Weekends in Japan: Japan’s Hidden Anime City

Everyone who loves otaku culture knows that they NEED to make a day (or 2 or 3 or 100, whatever) of exploring the anime/video game engulfed streets of Akihabara. Blaring neon signs, theme songs blasting out of shops, and those addictive, tantalizing, stress/rage-inducing crane machines! Who couldn’t resist?! I, myself, have spent an embarrassingly large sum of time and money at those crane machines with my friend circling the arcade waiting for me while I was living in Japan. But, what if I told you, I found an anime haven that I fell in love with even more?

Akihabara is SO famous and attracts tourists and locals alike, pushing people to stand elbow to elbow trying to get through the crowd. While Akiba, the nickname for Akihabara, has a mind boggling amount of geek paraphernalia, it doesn’t quite have that, “I’m in Japan and I need to live that anime experience!” Meaning, you want to ‘do as the Romans do’ and check out fast food joints and look out onto a landscape reminiscent of a mix of slice of life and any sci-fi/techy story then you need to go to Odaiba.

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Gundam statue in front of Diver City Shopping Mall in Odaiba

Odaiba is a man-made island just outside Tokyo, connected by the Rainbow Bridge. The bridge lights up and changes colors at night and yes, this is where all of those awesome real life Mario Kart videos are taken because this is where those ‘races’ take place. Have no fear, though, shells and banana peels won’t trip you up while you’re exploring this anime city. It’s also home to many famous landmarks such as the Fuji Television building, the Golden Obelisk, the colorful Ferris wheel decorating Odaiba’s skyline from Palette Town, and the soon-to-be former home of the giant Gundam. Famously, Tokyo Big Sight is a huge convention center where AnimeJapan is held every year.

Being the huge Digimon fan that I am, I quickly recalled the familiar convention center from watching the anime every weekday and Saturday morning when I was in elementary school. The original Digidestineds live in Odaiba and in Digimon Adventure: Tri an amazing amount of the city is revealed. In fact, the first big battle happens right in front of two of the large malls, Palette Town and Venus Fort! They also begin their search for rips between the Real and Digital worlds at thee cross-town mall, Decks.

Being in Odaiba, you have literally stepped into the anime realm and are living in one! How cool is that?! There was absolutely no place else in Japan where I felt more excited and exhilarated!

And if feeling like you’re in an anime isn’t just the only reason to visit Odaiba. It is so freaking cool! If you miss the buzzing arcades and fanfare of Akihabara never fear! Check out the mall Decks and you’ll be transported into this amazing old school Tokyo floor where you can explore a post World War II Japan. It has anime, candy, international collectibles, and other really cool stores. Inside you will also find a nice arcade. If that’s not enough for you, you can stop by two awesome theme parks. One, on the same floor as the shops you’ll find a Takoyaki “theme” park. I used quotes on the word theme because its not what Americans would view as a theme park, but more like a bunch of food court style restaurants and a kid’s play area with takoyaki effigies scattered about. The second is much more familiar. It’s Joyopolis. It’s a theme park/arcade/café presented by Sony and features tons of anime, video game, and Western character themed prizes and rides. Now, expect to spend an entire day there, like open to close, because getting through the lines takes quite a while. It’s a really good indoor activity. A bonus attraction is a horror walk-through that you can experience. It is quite terrifying and I don’t recommend bringing small children.

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Joyopolis welcome mat (Top), Palette Town (Center), Decks (Bottom)

Decks is also incredibly romantic. With bay-view restaurants looking out onto the dazzling Tokyo Bay. Not only are there city lights, but Decks has beautiful seasonal illuminations. After dinner, I recommend taking a stroll on the boardwalk-style walkway with your sweetheart. It’s also fun to take night shots of friends or selfies, especially with Rainbow Bridge in the background!

In the mall next door, connected by a small bridge, you’ll be delighted to find a Hello Kitty café, Madame Toussad’s Wax Museum, and LEGO Discovery Center. It’s also a great place to pick up souvenirs for the folks back home. Also, don’t pass up the chance to check out Palette Town and Venus Fort. Besides the Ferris wheel you can also race at the MEGAWEB TOYOTA City Showcase. Venus Fort is also themed to look like Venice, Italy and is a great place to take pictures.

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View from Decks in Odaiba with view of Rainbow Bridge

I could go on and on about the awesomeness that is Odaiba but it’s really something you need to experience.

Are you ready for a trip to Odaiba? Any recommendations for the anime diehards? Share in the comments below!

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