Odaiba

Odaiba (which means fort or battery in Japanese) was named for six Tokyo Bay fortresses built in the mid-nineteenth century, the same year that Commodore Perry sailed into Yokohama Harbor and opened Japan to trade with the western world. One of these, Dai-San Daiba, has been refurbished into an attractive park and is open to the public. Many come here for lovely views of the Odaiba attractions and a leisurely picnic. In addition to the impressive skyline with its unusual buildings, there are excellent views of Rainbow Bridge from the battery island.

Odaiba itself is an island reclaimed with landfill from other city excavation sites. Major development started in the 1980s and early 1990s to make this a tourist destination showcasing the architecture and innovations of the future. Some of the Odaiba attractions include modern skyscrapers of almost startling appearance. One of these is the building housing the Fuji Television headquarters, with its gleaming suspended globe that is one of the several Tokyo observatories. Another huge gleaming silver globe can be seen on the building housing the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, which houses a planetarium. Another observatory is in the Telecom Center, another futuristic building that is a hub of communication. If you want a more thrilling view point, the Odaiba Ferris Wheel is the attraction for you.

At more than 377 feet high, the Odaiba Ferris Wheel is one of the tallest in the world, surpassed by the newer London Eye (443 feet), the Star of Nanching in China (520 feet), and the Singapore Flyer (541 feet). The Odaiba Ferris Wheel is at Palette Town, an entertainment and shopping complex with a large concert venue for special events. Here is the Venus Fort shopping mall, patterned in the style of a gracious eighteenth-century Venice Italy and boasting more than 100 boutiques, galleries, shops, and dining spots. Other events are held in the Tokyo International Exhibition Center, which is named Tokyo Big Sight and is the largest convention and exhibition center in the country. It, too, boasts a bold futuristic architectural design.

Odaiba Marine Park is a peaceful seaside park with gardens and beaches. There is no swimming allowed, but there is a public swimming pool and you can enjoy paddle boats and boardsailing. At one end of the park is another of the city’s many museums, the Museum of Maritime Science, housed in a building built to resemble a cruise ship. Inside is a fascinating collection of Japan’s maritime history, model ships (including wooden boats from the Edo Period). If you are on a family vacation, the children will love the pond where they can skipper radio-controlled boats. Moored in the harbor outside the museum are two real ships, the 1938 ice breaker Soya and the Yotei Maru cruise liner.

The Onsen in Odaiba is one of the more unusual Odaiba features. Called the Oedo Onsen Monogatari, it is housed in a traditional Japanese-style bath house and is referred to as a theme park. An onsen is a bath fed by hot springs, and there are thousands of natural ones scattered all across the volcanically active country. This one is fed by actual hot springs waters drawn from nearly a mile beneath the surface. The tradition of public bathing in Japan has a long history, and has remained a popular activity even though homes now have private bathrooms.

Other Odaiba attractions include more parks and harborside pedestrian promenades, more shopping malls, a replica of the Statue of Liberty (on loan from Paris France), and some nightlife.

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