Wednesday 20 May 2020

What to do in Tokyo, part 2

Odaiba is a large, artificial island located in Tokyo Bay, southeast of Tokyo city. Constructed in 1850, its original purpose was to act as a fort. Daiba literally translates to fort in Japanese. Fast forward more than 100 years later and the island is now a bustling shopping and leisure district, intended to be a futuristic architectural space.

teamLab Borderless
  • Opening hours: 10am-7pm, closes 9pm on weekends
  • Admission: 2400yen, extra for teahouse

If you have a couple of hours to spare, I would definitely recommend visiting teamLabs Borderless, a digital art exhibition created to be borderless world. A magical rendition of light, sound and colour travel into different rooms, interact with your body movements and communicate with one another. It's fascinating. If you're looking to capture a few memorable pictures, I would recommend wearing light coloured clothing as the projections are more prominent that way.

Although there isn't a map, if you're looking to view a specific exhibition, the friendly members of staff are happy to direct you. Some exhibitions require you to queue up and have a time limit due to their popularity, for example, the Instagram-famous Crystal World and Forest of Resonating Lamps.

Make sure that you wear comfortable footwear and movable, breathable clothing as there's a room called the Athletic Forest where you can bounce up and down on a trampoline in the Multi Jumping Universe and race through the Light Forest Three-dimensional Bouldering climbing frames. You will get hot, sweaty and thirsty but don't worry, you can find a vending machine selling recyclable aluminium water bottles with teamLab Borderless written on it. A nice little keepsake that you can re-use.

Before entering the Athletic Forest, you will find the En Tea House. Never has a cup of tea been so immersive. Once the teacup is placed in front of you, flowers will bloom inside of the cup. As you pick up the cup and take a sip, the flowers will scatter in all directions. The more tea there is in the cup, the bigger the flowers. The more you sip, the smaller the flowers will become until they completely disappear along with the last drop of tea. If you don't like tea, you can have a similar experience with a scoop of ice cream. The tea house has an additional fee to visit.

Make sure that you book your tickets in advance as the museum is quite popular and by pre-purchasing a ticket, you're guaranteed a spot and get to skip the long ticket queue. Also, remember to download the teamLab app before visiting for more information on each exhibition.

Diver City Tokyo Plaza
  • Opening hours: 10am-9pm

We got hungry and decided to hit up a shopping mall for a quick bite. There are different ones located in Odaiba e.g., Aqua City, Decks and VenusFort, with each having their own quirks. However, we decided to hit up Diver City so that we could see the 65ft unicorn gundam statue located outside. A 1:1 scale replica, it was huge! Four times a day you can watch him transform from the the unicorn to the illuminated destroyer. These shows take place at 11am, 1pm, 3pm and 5pm so if you're in the area, I recommend stopping by for a quick look.

To fill our tummies, we visited Sojibo, a halal certified restaurant which carries yummy dishes including duck, soba noodles, tempura and curry. Located within the shopping centre, there's also a Daiso (100 yen store) where you can purchase snacks and other relatively cheap souvenirs.

Oedo-Onsen Monogatari
  • Opening hours: 11am-9am, closed once a month after 11pm for maintenance 
  • Admission: depends on day and time, between 2100yen and 3044yen

If you want to relax after wondering around all day, Oedo-Onsen Monogatarai is the place to go. Reminiscent of the Edo period, you're transported back in time to traditional festival where you can walk around in a colourful yukata, play games to win small prizes and soak your feet and body in the abundant hot spring pools.

Admission includes the entrance fee, yukata and towel hire, lockers and changing room usage and the baths. You get given a wristband which you use to rack up a bill on things like food, drinks and additional services such as spa treatments. I highly recommend carrying some coins for the vending machines and to use the full body massage chairs located in the quiet room. Worth every single yen.

When you first enter the building, you have to put your shoes in the lockers at the entrance. Make sure that you're wearing clean socks! At the till, you're given a wristband which has your locker number on it and get to choose what colour yukata you want. Men's and women's changing rooms are separate and I can't account for the men's facilities but in the women's, there were large mirrors with beauty lights, blow dryers, creams, lotions and other bits and bobs. 

Don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it! I was struggling to wear my yukata and asked a nearby Japanese woman for assistance. She realised that my belt was too short and swapped one her kid's belt for mine. I was extremely grateful. Oh, and make sure you remember to keep your underwear on under the yukata. My partner mentioned that he felt a little breezy until I reminded him and he had to pop back into the changing room!

I was too nervous to strip down to my birthday suit however, I still got to appreciate dipping my toes into the foot bath (ashi-yu) which is surrounded by a traditional Japanese garden. There are pebbles embedded into the 50m hot spring river and they really hurt stimulate your feet so tread carefully! 

The entire place has a very wholesome vibe. There are couples, families and groups of friends soaking in the atmosphere and enjoying themselves. I recommend grabbing some some snacks and a cup of (free) green tea/water from the main area and heading into the Nakamura-Za, a room with tatami mats and tables and simply people watch. I spotted a few locals who had a few too many cups of sake and were snoozing away on the mats.

Fyi, there are free shuttle buses that takes you to and from the onsen located in different areas in Tokyo e.g., Shinjuku, Shinagawa and others. At the end of our adventure, we joined the queue outside of the building and hopped on. It's as simple as that. 


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