Thursday, 1 May 2014

The Wordiest and Most Biased Guide to Tokyo Ever (Part 1 of 2)

If your interests are all about shopping, you can feel free to skip to part 2 which covers several shopping hubs; Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Harajuku, Shibuya and Nakano.

Tokyo is the size of a small province in some western countries, except instead of one major "downtown" region, the whole city has many city centers, each one with a different focus from Ginza's high end designer shops to Roppongi's business district to the dense population of anime stores and maid cafes in Akihabara.  There are many districts that are widely covered in generic tour guides to make sure that every tourist knows about the red Tokyo Tower and the Imperial Palace in the center of Tokyo (where Japan's Emperor resides).  My guide will cover those that I am most familiar with which happens to be a convenient Venn diagram of shopping, food and fandom...

Topics Covered: Local transit in Tokyo, Group communications, Shipping shit home, Asakusa, Ueno, Akihabara and Odaiba area reviews.

Local Transit (overview of station navigation and the JR and Metro lines)

Stations in Tokyo are pretty easy to understand language-wise.  Most if not all signs are bilingual with English.  Station names and area maps are usually listed in both Japanese and Romanji (Japanese spelled out in Roman/Latin alphabet).

You can get English subway maps from most Metro and JR stations.  I have a personal preference for riding the Metro because they have much better coverage of all the different areas of Tokyo.  JR is useful if you want a quick route around the perimeter of the city.  Metro has an elaborate web of lines snaking throughout the entire city.  I like to plan out each day of my trip in advance so that I can minimize time spent on transit by planning my days so that there's minimal back tracking in my commute.

Important: In the stations you'll find parts of the platform that are marked with "Women Only" labels, usually in pink.  Cars that board from this area are reserved for, you guessed it, women only.  This is normally ONLY during rush hour, but if you've got dudes in your group and you're in doubt, just board a regular car if you're traveling during rush hour.

Almost all stations have signs by the ticket gates that show the current time, time of upcoming trains, their destinations and how many cars long the trains are (this is important mostly during rush hour).  These will cycle between English and Japanese.  If you're hopelessly lost, ask any station staff like the man in the dark blue suit in the picture.  They're always in uniform when on the clock, so they're very easy to spot and tell apart from your regular commuter.

Every stop will have a sign similar to this at track level.  They show the stop name (usually at least in Kanji, Hiragana and Romanji, although outside of the big city, it's usually just Kanji and Hiragana), the prior and next stations, as well as other lines that you can transfer to (if any).

Many stations will have lists of upcoming stops at track level.  These are usually quite straight forward (and for the directionally challenged, the Metro stations are all numbered, so you can just follow those.  The direction that the train travels is indicated by a "for" followed by the line's end station name.  This is usually straight forward, but be careful on the Metro red Marunouchi line and the JR Yamanote line which loop back on themselves.  Marunouchi doesn't actually connect and fully loop, but if you ride it from one end to the other, you'll end up only a short distance from where you started even though you would have travelled to the opposite end of town and back.  The JR Yamanote line fully loops as it circles Tokyo, so the "for" indicator just lists an upcoming station (it uses the 4 "corner" station to indicate which direction it's heading towards).

As with any other transit system, be courteous.  Let the passengers off before you board the train.  The tracks in the Metro are usually guarded with metal gates.  Lines will form, one to each side of every gate.  Join a line and try to be patient.  If you get separated from your friends in the crowds on your way out, wait by the large signs in the center of the platforms.  There are usually nice gaps in the crowd there.  If the crowds are so great that you can't even manage that, try to make sure everyone in your group knows which station you're getting off at and which exit is the goal and meet up there.  Stations can have dozens of exits, so "winging it" during rush hour or a busy day may not be the best laid plans.

Group Communications

In many of these areas (and even in some stores), you may not wish to separate from the rest of your group unless you are willing to spend the rest of the day apart.  Many phones and phone plans from other countries do not work in Japan.  This is because of Japan's unique telecommunications structure.  They have created mobile technology that immensely reduces the size of the signal "towers" down to a small system that can be installed inside buildings, around crowded areas and even in the underground subway system so that the conveniences of a 3G network can be enjoyed anywhere and anytime.  Unfortunately for visitors, this also mean that many phones made for western mobile infrastructure will not function in Japan.  This includes iPhones, phones on less popular frequencies (ie Wind phones) and anything that operates on a 2G network.  Obtaining a local cell phone is a tedious and complex process for foreigners, so the alternative option that is much more widely accepted by visitors is a portable internet device.  These are essentially mobile hot spots that you can rent from service providers in Japan that will allow all wifi devices within a certain range to connect to the internet freely.  In the recent past, this was often considered a God send for those who cannot navigate themselves out of bed without Google Maps; however, the future is here.  My friend Uly discovered that NTT (a telecom giant in Japan) is offering 2 weeks of free wifi to visitors.  This isn't like a mobile internet device where you must stay within a certain distance from the keeper of the device (aka your friend) or be doomed to have no signal.  This is an almost nationwide web of coverage that allows you the freedom to free wifi on your own phone or computer.  For the time being, it only covers the northern/east half of the country which means if you're in southern cities like Osaka or Fukuoka, you won't be able to benefit from this until the coverage expands further.

Directions for how to sign up for the 2 weeks of free wifi

My advice would be not to activate your 2 free weeks until you're about to set out and explore the city proper.  Nearly all hostels and hotels have free wifi as well as inside train stations.  Your first day or two are unlikely to involve deep penetration into the crowded masses and more likely to center around exploring your immediate area of residence and settling in.  Unless your group has been to Japan before, you're most likely to find the wifi more needed later or at the end of your trip, when the group may decide to split up for parts of the day in order for everyone to complete their own last minute goals.  For these days, having wifi will be a valuable tool to be able to re-group after everyone's individual adventures.  Crowded events such as Comiket or shrines during major festivals are other good uses as there's a high likelihood that you'll be accidentally separated even if you don't do so on purpose.  In the event that the group does get separated, it's often a good idea to have a predetermined meet up time and location at the end of the outing.  Ideally, everyone in the group would be able to at least take transit back to the hotel/hostel in the event that even a predetermined meet up doesn't work out.  For the truly hopeless, grab a business card on your way out and keep it with you in case you need to ask for help getting back to your hostel/hotel.  Most will happily give you a simple map showing you the local area and basic directions in English for how to take transit back to the closest station.

Shipping Shit Home

Inevitable once you've realized how badly you underestimated how many awesome things there are to be bought and won in this country of awesome swag.

As an FYI for those who find themselves with too many souvenirs to haul back in your luggage, you can ship back to North America using a number of methods.  The most popular are usually SAL and EMS.  SAL is a mixture of land transportation and air freight.  It takes slightly longer than airmail, but only a fraction longer and you can save some $ with this method.  SAL costs about 2500yen for 2 kg (4.4lbs); Airmail costs about 3000yen for 2kg.  You can pay a few bucks extra and add a registration (tracking) number to any of those services.  (Note that there is a difference between registration and tracking.  Registration does not always offer step by step updates viewable by the customer, but in the event that the parcel is delayed or goes missing, you can request a trace and the post office will be able to access the step by step updates to find your package.)  2kg is an important marker because this is the top weight that can be shipped by any of the parcel services (surface, SAL and air).  If your package is over this weight, the only option you'll have via JapanPost is EMS.  I know a lot of people think EMS is crazy expensive since it's supposed to be courier level, but if you have a sizable package, the rates are actually close to matching airmail and you can enjoy guaranteed 5 day delivery with tracking.  At low weights, EMS can sometimes be quite expensive depending on the destination, but once you reach about 6kg, the rate will be only about 1700yen/kg.  This is about $19CAD/kg at today's exchange rate.  Combine your stuff with your friends' and do one batch shipment to save the most money.

You're supposed to write a Japanese return address on the form, but if you don't have one that you can use (few tourists will), just fill it out with your home address where ever that may be.  The post office workers will warn you that putting a foreign address on it will mean that in the event the package is lost, you will have no recourse (aside from requesting a trace which from my experiences has about a 50% success rate of finding your package in the end); however, I sent a number of packages while in Japan and one did get bounced and was returned to me at my Canadian return address anyway.  I didn't even get charged for the return-to-sender shipping.  No guarantees that it'll work with every package, but just so you know, it could happen.  Just because it could happen, I always put down my own address as the ship to address for parcels and borrow a close friend's address as the return address.  The post offices might not be so forgiving if you put down identical addresses for the "ship to" and "shipped from" since they can't logically bounce a package within the same address.

East Side


This is probably my favourite of the "cultural" experiences in Tokyo.  On a regular day, Asakusa's Sensoji Temple is a site for mass tourism, for both domestic and foreign tourists, but on almost all holidays, it becomes a source of intense festival fooding as pop up tents appear all over the temple grounds and in addition to the usual avenue of souvenirs, you can enjoy a wide array of traditional festival games and foods.  Everything from chocolate covered bananas to shaved ice to whole baby octopus on a stick can be purchased for a couple of dollars.  One of the largest festivals in springtime is the Sanja Matsuri when Buddist shrines from the entire Tokyo area will send small portable shrines to be blessed at Sensoji.  The region becomes almost unbearably crowded with tourists and practitioners who come out to watch teams of traditionally (but scantily) dressed (usually burly) men parade these portable shrines around the neighbourhood on their way to be blessed.  If you can hold your own in a crowd, this festival is actually a lot of fun with a great atmosphere.  I would recommend taking a back route to the main temple by going north from Asakusa STN and swinging west towards the main temple through one of the small side streets.  Most of the pop up food stalls that I love so much will be up around and behind the main temple anyway, so you'll be able to avoid the worst of the crowds (which will usually congregate around the south end of the temple grounds at the Kaminarimon lantern gate which is due west of the subway station) and be surrounded by yummy things on a stick all at once.

A ton of touristy souvenirs.  The Nakamise shopping street is questionably equal parts awesome and tourist trap.  In any case, if you've never been before, it's kind of an obligation for any tourist.

Be sure to grab a fortune...even if you get a bad fortune like me (and boy did it come true.  Nothing like being sick...on a train...REALLY REALLY sick)...  It's an honour system with a coin slot in the counter and a self-serve fortune system, but be nice and don't cheat the system.

There are 2 contradicting theories of what you should do with your fortune.  One says that you should leave a good fortune behind so that they can be blessed and come true.  The other says that you should tie up the bad luck and leave it behind.  I rather like the second theory.  I'd rather take a good luck with me as a souvenir and leave my bad luck behind so I can draw a new fortune on my next temple visit.

If the Skytree is your thing, you can either walk to it (it will take quite a while), or you can save some time and take the subway east for a faster way to get there. This attraction just opened in spring of 2012, so expect outrageous line ups on weekends, holidays and during peak tourist season.

Tiny Skytree in the background.  It's a lot further than it looks though.

If you have some extra time, Kappabashi Dori is the "legendary" street where much of the fake foods you see in restaurant display windows are sold.  It's the first major road you hit if you walk due west from the Subway Stn.  While it is fun to take a browse, these fake foods are extremely expensive with even a simple fake lemon slice running in the ballpark of $10-20.  This street is actually more of a general "restaurant supply area" than a fake food utopia that some travel guides may make it out to be.  Don't come too late in the day as nearly all of the stores close around 5-6pm.

If you're staying the in the area or need a quick refeuling during your day, head west from the subway station and hang a right at Kappabashi Dori or head over towards Kappabashi via Shin-Nakamise ("New Nakamise" covered shopping street) which runs west from the middle of all the souvenir stalls lining the path to the main Sensoji Temple.  This will lead you to a little restaurant and shopping area including the newly built Don Quixote (aka Donki, a massive discount variety store) and my favourite, the Rox 2 mall which contains a Daiso (100yen store) on the top floor and a Seiyu (maaassive grocery store) in the basement.  Both Donki and Seiyu are open 24/7, so they are a life saver for the extremely jetlagged who are up at 3am and don't feel like watching the ceiling while waiting for morning.

The beautiful new Don Quijote in Asakusa.

Holy Batman, those are some cheap onigiris.  Freshly made every day at Seiyu and even further discounted every night.  Those red stickers?  50% discount stickers as "
半" means half. A dream for the budget traveller.  Check out the yakisoba buns (stirfried seasoned soba noodles in a bun) as well for a budget meal.  It was my friend's favourite food and only 98 yen a piece.

Area Summary

  • Home to Sensoji Temple (a major tourist attraction and the largest Buddist temple in Tokyo) and the Kaminarimon lantern that's become one of Japan's iconic sights.

  • 24hr Seiyu in the area (massive super market with large ready-to-eat food selection).  It's in the basement of the Rox 2 mall by Kappabashi dori which is the first major street west of Sensoji temple.

  • Frequent weekend festivals at Sensoji Temple.

  • Nakamise (shopping street) is good for a browse if you want some super touristy souvenirs, or check out the Shin-Nakamise (covered shopping street that branch out running most east-west in both directions from the middle of Nakamise) if you're looking for some shelter from rain or sun or want to find a quieter place to sit down for an inexpensive meal.

  • Not directly accessible to the JR Yamanote line.

  • Shuts down early.  Temple and surrounding shopping places close around 6-7pm and Kappabashi Dori shops close around 5-6pm.


Like museums?  This place has a lot of them, but I went to most of them back in 2007/2008, so I barely remember anymore.  The park leading to the museums was nice though.  An elderly man showed us how he lured feral cats to him using catnip.  Tehehe, cats.  The end.

Actually, aside from the museums (which there are a ton of...and none of which I can give much advice/feedback on because I'm uncultured), Ueno is still one of my favourite "cultural" experiences to revisit each trip.

You can get here by either JR or Metro.  I like to bundle a visit here with Asakusa since you can easily jump on the Metro at Ueno Stn and ride just a couple of stops to Asakusa.  In fact, to get to Asakusa from the JR Yamanote line, you pretty much HAVE to transfer at Ueno Stn.  Just outside, or rather, just above the subway station, there's Ameyoko, the pedestrian shopping street running right alongside the train tracks.  You can find almost anything here. Clothing stores, snack food stalls, touristy souvenir shops and rows and rows of fresh seafood and all kinds of roe (fish eggs).  There are even street vendors selling fruit on a stick (I usually indulge myself in a big skewer of pineapple) and favourites like okonomiyaki (kind of like a savoury pancake with cabbage and all sorts of toppings) and yakisoba (Japanese fried soba noodles).

The street branches in a Y shape about half way down.  One side maintains the random shops and stalls whereas the other side of the Y is largely food.  You can grab a quick bowl of chirashi-don (sushi rice topped with mixed sashimi) or any other Japanese meals for cheap.  Lots of locals are always sitting around chowing down on the outdoor benches and chairs.  Just find yourself an empty spot to wiggle into after getting your chow and chow down.  There's no "right" way to eat chirashi-don.  You can pour the soy sauce right into the bowl or use a separate sauce dish.  Mix in your wasabi or dab it on.  This is one dish that even Japanese people sometimes disagree on when it comes to how it should be consumed.

Nomy nomy.  They do have cut and ready to eat stuff, though if you're really dying for a huge portion of seafood, you can buy that here as well.

Near the end of the shopping side of the Y-shaped Ameyoko, there's even a gaming arcade that offers a free play to foreigners.  Just look for the machines with the little passport picture.  You just have to show the staff your passport and pick a machine and they'll give you a free play.  One play per person and be warned that these machines don't have particularly good grip, but a free play is always fun.  Seriously, realistic foam fish.  How can you resist?  (Answer: I didn't.  I got 7 of these babies and astonished some tourists and locals by getting them all on 3 tries.)

At the end of the shopping branch, there's the ABAB mall, which is one of the top (off-brand) Gyaru shopping hubs outside of Shibuya.  It's very open concept with roughly circular stores covered in affordable cute clothing, shoes and accessories.  At the top is a Uniqlo on the 6th floor and a Daiso (100yen store) topping it all off on the 7th.  Don't forget to grab a giant cream puff from Beard Papa's on your way out.  It's right beside the main entrance and they often have special flavours that you'll never find at their international franchises.

Sakura flavoured cream with mochi "pearls", a seasonal special flavour from Beard Papa.  Looks like oysters, tastes like yum.

Area Summary

  • Home of all the museums that us uncultured people have no clue about.

  • Ameyoko shopping street offers up a wide range of local shopping, souvenirs (it is a big tourist attraction), and food.

  • ABAB mall at the end of the Ameyoko is a major landmark for Gyaru fashion fans (prices are very affordable though since they're mostly off-brand).  Topped with a Uniqlo and Daiso on the top floors.


  • Ameyoko is a huge tourist attraction, so it gets insanely crowded (this seems to be a theme in Tokyo though).

  • I'd say above average amount of walking in this area if you're visiting the museums as well.  The park is quite big and you have to go through it to get to the bulk of the museums.  It's a very nice park though.  Just bring really comfy shoes.

Akihabara (otaku heaven)

In all honesty, I find Akiba the worst to explore.  It has everything a nerd could want, but it's all just so hard to find.  The bulk of what this area has to offer is contained along the main roads and along the side streets flanking the main road.  It's all in a relatively compact area, but also an area that is very vertically built, so standard street level window shopping will result in you missing a lot of good stuff.  Some of the best stores are around the back alleyways or through a shady looking doorway...all the places your parents have taught you to avoid.  Randomly entering doorways won't work either as you never know if the random building you decided to comb through because it looked promising from the outside is going to reveal a resale store with inexpensive rare items on the top floor or if the hentai store on the ground level is going to lead to increasingly more questionable hentai stores as you go up the levels with increasingly specific and graphic fetishes showcased (drawn from real life experiences...).  You can find everything here...just not always good "everything"s.

If you are taking JR, go to Akihabara Stn.  If you are taking the Metro, you can go to Akihabara station along the grey Hibiya line or you can take the orange Ginza line to Suehirocho Stn which is at the other end of the Akiba stretch (most of the crowds will be by the Akiba Stn end though).  I actually like entering the fray from the Suehirocho end because it's a gradual ease into the crowded shops.

The sight that greets you coming out of Akihabara Station.  Suehirocho Station is a lot tamer and looks like any other street corner.  Just head towards the tall buildings of blinking lights to find the action.

In this area you'll find some amazing arcades...with deceptively hard settings on their UFO catchers.  In this region of high nerd population, it's understandable, though still disappointing. They are winnable if you see rare stuff  you really want, but for more common prizes, these arcades will usually cost you more to win the prize than arcades in Shinjuku or Ikebukuro.

Essentially my face @ dem machines.  You have no idea how badly I wanted a derpy Miku daruma.  You also have no idea how weak and useless that damned claw was.  They're not all that bad, but this machine was THAT BAD.

Instead of winning your arcade prizes, check out the bonanza of anime retail and resale stores.  There are numerous rental re-sale shops in Akiba in addition to your standard resale stores.  They look like the shelving display section of IKEA, filled with little square shelves, but what they really are are consignment-type stores.  Vendors (regular Joe Schmoe who's won too many UFO catcher prizes or wants to sell off some other random collectible) can rent a cube for a monthly fee and fill them with whatever products.  In Akiba, these products are of course anime, manga and gaming merchandise.  Everything from rare figurines to collectible cards to gachapon leftovers.  You'll find these 2nd hand stores tucked in the basements, corners and upper levels of many buildings, though these shops tend not to be very big (at least not compared to the Animate which is approaching double digits in floor count).

Food here is mostly on the side streets.  Just deviate 1 small block over from the main street in either direction and you'll find a nice selection of quick and cheap meals, both western and Japanese.

If you're planning to visit a Maid Cafe, there's no shortage.  Every other street corner will have girls in their store's uniform handing out fliers.  If asked, they'll usually be more than glad to show you the way.  Most of these cafes won't be very crowded on a regular day.  The food tends to be standard Japanese cafe type food; curry with fried cutlet and rice, hamburg steak and the ever popular omlet rice (omu-raizu).  Most of these foods come with an optional sauce that comes in a squeeze bottle.  When the maids offer it to you, they will draw on your food with the sauce.  These might just be cute young girls working a part-time job, but they can do some amazing art with ketchup and mayo.  If you have your heart set on the top cafes, go during a weekday during off-peak hours.  The easiest to find top maid cafe is the @home Maid Cafe which is on the top floor of the big Don Quijote right on the main street (which is also home to the AKB48 theatre).

Area Summary

  • It comes with a tourist information center that offers an array of maps, including ones in English.  It's on the 2nd floor of the UDX building which is a giant building that's hard to miss.  Just turn into the side street at Don Quijote and you can't miss it.

  • A district of anything goes.  If you want to hit the streets in cosplay, this is the place.  No one will give you a second glance.  Just don't cosplay as a maid or someone might try to ask you where your cafe is...

  • Lots of geeky shopping for both new release merchandise and 2nd hand.

  • The Don Quijote in the middle of the strip is pretty amazing.  The merchandise is standard, but it's home of the AKB48 theatre and the @home Maid Cafe.

  • TONS of special product releases happen here, so if you absolutely want the newest merchandise, find out the release date and join the line.

  • Maid cafes galore.  No Japan visit is complete without visiting a maid cafe.  If you're famished and on a budget, I'd suggest getting a light meal or snack elsewhere and then hitting up the maid cafes for a snack.  The menu is marked up from standard cafe prices, so you can easily wind up paying double what you'd pay at a regular cafe for the same meal (although ketchup, mayo and other sauces aren't usually lovingly applied as illustrations on your food).

  • Almost all of the major anime retailers have a giant shop here.  Animate, Kotobukiya, Gamers, etc all showcase their best and coolest swag here.


  • Busy as hell on the weekends.

  • So much is "upstairs", so you'll miss out on a ton of stuff if you just stay with what is visible at street level.

  • Despite having a reputation as the "electric town", electronics here aren't actually that cheap.  If you're looking for pretty standard stuff, I'd recommend hitting up a Yodobashi in another district so you can do your electronics shopping in peace.  If you're looking for anything Sony, there's a Sony Showroom by Ginza station near the center of town where you can touch and try out all their newest products and then buy your chosen product right there.

South End


To me, Odaiba is ultimate fandom sightseeing.  There are just so many things here that are of great importance in fandom.  I've always traveled to Odaiba through Shiodome Stn, which is accessible by both JR Yamanote and the Metro, and transfer to the Yurikamono line which is an elevated tram that provides a beautiful view and crosses to Daiba Island via Rainbow Bridge. 

CLAMP fans would know exactly why this is significant.

First up, the 1:1 scale Gundam is a must see.  Located at Diver City (a mall), no trip is complete without seeing it.  The closest station is either Daiba Stn or Tokyo Teleport Stn depending which line you are on.  Behind the Gundam is a small (official) Gundam souvenir shop.  You can get all kinds of novelty Gundam goods from muffin trays to instance curry (Zakku flavoured, mmm...).  Inside Diver City, you can find the Gundam Cafe where servers are dressed in various Gundam series uniforms.  As with the maid cafes of Akiba, I highly recommend going on weekdays during off-peak hours as the area is always busy with tourists, visitors, families and fanatics.

Tokyo Big Sight is east from the Gundam and if you're lucky enough to be there at the right time, there are some amazing coventions and events.  Comiket happens twice a year, once around mid-August and again in late December.  Tokyo Game Show (think PAX+E3 on crack) now happens in mid-September although it used to be in May.  Tokyo Big Sight looks impressive from afar, but inside, it is just unthinkably massive.  EACH of the 10 halls could fit Fan Expo inside.  The best part is that these events are extremely affordable compared to what you'd find in North America.  Everyone remember how hard it has become just to get passes for PAX and San Deigo Comic Con?  Comiket is free and Tokyo Game Show is a meer 1000-1200yen per day (it's usually a 4 day event with 2 days being business-only and 2 days being open to public).

This was ONE of 6 halls for doujinshi at Winter Comiket.

Other attractions in the area include the Fuji TV Building of Digimon fame.  Not much worth visiting, but any Digimon fan will not be able to resist a quick stop by to take a picture of a building of such significance.

Totally real events...

At the south end of Odaiba, you'll find Oedo Onsen Monogatari, a hot springs theme park.  If you don't have the opportunity to travel out of town to a ryokan (hot spring resort/hotel), take a side trip to soak out your fatigue and experience the awkwardness of naked group bathing (awkward for only foreigners's standard Japanese culture).  You get a loaner yukata (summer kimono) with your entrance ticket and you can enjoy a variety of different styles of baths and classic hot springs experiences.

Along the way, you may wish to make a stop at the Museum of Emerging Sciences (a modern science and technology museum).  It has some beautiful exhibits and is home to Asimo the robot who makes daily performances.  It's mainly aimed at visiting children, but that didn't stop me from getting a front row seat.

Lastly there is a wide variety of malls that are in themselves, attrations as well.  In alphabetical order:
Aqua City - Northwest end of Odaiba (north of Diver City+Gundam).  Has a large Axes Femme (uuuugh, pretty and affordable clothing) with a nice little food court next to a sizable Japanese souvenir shop (where you can buy wasabi flavoured kitkats) and a ramen "theme park" that's really more of a ramen food court of ramen from all over Japan.
Decks - immediately east of AquaCity.  Home of the takoyaki museum, an optical illusion museum, a vintage/olden days Japan store (sells all sorts of goodies that were available around in the olden days from early 1900's).
Diver City - We all know about this by now right?  Gundam.
Leisureland - About the mid-way point between Diver City and Tokyo Big Sight, it's basically an entertainment center mall with occupants similar to Playdium where you can go for karaoke, bowling, etc and a warehouse sized gaming arcade (although the UFO catchers are rather hard to win and some of the games are jacked up in price).
Toyota Mega Web - Basically a Toyota showroom.  Has an indoor test track where prospective buyers can test drive the cars INSIDE the building.
Venus Fort - Just a shopping mall, but built to resemble the idealic grandeur of 18th century Europe.

If you're going to both Diver City for the Gundam and Tokyo Big Sight, just cut through PaletteTown which is the collective "mall" that houses Leisureland, Toyota Mega Web and Venus Fort.  In the summer it provides some shelter from the sun and heat and keeps you warm in winter with minimal outdoor exposure as you trapeze through its length.

Area Summary

  • 1:1 scale Gundam + Gundam Cafe + Gundam Cafe gift shop

  • Tokyo Big Sight; home of the Tokyo Game Show and Comiket (and has been destroyed in Full Metal Panic! and numerous other animes)

  • Rainbow Bridge (X 1999/Tokyo Babylon...)

  • Fuji TV Building (of Digimon fame).

  • Oedo Onsen Monogatari (hot springs theme park): get your awkward naked bathing on here if you don't have an opportunity to go to a ryokan (hot spring hotel).

  • Museum of Emerging Science, home of Asimo the robot.

  • Decks: a mall, but with several museum-like shops and home to the takoyaki museum.

  • Palette Town: a collection of malls (Leisureland+Toyota Mega Web+Venus Fort), but basically one that's just full of different kinds of entertainment like a ridiculously large arcade (UFO catchers are hard to win though and some games are overpriced), karaoke, bowling, etc.

  • More malls...

  • Everything in between the attractions is pretty much park land, so on a nice day, even the walk is enjoyable.


  • It is rather out of the way and it fills a day on it's own pretty well.

  • It's deceptively large, so if you're going to walk form sight to sight, you'll be walking a LOT.

  • Most places are kind of overpriced since it's a huge tourist destination, so everything is priced accordingly.

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