Did you know that the country of Japan has 6,852 islands? Yup – Japan is an archipelago. Only under 500 of these islands are occupied by people. That still means there are so many more islands to discover in this beautiful land than you initially thought. Not everything about Japan, such as its food, culture, traditions, are centered around Tokyo, Kyoto, or Osaka. Though those are popular places tourists visit to get to know Japan, it’s crucial to get to know the other islands that are harder to get to. That way, you can understand and appreciate Japan as a whole. Here, the beautiful, man-made island of Odaiba is discussed. Read on for more information about it before you pay a visit.
A Brief History on The Island of Odaiba in Japan
Seeing that Odaiba is an artificial island, that means the Japanese constructed it for a purpose. Built in the 1850’s, it was used as a means of defense from any possible attacks that would come from the sea, mainly to protect their capital at that time, which was Edo. In fact, 5 islands were successfully constructed for this purpose (though they planned for eleven), and Odaiba is just one of them. That’s how it got its name – “Daiba” means Cannon Battery, which would serve to launch at any foreign invasive ships lurking nearby. Odaiba is still considered as part of Tokyo.
As time went by and the need to defend Japan from seaside attacks lessened, the need for these islands as a means of defense dropped. While the other islands were abandoned completely and are not open to the public to visit, Odaiba was up for reconstruction to display the technologically advanced vision that Japan had for its future called “Tokyo Teleport Town”. Sadly, that project was later canceled. This caused a lot of financial problems with the investors and companies that were about to set up on the island. Later in the 90’s, however, the island became an area for entertainment and leisure with a sudden boom shopping centers and malls. Business in the island bettered thanks to the transfer of headquarters of a few large-scale companies (One of them being Fuji Television) as well as the improvement of roads and bridges going there. Now, you may visit Odaiba by boarding the Shuto Expressway via two routes; one that passes through the Rainbow Bridge, the other through one of Tokyo’s Port Tunnels. The Yurikamome transit system can also take you there, as well as several ferries and busses - if you aren’t competing with time.
Notable Attractions in Odaiba
Packed into this tiny island are a whole bunch of sites to see and things to do. If you’re after for some fun in Palette town, visit Tokyo Leisureland. It’s a great place if you’re into old-school arcade games, bowling, and photo-booths. Just be wary that these games cost 100 yen to play each time. While still in Palette town, you can check out the Megaweb – it’s absolute heaven for car enthusiasts. Not only is the entrance free, but you get to see a whole array of different sports cars and race cars made by Toyota from both the past, as well as the possible future. Outside of Palette town, there’s also the Fuji Television Studios. It boasts of beautiful buildings, one of them wherein you can go all the way up to the 25th floor of its observatory and have a panoramic view of Odaiba. If you find yourself in Minato, one of the best places to dine is called “Terrace Restaurant”, which serves great breakfast options and a scenic vista. The Miraikan (National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation) should also not be forgotten as a great attraction. Nicknamed the “Future Museum”, it has showcases state of the art devices that map out earth’s data, such weather patterns, vegetation, and seismological movements/vibrations. In case you want a break from all these activities and just want a breath of fresh air, take refuge in the peaceful Shiokaze Park. From there, you have a beautiful, breezy view of Tokyo Bay, and can enjoy a meeting with friends, have a quiet picnic, or read a book.
Every now and then, an event is held on the island. One of the villages in Odaiba will be used to house the competitors in the Olympics. Last 2009, Odaiba hosted the Red Bull Box Cart Race. Also, once a year, they host rainbow fireworks shows.
Experience the Largest Ferris Wheel In Odaiba
Known as the “Daikanransha” (literally “Big Wheel”), this Ferris Wheel is one of the tallest in the world - and once was the tallest in the world in 1999, when it was initially built - standing at 115 meters. Located across the Venus Fort, it currently holds the place as the second tallest working Ferris Wheel in all of Japan, and even though it’s on an Odaiba, you can see it as far from Tokyo. When you ride it, you’ll have the view of Haneda Airport, the Rainbow Bridge, and parts of Tokyo itself. If you’re lucky and the weather suits it, you can even catch a glimpse of Mt. Fuji. The Ferris Wheel exhibits beautiful colors at night; over 120,000 tubes of neon light were placed around the ride, boasting of a huge array of patterns and colors. The Daikanransha is open from 10 AM to 10 PM, but it closes at 11 PM on Fridays/Saturdays. It costs 980 yen per person, but it’s cheaper if you buy out the entire cabin. The ride lasts about 16 minutes, perfect for you to relish in the breathtaking view.
How to Find The Statue of Liberty in Odaiba
There are three replicas of the Statue of Liberty in JP, and while the other two are in Shimoda and Osaka, one of them is in Odaiba. The Japanese are known to be fixated with everything French, and this copy of the Statue of Liberty was erected in 2000 after citizens and tourists in the island loved a temporary version that was put up in 1998 to 1999. The reason the temporary version was erected in the first place was because of “The Year of France in Japan” when they celebrated French culture. You can find this by the bay of Minato-ku, just take exit 1 in the Daiba station.
Relax in Odaiba: The Best Onsen Location
Oedo-Onsen Monogatari was first set up in 2003, is now known as a wonderful spa and bath house located in Odaiba. Although it is deemed a little pricey in the sense that the experience costs a little below 3,000 yen, it’s rated 4 out of 5, and described as an authentic and enjoyable Onsen experience by most users on TripAdvisor. It’s traditional in the sense you get to choose your own Yukata (a Japanese robe) and the water in the Onsen really does come from underground springs. Also, it separates the baths depending on your gender. Unlike some Onsen, the best part about this one is that you can pick the bath that has your favored temperature – they are categorized depending on how warm you like your water.
The Best Malls in Odaiba For Your Shopping Needs
When it comes to choosing a great shopping center in Odaiba, there are three main choices; Aqua City Odaiba, DiverCity Tokyo Plaza, and VenusFort. AquaCity is a shopping complex consisting of 7 floors. They have a comprehensive ToysRUs store, as well as a gift-themed Duty-Free store. Go all the way to the top floor of this building to find a lovely view of the ocean, Statue of Liberty replica, and Rainbow Bridge.
VenusFort has a great variety of options; such as electronics and watch stores on the first floor, followed by more than 50 local Japanese fashion brands on the second and third floors. Each floor is coordinated and has a different color and theme. The first floor is green to represent earth, the second is pink (representing the brand of VenusFort), and the last floor is blue to represent the sky.
DiverCity (got that play on the word “diversity”?) Tokyo Plaza has more of a western feel to it and has great options for clothes. A great feature would have to be the food in the food court, with reports of the ramen there being affordable and tasty. Though DiverCity is a decent mall, the most intriguing thing about this mall is the statue in front of it, as well as what is on its 7th floor.
Visit the Famous Gundam Statue in Odaiba
If you’re a fan of the Gundam series, then having a picture with this huge Gundam statue would make your day. This statue was put up last 2012, and the mobile suit is specifically of the Gundam RG 1/1 RX-78-2, GFT version. This information doesn’t matter as much anymore now, though, because as of March 5, 2017, the statue was taken down. The 7th floor of DiverCity holds Gundam Front Tokyo; a Theme Park that caters only to Gundam. This is scheduled to close as well on April 5. Not much information has been disclosed as to what is going to replace the statue and theme park, but stay in tuned to find out in the coming months.
Where to Stay in Odaiba: Hotel Choices
Choosing the right hotel for your vacation or stay is important because it affects so much of how your trip will turn out. A good night’s sleep promises better enjoyment of the activities ahead, and great service is always a nice cherry to add on top of your traveling experience. The Grand Nikko Tokyo Daiba scores a whopping 4.5/5 on reviews. Its rooms, as well as its bathrooms, are spacious and clean, and it’s near shopping districts. Standard prices for this hotel tip more the scales on the expensive side, the standard being around 45,000 yen per night for a suite. Having a western atmosphere, Ana Intercontinental Tokyo offers their room for half that price, but ratings dip a little lower for this – 4 out of 5 stars.
The Hilton In Odaiba – A Luxurious Stay
If the price isn’t an option to you and you just want to reap the benefits of living the life of luxury, the Hilton in Odaiba is the place you want to be. Not only is the view on all rooms spectacular (you’re extra lucky if you get to see the Rainbow Bridge) but because public transportation is so near, you can be in Shinagawa or Ginza in a snap. Plus, because The Hilton is connected to the Tokyo Disney Resort. That means a shuttle service is provided by the hotel to take you to and from the resort – all for free. Check-in starts at 3:00 P.M., and you must check out by 12:00 PM the next day. A night’s stay in their Twin Hilton Guest Room will set you back around 18,000-20,000 Yen on average, but the price is worth it for the exceptional hospitality.
What To Do On the Beach in Odaiba Island
Odaiba beach has soft sand and warm, inviting water especially on the summer. It’s too bad that swimming is not allowed on this beach or any of the beaches in Odaiba for that matter. If the weather is agreeable, it’s nice to go out for a tan, play recreational sports, or just sit on the sand and enjoy the view. If you really want to touch the water, you’re allowed to into the water as far as your knee or shin level. The moment it’s any deeper than that, expect them to give you a verbal warning. Signs are put up everywhere showing the prohibition of swimming. This is for a good reason too – because of the deterioration of the water quality around the artificial island, it has been labeled unsafe to totally submerge yourself in.
Even if you’re in Tokyo for a just a short while, pay a visit to Odaiba island just to see what it’s like. It should only take a maximum of 30 minutes if you go by car, maybe an hour if you take public transportation. It sure offers a nice break from the bustle of the city.