Odaiba and Roppongi Hills

After the excitement of Disneyland the night before, I was a bit lost for something to do today.  I felt like I’d covered just about every corner of Tokyo and didn’t know where to go next.

I had a look at Lonely Planet and read through some of the brochures from the hotel and Odaiba sounded interesting. It sounded like a touristy area with quite a bit to see. I took my time getting ready because I wasn’t really in a hurry, and found a cafe near the hotel that had great reviews for its coffee.  The coffee was really good, and I had some very nice pancakes there too.

After breakfast, as I had done every other day that week, I made my way to Shibuya station. Ron had made a good choice with our accommodation, because we weren’t far from Shibuya station, and so many train lines go through Shibuya that it’s not very hard to get anywhere.

Odaiba is a large man made island. It reminded me a bit of Docklands in Melbourne, but also has quite nice beaches. There’s a massive bridge from the mainland to the island, which includes a monorail track. I swapped trains onto the monorail at Tokyo station, and noticed there was no driver! That was a little scary, but I was able to sit right up the front where the driver would normally be which made for a great view going over the bridge!

Once at Odaiba I checked out the waterfront. The beach seemed quite nice, but no-one was swimming – it probably wasn’t warm enough. I meandered along for a bit, then made my way back towards the shops. There’s a Legoland there which sounded exciting, but it turned out to be a Lego play area for kids. I was hoping for something similar to the giant Lego expo that used to be at Melbourne Central when I was a kid. Joypolis also sounded like fun, but turned out to be similar to Timezone.

The beach at Odaiba
The beach at Odaiba

I browsed the shops for a bit, and stopped for a pearl tea. Then I followed the path around the island to see what else it had to offer. Strangely there was a replica of the Statue of Liberty.

Statue of Liberty look alike
Statue of Liberty look alike

Further around the corner there was some sort of festival, with rides, a stage hosting a dance competition and various food stalls. There was also an ice cream truck, which was decorated like a pig (I have no idea why…)!

A pig shaped ice cream truck

There’s a Uniqlo at Odaiba, so I thought I’d stop by. On my way there I came across a massive robot statue called Gundam Robot.  It was as tall as the shopping centre!

Gundam Robot
Gundam Robot

Odaiba really is a mix of everything. I had almost done a full lap, and was headed back to the monorail. There was a landscape area with a path, and big ferris wheel next to some factory outlets. Definitely felt like Docklands!

Odaiba ferris wheel
Odaiba ferris wheel

As I wandered back to the monorail, I was glad I’d seen Odaiba, but it wasn’t quite as exciting as I was expecting. Perhaps coming there on a weekend when it would be busier and with a group of people to visit Joyland with it would be better, but apart from the festival and rides the rest of it had a similar deserted feel as Victoria Harbour and Docklands.

It was still early afternoon, so I caught the train to Roppongi Hills.  A few people had talked about Roppongi Hills and said it was worth visiting.  The main attraction is a big shopping centre, but there were also some small temples in the area I thought I’d visit too.

I plotted out a few of the temples on a map and had a look around.  Being such a fast paced, noisy, on the go city, Tokyo surprised me with these quiet, tree filled havens squeezed between office buildings.  An interesting contrast and a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.

Prayers and offerings at a temple

I had done so much walking already that day, that by the time I found the Roppongi shopping centre I didn’t really feel like doing any shopping. I’d made a couple of wrong turns along the way, and the distances were further than I was expecting. Also, as the names suggests, it was pretty hilly. I stopped for a break, but then made my way back to the hotel to meet Ron.

View of Toykyo Tower from Roppongi Hills
View of Tokyo Tower from Roppongi Hills

Finally it was Friday, and Ron had the weekend off.  We had decided to go out Friday night, and then take a short trip outside the city on Saturday.

Shinjuku by night
Shinjuku by night

We went to Golden Gai in Shinjuku, known for its interesting nightlife. We had dinner at an izakaya, then explored the bars in the area. The buildings are very small, and packed tightly together. The laneways are only narrow, wide enough for two to three people side-by-side.

A laneway in Golden Gai
A laneway in Golden Gai

The bars in this area are small, hiding up narrow flights of stairs. Most are only big enough for 5-6 people, and it took us a little while to find somewhere we could fit, that also looked welcoming to tourists. It felt like the area mostly targets locals, and given the bars are so small we were hoping to find one where the barman would speak English and we could have a chat.

We came across a place where some Westerners were just leaving. They suggested we give it a go, so we made our way up the narrow stairs. Inside there was a skinny bar, with six stools and just enough room to squeeze behind them to get past. The walls were lined with books, CDs and DVDs, and there were some interesting looking board games on a shelf. The barman was very friendly, although his English was limited. We enjoyed homemade umeshu while we browsed the various bits and pieces on the shelves. It was a great experience, and I’m really glad we stopped in there.

Perched at the bar
Perched at the bar

After a couple of drinks there, we continued exploring and found some larger bars.  We were looking for somewhere to dance, and came across a couple of places that were very busy. We ended up going to a place that was also hidden upstairs. It was mostly filled with locals, and they were playing really good music.  We had a good night, heading back to the hotel around midnight so we’d have enough energy to enjoy the next day.

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