This morning, we were to head for the Tokyo Anime Fair 2010, the largest anime trade fair in the world. The fair was held this year at the futuristic city of Odaiba, the reclaimed off shore island connected by the famous Rainbow Bridge.
We woke up fairly early so as to take a train to Shimbashi. One of the only means to access Odaiba was to take the Yurikamone transit system from Shimbashi. It’s a separate train line that services Odaiba exclusively. Tickets are grossly overpriced.
The train passed through the Rainbow Bridge. We stayed on till Daiba station, which was closest to where the fair was held.
There was already a long queue to enter the exhibition at the Tokyo Big Sight. The full queue spanned across the outside of the building, the entrance hall, and the stretch of corridors outside the exhibition area. Thanks to DisneySea though, we were already experts at queuing.
In line, we saw many people already holding entrance tickets. I began to worry that perhaps we had joined the wrong queue. After about halfway through the line, I asked one of the nearby ushers where we could purchase the tickets. He wasn’t sure either so he confirmed with another usher before telling us to just continue in line. The people who already had tickets were queuing to re-enter the hall.
After passing through to a separate section of the building, the end point was finally in sight. Wilson mentioned that a whole bunch of people got injured here when the escalators suddenly halted during a convention last year. We took the stairs down to the ticketing booth.
Tickets were sold by the entrance at 1000 yen. I had a event pass for the business days but MJ refused to come on a business day since he believe it would be “less happening”. As a result, I had to pay the 1000 yen to enter the hall.
Coming today on the public day turned out to be a big mistake, since now we had to rush with the otaku crowds. The traffic was acceptable since the locals didn’t stand around aimlessly in the middle of paths but I had a hard time not getting a sea of human heads in any of my photos.
After the long queue, I headed for the restroom. Outside, MJ and Wilson were nowhere to be found. Only after messaging them did I learn that in their excitement they were already at the other end of the hall. I was a little irritated since messages cost $1 overseas, courtesy of our local telcos. A stark contrast to Japanese telcos, that provide unlimited emails monthly for only 300 yen.
Passed by this friendly girl in a Alice outfit in one of the earlier booths. She stood out as the friendliest promoter there. MJ was very fascinated by the adjacent Hangry and Angry booth. He knew the awful brand because some ex-Morning Musume members promoted it.
Wilson left on his own to indulge his otaku fantasies. MJ rushed from booth to booth without stopping so each time I paused to take some photos, I ended up having to search for him again. After some time I eventually gave up upon the task.
Apart from various animation companies, there were quite a few art schools promoting their students at the fair. The booth for the Tokyo University of Technology stood out the most. While all their students works were clearly anime influenced, the overall standard was still miles ahead of Singapore’s efforts. They compiled their own issues of mangas that they distributed for free. There was a rack of post cards here promoting the individual artists works. Free to all but members of their rival school. Other stuff that wasn’t free had to be marked individually with do not take out signs.
Professional cosplayers were hired for many of the individual booths at the event. People would stand at the booths to photos of the promoters in turn. A phenomenon I was familiar with having attended the previous Tokyo Game Show. Just like the rockabillies and crazy youths at Yoyogi, MJ didn’t consider them as cosplayers. He wasn’t too interested, even though the models were generally of a higher level than other cosplay.
The models posed happily for people with chunky cameras. Since I was carrying a Olympus Pen, most of them ignored me. A really irritating occurrence that would had been avoided if I came as a professional visitor yesterday.
There were a ton of pamphlets given freely at the fair. After having learned in the past how valuable they were on the resale market, it was my intention to take as many as I could. I didn’t come prepared with a bag though and none of the booths offered any solution so I ended up giving up on the idea.
The Good Smile Company booth had quite a few fans. The Black Rock Shooter Hatsune Miku was the center piece of their display. I learned about the fan art creation a week ago from a colleague so it was one of the few things I was able to recognize at the fair.
Spotted a Zebraman 2 exhibit somewhere in the middle of the hall. I really enjoyed the first movie so I stopped to grab the trailer dvd. They didn’t have any promoters so the booth had no audience. Seems like the fair was really more about models than anime.
The China Animation booth had a woman dressed in a cheong sam promoting the company. The only attention she attracted was an old man carrying multiple large cameras. She allowed the creepy old man to film a video upskirt video with his giant video camera. When the guy left, she completely ignored me and my tiny camera.
The fair also had many indie artist and animators promoting their works. The quality of works was really professional. One of them used wooden puppets to create a stop motion animation. Lots of personality. The booths didn’t get much notice so they were glad to get my attention. Traded business cards with some of the best.
There were quite a few otaku tourists at the fair, distinguishable either as Caucasian or from their unmistakably Singaporean accent. I stood in front of this giant 15 foot tall Anpanman for the longest time in an attempt to take a photo without anyone else in shot. A bunch of rude tourists completely ignored me being there and ran in front to take their turns in front of the blowup, so here is a picture with them in it.
Another two wasted messages later, I would meet with MJ back at the front of the halls. Wilson was still nowhere to be seen. We didn’t want to have to queue to return into the halls so we decided to have our lunch at the stalls here instead. We went ahead and bought our meals. Got some Yakisoba. It was cold by the time Wilson returned.
There were a few occupied tables near the stalls. Most of the locals set in square patches scattered around the hall to eat or wait for events to begin. Others sat around the perimeter of the hall or behind closed booths. There were seats for foreign visitors at the front of the hall but somehow we ended up sitting on the floor.
After lunch, the Zebraman booth saw much traffic from their trump card, two bikini clad policewomen. The guy at the booth kept standing in everyone’s shots though.
We returned to the Hangry and Angry booth because MJ wanted a shot with the promoters there. Alice was no where to be seen though. We left the fair to explore the rest of Odaiba.
One nice thing about Japan is that there is no absence of wide open spaces. Here in the large yard, a street performer attempted to impress. He left after one act on account of the cold winds. But not before promoting his website.
This was my first time visiting Odaiba so MJ and Wilson lead the way. At the end of a bridge they realized they were going the wrong way. We returned to the other side and continued toward the Rainbow Bridge.
We found a dollar shop on the 2nd floor on the second floor of a huge building. My feet was killing me so I went there to get some more padded insoles for my shoes. The shop sold pretty much everything, at only 105 yen after tax. Lots of interesting drinks and snacks here for cheap. I wish there was one where we were staying.
After 20 minutes of walking, we reached this opening in one of the buildings. For some reason, Wilson felt compelled to enter so we followed him in.
We ended up at Venus Fort which I vaguely remember hearing about. Lots of families here in the square, the young children were playing on some mini-bungee booths here. Wilson and MJ spotted some car exhibition inside the building.
The exhibition was a permanent showroom for Toyota. Not really interested in modern cars so didn’t really bother to look around. They had a whole bunch vending machine for catalogs though. I still can’t believe people are willing to pay for brochures.
It turns out that the section of Venus Fort that we were in, Venus FAMILY catered to children and pets. Not exactly a reassuring combination. Families could drive here during the weekend to spend some time shopping together. One woman walked this really large dog through the shopping mall. The carts inside sold dog clothing and accessories.
While finding for the exit of the mall, we ended up at this motor cafe at the far end of the mall. Lots of retro cars both here and in the gallery upstairs. Too bad they didn’t have a GT40. Wilson and MJ weren’t too interested so we left through an exit on the second floor.
We ended up in another section of Venus Fort lined with boutiques. Mostly commercial labels, some of which I’d seen at departmental stores in Shinjuku. The building that housed the shops was positively grand though. The indoor Venus GRAND was designed in a Gothic style akin to the Venetian.
We followed the signs in Venus GRAND for the exit and ended up back at Venus FAMILY. MJ complained that the building only had one entrance. Leaving the area we returned to the main road where Wilson lead the way towards the Fuji TV building. We skipped the tower though and ended up in the adjacent Aqua City.
Aqua City is a seaside shopping mall that offered a direct view of the Rainbow Bridge. No doubt a popular spot among couples. We passed by many restaurants which were currently holding weddings.
Our first course of action was to find a place to eat. MJ remembered a Hawaiian burger place here which he claimed had the best burgers he ever ate. I didn’t really want to have burgers yet again (we just had Freshness Burger last night), we eventually agreed on Yakiniku.
I didn’t really check out the prices before entering, since my only other condition was that we had a view of the Rainbow Bridge. The menu offered two different sets, a normal set for 4500 yen and a set with even better cuts for double. Both sets had identical servings though of the same types of meat. With a minimum order of 2 heads each, I eventually managed to convince the rest to get the cheaper set since we could then (possibly) have Yakiniku twice.
The restaurant really did have a great seaside view. We couldn’t sit at the window seats since the grills there only served two but we got the next best seats.
We got our first cuts soon enough, a serving of tongue. Wilson put the onion decorations on top to make the beef taste better. Ended up leaving lots of burnt onions on the grill. Despite our cravings, we hadn’t had anything meaty since arriving in Japan. So we enjoyed our meal thoroughly.
There was a serving of the much acclaimed Wagyu which I would experience for the first time. Personally, I found it overrated. More fats than anything else, it melted in my mouth and spread a somewhat sickening taste into every corner. No different from a mouthful of lard. I wasn’t favorably inclined toward the prawns either.
The other cuts were great though. I really loved the shoulder cuts which were the thickest chunks of meat I had eaten in the past two weeks. The marinated innards were nice too and the pork slabs were a good balance of fat and meat.
Satisfied with dinner, we browsed through some of the shops in the mall. Wilson didn’t want to buy the overpriced drinks from the restaurant and was now left feeling thirsty. I sold him one of my extra drinks that I had been carrying around, a bottle of Gokuri from the 100 yen shop this afternoon. I bought the drink because of the intricate details on the metal can.
We passed by more restaurants where couples were currently holding their wedding dinner. A few artists had set up stands inside the shopping center, they specialized in drawing caricatures for couples.
MJ ran off from sight again. Wilson and I waited by the artist booths thinking that perhaps he went into one of the nearby shops. He appeared after some time complaining of the cold. He had gone outside to search for us.
MJ showed us the way outside, where a bunch of (mostly) Korean tourists were busy taking photos. There was balcony here that offered an open air view of the Rainbow Bridge and the beautiful evening skyline.
We hung out by the open balcony for a while. Marveled by its beauty, it never crossed my mind to capture a panoramic view of the shore.
There were ferries offering a romantic night time cruise out by the sea. There was a small laser light show each time one of the boats passed by. The boats projected images onto a wall formed by the water jets.
After our fair share of urban wonder, we returned back into the shelter of the mall.
The shops were already closing and some of the mall’s entrances were sealed so we began our journey back. Outside the mall, there was this bear statue that told the temperature. You could also press a button to make the bear cry. A sadistic little kid came over to press it.
On the way to the train station, I noticed several residences. I fantasized about making one home.
We kept quiet on return journey, lest the group of six Singaporeans on board the train discover our identity. At some point we slipped and I could see the stares incoming. Luckily, they were too busy chatting about anime stuff to pay any notice to us.
Having passed by the food stands at Suidobashi station almost nightly, it was about time we tried something there. The smell of Imagawayaki filled the station so we got one each. I bought a cheese one. It was awful.
The burnt buns had been recooked countless times but were somehow still cold. I couldn’t find any cheese in the one I ordered either. Feeling cheated, we returned the hotel. I guess the residents around here knew better than to eat at the stands.Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.