November 2018 Our exploration of Odaiba, the largest artificial island in Tokyo Bay starts by boarding the ‘Hotaluna’ from it’s pier on Sumida river in Asakusa. Operated by Tokyo Cruise, the Hotaluna is a futuristic looking vessel more like a spacecraft with gull-wing doors.
The embarkation pier on Sumida river facing Tokyo Skytree & Asahi building.
We took the cruise down Sumida river from Asakusa Pier to Odaiba Seaside Park. There is lots of room on the boat and it is spacious, comfortable, air conditioned and fully enclosed. Good to know the vessel is wheelchair accessible. On the day we took the cruise, the weather was sunny and only a few passengers were on board. One would not feel nausea as the cruise was smooth and steady even when passing another vessel. The cruise took approximately 60 mins with a short stop at Hinode pier for passengers to get-off or onto the boat.
The futuristic designed Hotaluna cruise boat.
The Hotaluna ticket to Odaiba. You can book online here.
Not many passengers on this cruise. Spacious and comfortable ride.
The sister vessel Himiko at the Asakusa pier.
Along the way, you’ll get to see Tokyo’s city scape of office buildings and apartments from a different perspective as well as cruising under a number of bridges. You can purchase refreshment and light snack onboard and there are three washrooms, one for disabled passengers.
Passing-by Bandai HQ.
Buildings along the riverbank.
Cruising under one of Tokyo’s bridges.
Before approaching Hinode pier, access to the upper deck was opened and we got onto the observation platform. Feeling the fresh breeze and being able to see attractions 360° makes for an enjoyable experience. The rainbow bridge is one of the main attractions as the cruise sails along and underneath the bridge.
Stairs to the observation deck of the Hotaluna.
Kachidoki bridge near Tsukiji market in the background. The red building is Sumitomo Life Insurance
Passengers enjoying the 360° views on the observation deck of Hotaluna.
Tokyo Tower in-between skyscrapers.
A floating restaurant moored at Hinode pier.
The Rainbow Bridge across Tokyo Bay connecting mainland Tokyo To Odaiba.
The massive structures of the Rainbow Bridge.
Underneath we go under the Rainbow Bridge.
The arrival pier at Odaiba. The Rainbow Bridge in the background.
Sister vessel Himiko at the pier while the Hotaluna gets ready to sail.
Shores of Odaiba Marine Park.
Routes you can go from Odaiba pier.
Useful map of Odaiba Marine Park & Daiba Park . Credit:http://www.tptc.co.jp
The Odaiba Seaside Pier is next to Odaiba Marine Park. It is to your left as you exit the pier. The park’s Odaiba Beach provide visitors enjoyable walks on it’s 800 meter long sandy beach. As this is a spot for seaside sports like paddle boarding and windsurfing, thus swimming is not allowed.
To the right is Daiba Park where you’ll find Isohama Beach. A short walk along the paved path along the beach brings you into view, a replica of the Statue of Liberty. It’s about 1/7th the size of the original statue in New York. Walk up the flights of stairs to the elevated concrete semi-circle Grand Observation Deck for a view of Tokyo Bay. Then proceed to the statue for a closer view and some photos. From hereon, several shopping complexes are nearby, including Aqua City and DECKS which are a couple of minutes walk away.
The Rainbow Bride from Daiba Park..
Sign post with the Rainbow Bridge in the background.
The Grand Observation Deck, Odaiba.
The 11 meters tall replica of the Statue of Liberty made of bronze weighs approximately 9 tons.
November 2018 We will be exploring Nippori Textile town on our second day in Tokyo and then Ameya-Yokocho. From Akihabara, it will be four stops to Nippori station via JR Yamanote line. Nippori Fabric Town is the place to go if you’re looking for fabric, buttons, zippers, leather, yarn, string, thread, ribbon, bows, tassels, doilies or anything related to clothing, it’s accessories and home furnishings.
Exiting Nippori station’s East exit, you will see signs leading to the textile town located only a few minutes from the station. Although called ‘town’ almost all the textile shops are situated along a single street about a kilometer stretch. Those who frequent this place range from those who make clothes and costume, to hobbyists who are into crafts & fashion designers looking for the latest materials. If making your own clothes, curtains or any thing textile is your passion, Nippori Fabric Town should be able to cater for all your needs.
Directional signboard for Nippori Textile Town.
A statue along the street of Nippori Textile Town.
Tomato Fabric Store Tomato is a fabric store and a big name at Nippori. Five separate lots are located along both sides of the street. Tomato have separate stores each specialising in upholstery, high-end garments, sewing tools and discounted goods. The main store is Tomato Honkan with five floors that would probably have whatever you are searching for. Prior coming to Nippori, we have already been to other fabric outlets namely Toraya in Osaka & Nomura Tailor in Kyoto.
Zak Zak beside Tomato is also one of the favorite stores at Nippori. Buzz Lightyear is one of their satisfied customers.
Fabric @ ¥108 (tax inclusive) per meter at Zak Zak.
The main Tomato store with 5 floors is the one with the vertical signboard with 2 other lots beside it.
This corner store of Tomato beside Zak Zak is just in-front the main store.
Another one of Tomato’s stores, a little detached from the rest.
Below are photos of one of the fabric section at Tomato’s main store. Prices on this rack range from ¥980 to ¥1480. And yes, you can also get Liberty range of fabric too, with it’s price range matching those at Regent’s Street. For purchase of your fabric, take the whole roll of cloth you want to the cutting section beside the cashier for your required length to be cut. The service is fast and efficient but the line can easily build up pretty quickly. In this main store, you will also be able to get accessories for your clothing as well as replacement items for your handbags.
Cous Cous Halal Tunisian Restaurant After a couple of hours browsing the stores along the street and a number of purchases, we are ready to proceed to Ameya-Yokocho (Ameyoko in short). On our way back to Nippori station, we stumbled upon Cous Cous, a Tunisian Halal restaurant. Located on 4F with access via elevator, they serve a selection of Tunisian as well as Western food. Prices are reasonable and the food was tasty.
Cous Cous signboard at street level.
Entrance to Cous Cous after you exit the elevator.
Location of Cous Cous Halal Restaurant, Nippori. Click to enlarge.
The dining area.
There is a small terrace if you want to dine outside.
Spaghetti was my choice.
Wife opted for cous cous with chicken & veg.
What’s left of the spaghetti. It was truly delicious.
Ameya-Yokocho After that hearty lunch at Cous Cous, we made our way to Ameyoko. Getting off at Ueno station, cross the street and you’ll be heading to Ameyoko. Our initial intention was to have lunch here but had no regrets having had at Cous Cous.
This is the crossing at Ueno station exit for Ameyoko.
Ameyoko is a bustling street, partially an open-air market and partially covered stores directly beneath the JR Yamanote Line elevated tracks between Ueno and Okachimachi stations. Part of it is a wet market similar to what you’ll see in most South East Asian markets albeit the ‘wet’ part missing. Here you’ll be able to buy fresh sea food, vegetables and fruits.
The area is abuzz with vendors calling out to potential customers. Apart from the market, it is an ideal place to shop for souvenirs while the other stores offers a selection of fashion, cosmetics, clothes, bags, drugs and medicine. Ameyoko is also known to be a shoe haven as prices are more cheaper here than the rest of Tokyo.
Officially entering Ameyayokocho.
The dilemma, right or left? For Halal food choices, take left. This fork is about 200m from Ueno Station. If you decide to walk a full circle back to Ueno station, allow at least 1 hr.
Area map and location of Halal stalls at Ameyoko.
Catch of the day on offer.
Fresh fruits. You never need to worry getting bad or rotten fruits within the pre packed bundles. Japanese has an honest etiquette of not cheating their customers.
More fresh fruits.
Skewered fresh fruits. Bear in mind Japanese do not eat or drink while walking.
One side of the street selling food products and the other footwear.
This section concentrates on clothing & footwear.
Ameyoko also has many small food stalls lining the street and Muslim travelers will be glad to know you’ll be able to get Halal Food here. Be it along the street or within the covered stores under the train tracks. A group of Halal food stalls can be found if you have chosen to walk the left side of Ameyoko, mostly offering Turkish kebab.
A group of Halal food stalls. Aslan Kebab, Chicken Man, Oskar Kebab.
Japan motif T-shirt sold at one of the stores.
Local brand watches with Japanese movement. Very cheap, we bought two. Still works to this day.
Shoe shops abundant at Ameyoko. Shoes of earlier models are going at bargain prices.
November 2018 Washington Hotel is where we stayed in Akihabara. Located beside Akihabara Station, it is literally a minute walk from the JR Central Gate exit. Opposite the hotel is Uniqlo & Book-Off and you’ll be passing Family Mart on your way to Yodobashi Akiba which is also within a minute walk from the hotel.
Washington Hotel, Akihabara.
Advanced booking for our room has been made months earlier. We’ve opted for ‘High Floor Room with Small Double Bed‘ which turns out to be a rather compact room. You can hardly open two luggage at once.The room rate was considered reasonable when taking into account the hotel is right smack in Akihabara, Tokyo and is just besides the train station. However this room, pale in comparison to Red Roof Plus Hotel we stayed in Osaka earlier.
From the hotel, you just need to cross over to the other side for Akihabara station..
Christmas decoration in place although it’s more than 1½ months to go.
From the hotel entrance looking towards Yodobashi Akiba & Akihabara Station.
Check-in time is 2 pm which is an hour earlier than most other hotels. Check-in counter is on the 3rd floor and you can leave your begs there if you’re early. Two key cards to your room will be issued, pre-programmed for your floor. Just tab onto the card reader, no need to push buttons in the elevator. The room was very quiet and totally dark when the drapes are pulled. Window has been soundproofed effectively to block outside noise. The bathroom is of good size, comes with a small bath tub & stand-up shower as well as a WC with bidget. Although the hotel being located beside an elevated and underground train tracks, no vibrations were felt.
Hallway to our room.
A rather compact room but suffice for our needs. Must bear in mind we’re in Tokyo.
Excellent soundproofing you can’t hear any outside noise at all.
Small double bed, one side against the wall.
LCD tv, mini fridge & water boiler provided.
Aslan Kebab For Muslim guests staying at Washington Hotel, there is a Halal kebab stand diagonally opposite the hotel (right from exit). At Aslan Kebab, you can eat there or take-away. The kebab is reasonably priced and tasty. Alternatively, walk a few minutes to Halal Coco Curry House for a taste of Japanese curry or Google for a couple more kebab outlets near-by. Family Mart is in-front of the hotel and further up is 7-Eleven.
Aslan Kebab diagonally opposite the hotel, serves Halal doner kebab.
Menu & prices of kebab.
Location of Aslan Kebab & Family Mart.
Views From Our Room Views from our room on the 13th floor faces LAOX department store to our right and to the left are office buildings beautifully lighted at night. Looking downwards, part of Akihabara Station comes to view. The best part is seeing the Shinkansen trains passing every 5-10 minutes. Never have we thought, the Shinkansen tickets being expansive, it would operate this frequent. Sadly, the Shinkansen do not stop at Akihabara. The nearest station it stops is Tokyo Station, 2 stops away.
Our room facing LAOX department store.
Views on the other side with office buildings and Sinkansen train tracks.
Part of Akihabara Station visible from our room. This was taken very early in the morning. By 7 am, the whole length of the platform will be crowded with passengers.
Train lines serving Akihabara Station.
The various shapes, colours and combinations of the Shinkansen.
Akihabara Electric Town If you are looking to buy electronic goods, head over to Akihabara. Arguably the best place to shop for high-tech electronics and latest gadgets. Not only are the selection of products huge, they are competitively priced as many shops compete among each other here. Big name retailers are Yodobashi Camera, BIC Camera, Laox & Labi among others. In-fact, Yodobashi is home to one of the largest electronics stores in the world. It has nine floors full of everything and anything electronics, camera, audio & video equipment, mobile phones, beauty gadgets, toys and the list goes on.
Large stores like these accept credit card payments and offer tax free purchases for tourists provided you bring along your passport. Most of the electronics on sale are intended for domestic use that comes with Japanese manual and limited warranty. So be sure to check the voltage compatibility for use in your home country as Japan is on 120 volts. However, several stores do feature selections of international models running on 220 volts intended for overseas use.
Akihabara ‘Electric Town’ features hundreds of small electronics shops clustered together ranging from tiny one-man stall for the hobbyist and enthusiast to large electronics retailers for commercial customers. You can find electronics parts, components, LED lighting, ham & 2-way radios, air band scanners, test & measuring equipment, tools, etc to second-hand goods and electronic junk.
Akihabara is not a place for everyone. For the rest who are not electronic geeks, come for a quick visit and experience the dazzling lights (Insta worthy) during the night and do a little window shopping. For souvenirs head over to the five storey Don Quijote for a maze of varieties. If you are into electronic gaming, SEGA Gaming Center awaits you. There is also a huge Anime/Manga store and you can find people dressed up in maid and anime outfits ushering you to stop at their cafe.