For anyone looking for a weekend trip, the futuristic and scenic district of Odaiba is a great pick that offers a wild amount of options in shopping, restaurants, and outdoor or indoor activities. Whether you’re on a date or with your family, there is most definitely something for you. Androids, giant robots, and an 18th-century European town are just some of the sights you’ll experience while in Odaiba.
What Is It?
Odaiba is an artificial island in Tokyo Bay. It was originally built in 1853 as a defensive fort against Mathew Perry and his Black Ships, which had just arrived that very same year. As you might have guessed, it didn’t work out for them. Most of the islands were removed or refurbished into parks and opened to the public throughout the 1900s. It wasn’t until the 1990s did then Tokyo governor Shunichi Suzuki begin to redevelop Odaiba as Tokyo Teleport Town, hyping it as a futuristic commercial and living space like something out of a Doctor Who episode.
Unfortunately, by 1995 one trillion yen had already been spent on the project, and all Shunichi had to show for it was vacant lots and World of Tomorrow architecture. It probably didn’t help that he tried to make The Jetsons a reality right around the collapse of Japan’s economic price bubble.
Most companies that had invested in Odaiba promptly went bankrupt. It was also considered an inconvenient location. Salarymen were not keen on the idea of trekking out to the middle of Tokyo Bay every morning. Things were not looking good for Odaiba by the time Shunichi’s successor halted the project.
Then, by some miracle, several hotel chains and shopping malls began to spring up around the island. Large companies like Fuji Television even moved their headquarters into Odaiba’s lonely Buck Rogers-inspired skyscrapers. Tokyo Big Site, originally conceived for intercity conventions, grew into one of Tokyo’s major venues for international expositions. More train lines and access points became available, and today, Odaiba is one of Tokyo’s premier entertainment and leisure districts.
What Can You Do?
You could spend your whole day shopping and exploring between Venus Fort, Diver City, Aqua City, and Decks. Venus Fort is a shopping mall styled after an 18th century European city. There are hundreds of fashion stores, restaurants, and cafes. It’s located in Palette Town, a massive shopping and entertainment complex that also includes Toyota Mega Web, a free to access Toyota showroom and museum with dozens of beautiful vintage cars and racers. Palette Town is also home to Daikanransha, one of the world’s tallest ferris wheels, and Zepp Tokyo, a popular music venue.
Diver City is another shopping mall, but has a lot more affordable brands compared to the posh boutiques found in Venus Fort. It’s also ideal for picking up souvenirs like exclusive “Odaiba Rainbow Pocky”. The giant Gundam statue, Odaiba most famous landmark is also found in front of Diver City. Like the images above, the statue used to be of the RX-78-2 model, but has since been upgraded to the Unicorn Gundam model. At night, it puts on cute light show when it transforms to “destroy mode”.
The other shopping malls in Odaiba, Aqua City and Decks, offer amazing views from the wooden deck facing Tokyo Bay. Decks is also home to numerous indoor theme parks including Legoland, Madam Tussauds Wax Museum, Tokyo Trick Art, and Joypolis. Joypolis is a Sega fan’s fever dream. Attractions include zero latency VR games and experiences, a 360-degree rotating bob-sleigh simulator, and a giant two-person snowboarding ride attached to a half-pipe.
Odaiba Kaihin-koen, a seaside park popular on warm and sunny days, has beautiful views of the bay and Rainbow Bridge. It’s also where you can spot a minature Statue of Liberty. Another popular Odaiba getaway is Oedo Onsen, a hot spring theme park designed with Edo Period aesthetic. It’s also home to the largest Japanese garden in all of the Tokyo metropolitan area.
Museums include the Museum of Maritime Science — which is shaped like a cruise ship — the Sony ExploraScience Museum (really, Sony?), and the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, also known as Miraikan.
Exhibits at Miraikan are for the most part aimed at kids, interactive, and offered in both Japanese and English. Other prominent exhibits include Asimov presentations throughout the day, and the high resolution “Geo-Cosmos” globe — which upon seeing, President Obama was heard saying, “As far as I know, we don’t have one of those cool globes.” Top men have been trying to confirm this ever since.
What Can You Eat?
Most if not all of the restaurants in Odaiba can be found in the aforementioned shopping malls. If you’re on a budget, the Diver City food court or American favorite Taco Bell in Decks are your best bet. For a more unique dining experience there is the Takoyaki Museum in Decks and the Ramen “Theme Park” in Aqua City for various styles and flavors or takoyaki and ramen.
You can also find more Western staples such as Red Lobster and T.G.I. Friday’s on the 4th floor of Aqua City. There are also other Japanese-style restaurants serving up yakiniku or sushi on this floor as well.
Where Is It?
There are a number of ways to reach Odaiba. The Yurikamome Line is the most scenic, offering beautiful views of the sea and Rainbow Bridge. It connects to Shimbashi Station on the Yamanote Line and Toyosu Station on the Yurakucho Subway Line and stops at most of Odaiba’s most notable attractions. You can also access Odaiba via Tokyo Teleport and Kokusai Tenjijo by way of the Rinkai Line from Osaki Station and Shin-Kiba Station.
Tokyo Water Bus offers a unique way to travel between Odaiba Seaside Park and Hinode Pier. Boats are also available with direct connections to Asakusa. If all else fails you could always just walk to Odaiba via the Rainbow Bridge. The pedestrian path starts at Shibaura-futo Station and ends at Odaiba Kaihinkoen Station. The trip takes about 40-minutes and bicycles are not allowed. Keep in mind that it gets pretty loud and windy up there too.