Ahhh…it’s Friday again. Time for another Flashback Friday Moment. I was reading in my journal and in looking back on past entries on this date—March 14th—I came across the entry from 2008. It was on this day, 6 years ago, that I made my debut trip into Tokyo’s fertile land…Odaiba. It was a scouting trip to the artificial island ahead of my going to the 2008 Tokyo Motorcycle Show, which was happening 2 weeks later. From the moment I stepped on the Yurikamome at Shimbashi Station, I knew that I’d love that particular part of the city. And 6 years later, it stands as the #2 spot for me in the city…behind only Tokyo Midtown. It was in my Odaiba debut that I saw the Statue of Liberty in person for the first time ever (I didn’t make my New York City debut until June 2009). I took a picture in front of it and I ended up getting a trifecta in one shot—the Statue of Liberty, the Rainbow Bridge, and Tokyo Tower. It was good stuff.
How I first came across this moment? I first came across the island when I was browsing through Metropolis to get a gauge of what was happening in the city over the next couple of months prior to my first return visit to the United States. I noticed that the annual Tokyo Motorcycle Show was happening in the area and I wanted to check it out. But I didn’t know much about the Odaiba area of the city and I didn’t want a repeat of “the Shinjuku incident”—something that I’ll likely cover in a future Flashback Friday Moment—that I experienced months earlier in that district debut. So, I decided to take a scouting trip just to get familiar with the area and to see the sights. I earned a rare Friday off, having worked an entire 7 days for an operational readiness exercise the week before. I took advantage, hopped on the Chūō Special Rapid from Fussa into the city towards Tokyo. Still not the guru I am today, I got off at Kanda to transfer to the Yamanote Line towards Shimbashi instead of simply transferring at Tokyo Station. I wasted 2 minutes…never made that mistake again. I then hopped on the Yurikamome, which is a driverless train and just like that, we crossed Tokyo Bay via the Rainbow Bridge and I was in Odaiba for the first time. I was amazed at the attractions. I remembered being intrigued by the Miraikan—AKA the National Museum of Emerging Science & Innovation—and how the science freak in me came out. I absolutely loved Palette Town…the attractions there were right up my alley. The biggest takeaway from the Odaiba debut was the outstanding views of the big city from the Odaiba waterfront. It’s where I took one of my all-time favorite Tokyo pictures.
What it meant to me then? My Odaiba debut exposed me to some of the hidden gems in the city proper…at least to most foreigners, in particularly those all the way in Fussa. Some of my favorite spots in the city are in Odaiba. Like Venus Fort, which became one of my favorite places to shop once I got debt-free and could afford to do so. MegaWeb allowed me to sit in and get a feel for a lot of Toyota automobiles that would never see the light of day in the Western world. The Fuji TV Headquarters Building, with the weird design, became a popular observation spot for me. I always ended up frequenting Tokyo Big Sight for major events. Decks Tokyo Beach and Aquacity Odaiba offered some good off-the-beaten-path shopping and just overall good atmosphere. I ended up getting hip to a lot of new technology at the Panasonic Center. Odaiba was my getaway when I needed to get out of the city without being out of the city. Because it was relatively pricey to get there and access was limited, it wasn’t as crowded as other areas of Tokyo nor was there a large expat presence, which meant I could be alone without running into people of a like kind…as in other Westerners.
What it means to me now? Today, I wish I had spots to disappear to like Odaiba in the United States. You definitely won’t find a spot that’s secluded yet intriguing like that Stateside. Heck, I can’t say that there is another place like it in the world. Hong Kong Island would be the closest but the population density there is unbelievable. And besides, I don’t think it’s an artificial island. There will never be another Odaiba in my book. That’s why I appreciate it every time I’m in the city.