|Little HK' faux garden
Photos by Sally Fisher
Sally Fisher journeys to Odaiba and finds fun
in the fool's gold at the end of the Rainbow Bridge.
Built on silt dredged from Tokyo Bay in the bubbling 1980s, Odaiba is an island where
reality is checked soon after crossing the Rainbow Bridge. Japan's obsession with pop
culture mimicry has run deliciously amok and then been sharpened by a more high-tech and
refined taste. There's a breathtaking collection of entertainment. With theme parks,
shopping, restaurants, architecture and museums, much is owed to the US. But in Odaiba the
novelties are truly novel.
Taking the elevated Yurikamome monorail from Shinbashi, the 15-minute ride on the
driverless train weaves through office towers and building sites before snaking up onto
the bridge for probably the best view of Tokyo you'll get. Try beating the old
trainspotters to a seat at the front or the very back for a prime vantage point.
On the approach to Odaiba you'll zip past the Daiba, 19th-century battlements vainly built
by the Edo Shogunate to repel foreign ships. Beyond are the island's twin landmarks, the
spectacular Fuji TV headquarters and the Odaiba ferris wheel.
|Deck's outdoor life
One of the most unreal
features of Odaiba is the space; there's 450 hectares of it, so you can stroll between
attractions without being jostled. But do be prepared to walk, and walk a lot. Unless you
plan your visit with military precision, you'll be there a lot longer than you originally
TC's guide to Odaiba starts from the first stop on the monorail rimming the
island progressing to the terminus. But look for the English map of the area at the
Yurikamome wicket at Shinbashi. See GETTING THERE for which ticket to buy.
DAIBA PARK - Odaiba Kaihin
These pine-fringed batteries were built shortly after the arrival of Captain Perry in
1853, and the biggest is linked to Rainbow Promenade and still has two rusting cannons
looking out onto the bay. The name Daiba means "place where batteries are
equipped," and the park is a pleasant spot for resting, picnicking and taking photos.
From Odaiba Kaihin Koen, head down to the beach and walk along the Rainbow Promenade,
towards the bridge. It's a 15-min stroll to the Daiba.
|Cruising for yum cha at Little HK
DAIBA LITTLE HONG KONG at DECKS -
Odaiba Kaihin Koen station
On the third, fourth and fifth floors of Decks, a development packed with shopping, is the
pricey but fun Sega Joypolis virtual reality theme park. Then try Daiba Little Hong Kong
on the sixth and seventh floors, which opened in December, but only after a beer or two at
the microbrewery Sunset Beach Brewing Company. The German style beers are excellent and
the view across Tokyo Bay is wonderful.
At Little Hong Kong sample the authentic Cantonese restaurants, yum cha at Shi An Gyoza,
great fresh seafood from the tank at Super Star Seafood and Tokyo's version of Hong Kong,
where the dumplings come to you on a conveyor belt kaiten-sushi style at TenTen TuneTune
Kaiten Bou. There's also lots of ramen on offer, despite it not being a Chinese dish.
|Sculpture with teeth
Or shop for Chinese
kitsch, like a Bruce Lee T-shirt and faux silk purses at Cayhane or jasmine tea at Monkey
Magic Teahouse. The "streets" are strung with neon and well-rendered trompe
l'oeil of HK scenes, and the sound system screeches with feral cats fighting in lanes and
the roar of a 747s overhead, reminding you of how HK was before the new airport at Chep
Lap Kok opened. Rest in the pretend Chinese garden of rosewood chairs under hanging
Decks is open daily, shops 11am-9pm, restaurants 11am-11:30pm, Joypolis 10am-11:30pm.
Basic admission and ticket is JY2200 for adults.
AQUACITY - Odaiba station
In keeping with the sheer unreality of it all, Aquacity has a Statue of Liberty standing
between the building and the beach and the fabulous Fuji TV building behind. Inside are
restaurants, including Sizzler on five and Red Lobster on six if you're incurably
homesick, and a great sake brewery Hanashibe on the third floor. For some of the best
coffee in Tokyo sip at Segafredo Zanetti on the third floor or take the king of coffee,
Illy, at CafEGiGi also on the third floor.
|Get a ride on the Palette Town
The Mediage entertainment
complex in Aquacity has 13 screens and a premium theater where couples can sit on special
double "love" seats. There's video arcade games from JY800, expensive for such a
fleeting diversion, and a weekend visit showed very few people being amused here.
Aquacity is open daily, shops 11am-9pm, restaurants 11am-11pm (some close at 5am). Mediage
|Tange Kenzo's spacy Fuju TV
FUJI TV - Odaiba station
This super mod building comes from Tange Kenzo and is the TV network's headquarters. It
opened in 1997 you can go into the silver sphere at its center, or to avoid the admission
fee of 500 yen you can get quite close to it before having to pay just by following the
crowd. Open Tue-Sun 10am-9pm.
MARITIME SCIENCE MUSEUM - Fune no Kagakukan station
The museum "promotes an understanding of shipping and the sea" and is built to
imitate a 60,000-ton luxury cruise liner. Next to it is dry-docked the first Japanese
Antarctic observation ship, the Sohya Maru. It's left in its original state as part of the
Open Mon-Fri 10am-5pm, Sat-Sun 10am-6pm. Steep admission of JY1000 for adults.
|Gorgeously finished Venus Fort
VENUS FORT at PALETTE TOWN - Aomi
Billed as a women-only shopping theme park, it looks more like an aircraft hangar from the
outside. But once you walk in, this is actually a mall morphed from a faux-18th century
Italian village. Complete with marble fountains, cobbled streets and a dreamily tinted
roof where the sun sets and rises every two hours because "people spend more money at
dusk," says a spokesman, the design is a straight lift by the same architects who did
the mall at Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas, another city imitating culture for flippant fun.
Designer boutiques include DKNY and Jean Paul Gaultier on the first floor, and there are
140 other shops targeted to women in their 20s and 30s. On the second floor are
restaurants, cafes and bars.
Open Mon-Thu 11am-10pm, Sat, Sun and public holidays 11am-5am. The mall has a shelf-life
of around five years when it will be demolished so apartments can be built.
|Rose Chocolates at Venus Fort
Also part of Palette Town
is the ferris wheel (open daily 10am-10pm). Expect long queues on weekends and make sure
you leave pets at home, according to the sign. During daylight hours you wait 30min on
weekends and not at all weekdays, cost is JY900 per person. Because the wheel's a big hit
with couples looking for a scenic snog, it should be avoided Friday and Saturday nights,
when you'll wait up to two hours.
Next to the big wheel is the Neo Geo virtual reality theme park that closed down in March.
Mega Web, also a neighbor, has the Toyota City Showcase where you can ride electric cars
for JY200 a person, see the latest Toyotas and try a virtual reality wild car ride for
around JY500. Open from 11am-9pm. At Future World, also part of Mega Web, you can ride
virtual reality roller coasters that promise "panic and rescue" for JY800 a pop.
Future World is open Mon-Thu 11am-10:30pm, Fri 11am-11pm, Sat-Sun and holidays 10:30-11pm.
|A dog's life at Aqua City
BIG SITE - Kokusai tenjijo seimon
This striking exhibition and live concert space hovers on a clutch of inverted pyramids.
There's a kooky saw sculpture cutting into the ground out front and you can walk up onto
the roof for free when there's no exhibitions on. Open daily 8am-8pm.
This is the last stop on the monorail line before the terminus of Ariake.
By monorail: from Shinbashi catch the Yurikamome monorail. Best value is the day pass for
JY800, but JY900 buys you unlimited monorail and ferry rides too. You can catch the ferry
part of the way and then finish on the monorail. One way to Odaiba is JY370.
By ferry from Asakusa: 55 min, JY1600.
By ferry from Hinode: 20 min, JY400 or included in the JY900 monorail day pass.
Getting around Odaiba:
The Free Bay Shuttle Bus stops at all the big attractions on the island and the round trip
takes 37min. Or just use your day pass to get on and off the monorail.
|Vanessa Bruno at Venus Fort
Getting back to Shinbashi:
Consider walking back across the Rainbow Bridge. It takes half an hour and there's a
choice of north or south side. It's free and the paths are open from 9am to 9pm in summer.
It has spectacular views but is noisy and there's a lot of fumes. After crossing catch the
monorail at Shibaura futo station for Shinbashi.
Decks, 1-6-1 Daiba, Minato-ku, Yokyo. Tel: 03-3599-6500.
Aqua City, 1-7-1 Daiba, Minato-ku, Tokyo. Tel: 03-3599-4700.
Venus Fort, ferris Wheel and Mega Web-are all at Palette Town 1-chome,
Aomi, Koto-ku, Tokyo. Tel: 03-3599-0700.