Monday, April 23, 2012

To Odaiba And Back

One of the things that has been on my "things I want to do" list was to check out Odaiba, so when another friend of mine came to town recently, I suggested we stop there on our way to Harajuku.  Odaiba is a man made island in Tokyo Bay that has developed into a popular destination amongst locals and tourists. It has a somewhat interesting history -it was originally built in the 1850's for defensive purposes.  Later there were attempts to expand/develop the island but development slowed in the mid 90's and didn't pick up again until the late 90's.  Today, Odaiba is well known for its futuristic look - illustrative of this look is the Fuji Television Building, which is the headquarters of Fuji Television and which some call the landmark of Odaiba.  At the time I didn't know what that crazy boat thing was, but I have since learned it is the Himiko Ferry that travels between Asakusa and Odaiba.

The Rainbow Bridge connects Tokyo and Odaiba, and you can get across the bridge by car, elevated railway system (the Yurikamome line) or by foot.  Since I wasn't about to drive to Tokyo and I didn't really feel like walking across the bridge, we caught the train there (I got the sense that walking across the Rainbow Bridge  just doesn't hold the same appeal as, say walking across the Golden Gate Bridge).  Actually, the Yurikamome Line while technically a train is more like a  monorail and is a fully automated system controlled by computers.

It's evident almost immediately why Odaiba is such a popular destination - there is literally something for everyone here - there are business, hotels, shopping, restaurants, parks, museums and entertainment complexes.  Odaiba has several shopping/entertainment type plazas, but the ones closest to the train station are Aquacity and Decks Tokyo Beach. Since we got there so early, many of the businesses weren't open yet, so we did the tourist thing and took pictures of the Goddess of Democracy statue (basically a replica of the Statue of Liberty), walked down the length of Aquacity and Decks Tokyo Bay and then checked out Odaiba Seaside Park (I think this park goes by other names as well).  It seemed really quiet and peaceful when we were there (although there were tons of people taking pictures of the Goddess of Democracy), but I bet it gets really crowded during the summer. 

Odaiba Seaside Park runs along the water and has a great view of the Rainbow Bridge and the rest of Tokyo. Like I said, I think it goes by other names, and probably some consider it a beach since it does have artificial sand. To give it even more of a beachy feel, there is a "Hawaiian Restaurant and a huge shop where you can rent paddleboards and kayaks.  As we walked along the "beach" portion my friend and I looked at each other and both commented that there's really no way we would ever go in that water (which didn't look as bad as the Ala Wai Canal but, well you get my point).  I have since learned that swimming is not allowed (for obvious reasons such as pollution), but you are allowed to paddleboard and kayak there (hence the shop that rents paddleboards and kayaks).  Personally, I don't think I would risk paddleboarding or kayaking in that water for fear of falling in.

There were other things on our agenda for the day so we headed back to the train station. I definitely plan to come back and check out the museums and other attractions (plus I bet the Rainbow Bridge at night is really pretty).  So stay tuned for Odaiba Part 2 - probably relatively soon since it's approaching that time of year here where getting me to leave my house (and more importantly, the air conditioning in my house) during the day becomes nearly impossible.

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