Ahh 2019 BC, the before times, Before Covid. If we knew that year was going to be the last time we could travel overseas for a few years we probably would’ve made it more of a special occasion, but as things would have it, we were lucky to even get away for the short time we did, but I think you’ll agree 5 days in Japan is better than no days!

With time against us, we chose to minimise lengthy travel and kept activities mostly to central Tokyo, setting up camp at the APA Hotel in Akiba. The short walk to the Akiba station took us past curry and ramen restaurants, a bakery and 2 conveniences stores. Couldn’t have asked for more ….except maybe for better weather!

As this was a quick visit with several rehashed stops from previous trips, the dialog in these blog entries will also be brief but there will still be plenty of piccies!

Travel tip: as always, look at the multi-day pass for JR rail options to save money on transport

Not sure how we’ve missed it in our previous trips, especially when we were at the Tokyo Skytree just across the river on the one prior, but apparently Asakusa is quite the tourist spot and its not hard to see why. It has the perfect tourist blend of site seeing starting with the 1000+yo Kaminari gate at the entrance to the Sensoji temple and other shrines, and souvenir shopping with Nakamise street, an outdoor market style set up of small shops and eateries leading to the temple. There is also a closed in mall on your way to Nakamise in the same vein as many others where its just one long mall with high glass ceilings. The stores here are less touristy and cover the usual, electronics, clothing and health varieties, there are also several restaurants.

Travel tip: check the events calendars, especially around spring, for food, music, traditional and shrine festivals

Asakusa is also home to Sanrio Gift Gate for more kawaii Hello Kitty and friends merch than you can wave two peace signs at. The store is only a couple minutes’ walk from Asakusa station and sells Asakusa specific items and other exclusives not found at other Sanrio stores.

Travel tip: allergy sufferers beware! There’s A LOT of incense and ceremonial burning at the shrines


No Tokyo stop is complete without the obligatory visit to Odaiba, be it for the shopping, the mega ferris wheel, games arenas and now, Teamlabs Borderless (more on that later). Depending on the time of year there’s usually some sort of installation or lighting display along the walk paths and green spaces around the major hubs. Aqua City hides the illusive Statue of Liberty replica (and an official GShock store 😉 ). Diver city and Venus Fort/palette town are also worthy stops for shopping and games, Venus fort especially if you have a hankerin for outlet discounts. The huge Toyota city building is always interesting with its future tech, concept displays and race memorabilia.

Travel tip: If you arrive via Aomi station, exit towards the water to take in the sea breeze and ocean view off the palette town pier.

Travel tip: Regular JR passes or other discount passes aren’t valid on the Yurikamome line. The JR Tokyo Wide pass will at least get on to the island with the Rinkai line stopping at Tokyo Teleport station. If you plan on seeing more of Odaiba, there is an unlimited day pass option, purchasable at any stop on Odaiba.

As night falls, the full size Gundam comes alive with half hourly light, sound and (partial) movement shows. If, like us, your last trip was before 2017, you may notice he’s looking a bit different, that’s because it’s a WHOLE NEW ROBOT! Its now a RX-0 Gundam Unicorn which replaces the old RX-78-2 who has found a new home at Yokohoma and gotten a pretty huge upgrade(!). The new guy still lights up and transforms his head during the shows and is still one of the coolest landmarks in Tokyo.


Teamlab Borderless
This exhibition initially started out as a short run event but it proved so popular that its still going many years later and rightly so. Put simply, its digital art projected on to installations but with such a vast lay out, evolving imagery and no maps it quickly becomes very immersive. The pics only tell part of the story as its hard to depict scale or capture the ebb and flow of each of the MANY rooms. Stand outs would definitely be the floating lanterns and the waterfall.

The exhibit boasts a rotation of displays not just over each moment but also over different days and seasons.

Travel tip: Budget at least a few hours, some exhibits like the floating lanterns require lining up and have a time limit so you might need a couple tries to get that perfect photo.

Travel tip: hours are slightly less than other museums (around 11-5pm) and tickets are not available for purchase at the venue, they need to be purchased via the website.

Photo tip: a lot of the rooms are quite large and some are maze like, between other visitors and restrictive installations, shooting space can be quite limited so an ultra wide angle lens is a wise choice. Being one big light show, its pitch black darkness in most rooms and some of the images move fast enough to trip up a slow shutter compensation so be prepared to push the ISO. Of course a tripod would be ideal but they are prohibited, if you have been out and about with one, you will be asked to store it in one of the paid lockers along with all medium to large size bags.

Tamiya HQ
If you can’t make it out to a model kit factory (if you do, just make sure they still have tours! many don’t anymore) then popping into Tamiya HQ in Shimbashi is -almost- the next best thing. Its essentially a store but don’t let that discourage you, their range is extensive covering thousands of their latest model kits, paints and building materials on the ground floor; an RC haven in the basement and a social build event space upstairs. The street level also has a solid selection of built kits on display and a generous helping of branded merchandise including clothing, stickers and nicknacks. The longer night hours (10pm) during the week (and 6pm on weekends) are useful for planning your days when you lose track of time!

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Diver City Plaza


Diver what? Located in Tokyo bay, Koto, its not exactly a place that comes up in the Tokyo “must see’s ” list and if youre only going for the shopping you may even miss the best (and biggest) attraction, a 1:1 scale Gundam robot! Those that aren’t interested in all things anime/manga are probably already rolling their eyes but trust me when we tell you its as awe inspiring as the Eiffel Tower (and almost as big!…almost :p). The real treat is making your way there after dark when it puts on a light and sound show complete with accompanying movie, CO2 bursts and a bit of movement! Yes movement, sadly not in the walk around, baritone voice, making girls swoon Optimus Prime kinda way but we’d like to think that if Japan did come under attack Pacific Rim style they’d already have a substitute Jaeger secretly ready to lay it down 😉


Best thing is, the full length show runs hourly and there are teaser previews on the half hour. Times are displayed on a sign. There is also a merch demountable office at its feet with a modest selection of Gundam related items and Gunpla kits. Most however are available at countless other stores (and at better prices depending where you look) so you can give your carrying arms a break and just enjoy the show. Here, you can also buy tickets to the small “Gundam Front” exhibit which houses some scaled real life props from the series and other points of interest.




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Photo Tip:  As you can see from the photos, this guy is huge, so an ultra wide angle (around 12mm on crop, 20mm on fx) is a must.  A mid zoom will help get some close up details.  A tripod is handy but not a must unless you decide to shoot some night city scapes, not much on this side of the bay however.

Afterwards head inside for some food and shopping. If, like us, you got a bit carried away and watched the full show twice before you realise the shops close at 9, you don’t need to worry, just head up to the top level. Thanks to Round 1 – very similar to Timezone in Australia with arcade games, claw machines (skill (aka patience) testers), bowling and karaoke – shops stay open a bit later on this level with a selection of international fast food and local restaurants. We were looking at a menu only to realise the place had closed, but of course, in true Japanese hospitality, the owner came out and asked if we wanted a table and that it was no problem to cook us something. How could we say no? The bento set was delish btw 😉 We also now find it very difficult to go back to fried items sitting on the plate instead of on a mini rack to stay crispy!


Travel Tip: There are a few ways to Diver City from Tokyo station but there is no direct route so you will need to change trains and do a bit of walking between stations.  Allow about 30min all up and remember to keep some change on you for the local trains that don’t accept the JR passes.  Full list in english on the Diver City webpage.

Next up we hit the shinkansen early for a day trip to Yokohama, you know, the place where all those tyres come from :p

If you have any questions on our travels, where to buy, what to do, hit us up on the Soulbridge media facebook page.

Japan 2013 part #1 – Arrival
Japan 2013 part #2 – Tokyo International Toy Expo
Japan 2013 part #3 – Gotemba – Premium Outlets mall
Japan 2013 part #4 – Tokyo – Studio Ghibli Museum
Japan 2013 part #5 – Tokyo – Kichijoji and Nakano
Japan 2013 part #6 – Tokyo – Akihabara
Japan 2013 part #7 – Tokyo – Tamiya HQ, Diver City
Japan 2013 part #8 – Yokohama – Zoorasia
Japan 2013 part #9 – Yokohama – Ramen Museum
Japan 2013 part #10 – Nissan HQ and Yokohama
Japan 2013 part #11 – Osaka – Nanba Shopping
Japan 2013 part #12 – Kyoto
Japan 2013 part #13 – Tokyo – Harajuku, Shibuya
Japan 2013 part #14 – Osaka castle, Umeda Sky building
Japan 2013 part #15 – Osaka Aquarium and Tempozan wheel
Japan 2013 part #16 – Osaka Universal Studios