West Meets East: An American in Japan | All Blogs


Odaiba

By Josiah Lebowitz

Overview

Looking Towards Odaiba

Odaiba is an artificial island in the Tokyo Bay. It’s become a popular entertainment area featuring several themed shopping malls, museums, and convention centers, among other attractions. Whether you like to shop, learn, play, or just relax in an onsen, it’s a great place to visit. Though it’s worth noting that the majority of attractions don’t open until 11 AM on weekends so don’t show up too early.

Getting There
Unless you have a car, the easiest way to get to Odaiba is via the Yurikamome, a private train line you can get on at Shimbashi or Shiodome stations. Though, if you want something a bit more scenic, you can hope on a sightseeing boat right outside of Asakusa Station.

What to See

The beach on Odaiba

There’s quite a lot to see in Odaiba. Even if you’re not a big shopper, the malls are worth a look for their elaborate themes and wide selection of restaurants. Depending on your interests, the museums can be quite fascinating as well and Oedo Onsen Monogatari is a great place to get an authentic onsen experience without leaving Tokyo.

Shopping Malls

The 50's Tokyo themed floor of Decks Mall.

The Decks Mall (which is actually two connected buildings) seems fairly ordinary at first, though it does include Sega’s massive Joypolis arcade / amusement park. But go up a few floors and you’ll find a floor themed after 1950’s Tokyo and another based on Hong Kong. There’s also Muscle Park, an indoor amusement park featuring a variety of physical and mental challenges you can attempt for fun and prizes.

Decks Mall's Hong Kong themed floor.

Right past Decks Mall is Seaside Mall. Though it doesn’t have any elaborate themes, it does have quite a lot of stores and a large movie theater.

Inside Venus Fort

Then there’s Venus Fort, which is part of the Palette Town complex on the other side of the street. While the lowest floor may not seem too amazing (unless you like to shop for dog clothes), the rest of the mall is tribute to the city of Venice and contains a number of high end shops and restaurants.

Museums
If you’re looking for something a bit more educational, the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation has a wide variety of exhibits, many with hands-on elements, and features excellent English translations of nearly every signboard.

Though if science isn’t your thing, there’s a number of other museums such as the very hard to miss Museum of Maritime Sciences, the Shell Gasoline Museum, and the Fuji TV Museum.

Ooedo Onsen Monogatari

Ooedo Onsen is much more than just baths.

Ooedo Onsen is an onsen (hot springs) theme park based on Edo period Japan. If you don’t have time to visit a true mountain onsen resort, or even if you do, I highly recommend it. The water is authentic (they managed to find an actual onsen buried deep beneath the city) and spread between a number of different pools (indoors and outdoors) with varying temperatures and water compositions. There’s also a variety of special baths (hot sand, stone slabs, etc) and massage treatments available. But the baths are only half the fun. When you’re not bathing, you get to wear a yukata (Japanese robe) and are free to explore a recreation of Ero era Tokyo complete with shops, Japanese carnival games (for the kids), a number of different restaurants, and even some live entertainment. Not to mention the open-air foot bath.

My mom and an friend enjoying the foot bath.

It should be noted that, despite the fancy trappings, this is still a Japanese onsen so bathing is done completely naked. There are separate baths for men and women of course, but if you don’t feel comfortable stripping down along with a couple hundred other guys or girls you might want to consider renting a private bath or visiting a smaller onsen somewhere out in the country. And, like many Japanese baths, people with tattoos are prohibited.

Other Notable Attractions

A bird perched on Odaiba's small scale Statue of Liberty.

Behind the Decks and Seaside Malls you’ll find a beach which makes for a nice place to rest (though swimming is prohibited) and features a small replica of the Statue of Liberty. And Palette Town, in addition to the aforementioned Venus Fort, is also home to a large Toyota showroom, a classic car museum, and one of the world’s largest Ferris wheels.

Odaiba is a great place to spend a day. The fun malls, wide variety of museums and other attractions, and Ooedo Onsen ensure that just about anyone can enjoy themselves there.

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