Day-trip to Odaiba: Tokyo’s Beach Town
By Taryn Siegel on 14 Nov 2016
Despite lying just beside Tokyo Bay, there are actually exceedingly few areas of metropolitan Tokyo where you can walk straight from the bustling city to a beachy shore. The great artificial island of Odaiba (30 minutes by train from central Tokyo) is one of those rare places. Odaiba, with its towering Ferris wheel, indoor and outdoor amusement parks, boardwalk, beaches, and actually beautiful shopping mall, is a popular day-trip getaway for Tokyoites. And with its easy access to downtown Tokyo, it’s really best hit as a day-trip. But with so many attractions to entice and amuse, you’ll want to follow a sensible itinerary to hit all of the best spots in one day.
Walk Across the Rainbow Bridge
Although it’s true that Odaiba can be accessed in around 30-40 minutes from many of Tokyo’s downtown hubs, I personally believe that there’s only one proper way to arrive in Odaiba: across the majestic Rainbow Bridge—one of the best walks that Tokyo has to offer. At night, the bridge’s enormous towers light up like the pikes of a roller coaster. But in the early morning (when I suggest starting your Odaiba trek), the bridge walkway offers a spectacular view of the Tokyo skyline on the north side, and a sweeping vista of the shores of Odaiba on the south. Disembark at Tamachi station, head out the main exit, and you’ll soon find the elevator that leads to the bridge walkway. The whole walk is only about 800 meters and should take most pedestrians around 20 minutes. As the end of the walkway pours out onto the island of Odaiba, you’ll be greeted by the great multi-colored Ferris wheel roaring in the distance.
Ramen Food Theme Park
After an early trek across the Rainbow Bridge, the first thing you’ll want to do after arriving in Odaiba is head to the waterfront for lunch. Head towards the water-facing side of DECKS Tokyo Beach and you’ll reach the DECKS boardwalk, with a string of waterside cafes and restaurants, as well as spectacular views of Tokyo Bay, the Rainbow Bridge, and Japan’s very own Statue of Liberty. But rather than stopping here, I recommend continuing down the boardwalk until you reach the Aquacity shopping mall and heading up to the fifth floor. There you’ll find the Tokyo Ramen Kokugikan—a “ramen food theme park,” offering six different kinds of ramen from all over Japan. After lingering around a bit to see which place had the longest lines and therefore the highest popularity, I settled on the Kawagoe ramen restaurant. This ramen is served in tsukemen style (noodles served in a separate dish and eaten by dipping into the broth bowl). The noodles were thick, soft, and white and came with two great slabs of tender BBQ pork.
The Great Gundam Statue
Maybe the most iconic attraction of Odaiba is the towering, 18-meter-tall Gundam statue from the popular 80s anime of the same name. Even if you’re not an anime fan and haven’t even heard of this anime, it’s an aweing and spectacular monument. The statue is easy enough to find with copious signposts pointing you in its direction. Just head into DiverCity Tokyo Plaza and you can find the statue just outside the mall’s main exit. It’s definitely worth the walk over just to stand beneath this statue, craning your neck upwards towards the monstrous, eerily realistic robot that looms ten stories above your head. And if you head back again after 5pm, you’ll find him impressively lit up with steam even billowing from his chest.
Thrills and Chaos in the Joypolis Amusement Park
Continuing on this somewhat circuitous tour of the waterfront area, from DiverCity Tokyo Plaza head back towards the DECKS boardwalk and into the Sega Joypolis amusement park. I think you’ll find it a natural progression from the enormous robot statue to this chaotic, unbelievably massive indoor amusement park. The Sega Joypolis stretches out over 3 floors with 22 different rides, including two full-size roller coasters, several haunted houses and “haunted forests,” and a bunch of 3D movie rides. The park fees start to add up pretty quickly, though, with admission 800yen and the individual rides ranging from 500-800yen each.
Venus Fort: An 18th century Venetian shopping mall
After the noise and bustle of Joypolis, take a 10-minute walk to the other shore of Odaiba to Palette Town and the Venus Fort shopping mall. From the outside, this giant shopping mall looks like an ugly IKEA or Costco. But cross the tunnel-like entryway, step into the mall’s interior, and you’ll emerge in a new world: 18th century Venice. The entire, sprawling shopping mall is designed in the style of an 18th-century European town, with marble facades and pillars, cobblestone streets, and a center plaza that showcases a sparkling marble fountain. The ceiling of the shopping mall is painted (very realistically) to look like the sky outside. It’s even illuminated by hidden colored lights, so as the afternoon draws into sunset the sky-ceiling changes from a bright, glossy blue to a deep sunset red. Take a stroll around this beautiful theme park mall and finish with a cappuccino at one of the “outdoor” café tables in the Church Plaza Square.
Odaiba Hot Springs Resort
The last stop on your Odaiba day tour should be the hot springs resort Ooedo-Onsen Monogatari, located on the southwestern shore, about a 25-minute walk from the DECKS boardwalk. After 6pm, the hot spring’s entry fee is discounted to ¥2,072 on weekdays and ¥2,288 on weekends (regular admission being ¥2,612). The hot springs offers more than ten different indoor and outdoor baths of various temperatures and minerals, including the “Bath of Silk” with tiny micro bubbles for soothing muscles. When you arrive, you’ll be given a magnetic key wristband for opening your locker and purchasing things inside, and asked to choose from several different styles of yukatas (casual kimonos). After changing into your yukata in the gender-divided changing rooms, you’ll emerge into “Festival Town” – an Edo-period-styled fairway of food stands, carnival games, shrines, and restaurants, every corner of which is adorned with glistening strings of paper lanterns. You don’t need to sneak in cash into your yukata for this area, since everything can be purchased with a scan of your wristband. Near the center of “Festival Town” is the entrance to the spa, with the usual array of treatments like facials and massages, and the gender-divided entrances to the hot springs. You’ll need to change out of your yukata before entering the hot springs, as no clothes are allowed inside. In the indoor section of the hot springs you’ll find a massive hot water pool, a very comfortable lukewarm pool, the “Bath of Silk” pool, a cold-water pool, and two saunas. Outside you’ll find a few open-air hot water pools, and (in the women’s section only) open-air “barrel baths” (large barrel bathtubs that fit about 1-3 people at a time).
After emerging from the Ooedo-Onsen deeply refreshed and full of festival food, most visitors will probably be ready to head sleepily back to central Tokyo. But for those wanting to make a later night of it, if you head back towards the DECKs boardwalk, you’ll find the whole Odaiba waterfront sparkling with lights from all corners of the shore, glistening like firelight on the bay waves. After a nighttime stroll on the beach, head towards Leisureland (between DECKs and Aquacity) for some late-night gaming. Inside Leisureland you’ll find a 24-hour warehouse-sized arcade, complete with a creepy red escalator at the back that leads into a haunted house they’ve playfully named “Haunted Hell.” A midnight tour around “Haunted Hell” is probably the perfect way to end your day of adventure in Odaiba.
Hi there! I'm a freelance writer, part-time Physics tutor, and amateur musician living in Tokyo, Japan. I'm originally from New York, but have also lived in Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and Scotland. My interests are nearly equal parts reading, writing, travel, guitar, coffee, and Physics. When I'm not trekking around glorious Japan, I'm likely biking around Tokyo, reading in cafes, or at a live show of one of my greatly more musically talented friends.