Saturday 29th April and Sunday 30th 2017 – Tokyo
Today we had decided to head south and visit the Odaiba area of Tokyo, which is an area of reclaimed land in Tokyo Bay. It was built in the boom times of the 90s, so is really modern, with glass buildings and wide open streets dotted with neat parks – and the best bit is traveling there on the driverless Yuikamome train which seems to run without rails. We waited a couple of trains so we could sit at the front and loved the ride which includes a full circle to turn left across the Rainbow bridge, and gives the best view of the futuristic buildings. The Fuji TV building is all mechanical struts with a giant ball in the middle, and another building looks like a giant drum has been slotted into the space – fairly nuts but great for Wayne and his camera.
Our plan was to visit the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation or Miraikan as its known, which means ‘hall of the future’. It’s a great place with interactive exhibitions covering space travel, mathematics, energy, medicine and technology, but our main aim was to see humanoid robot ASIMO and the lifelike android Otonaroid. Well when in Japan, it’s all about robots.
ASIMO does a little performance, showing how he can run, hop (apparently really difficult for a robot) and dance – though his singing wasn’t up to much. Really cute and love to have a robot pal once they start producing them. Less cute was the deeply sinister Otonaroid which is a robot in a latex suit designed to make her look human. When not doing her presentation she sits on a sofa quietly twitching and blinking, dressed like a creepy 70s librarian – all a bit unsettling. Not sure I need my robot to look human.
For lunch we headed to Australian Bill Graingers restaurant on the Quay and ordered Wagu burgers. Having tried Hida burgers, wagu was next on our list and god they were good… not sure a normal burger will suffice any more – these are special.
After lunch we followed the sound of umpa music and found a beer festival in full flow, called the Octoberfest, in April, in Tokyo, German band in full flow, the lead singer dressed as a blonde frauline… the crowd loved it and sang along with most of the songs, even dancing along when another ‘guest’ star came on the stage to lead a routine. All really good fun but much more organised than any beer festival I’ve been to in any other country. They even had 5 ladies portaloo cabins to the men’s one… only in Japan!
Sunday we decided to take one of the River taxis up to Asakusa and then find our way through to – Akihabara – home of the geek, gaming and girl band AKB48. We’d seen some futuristic looking ferries on the river but they didn’t seem to be running today so took the boat up the river and enjoyed the sunshine and the views. It was then a stroll through the streets to Akihabara.
Akiba’ is the centre of Tokyo’s otaku (geek) subculture, and on a Sunday they pedestrianise the streets so the locals can get their fill of manga (Japanese comics) or anime (Japanese animation). There are people dressed up, huge stores selling electronics or anime characters and lots of people, mainly grown men obsessing. We saw a group of cyclists all geared up in cycling gear pushing bikes where the rear wheel featured their favourite anime girl – thank goodness they all liked different ones, and lots of men outside the AKB48 booth buying posters of their fave girl.
AKB48 is a manufactured girl band with something like 50 members who perform daily, dominate the charts and have that young girl / stepford wife vibe that you only really get in Japan. Not at all creepy then…
We decided to get some lunch and went to one of the many food floors in the area, opting for a curry stall with the cook in the middle of the room. Not bad for a few quid – Japan is definitely much cheaper to eat in than Australia.
Stuffed, we headed back through Ginza and ended up at the world trade centre to watch the sun down from the viewing platform on the 40th floor. It’s a chilled place and Tokyo is pretty at night with all the neon and lights – so a great way to say goodbye to Japan, before heading back to Shibuya for a final sushi and packing for our final country – Korea!