Sunday, February 4, 2018

Reliving my childhood dreams at Odaiba, Shibuya and Central Tokyo

My childhood was formed watching all those Japanese travel shows on IBC Channel 13 (Pinoys would get this) and all the coolest anime TV shows. I have different interests now, but the fascination with Japan never really dialed down. My trip started in Tokyo, a city so diverse and jam-packed that one could spend a week or two, even more, and not still be able to see everything it has to offer. However, I only decided to visit its highlights, most places that the 15-year old me would have wanted to see. This is a way of saying thanks to her being patient and believing that she can make the “impossible” come true.

japan pinoy
trying out the ultimate "japan japan" pose the younger me would have done in all if I went years earlier

I arrived afternoon of November 8 at Narita Airport and it is an understatement to stay that I was overwhelmed with emotions. Aside from the sharp pang of cold autumn breeze, it slowly sunk in that I was finally in Japan. WOW! I just sat for a while to observe my surroundings and finally look for options on how to get to Tokyo. Mind you, Narita Airport is located at Chiba, a two-hour trip from the Japanese capital. 

It was three hours later that I arrived at my Airbnb in Akatsuka and settled in. With only little time left and drained energy levels from the flight and lack of sleep due to work, I ditched the plan of going to Yokohama. I had the idea of going to Odaiba after seeing a previous colleague’s post in Instagram, with no idea what to do there except to see one big guy.

I was still getting used to Tokyo subway at this point, it is daunting and confusing at first glance, but with the help of Google maps, getting lost was a thing of the past. I had no problems getting to Odaiba despite going there during the peak rush hour. But first, what is Odaiba? Well, it rose to popularity because of the number of its trendy shopping malls and restaurants. But what is surprising is that it is actually a man-made island that was developed during the 1980s; originally a group of huge landfills that was intended as a defense system from attacks from sea. It now houses some of the most impressive buildings around the city.

palette town

I was disappointed with myself that when I got there, Miraikan or National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation that prides itself for unique exhibits of robots and innovations in the field of science. But truth be told, I just really wanted to see ASIMO, so I was kicking myself to find it already closed for admission. Here's ASIMO kicking a soccer ball to Former President Obama.

venus fort

The area called Palette Town looked exciting, so I roamed around for a bit, expecting to see something Pokémon related. I wasn’t into cars but if you are, you might find something of interesting at Toyota Mega Web where they display the newest models and other technologies for free. You might even be allowed for a test drive as long as you have a license. I stumbled upon Venus Fort and marveled how a mall could look so pretty, it felt as though you’re in walking in some street in Italy.

tokyo mall

diver city
the colorful Diver City

A short walk from these shopping havens is Odaiba most adored statue located in Diver city (nope, it’s only also a mall and not a city), *drumroll please*… the ever massive statue of Gundam. I took pictures, snap snap and would have already left, but curious as to why all those people seem to be waiting for something, standing with their cameras on tripods. Don’t get me wrong, the statue was impressive and much more during the night when it’s body is illuminated. As minutes went by, I noticed more and more people gathered around this area.  And the introvert in me did not bother to ask any question and jut waited along with them. It was not long after all lights were turned off and something cool happened..

tokyo gundam

I didn’t know I was in for a 10-minute light show! Most of the FB posts I have seen from friends did not mention any of this, so I think I was lucky to be in time for this. Before you go inside the premises of Diver City, you can also go to this shop called Gundam Base Tokyo where they sell Gundam merchandise like clothes, models and even food!

fuji tv

A short walk from Diver City is Fuji TV Building with its prominent sphere and colorful light display during the evening. Decks Tokyo Beach is also a popular hang-out spotif you’re in the mood to see Legoland Discovery Center and Madame Tussauds (the same museum we saw in Hong Kong).

But for me, the best part of this district is Odaiba Seaside Park, from there you can get a sweet view of the Rainbow Bridge and Japan’s Statue of Liberty. An amazing way to cap the night.

rainbow bridge
romantic Tokyo

The following afternoon, I decided to see more of Tokyo’s hustle and bustle and alighted at Shibuya station. I remember seeing an anime that featured Shibuya, particularly it’s humongous buildings and unique street fashion. It has since then been on my bucket list of places to see if ever I get to Japan.


As my stomach’s call for decent meal couldn’t be disregarded, I asked for a restaurant recommendation that was just nearby the station. I was told to go to Ichiran Ramen “to taste one of Japan’s best noodles”, their words, not mine. I was there at quarter to 4 and it was not that crowded yet, so I only had to wait for ten minutes to be seated. As with other ramen joints, you could give a detail of your preferences such as the noodles thickness and spiciness. The verdict: pretty good, tonkotsu broth had the exact richness that I liked. I was quite surprised by the spiciness though, I chose level 2 but it seemed like it was a level 3 or 4, good thing I didn’t go crazy and put a 6 in there.

tokyo ramen
The ideal setting for introverts like me, but its main purpose is to for diners to fully appreciate the taste sans the distractions

ichiran ramen
craving for some ramen?

Another memorable place in this district that I remember seeing first on animation shows was the statue of Hachiko, built in memory of a loyal dog who waited for his master every day in front of the station, continuing even until his master passed. This story was even adapted by Hollywood. It is considered as one of Tokyo’s important landmarks thus the flock of tourists waiting to have a picture with this dog, and yes, I admit I was one of them.

tokyo hachiko
the obligatory tourist picture with Hachiko

As you approach or exit the station, it’s impossible to miss the overwhelming experience of joining Tokyoites cross the famed Shibuya intersection. If you prefer to people-watch and observe this spectacle from afar, I recommend buying a drink at Starbucks in Tsutaya building and staying at the second floor, mind you, you may even have to wait for a free seat near the window-side as everybody else had the same idea. Anyhow, this area is one of the most vibrant in Tokyo, surrounded by tall shopping malls, with neon advertisements plastered at almost every angle you could think of.

shibuya intersection
Shibuya Crossing

tokyo starbucks
quite an expensive drink at 600~JPY, the view was worth it though
shibuya crossing

tokyo night
the view outside Shibuya Station

tall malls together with the popular Shibuya 109

I saw Shibuya transform as soon as the sun started to set. Walking along the streets of Center Gai, Spain Slope and Koen Dori was enjoyable, and the area transforms into a candy store filled with colorful treats at every turn. It mostly the same everywhere though, boutiques and restaurants pack this popular district, so if you don’t have any plan to shop, it’s still nice just to walk around and observe the trending fashion trends in Japan.


tokyo japan
blending with the crowd


shibuya malls

shibuya night

tokyo street

During the entire time I was staying in Tokyo, one of the places I was looking forward to see was closed for maintenance. Do you have any guesses? Studio Ghibli! T___T I don’t feel too bad though, as it is now one of the many reasons why I need to go back to Japan.

Tokyo Character Street

So I decided to go to the next best thing I could think of. I headed out for Tokyo Station and seethe bustling Tokyo Character Street located at Yaesu Underground Central Exit. I did not have anything in particular that I wanted to buy, but if I went here 15 years ago, I swear I would have spent all my savings for these collectibles. If you’re wandering which characters are available, they have a diverse selection from characters kids love up to teen’s favorites, mostly wholesome though, I suppose adult-themed characters *wink wink* can be found elsewhere, Akihabara perhaps?

pokemon store

They have cutesy or kawaii items from Doraemon, Hello Kitty, Rirakkuma, Pokémon, Gudetama, Studio Ghibli, Snoopy, Miffy, Moomin, and other characters popularized by TV stations such as Fuji TV, TBS, NHK and tv asahi. Popular adventure anime kyaras can also be found here especially at stores like Jump Shop – One Piece, Naruto, High Q, Dragon Ball, and Ultraman. My favorite of all is the Crayon Shin-chan store, because I enjoy reading about Shin-chan’s playful antics.I did enjoy browsing at the items but if you shopped a lot and get hungry afterwards, you can go to Ramen Street located at the same shopping complex. I was supposed to eat at a place that serves tsukemen called Rokurinsha, but the place was packed and I couldn’t wait anymore, so I settled with another popular noodle dish called soba.

dragon ball z items

doraemon store

studio ghibli tokyo

crayon shin chan store

anime store tokyo

As I was in the area anyway, I decided to see one of the cities historical building, the Tokyo Station Marunouchi Building. Built around the 1910s, it was a testament of Japan’s rapid development when it came to rail construction. It underwent several renovations from the hit it received during World War II, and features the classic Japanese red-brick façade that can also be seen in many old structures in the country. Considered as the busiest station in Japan, it serves as a terminal to a number of trains from Japan Railways and subways from the Tokyo Metro. It now also offers restaurants and even a hotel.

Tokyo Station Marunouchi Building
apologies for blocking the view, but I only had very few pictures of the building lol

central tokyo

Tokyo Station Marunouchi Building

Last off from my anime-filled trip is a visit to a Book Off branch, said to be the country’s largest bookstore chain, boasting about 865 branches nationwide. I was only able to see one branch when I was in Tokyo and I initially thought they only had books for sale, but be prepared to spend some time browsing their vast collection of mangas, CDs and DVDs, and video games. At bigger branches, they even have clothes, video game consoles from Sony and Nintendo at very cheap prices. I wanted to buy lots of items believe me, but I calmed myself and resisted because I want to keep to my budget, but oh boy, were they tempting.

book off

manga sale
the two sets I wanted to buy the most, but they are too bulky and heavy that baggage fees would be exorbitant

I can’t help but miss Tokyo as I write this post. Even though it took me a long time to get to Tokyo, it sure was worth the wait. Aside from cool modern finds, the city has lots in store if you want to get a taste of traditional Japan, which I will be sharing soon.

More details about my 25-day trip soon :)


  1. Were there english books in Book Off?

    1. Good question. I bet there some but might depend on the branch? I've only been to two branches but the bigger one had some about learning Japanese in English

    2. I love books! But I don't like shopping, but I should check out Book Off next time. Thanks Mariane. Fun adventure you had in Tokyo, by the way! :)


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