flashed on. Nightfall muted the blunt concrete facade of the island and instead highlighted the manicured lawns and trees. Across the bay the neon lights of Tokyo shimmered on the ocean.
Odaiba’s charm definitely shines best at night.
So even if you’re visiting to do ‘daytime’ things like LegoLand or Madame Tussauds wax museum visit in the late afternoon so that you can be there after sundown.
Odaiba Islands: Defending Tokyo
Odaiba Island started as a set of six man-made fort islands that were built by Egawa Hidetatsu for the Tokugawa Shogunate at the end of the Edo period to protect Tokyo from attacks by sea. The word ‘daiba’ refers to the cannon batteries that were originally placed on the six islands.
More than a century later, during the prosperous 1980’s, the six islands were joined by massive landfill and an ambitious development project began that aimed to turn the island into a futuristic residential and business district.
Unfortunately due to the collapse of the bubble economy in the early 90’s the project came to a halt leaving Odaiba almost vacant. Close to the turn of the century Odaiba developed into a tourist attraction after a few hotels and shopping malls were built, and the elevated Yurikamome train line was established.
Today Odaiba is a popular shopping and entertainment district that features tourist attractions such as:
- Decks Beach Tokyo – an artificial seaside town
- Aquacity Odaiba – a shopping and eating complex
- Diver City Tokyo Plaza – featuring the Gundam
- Rainbow Bridge – connecting Tokyo to Odaiba
- The Museum of Maritime Science
- The National Museum of Emerging Science
- Oedo Onsen Monogatari – an onsen that imitates the style of onsen in the Edo period and;
- Palette Town, featuring:
- Venus Fort Shopping Complex
- The Toyota Mega Web
- The Tokyo Ferris Wheel – Daikanransha
Finally Odaiba is one of only two places (along with Minato Mirai 21) in the Greater Tokyo Metropolitan area where access to the seashore is not blocked by industry or harbour development.
LegoLand: some age-inappropriate fun
Our primary reason for visiting Odaiba was to visit Legoland. On our way there we came across this shop near Aquacity and couldn’t resist taking a photo:The fact that those condoms are named ‘Lubey,’ ‘Pokey,’ and ‘Ribber’ and are in a ‘band’ called ‘The Prophylactics’ sent me over the edge: I ended up having a five minute laughing fit.
Legoland was vastly age-inappropriate and aimed, primarily, at children aged 3-12. Most of the interactive attractions were based around stimulating basic senses (sight, sound, and touch) and all stood at around knee-height! But it was still worth it.
In the centre of LegoLand is ‘Miniland’ which is a Lego replica of many of Tokyo’s famous monuments and buildings. Miniland includes replicas of Odaiba, Tokyo Tower, the Skytree, Rainbow Bridge, the Sumo Stadium, and Shibuya crossing:It’s an incredibly detailed diorama that moves between day and night time. The night time phase features fireworks simulated by lasers!
We also rode on the ‘Kingdom Quest’ ride – a live-action computer game. You ride in a cart that’s loaded with two lazer guns and shoot Lego enemies that are projected onto the walls. It was awesome fun. At the end a camera shoots a picture of your ride and if you’re not prepared the results can be amusing:
While I clearly have no clue what’s happening Monique had, just a microsecond earlier, realised that a photo was going to be taken. Hence the masterpiece you see above. This is one of our fridge magnets now.
We finished up by using one of those automatic camera booths to take silly photos of ourselves. These things are designed to be used by pre-teen girls who want to look doll-perfect and cute. This is what our photo looks like:
Once we’d finished at LegoLand for the day we went in search of Daikanransha. We found it along with something we weren’t expecting: the Venus Fort shopping centre.
Venus Fort Shopping Complex and Daikanransha
The Venus Fort Shopping centre is a weird place. Not because of what it sells but because of how it looks. The entire complex is made to imitate Venice in the 18th century and I don’t think ‘half-assed’ was in the designers vocabulary.
Venus Fort comes complete with statues, fountains, imitation stone floor, and a false roof that imitates the sky (including clouds) that moves regularly between day and night. I read somewhere that the day/night cycle is set to every half an hour, so in Venus Fort, the sun sets and rises 16 times a day!We didn’t buy anything here but it was entertaining just to walk around. We had some lunch in the food court (the food was average) and then set out to find Daikanransha – luckily it was just next door.
Daikanransha is a 115 metre (or 377ft) ferris wheel that’s located in Palette Town along with several other attractions. When it opened in 1999 it was the world’s tallest ferris wheel but lost the title shortly after in March 2000 when the London Eye opened. Today it’s the third tallest ferris wheel in Japan and the second tallest in operation. It’s Asia’s 10th tallest and the world’s 12th tallest ferris wheel ever constructed.
Did I mention that I’m not fond of heights?
The last time I went on a ferris wheel (the London Eye) I swore that I was done with this ‘ferris wheel business.’ Yet I found myself purchasing a ticket and stepping onto Daikanransha. I’m not sure exactly what happened.
The view from the wheel is amazing and I’m sure even more impressive on a day with nice weather or late at night but, honestly, I was absolutely shitting myself the whole way around. I took a million (awful) photos just to try and distract myself.
At one point when we were nearing the apex of the wheel I heard this light tinkling sound coming from the metal struts of the wheel and I had an awful memory – using our mop to clean our floors and hearing the same tinkling sound. When I pressed down hard to start mopping, the mop snapped in half pouring what appeared to be red sand onto the floor.
I tried to remain calm. And the fact that I’m here today to write about it is proof that Daikanransha didn’t ‘let us down’, so to speak. But it was definitely a brown-pants moment.While we were up there we noticed the location of Diver City and the Gundam. Once we’d finished on the ferris wheel we set off in it’s direction, still buzzing from the adrenaline.
By this point dusk was falling over Odaiba and the sun had nearly dropped below the horizon. The street lights were twinkling on and the island was starting to woo us with it’s suave and I thought to myself, ‘maybe Odaiba isn’t so bad after all?’
Next post: The Gundam
Until next time,
Kally & Mon.
There are three ways to visit Odaiba. This includes train (Yurikamome and Rinkai lines), boat (the Tokyo Water Bus) and on foot.
For the Yurikamome Line (which incidentally is the one we took) you should transfer at Yamanote Shimbashi station and alight at the Yurikamome Daiba stop. As this train is elevated and on rubber tires the trip can sometimes feel a bit precarious, especially over the water! The trip will take 15 minutes and costs 310 Yen. If you cross at night the Rainbow Bridge will be lit up and the journey offers some incredible views of Tokyo and the water.
For the Rinkai Line transfer at Yamanote Osaki station and alight at the Tokyo Teleport station. Incidentally once on Odaiba this will connect you with the JR Keiyo line. The trip will take 25 minutes and will cost you 480 Yen. In addition to this the Japan Rail Pass is not valid on the Rinkai line between Osaki and Shin-Kiba.
The Tokyo Water Bus offers boats between the Odaiba Seaside Park and Hinode Pier where there are connections to Asakusa. The ride takes 20 minutes and will cost 460 Yen. There are also boats from Hinode Pier that connect with Palette Town and Tokyo Big Sight. These will take 25-35 minutes and cost 400 Yen.
You can walk to Odaiba over the Rainbow Bridge if you want to. The walk takes 30-45 minutes and the pedestrian path starts a short walk from Shibaura-futo station along the Yurikamome on the ‘Tokyo side’ of the bridge. If you’re walking back from Odaiba the path starts at Kaihinkoen Station. Bicycles are not allowed.
[Feature Image Credit: Monique Nielsen]
[Image Credit (1): Wikipedia]
[Image Credit(2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10): Monique Nielsen]
[Image Credit (7): Ilya Genkin]
[Image Credit (11,12): Japan Guide]
What was your favourite attraction on Odaiba Island?