The yearly visit to Tokyo’s futuristic island city11 June, 2014 by Chad
Having spent the past two days out of the city, we’d take a break from the scenic sites today with a trip to Odaiba. Despite being theoretically part of Tokyo however Odaiba feels nothing like that. The huge reclaimed island in Tokyo Bay is easily one of my favorite spots in Japan’s capital for its unique atmosphere, leisurely shopping and manmade wonders.
Managed to leave the hotel at 10 in the morning for once so we reached Shimbashi enough to grab something to eat before heading towards Odaiba. Randy wanted to eat something “Japanese” so we found a chain standing sushi bar among the many restaurants outside of the station called Uogashi Nihon-Ichi.
The shop was small, and had only enough space to stand a handful of people. This particular branch of Uogashi Nihon-Ichi was operated by a young, rather good looking chef in his 20s today. Still, he handled the sushi skillfully and even tutored a fellow older chef. The only other person operating the place was a friendly old lady who handled the phone for take out orders and payments on the way out.
Being a chain restaurant, sushi at Uogashi was really cheap! A 780 yen (SGD$9.50) set came with 8 pieces of nigiri sushi, 1 temaki sushi and a bowl of soup. The cuts didn’t disappoint either. While the selection will vary from day to day given that it is up to the chef, at least some medium fatty tuna is ensured. Among our 8 pieces that day we got tuna, sweet shrimp, spear squid, fatty salmon, grated tuna and eel among other things. One new fish we were introduced to was engawa, or flounder belly, and fell in love with its creamy flavor immediately.
Given the selection, such a set would easily cost at least $20 in Singapore, but even then the quality would differ greatly. Sushi can be ordered ala carte, withthe cheapest tier which contains the majority of commonly known sushi like tuna, salmon shrimp and the costing 75 yen (SGD$rtCheap™), with some more expensive sushi costing 100 yen (SGD$1.20) a piece. Randy got some additional engawa and negitoro.
After we were full, took the Yurikamome light rail across the rainbow bridge to the island of Odaiba. Being operated by the separate waterfront company meant that a ticket on the Yurikamome is far costlier than other transportation in Japan (320 yen between Shimbashi and Odaiba) but the scenic ride is worth it if it is your first time.
If you also intend to visit Shiodome in the same day, a marginally cheaper 1 day pass for unlimited travel on the Yurikamome is possible for 820 yen. Alternatively in the off chance that you are staying in Southern corner of Tokyo, there is an underground subway between Oimachi and Odaiba for 270 yen, but for most getting to Oimachi station would be more trouble and possibly expensive than the convenient Shimbashi Station.
Unless you’re visiting the convention centers at Odaiba, most will stop at Odaiba-Kaihinkoen Station. To north are the island’s more couple centric seaside malls, park and boulevards. We’d take the long futuristic bridge south towards the island’s family themed complex and touristy areas first however, stopping only to mess around at the mist fountain at the entrance of Venus Fort.
Venus Fort is a large all-in-one shopping complex on Odaiba that we’ve covered quite a few times already. Between Venus Fort and the new Diver City, it’s entirely possible to spend the entire day just between the two on the southern side of Odaiba. There’s something for everyone at Venus Fort, though it tends to lean towards a family orientation, and while it is only 3 floors high, thanks to the large amount of land on Odaiba, Venus Fort models itself after more Western styled malls, stretching horizontally instead.
The square at Venus Fort commonly holds activities for children. There was a kid inside of a water hamster ball having a bit of a fit since he couldn’t stand up inside without repeatedly falling over. His father was having a great time watching though.
First time seeing this pop up petting zoo here though, so it was either a new addition or a temporary exhibit. Prices were exorbitant though when considering that you could get into proper zoos in Japan for a fraction of the price, but I guess the convenience of having such a place to leave your kids while you shopped outweight the cost. Also, Odaiba tends to attract the more wealthy folk.
We started with the top floor, Venus Outlet, but found nothing of interest there since it housed unpopular local outlet stores (think Bugis Junction). Was more at home on the 2nd floor, Venus Grand where the majority of mainstream brands were located. The second level has a nice atmosphere with a false sky, DisneySea-like music and European themed architecture.
Since he had agreed to a gift exchange, Gage was on the lookout for some potential presents. We spent a good amount of time at the Lego store and another toy store here. Randy was especially amused by these custom dice at a stationery shop.
We came across a special Glay exhibit at one corner of Venus Grand. There was a mini-museum which had photos from their concerts and the cafes here had collaborated to serve special Glay themed refreshments. Some of the restaurants around Venus Grand also offer somewhat Glay inspired or recommended dishes and coasters to great result and ridiculously long queues. Given our familiarity with the AKB48 Cafes, we were hardlys stranger to this exploitation of fandoms for profit.
An empty shop had also temporarily been converted into a screening area for their fans, unsurprisingly entirely women, with the sole exception of one mentally handicapped man who was having the time of his life. No one paid any mind to his outbursts of excitement. While the Japanese are well known for their conformity, one thing I love is also their tolerance for difference, at least when compared to the rest of Asia.
We ended off our visit to Venus Fort with a look around the first floor, Venus Family which housed the Japanese equivalent of Ikea along with a couple of amusement centers and stores catered to children and their more common alternative, pets. Venus Fort is special in that animals are allowed to roam around the mall. There’s a large department store just for pets at the far end of Venus Family, along with a pet store selling popular breeds. Didn’t pick up anything since had gotten a collar for my cat back home in Nagasaki already but there were some premium designs here that were rather tempting.
Leaving Venus Fort, we made our way to the adjacent Tokyo DiverCity. A relatively newer addition to Odaiba, DiverCity is best known for Gundam Front and being the permanent home of the Real Grade 1/1 Gundam Project post March 11. The DiverCity mall is especially popular with tourists thanks to its large collection of popular international and domestic low range luxury brands like Coach, and the Japanese Burberry Labels, as well as plenty of fast fashion outlets like H&M, ZARA and FOREVER21. Thanks to the stiff competition branded apparel usually go for approximately 20% cheaper in Japan, than in most of Asia. Having all the stores in one place, coupled with the novelty of the Gundam statue make DiverCity a convenient stop off point for tour groups.
We didn’t look around much, nor do much personal shopping, since the rest were more in mind of purchasing gifts at this point. Gage picked up some cheap strawberry daifuku from the Daiba Omiyage shop to test first, since he wasn’t sure what he wanted to buy as a gift.
To cater to tourists, there’s an extensive food court at DiverCity. Needing a break, we didn’t look around the rest of the stores on the other floors this afternoon. Instead, we stopped by Krispy Kreme for a break. Randy and Gage were served by a pretty halfie there who spoke English.
Since weren’t in the mood for much shopping, we paid a quick visit to the Gundam statue. Gage hadn’t had the chance to see it yet, since it wasn’t here during his last visit. Didn’t stay around long however since none of us were fans. After, it was a walk over to the other side of Odaiba for the Decks and Aqua City malls.
While Venus Fort and DiverCity target families and tourists respectively, Decks and Aqua City cater more towards couples. The bay front malls are home to boutiques and attractions targeted toward young adults with Aqua City housing many bayside restaurants overlooking Tokyo Bay. The restaurants here are a popular spot among Tokyoites for small wedding banquets, with at least one going on at any given time.
We briefly considered visiting the Madame Tussauds or Trick Art Museums but the prices for both were quite high for such small attractions. Given the time, the money would be better spent at Joypolis. Instead, did more wandering around the Odaiba Itchome Shotengai, the mock vintage street at Decks.
Itchome was relatively unchanged since our last visit. Still it is always interesting to look at the old shops there selling snacks and toys from yesterday. After it was over to Aqua City to check the Capcom store where Randy picked up his Bio Hazard book last time and some of the clothing stores there in search of Gage’s wallet. There was a nice good quality long wallet from United Arrows which I did fancy. It was quite tempting since it was on sale too, but had only started using the Takeo Kikuchi one I bought last year midway into the year.
Wandered towards the pet shop at the basement and also explored the Toys R Us here. Randy was looking for a gift for his nephew’s upcoming birthday. The options available for toddlers and children these days were quite depressing.
It was about time to get some dinner, and for some reason we would always default to Kua Aina at Aqua City. It’s not a bad thing, since the Hawaii burger joint servers some of the best and largest customized burgers you will ever have, still it might be nice to try something next time for a change. Ordered the usual fave of the avocado cheese burger.
Despite being dinner time, there weren’t many people around. We would soon learn why. Just as we were seated down fireworks began to be set off in Tokyo Bay. Everyone else was outside watching the spectacle, while we were stuck inside with a poor view. Turns out Odaiba held daily fireworks during the holiday period, sadly of which today would be the last day. The fireworks even lasted a long while, giving any other national holiday a good run for its money.
Checked out the adjacent bookstore after dinner. Didn’t spend too much time around after since we were all quite tired by now for being out so early. Took a little time to appreciate the view of Tokyo Bay and the Rainbow Bridge before heading back. There was a nice new light show at the Fuji TV headquarters, with various Japanese motifs like Mt Fuji projected onto the side of the building but by the time we had noticed it we were already on the way to the station.
At the light rail station back to Shimbashi, Gage realized that he had lost his Passmo. He derived that had most likely dropped it when removing his jacket in the toilet so we suggested that he ought to head back to take a look, but he opted not to. It dampened the mood a little since this was the second train pass he had lost this trip and had only just topped it up again.
We returned back to our hotel early enough to catch the adjacent supermarket open for once. This meant that we could grab some groceries for cheaper than would otherwise get them at the convenience store. Stocked up on drinks, while Randy bought a box of matcha popsicles to share.
In the end we didn’t manage to get any shopping done today. But still, it’s still nice to visit Odaiba once in a while just to soak in the atmosphere.Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.