My first week in Tokyo is coming to a close and yet, I feel like I've barely seen the city. The layers in which this metropolis is constructed just seem relentless and ongoing.
Every alley has a subsection. Every neighborhood has its village.
The tastes of this city have varied from exciting to serene. Any flavor you could imagine could be found around the corner (especially in a vending machine).
With so much more to see, I'll inevitably have to spend more time here. I have a sneaky suspicion that you'll have me stay here for another week or two.
Speaking of different flavors, I'm heading over to the manmade island of Odaiba today.
This place is a big mecha for all things entertainment, hosting everything from shopping malls to a gigantic Onsen.
I know the history behind Odaiba is a bit deeper than its current use, but today will be dedicated to the silent art of relaxation.
After the hustle and bustle of the city this past week, it'll be nice to punctuate my first week with mellow activities.
To get to Odaiba, it appears that I'll have to cross Rainbow Bridge.
As the name implies, the multicolored structure was built a few decades ago to connect the main part of the city to the Odaiba waterfront.
At that time, the island was being redesigned as a major entertainment hub for the area.
Originally, the island was built to serve as a "defensive front" to protect the city from enemies coming in.
As the decades wore on, the island was built up to serve other purposes and now stands as a vibrant, cosmopolitan one-stop-shop for the city.
Within seconds of hitting the sandy soil, I can see the landscape of attractions.
The Orb-shaped TV station, the oversized Ferris wheel, an enormous life-size robot from a favorite anime of mine. This place has any attraction that would entice a human being.
The plan for today is to venture through all of the main hot spots, finishing the day with a nice, relaxing plunge at the popular Onsen.
First, though, I need to check into my hotel. There's nothing too unique about the accommodations tonight, except for one little part.
This could be more of a thing over here, but I've never stayed in a place that requires you to put your key card in a designated slot.
The reason for this is the card activates your appliances and anything electronically powered (so basically, everything) in your room. I found it kind of annoying, honestly.
Perhaps I'm so used to staying in traditional (or cheap) accommodations but having that feature is easily forgettable... And frustrating.
Nonetheless, the place supposedly has a great breakfast buffet so I'll be sure to detail that spread in tomorrow's entry.
Back to the current state of mind... The first stop today is to Aquacity. This shopping mall has a variety of places to splurge at but the goal here to sample as much Ramen as possible.
This mall has what they call a "food theme park", which is an array of restaurants specializing in one dish. Like I already mentioned, Ramen is the item of our affection for today's meal.
I knew that Ramen could be made several different ways, but you don't expect a smorgasbord of variety for one dish.
I was pleasantly surprised by the different flavors you can sample from these noodles. If the symphony of slurps was any indication, this place seems to be a hit with locals and tourists, alike.
With bloat in full effect, I walked over to the next stop of the day.
This next place has a shopping center, a car museum (with a live test track), a futuristic art gallery, and a gigantic Ferris Wheel. Of course, the place I'm referring to is called Palette town.
Unlike other attractions, Palette Town appears to offer some sort of entertainment for everyone.
The biggest of those appears to be the art exhibit, which requires tickets to be bought well in advance. Judging by the line around the block, it looks like a must-see attraction.
Perhaps I can come back to see it sometime next week.
I gravitated towards the car museum, as the screeching of tires on the test track was too tempting to ignore. The museum has multiple themes, showcasing vehicles from different eras.
You enter the building through an older exhibit, eventually working your way towards the modern core.
To test drive one of the vehicles, you had to have an IDP (international drivers permit) and your actual ID, on hand.
Because I did the go-kart experience the other night, I was already required to have an IDP. After a short wait, they give me the keys to the newest version of the sedan that I have back home.
I'm allowed to take this beauty around the track 3 times, which was all I needed to fall in love with the vehicle. The handling, the feel, the snappy acceleration.
It shouldn't be surprising, as I'm a proud owner of an older model. It's just hard to beat the feel of piloting a brand new vehicle.
Not only that, it was nice to know that I could put this thing through its paces.... And not get sick from the pallet-sized stack of ramen in my stomach.
My afternoon continues with a stop at Diver City, the other popular shopping mall in Odaiba. I honestly could care less about the mall, itself.
I came to this spot for one reason, and one reason only... The giant, moving robot out front. The glowing, sharp object stands guard in front of the mall like it was its eternal protector.
From what I've heard, the robot is activated every 20 minutes, making small gestures to the crowd as music from its anime's soundtrack, is blaring in the background.
Maybe it's the kid in me that erupts this kind of excitement, but it's just amazing to see such a large structure come to life.
The fact that it can be its size, yet move its extremities with such grace is an engineering feat unlike any I've ever seen before.
I spent the rest of the afternoon marveling at the design that is this robot. Perhaps the coolest feature about it is how it was scaled to size.
The initial blueprint to build the robot came from a toy. Every nook and cranny of the structure was amplified (and multiplied) in size from the design of an action figure.
To confirm that idea, measurements of the toy can still be found on the feet of the robot. It was a real treat to experience.
Before I finish the day at the Onsen, I made one last pit stop at the nearby TV station.
Aside from being HQ for a national TV network (and programming), this station has a ball-shaped apparatus that serves as a visitor center, of sorts.
Tourists are allowed to climb up into the building and attempt to take their best panoramic shots of the bay.
I was able to make the climb and capture a few photos, but I'm not going to lie, the angles up to the station gave me a hint of vertigo.
I'm not necessarily afraid of heights, but something about that structure just overwhelmed my senses.
Finally, I finish my tour of Odaiba at the popular Onsen. Unlike the traditional hot springs I visited earlier on this trip, this Onsen is completely modified for gluttonous use.
Aside from the array of hot springs available, the Onsen also has an indoor food and "theme park" area, filled with vendors and several carnival-like games to play.
The only catch is that they require you to wear a yukata and keep your shoes in the lockers upon entry.
Guests were also required to wear key FOB-looking tags, which were our way of paying for items during our stay.
It ended up being a great night. One of the people I met from the hostel in Shibuya was also there, so we rekindled our drunken memories of this past week in the loud hallways of the onsen.
One drink turned into several and I'd hate to guess how many sticks of yakitori (grilled meat on a skewer) we consumed, but let's just say, the temporary dad bod was worth the taste.
Odaiba was such a joyful way to wrap up the week. This place alone could be the subject of a weekly stay, but there's just too much to do.
I would like to see the art exhibit, so if your itinerary allows for it, I will be back soon to check that out.
This place is just another great example of the ingenuity that is inherent in this culture. Nothing really goes to waste here.
A place that was once meant for defending the entire city from foreigners is now a haven for those same people to consume and celebrate at.
This has been a fantastic week and I hope I'm able to stay here longer. I look forward to tomorrow and starting Golden Week off on a high note!
Thanks and I'll see you soon!