Odaiba (お台場) is an entertainment and shopping district which offers something for everyone (a small beach, restaurants, shopping malls, museums, and Tokyo’s most famous onsen). Walking around Odaiba today it would be easy to forget the history of the island. The monorail that whisks you over the bridge from the mainland, the shopping malls with decked-walkways, the immaculate beach front, and the miniature Statue of Liberty all give the area something of an artificial “Disneyland” feel.
In fact, Odaiba was developed from fortress islands built under orders from the Tokugawa shogunate to protect the city from naval attack following the arrival of Commodore Perry’s black ships in Edo Bay in 1853 (daiba means fort or battery; o is an honorific prefix). Eleven fortress islands were originally planned, but only six were completed and none were used: with the signing of the Harris Treaty in 1858, Japan opened its ports to international trade and emerged from almost 250 years of isolationism.
From the 1960s onwards four of the island forts were removed to improve shipping lanes or joined together by landfill to form the area we know today as Odaiba today. Just two remain: “Fortress 6”, which can be seen from Rainbow Bridge, and “Fortress 3”, which was opened to the public as Daiba Park in 1928.
Things to Do
Daiba Park might not be the most spectacular of green spaces, but it offers one of the best views of Odaiba from its slopes. It is one of the remaining island fortresses, and you can still see the artillery emplacements (the cannons can be found at Yasukuni Shrine).
A very popular 10,000 square meter digital art museum with light projections that change constantly through computer learning.
Museum housed in a building modeled on the Queen Elizabeth 2 ocean liner. The Museum of Maritime Science has five sections which trace the history of sea exploration. Outside you can see an ice-breaker ship and deep ocean submarines.
A narrow park with a beachfront onto Tokyo Bay. In the summer evenings you may be able to see yakatabune (lavish private boats from the Heian period) floating in the bay.
Originally put up as a temporary installation in 1998 to celebrate the “French Year of Japan”, the replica of the statue of liberty in Île aux Cygnes, Paris, proved so popular that a permanent 12-meter statue was installed in 2000.
Tokyo’s most famous onsen is undoubtedly Oedo Onsen Monogatari in Odaiba. Its attraction is a combination of easy access, a multitude of services, and Edo-style amusement arcade designed with young people and foreigners in mind.
Museum of 3D optical illusions some of which are large murals into which visitors stand and pose for photographs to make themselves part of the scene. Visitors are actively encouraged to bring their cameras.