Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tokyo Craze - Part 06 (Travelogue / Tips)

Tokyo Craze Webcomic Guide 13 - Shiodome, Ghibli-ish Glockenspiel

Tokyo Craze Webcomic Guide 14 - Odaiba, Miraikan, Asimo Robot

Day 6: Monday - Shiodome To Odaiba We Go!
October 31, 2009
Took the Yamamote Line to Shimbashi Station from the home base of Shinagawa Station.  Here you transfer to the monorail line to get out to Odaiba.  When you hit the train station right everything just lines up.  Getting to the Shiodome, which is basically Shimbashi station + a few blocks of distance, you should walk it if possible.  The monorail goes from one to the other for 3 blocks for 100 yen and you have to walk anyhow for a bit.  It was a much more pleasant experience this time than the walk the other night on the quest for the Pokemon Store.

At the Shiodome, which is a high-tech district of raised sidewalks the size of streets and ultramodern skyscrapers, it is sci-fi land.  There is a very cool giant glockenspiel (animated mechanical clock) here at the Nihon TV (NTV) Station here.  The copper clock looks like something out of Howl's Moving Castle and has a great mechanical sequence that goes every hour.  I didn’t know about this and it was a wonderful surprise.  Inside, is the Anpanman Terrace (a food court with Anpanman theme and Taiyaki (red bean filled pastries).

I took the monorail from here to Odaiba, the massive man-made island out in Tokyo bay.  This island was supposed to have been a new high-tech city, but the real estate bust in the 1990’s pretty much stopped it.  There are plenty of people living here in apartments, but it seems somewhat deserted for Tokyo and sparcely built-up in many places.    The monorail runs on a pretty interesting track to get over to the island.  There are numerous stops at smaller stations and then it runs up in a giant spiral to run underneath the massive Rainbow Bridge to cross over to the island.  Here, you pass by the Fuji TV building, Aqua City and Pallet Town malls and behind the Miraikan Science Centre.  In the distance you can see the massive convention center on its 4 supporting pillars and the Odaiba Ferris Wheel.

Got off the train at the stop closest to the Miraikan, a very nice technology and science museum.  There are some big outdoor sculptures here and there were some performing groups practicing some type of dance here the day I visited.  Inside the Miraikan, the interior is nicely architected and just as interesting as the exhibits.  From the massive staircase to the top and an entire gallery between two floors with a giant spiral walkway around an animated 3 metre wide globe of the earth.  The globe is covered in color LEDs that shows displays of a rotating earth with different modes to show normal views with weather and alternate views showing global temperature.

There were numerous exhibits, including:

  • Actual wall mounted with real detectors from the Super Kamiokande solar neutrino detector.  The sensors look like giant lightbulbs a couple of feet across that are very photo sensitive.  The actual detector array in located at the bottom of an old coal mine in a massive circular chamber that is covered with these sensors.  It is half-full of heavy water that will emit light when a neutrino hits a water molecule.  Men in rubber rafts boat around on it to inspect the sensors.
  • A mockup of the living section of the ISS Space Station.  The inside of a space station is always interesting and I took note of the instant space ramen that the JSA developed for their astronaut when they went up to the station.
  • Asimo, the Honda Robot.  There is a fifteen minute demo that happens several times a day when the robot performs.  It runs, kicks a ball, bows, waves, and even speaks to an enthusiastic Japanese audience.  From what I could tell, the Japanese love their robots and applaud after every successful trick.
  • Rocket engines from their own Japanese Space Agency (JSA) boosters.  The engines are modified shuttle engines.
  • Thermal displays showing your own body temperature.
  • Space probe mockups including the Hayabasai Space Probe and the Venus Orbiter.
  • Actual deep sea mini-submarine you can enter. 
  • There was also a large gallery on the life sciences and such here.
I also did a quick visit of a science fair that was on at the time and saw a few things about Catalysts.

After the Miraikan, I walked over to the Maritime Museum that looks like a big concrete ship on the shore.  It is a modeller's dream inside.  There are so many scale ship models, some of which are pretty large, with a mix of commercial and military vessels.  There are also scale sections of entire ships and a mockups of sections of other ships inside.  This includes the conning tower and control room of a JSDF attack submarine with periscope you can use.  Actual engines and giant propellers finish the exhibits.  There was a dance troupe competition there in the area in front of the museum too.

I had a break outside here next to 3 moored ships you can tour and looked out across Tokyo Bay.  These ships are part of the exhibits at the museum and include an arctic science ship and a few others.  Had a rice ball and some juice I bought earlier at one of the many konbini you pass on the way here. Always stock up before you get to the museums as they may sell drinks, but no food, or expensive food.

Walked over to the Fuji TV building afterwards.  It is actually a fairly long walk over, but I cut over through some overgrown grassy fields via a hole in a fence to get there on a diagonal instead of taking a long way.  Probably not recommended, but I managed to get to an overpass that gave direct access this way.  On the overpass, there were more dance troupes performing as part of some festival or competition.  It was quite a colourful and musical spectacle with drums and such.  It looked like a cross between traditional dance and something more modern.

I then went under the Fuji TV building, up these massive flights of stairs and admired the erector set type metal framework construction of the building.  There is a large revolving observation deck inside this suspended sphere at the top of the building. Neat building, but you have to pay to see lots of it.  Went to the big gift shop there with lots of Fuji TV merchandise via logos and many different mascots and anime characters.  They own Dragonball, One Piece, and have a big blue dog as the official mascot.  Went through the Aqua City Mall and took a look at the Toys R Us there.  Toys R Us is pretty much the same except for themed sections on Gundam, Pretty Cure (a very popular magical girl series for kids), and other Japanese anime characters.  At the food court in the mall, I had Soba Noodles and Tempura for lunch.  There is a mini-Statue of Liberty here too – kind of like the one in Paris I saw years ago.  At the Steps Mall I went to see this re-creation of  Hong Kong they have on the top floor.  It is a simulated Hong Kong street with the cacophony of street signs and various shops and restaurants.

The day wasn’t nearly over and I took the monorail to Shinbashi and transferred over to the subway to get over to Roppongi in the late afternoon.  I spent some time at Tokyo Midtown to see some of the free parts of  Design Fest (more line ups for the non-free stuff).  Saw an exhibit of the best design award winner for various products and concepts.  Finally went back to Shibuya in the early evening just so I could have a coffee at the Starbucks overlooking the crossing.  This was a very efficient Starbucks.  I ordered a latte, paid for it, walked ten feet and pretty much had it handed to me.  It was quick and I walked up the stairs to grab a bit of counterspace looking out over the intersection.  This is also a crowded Starbucks but watching scramble crossing where pedestrians dash across the intersection from five directions simultaneously, then taper off to be replaced by cars going through was fun.

This was the only evening where it started to have a light drizzle.  I worked my way over to the south side of Shibuya Station to get up to a second floor mall that connects the station to some other buildings, but you can see north to the crossing and take some more pictures.  Had a quick look at Tower Records here and then went back to Shinegawa Station.

At the station I had a late dinner of pork curry and rice at a curry restaurant that was really tasty.  Japanese curry is yummy and is different from Indian curries as they have their own take on it.  This was another of those fast food restaurants where you order at a machine and just hand a ticket to a server behind a counter.

Cleaned my blisters again.  Need to take it easy on the feet at Disney tomorrow.

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