Most younger travelers who come to Tokyo have Odaiba on their to-see lists. They have heard about this artificial island in the Bay of Tokyo, but what is there to see and do here? Is it worth the ride down south? We would say ‘yes’, keep reading to find out why!
Let’s first learn a bit more about Odaiba’s history, as it hasn’t always been there. Tokyo Bay has shrunk over the centuries from extensive land reclaiming activities. The Tokugawa shogun had land reclaimed for the housing of their samurai. Later on, politicians continued reclaiming land as an easy way to gain popularity amongst the voters.
In the late 1980s, grand plans were hatched to create a futuristic mini-city named ‘Oceanfront Sub-city Center’ on reclaimed land. Planning to inaugurate it in 1996 during a planned international exposition, the newly developed land got a great destination. However, it turned out to be a massive white elephant and an obvious waste of money. Soon, a newly elected governor of Tokyo canceled the exposition.
The buildings that were already completed, including Kenzo Tange‘s futuristic Fuji TV Building and Tokyo Big Sight, are rather magnificent. The island became very popular with young people, especially young couples who flock to shopping and amusement. These youngsters love places like Joypolis (indoor amusement park) and retro amusement street Daiba 1-chome in the Decks Tokyo Beach shopping mall.
A good view of the island and its futuristic construction can be seen from the driverless Yurikamome line. The train leaves Shimbashi station for the Odaiba and travels via the Rainbow bridge. It is a fun ride that will also give you great views of southern central Tokyo from across the Bay once you’re in Odaiba.
There is a small artificial beach in Odaiba where you can buy snacks in the nearby stores and relax. The water is not the cleanest though, so swimming is not recommended. The view of the city is nice, and in the summer it does get quite crowded on the only beach in central Tokyo. Not too far from the beach, you can also find the Odaiba ‘Statue of Liberty’. This is a local and tourist favorite for a cool picture.
Odaiba is also the stage of many events year-round, like large music and dance festivals. Holding an Oktoberfest, a Christmas event, summer events, there is always something going on.
In front of the modern DiverCity shopping center, you can find the life-size statue of one of the most iconic characters in Japanese animation; the giant robot Gundam. First launched in 1979 as a television series, the Gundam Series franchise had great success that also included a manga, movies, and collectible models, among others. The series unfolds in the future when humans have colonized space and use humanoid combat vehicles called ‘mobile Gundam suits’.
The Unicorn Gundam is the newest attraction of the franchise. The model is a life-size replica of the RX-0 Unicorn Gundam from Mobile Suit Gundam UC. The statue is 19.7 meters high. The Gundam is normally in Unicorn mode, marked with a single antenna protruding from its head. However, at specific times, you can see the Gundam in Destroy mode. During the transformation, the armor plates move to one side and the unicorn horn, which is actually an antenna, is divided into two and adopts a configuration similar to ornamentation in a samurai helmet. The process takes about 10 seconds.
There is also a light and sound show, with a projection of the Gundam anime on the screens behind the statue. In addition to the Unicorn Gundam, you can find the Gundam Café (permanently closed in 2022) just behind the statue. Despite its name, the cafe has no space to sit. Instead, they sell snacks and take-away souvenirs with a Gundam theme. Also next to the statue is a small shop called Gundam Trailer Shop where items related to the franchise are sold.
Odaiba Gundam Schedule
Daytime show: 4 times/day: At 11:00, 13:00, 15:00, 17:00 hours, the transformation of the Unicorn Gundam to Destroy takes place (approx. 1 min)
Night show: 5 times / day: At 5:30 p.m., 8:00 p.m., 8:30 p.m., 9:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
On the seventh floor of the DiverCity shopping mall, there is a larger official store called Gundam Base Tokyo. The Gundam is one of the most important icons of the island of Odaiba and a symbol of the high-tech image of Japan.
Your Japan Tour
Are you thinking about making a trip to Japan? As seasoned Japan experts, we can help you create your perfect Japan tour including destinations like Odaiba. Experienced guides can help you make the most of your limited time in Tokyo and show you all the best this city has to offer. You will see famous highlights as well as lesser-known, more local places. Contact us to start planning your unforgettable holiday to this fascinating country. Japan is full of once-in-a-lifetime experiences, culture, history, nature, and delicious food!