After a very hectic but fun week off work for Obon, I’ve kind of slipped in to a routine of using my days off work for rest, recuperation and – occasionally – a beer or two (honest!).
The fact that I’m yet to receive a full month’s wage has played a part in this, as by the cut-off point for August pay day I had only worked my training week and, as such, was only paid for that period. ¥50,000 sounds like a big number to be paid but trust me, it soon goes. In fact, ¥50,000 only converts to around £250. Luckily, Tokyo is nowhere near as expensive as people led me to believe, but more on that at a later date.
There’s also the fact that, although the novelty of being in Tokyo hasn’t quite worn off yet, this is actually my home now. I’m going to be here for at least a year, so there’s no rush to see everything as soon as possible. I think when I first arrived I saw days where I did nothing as a waste of a day, but in reality I would have such days at home without thinking twice. It’s ok to chill out every now and then.
By the way, when I say ‘weekend’, I’m referring to Monday and Tuesday – my two days off. No, I still haven’t got used to it either.
This ‘weekend’ however, feeling fully refreshed despite stumbling upon a decent little bar in Oizumigakuen on Monday, befriending the owner and delivering impromptu English lessons, a couple of friends and I decided to check out the manmade island of Odaiba.
Odaiba is…well, I don’t really know what it is to be honest.
As I mentioned above, it’s a manmade island built on reclaimed land around the Tokyo Bay area. That much I do know. It reminded me a little of Sentosa in Singapore, for those who have been there. There’s a manmade beach, arcades, shopping malls, and plenty of things for families with young children to do and see…I imagine.
The problem was that we decided to visit on a rainy Tuesday afternoon. I know, not the wisest time to visit a place with an artificial beach, but unfortunately we don’t choose our days off! As a result, Odaiba felt like something of a ghost town whilst we were there. Parts of it were eerily silent, and the continued construction and large empty carparks gave the impression that it was missing something, but we couldn’t put our fingers on what it was.
Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that Miraikan – the big science centre (people from Yorkshire: think a Japanese ‘Eureka’) – is only closed one day of the week and, you guessed it, that day is Tuesday! Remember that time I boasted about how never planning things usually works out for me…?
Thankfully though, not everything on Odaiba was closed so we did actually get to see some stuff and shelter from the rain for a while. Every cloud – and there were a lot of them – has a silver lining I guess.
If, like me, you were hoping to find a life-size replica of the Pallet Town of Pokemon fame then prepare to be very disappointed. Despite being in Japan, this is a completely different thing. The clue is, sadly, in the spelling!
It wasn’t all bad though. Whilst Charmander, Bulbasaur and Squirtle were nowhere to be found, this Palette Town – a ‘shopping and entertainment complex’ – still kept us occupied for a while. And no, I’m not even remotely embarrassed I remember the names of Pokemon. In addition to an arcade, Palette Town also has a number of shops and the Toyota Mega Web.
Now, I’m not really arsed about cars in all honesty so this didn’t interest me at first. However, what appeared on first glances to be little more than a showroom actually turned out to be a hell of a lot more. We were initially intrigued by the signs advertising a ‘robot demonstration’ at 2pm, but with 15 minutes to kill decided to have a ride on a road-safety simulator.
This turned out to be an absolutely bonkers 10 minutes of us being thrown around whilst some absolute nutter drives an animated car down long winding roads, through jungles and a lot of long grass, weaving in and out of countless obstacles on the road before eventually being crushed by an elephant. The moral of the story was apparently that you should always wear your seatbelt; it could have just as easily been ‘absolutely nothing, not even a seatbelt, will stop an elephant crushing you’. Poetic.
With 15 minutes killed, we eagerly headed over to the stage where the robot demonstration was due to take place at any given moment. They appeared to be suffering from a few technical delays but – as they say in theatre – the show must go on and they eventually got underway.
What followed was what seemed to be a sales pitch in Japanese promoting this invention and, due to the aforementioned technical errors, a few videos showing the robot in action as the real thing didn’t fancy picking up the beanbag they’d carefully placed on the floor for it. We’ll just have to take their word on that one.
Despite the slight disappointment at the lack of actual robot action, we still managed to get a picture. As I said, every cloud and all that.
I’ve tried to watch bits and bobs of Anime, but in all honesty I don’t think it’s my thing. As a result, I had absolutely no idea who Gundam was and why this massive statue was such a big deal. I’ve since found out it’s a fairly famous character. You learn something new every day.
I think more shopping centres back in the UK should have statues of famous TV characters outside them. I’d be all for an 18 metre tall statue of Steve McDonald outside the Arndale Centre in Manchester – wouldn’t you?
New York, New York?
Bizarrely enough, just around the corner from the manmade beach Odaiba has its own little tribute to New York in the form of the Statue of Liberty. At least that’s what I thought.
A quick Google search suggests that it’s not actually paying homage to the statue in The Big Apple, but is in fact a replica of a popular statue that was in Odaiba around the late nineties which celebrated Japan’s ties with France. See, my teaching doesn’t stop at school.
The original statue itself apparently only lasted a year, from 1998-99. However it was missed so much that a replica was installed due to popular demand, and is now accompanied by the adoring masses waving their selfie sticks about like it’s nobody’s business. If you avoid losing an eye to the aforementioned selfie-taking implements, you can get a nice picture with the Rainbow Bridge in the background, which itself looks like a tribute to the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco. I have no doubt that I’m also wrong on this.
Looking back, it seems I learnt quite a lot at Odaiba. Granted, the large majority was useless trivia, but still I was learning nonetheless. One thing I learnt was definitely useful though: don’t go to Odaiba on a rainy Tuesday!