The artificial island of Odaiba near Tokyo Bay is one of the city’s most fascinating and eclectic spots. With its weird artificial charm, the area essentially exists solely for entertainment. Over the years it’s become a playground for the futuristic, unique, and straight-up bizarre. Here are some of the more out-there Odaiba experiences you can try next time you’re in town.
Say hello to Tokyo’s mini Statue of Liberty
Overlooking Tokyo Bay is one of the most unique little tourist destinations in Odaiba: a replica of New York’s Statue of Liberty. At first glance it’s easy to be fooled into thinking that this is a to-scale recreation, but in reality it’s about 1/7th the size of the original.
Backdropped by the iconic Rainbow Bridge, this statue was first erected in 1998 in dedication to Japan’s ties with France. After a year on display, the statue was taken down, as originally intended. However, mini-Lady Liberty’s popularity was so strong that they brought her back for good in 2000. What’s particularly interesting about this statue is that it’s actually not Japan’s only Statue of Liberty: she has twin sisters in Shimoda and Osaka.
Though the area is interesting to explore on foot, one of the best ways to get a fresh perspective on Odaiba is cruising around by boat. Jicoo is a boat-bar hybrid that looks like a bizarre spaceship-submarine love child. It was designed by local manga and anime artist Leiji Matsumoto, and is essentially the perfect vehicle for the water-surrounded neo-futuristic suburb. Operating from Thursday to Saturday, the boat travels between Hinode Pier and Odaiba every half hour.
Learn about 'octopus balls' at the Takoyaki Museum
Originally created in Osaka, takoyaki (sometimes referred to a octopus balls) has become a comfort food staple all across Japan. For the uninitiated, takoyaki are golf-ball sized doughy balls that are crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside and filled with cheeky bites of octopus (tako). At the museum you can explore everything there is to know about the much loved izakaya staple. Having a museum just dedicated to takoyaki may seem kind of out there, but as we’ve covered before, Japan is the home of strange museums.
Odaiba is an artificial island, so Odaiba Beach is, of course, also an artificial beach. Hang out on the sandy shore, check out the views of the iconic rainbow bridge and Statue of Liberty, but be aware that swimming is prohibited. To explore Edo-era ruins, walk along the shore to Daiba Park.
It’s fair to say that Japanese folk are some of the biggest fans of horror in the world: they did give birth to The Grudge and The Ring after all. Here, at Decks shopping and amusement centre you can get the life spooked out of you by visiting the haunted attraction Daiba Kaiki Gakko, which in English translates to School Ghost House. Taking on the role of paranormal investigators, visitors are encouraged to try and solve the mystery of a suicidal ghost. If you’re a little faint of heart, don’t sweat it–the whole experience only takes around 10 minutes. If you’re very easily spooked but still a little intrigued, they also offer a ‘safe’ version, too.
Odaiba has no shortage of unique mega shopping outlets: there’s Decks, which was the area’s first; then there’s Venus Fort, a mall designed to look like some unidentifiable ancient European city. But Aqua City has something extra special, and she goes by the name of Chihira Junco. The humanistic android was created by Japanese tech giants Toshiba, and is one of the first of thousands of many helpful robots the company expects to produce in the coming few years. Use the touchpad to ask Junco a variety of questions, from “where is the nearest bathroom?” to “what’s your favourite food?”
This one may seem like a bit of a car geek’s paradise, but in reality it’s a whole stack of fun for the non-automotive-obsessive too. A theme park created by Toyota, Mega Web is divided into three areas, titled ‘look’, ‘feel’ and ‘ride’. Look and feel are exhibits dedicated to the history and future of their cars, but the most exciting section is the ‘ride’ exhibit. Here, try out a multitude of different Toyota cars on their on-site 1.3 km track. There are even go-kart style options for the kids.
Get up close to the biggest robot you’ll see in your life
For anime lovers, this is a Tokyo highlight. Check out the 19-meter tall illuminated Gundam statue, which towers over Diver City. Recently upgraded for the 2020 Olympics, the current Gundam is a new and improved RX-0 Unicorn Gundam, which–even if you don’t know what that means–is pretty impressive. This current model transforms daily at 11 am, 1 pm, 3 pm and 5 pm, and also puts on a very entertaining light show every half hour between 7:30 pm to 9 pm.
If one pocket of Tokyo was to be dedicated as the sci-fi corner of the city it’d be Odaiba, so it makes sense that it’s also the home to the city’s major science centre. Officially titled ‘Miraikan’, the museum’s name translates in English to ‘Hall of the Future’. Here you’ll find some of the most mind-blowing and interactive displays of tech and development in the world. The best bit abut visiting this museum? The robot shows. Don’t miss the regular daily shows by AISMO, the museum’s humanistic robot and the ridiculously lifelike android Otonaroid.
Though it doesn’t open until summer (June-August) this is definitely one to add to your Japan itinerary. The enigmatic 400 member art collective teamLab have announced they’ll be unveiling Japan’s first ever digital art museum. Given their groundbreaking past works that they’ve taken around the world, this is set to be something pretty special.