2012 - 2013

Day 14

Ginza and Odaiba

Today is our last full day in Japan, tomorrow we will just be slowly making our way to the airport and going home.

As we wanted to make sure everyone in our group got what they wanted from this trip, Jonathan was very keen to see Ginza, so the three of us went there. Ginza is like a big CBD with lots of shops, so we knew today was going to be another day where Jonathan wanted to spend some solo time shopping, so Rob and I hung around for a little before going our own way. Being a big CBD, there are some pretty cool building around though!

First stop was the Nissan Gallery. There actually wasn’t too much on display, there were only two cars and a small shop up stairs selling a few smaller items, like model cars, etc. One of the cars was a Nissan GTR signed by Usain Bolt (I’m sure one of many of his cars). The other one was a Nissan Leaf, a full electric car. Jono bought some souvenirs/gifts and we headed out in search of the Sony building.

When we found the Sony building, it hadn’t opened yet and there was a small crowd gathering at the door. By complete fluke we timed it just perfectly, the doors opened within a minute of us getting there. Out the front was a light display that played music, etc. but during the day it was a bit hard to see it illuminating. It would probably be better at night.

We actually spent a fair amount of time in the Sony building and it was yet another place where they don’t let anyone take photos. While the products here are the latest and greatest, they are mostly already available around the world, but it’s still pretty good to see all the products in one place and have a bit of a play with them.

One of the things that stood out for me were the “Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Cameras”. They look just like any other compact camera, but they generally have a relatively large lens mounted to them. I had seen these camera’s before, generally with a micro four thirds sensor, but there were some here with APS-C sensors, which is the same as my dSLR, and even some with full frame sensors in them! The full frame dSLR’s are pretty big, and too see the same sort of sensor in a compact camera was very surprising! Of course they weren’t much cheaper than the more common full frame camera’s, but it does give a glimpse into a possible future for photographers.

Jonathan was interested in some Sony headphones, so we took a look at a few of them. They had a pretty big range from the tiny in ear variety to so big it looks like you’d be wearing cans on your ears.

There were some pretty cool video camera’s too. 3D camera’s are starting to become more mainstream, so alot of them had two lenses for stereoscopic recordings. For the display models, they had them hooked up to 3D televisions so we could also see the end product. A lot of the video cameras also had little projectors built into the outside of the screens so you could preview the recordings on a near by wall on the go.

They had portable bluetooth speakers that had an NFC sensor on the top, so instead of trying to find the device amongst others by doing a bluetooth scan, you just tap the phone to the device and it automatically pairs them together, which was pretty convenient.

Sony are also making Windows tablets and had some on display. They are a proper laptop, but the screens flip around to be folded flat like a tablet. They had a water painting program loaded on them, so Rob and I had a paint-off! We asked the near by sales assistant to judge which was better, but he gave the diplomatic answer of “They’re both good”. Rob did have the advantage, being artistic and all, but I think I still won!

We eventually left the Sony building, spending more time that we imagined and went to get some food. We came across a building that had the word “Restaurants” on it, expecting a food court it was actually a building full of quite fancy restaurants on each floor. We had a look at a couple and they seemed a little too expensive, except one of them. It was a Japanese/Chinese restaurant called “The Metropole” and their menu looked pretty good, they even had dumplings! The restaurant was pretty nice and we got a soup dish with dumplings and tea and it cost around $10-$15. The dumplings were really good! My soup was too big for me to finish, but it was a good feed either way.

From there Rob and I left Jono to do his shopping and we started looking for things to do. We had already walked around the main CBD and didn’t really feel like shopping, so we went to the station. Rob asked what we did last time that we weren’t going to be doing this time and one of those things were seeing Odaiba. Odaiba has some similarities with our Docklands, but more developed and much much bigger! It’s a small island that sits in the bay just outside Minato and has a very futuristic feel to it. The buildings are pretty creative and one of the stations is called the “Tokyo Teleport”, so it’s like you’re teleporting to the future!

We took a private train like to Odaiba and the train was pretty interesting! The train had wheels with tyres and instead of having train tracks, the “tracks” was just a concrete road, but the road had two strips of a more course concrete for the wheels of the train and rails on the side of the track to keep it in line. The train was pretty long too, so it was sort of a cross between a long bus and a train, but wouldn’t know it unless you happen to see the bottom of it, or another train elsewhere on the track.

The train went through a few stations before crossing the water. Just before the train got onto the bridge that led us to Odaiba, there is a massive circular bridge leading up to it. This was indicated on the map as a loop (that kind of reminded us of the warnings on the roller-coasters at DisneySea).

On the way we could see some of the cool buildings around. From the station we didn’t really have any goals, and Odaiba is a bit too big to walk around the whole thing, so we saw a bridge and headed for that. We thought if anything, it would give us a nice view and we could decide what to look at from there.

At the end of the bridge was “Palette Town”. As we got off the bridge, the first sight was a large ferris wheel to our left and a big shopping centre, Fort Venus, straight ahead. It was nice, but the whole place was deserted! DisneySea was a lot quieter than we expected too, but out here, it was hard to spot anyone! Being so quiet, we didn’t bother checking if any shops were open and just continued walking around taking in the sights of all the interesting looking buildings… and massive empty car parks!

As we kept walking, there were more people up ahead, and we could see the silhouette of a giant robot. As we got closer we realised it was the giant Gundam! Last time we came to Japan we had one member of our group, Sarma, who was (and is) crazy about Gundam, a Japanese anime series. As part of our research last time, we saw pictures of the giant Gundam on the internet, but we never found it, and this time we just accidentally stumbled across it! As we got closer and closer, we realised why there was a crowd, the giant Gundam was moving! We just caught the end of a demonstration, but all we saw was its head go back to the center position and the lights turning off. We went to the official Gundam shop to find out when the next demonstration was and they told us it was a 5:00pm, which was two hours away! We didn’t plan on hanging around for that long, but kinda wanted to see it and I wanted to record it for Sarma, so we decided to kill two hours until the next show.

We walked around a little and went inside the shopping centre where the Gundam was being displayed, but soon got bored, so Rob suggested we check out Sega Joypolis, which we caught a glimpse of during our walk. Our group last time went into the park, it was pretty good but I’m not a rides person so it wasn’t anything special for me. They do have an indoor rollercoaster though!

All Rob wanted was a plush toy of Sonic the Hedgehog, but even though there were shops nearby, we couldn’t find any Sonic toys and the only Sonic giftshop is inside the park, which we didn’t want to buy tickets for. After Rob complained about Sega’s terrible marketing efforts, we headed back to see the Gundam demonstration - and here it is…

Yep… that’s it…
We saw the head move two hours prior and were expecting a little more, like the arms, or anything! Nope, just some dry ice, a small flap on the stomach with a tv behind it and the same head movements. It was pretty disappointing, but I’m sure that would have been much more exciting for people who have actually seen Gundam before or if we understood what they were saying or for kids. It was getting darker, so we took a few more photos and made our way back.

For most of the trip I had a bit of a sore back. I think I re-aggravated an old back injury, so carrying a backpack everyday slowly made it worse and worse, so almost everyday I said I was going to get a massage, but our days where normally quite busy and I didn’t want to miss out on anything, so I just put off. Today, being our last day, I didn’t want to miss out! We had seen massage places everywhere, so it didn’t really matter where we were, just not Odaiba! Rob wasn’t really interested, so I thought if we went to Akihabara, he could kill some time looking at games, etc. and I’d meet up with him after the massage and it’s close to our hotel. Well, walking through the streets of Akihabara looking for a massage place wasn’t as easy as we had thought. Most of the places where “Maid cafes” or “Maid massages”. I’ve never been to one of those places, but it seemed too dodgy to try. We kept walking around until we found a respectable, non-maid looking place. After quite a while of searching, we found a sign that had massages and no signs of maids, so we thought we’d give that a go.

The sign said it was on level 7, so we went up a dodgy little elevator to the seventh floor and when we got out of the lift, it was just a tiny room with about 5 doors. One of them had trinkets on it, so we thought that must of been it. At this point Rob was looking at me with a facial expression that said “This looks dodgy, lets get out of here!“. I knocked on the door and waited, but nothing happened. I knocked again, and still nothing, so I opened the door and took a peek. There was a hallway with a few curtained off rooms, which looked like massage beds. I got the attention of one of the staff members and they invited us in. As I was walking in, there was someone else getting a normal massage, so that made us feel a lot better. I asked about back massages and they said yes and gave us prices. I ended up getting an hour back massage for $50 and Rob even got convinced to get one too.

The massages were actually pretty good. While we were waiting, Rob actually said “What are you getting me into Steve”, but it all worked out well in the end, and all fully clothed! The masseuse that was massaging me was able to apply a lot of force, which is what I needed for my back, it wasn’t just a soft relaxing massage, it was a proper remedial massage, except at one stage she was literally walking on my back, which wasn’t that normal.
When I got out I tried to meet up with Rob, but my phone had run out of credit and he wasn’t anywhere to be found. I waited a while and then started walking down the street. I found him looking at games, no surprise there and asked him how his massage went. He had the same feedback as me, they were pretty strong and his shoulders felt a lot better, so did my back, so that was good and it would help with the plane ride home.

We grabbed some Japanese fast food and headed back to hotel. On our way back we saw the strangest thing! There were two guys walking down the street, one had a couple of parrots hanging off him and the other was walking a duck! The duck even had special duck walking shoes! We got a good laugh out of that and headed home.

We met up with Jono back at the hotel, he had a big day of shopping and ended up buying the fancy Sony headphones he saw earlier, but he ended up getting them that night from Yodabashi instead. He had also already packed, so Rob went back to his room and we both started packing for the trip home.