19 Jun Day 9: A not so great day in Odaiba
Our ninth day in Japan fell on Culture Day, (Bunka No Hi) a national holiday to celebrate freedom and peace and showcase culture, the arts and achievements. The day is celebrated with cultural parades, festivals and award ceremonies. As great as it would have been to see a culture parade, we knew Fletcher didn’t have the patience of us finding a viewing spot and waiting for the parade to pass. We also knew public transport would be especially crowded as people made their way to the various celebrations. I would have avoided visiting Japan on a national holiday but it somehow slipped my researching. As the day fell on a Sunday, the next day, Monday was a national holiday in observance for culture day. Making it an exceptionally busy weekend in Tokyo. Bad planning on my part. I thought we would avoid the main Tokyo area and spend the day in Odaiba, a man-made island in Tokyo Bay.
To get to Odaiba I wanted to take the Yurikamome, an elevated train that is fully automated. This line offers a very scenic ride into Odaiba, with views of the waterfront. In order to get on the Yurikamome we had to first get to Shimbashi station. Once there, we walked up the stairs to the Yurikamome platform and were greeted with a crowd of people. They were all waiting for the next train, which pulled up just as we got there. The train runs frequently so we were happy to wait for the next one. The train arrived, we got on and were soon crammed in as more and more people got on. The train was clearly not made for such a crowd of commuters, the large seats were designed to enjoy the scenic trip. I was pressed up against the back of a seat the whole journey and it was a very uncomfortable train ride to Odaiba. I looked over at Tim who was holding Fletcher and he certainly wasn’t enjoying the trip either. We got off at Odaibakaihinkoen Station and breathed a sigh of relief.
We put Fletch in the stroller and started walking. He seemed like he was going to have a nap so we kept walking past the first two large shopping malls, Decks and Aquacity. We crossed the street to see the large Fuji TV building and walked down beside it. There were groups in colourful costumes gathered to do performances. We made our way to Diver City Plaza and walked around browsing at all the various stores.
Diver City Plaza
We came out of an elevator and this huge sign was in front of us. It’s advertising the cafe Maidreamin. Japan is well known for their maid cafes. This sign intrigued me as I find it kind of bizarre that in a cafe where the waitresses dress as sexy maids, the food is presented all cutesy, like the photo below of the ‘bear floating in the curry pool’ dish. We decided to get some lunch before the restaurants got too busy, we didn’t choose maidreamin, though I’m sure Fletch would be impressed with the cute teddy bear lunch.
Our lunch-time disaster
People were already lining up outside the restaurants so we made a quick decision to eat at a tonkatsu place and joined the queue. Tonkatsu is breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet and is usually served with shredded cabbage. We looked at the window display while waiting and decided what we’d like to eat. We got to the door and sat in the chairs that were placed there, soon and we were led to a table.
A lady brought over three cups of hot green tea and left. I was trying to watch others to see how to order and thought someone would come take our order. There was a menu on the table and a special set meal that was similar to what we had chosen from the window. No one came to take our order and I couldn’t see anyone going to the counter to place one. I thought maybe the set meal was what was available for lunch and there was no choice. We couldn’t read what it said.
The man who had led us to our table came and in broken English asked us about our order, I wasn’t sure if he was taking it or asking if we’d placed it. I pointed to the special page in front of me and said two please. He left and at this point Fletcher was getting restless. I found some snacks we’d bought earlier and tried to keep him happy while waiting for our lunch to arrive. He wasn’t interested in the snacks or any toys I tried to offer him. He began to cry. Tim said he’d take him outside and as much as I didn’t want to disturb everyone else, I said I wasn’t sure. He wouldn’t be able to explain at the front that he already had a table, our lunch would arrive soon and what if he didn’t settle. We also had no way of contacting each other. While I was going over all this, the man approached and said “baby cry, people eat” as he gestured to the restaurant full of diners. We all got up and left.
We put Fletcher in the stroller and after walking for a bit he was perfectly fine. I, however was now in a terrible mood. I was annoyed at myself for being so clueless and not knowing how to order. I felt bad for disturbing the other diners. I felt bad that my child hadn’t been fed. I was annoyed at the restaurant for ignoring us for so long.
We passed several groups performing dances for Culture day and stopped for a little while to watch. We thought we’d better get some lunch, although Fletcher didn’t even seem hungry. He must have just not liked that restaurant, me either Fletch.
We were heading to the shopping mall Decks as Tim said he knew they had a McDonald’s that could be a last resort. The entrance to the shopping mall was via a large staircase or steep escalator. Fletcher was comfortable in the stroller so we didn’t want to take him out and weren’t keen on putting the stroller on the steep escalator. We saw a sign for a lift and thought it was just behind the escalator but another sign led us into the carpark. We walked along the path and then across the carpark where we came to a room in which we thought the lift would be. A staff member let us in and led us around to the lift. If I had known the lift was through a carpark and in a staff access only area, I wouldn’t have bothered. What a terrible set up for those in wheelchairs. We entered the shopping mall, passing by the busy Legoland. We found the whole layout of Decks confusing with different floors and areas connected by the outdoor decking.
It was busy, so we decided McDonald’s would do, I wasn’t even hungry anymore. The McDonald’s was actually outside of the building on the street, it was only small and very crowded so Tim went to buy food while I chased Fletcher around outside. We ended up eating our lunch on the street. Oops. After we finished eating we then went to look in another shopping mall, Aquacity. We found a store selling Coca Cola merchandise, I don’t think these stores are as rare as we thought, but we didn’t even know they existed.
After looking around Aquacity, we went back outdoors to view Odaiba’s version of the Statue of Liberty. We contiued walking back past the giant Gundam and saw some more dance performances.
We were heading to the Pallete Town area of Odaiba. This entertainment area consists of the Venus Fort shopping mall, Toyota showroom, Zepp music venue, a ferris wheel and Leisureland, a large complex with game arcade, bowling alley, karaoke and more. Our first stop was the Toyota Mega Web. We watched some people driving cars around the outside before going inside to the showroom.
After looking around the Toyota showroom we went for a ride on the Ferris wheel. We waited in line for about 10-15 minutes and then had a photo taken near the entrance. The Ferris wheel doesn’t come to a complete stop, so we were ready with our stroller folded up and holding Fletcher so we could get in when our turn came. We entered a pink cabin and took our seats inside. The views from the Ferris wheel would be great on a clear day, but this day was quite foggy. We still enjoyed our ride. We passed on buying our photo that was taken at the entrance, Tim didn’t think it was worth the price when it was just taken with a false backdrop.
After our Ferris wheel ride we went to browse around the Venus Fort shopping mall. Venus Fort is designed to resemble an 18th century European village. It features fountains and a ceiling that displays a changing sky scene. At the time we were there it was also decorated with lights and trees for Christmas. I’m not much of a shopper, especially when travelling, I prefer to see new things. I enjoyed Venus fort a lot more than the other shopping malls, I think because it had a completely different look and it was only three floors high and much easier to navigate around.
We came across a restaurant with food displays outside and I thought their range of kids meals looked cool, this probably would have been a great option for lunch. Anyway moving on.
The very pink photo above is a place called Hello Kitty Kawaii Paradise. It’s kind of like a mini theme park with games, a cafe and a character meet and greet.
As I mentioned, Venus Fort is made up of three floors. The floors are separated into sections. The third floor is outlet shops, the second floor is called Grand and is filled with the latest fashion, jewellery and cosmetics from brands such as Burberry, Ralph Lauren and Zara. The section we found the most interesting was the first floor which is called Family. We thought it would be mainly children’s clothing a toy stores. While there were such stores, what we weren’t expecting were all the dogs.
People walking dogs on leads, people carry dogs and people pushing dogs in strollers. We had never witnessed anything like it, I don’t know of any shopping malls where people bring their pets along for the shopping trip. There were a few pet supply stores and a dog friendly cafe, where diners could be seen with their doggy strollers.
The pet supply stores were full of so many various items. Christmas was approaching, so there were quite a few themed dog outfits. One store had a supply of the dog strollers and accessories to go along with them. I know there aren’t many people living in Tokyo that are having children, they treat their dogs like children instead. I was actually under the impression that it was hard to find accommodation in the city that accepted pets. I believed this was the reason cat cafes were so popular. We were really surprised to find so many dog owners and such a dog friendly shopping mall. Most of the people with pups were couples but there were also males and females, young and old, and the odd family.
It had started getting dark out, so we decided to end our day in Odaiba and head back to Shinjuku. We noticed a lot of the families from the day were leaving and the people coming into Odaiba for the night were loved up, young couples.
To get back to Shinjuku we avoided using the train we had come in on, choosing to take the rinkai line via the Tokyo Teleport station. Our day in Odaiba was far from my favourite, so many things put a dampener on the day. To be fair it was a very busy long weekend in Japan and shopping malls aren’t really my idea of seeing a different country. There are some great views from areas in Odaiba and maybe without the crowds it would be a great day out.