Photo of the day: Yakitori @ Oedo-Onsen Monogatari. Photo credit: Aaron.
Today, we wanted to explore Odaiba – an artificial island with entertainment suitable for the whole family. But first we stopped for some tea/coffee at a nearby coffee shop called Cafe Bleu. They had a very reasonably priced breakfast so I ordered one set of that. A meal consisted of a plain omelette, salad, toast and a drink, all for only 600 Yen(~$7). A coffee or tea is around the same price so why not get some breakfast along with it? The omelette was so soft and smooth, just like the egg you would expect over an Omurice. The toast was thick and nicely buttered and the salad was not bad as well. The ambience of the cafe is really nice except for the fact that smoking is allowed, so we did not stay too long. This was one thing I found travelling in Asia. Smoking is not prohibited indoors and it is difficult to avoid exposure to second-hand smoke. Even in establishments with “smoking rooms”, they are either not completely sealed or once the door opens, you get a nice big whiff of smoke anyway. I can see this being a problem for those I know with asthma or reactive airways. But I digress.
There were several ways to get to Odaiba, but we selected the route including the Yurikamome Line since it’s a skytrain and allowed us to see some views of Tokyo Bay along the way. After around 50 minutes or so, we reached Odaiba. We got off at the first station and took a walk along the beach and around Daiba park which used to be a gun battery. The weather was very nice today and it was such a pleasant stroll without too many people around.
Our walk lasted longer than we expected and we were getting hungry. We went to Decks, a shopping/entertainment complex, to find some food. We found a sushi chain restaurant called Tsukiji Sushi, who claims to get their ingredients fresh from Tsukiji market. They had a pretty reasonable set menu and they had a buffet menu for dinner time. I found it amusing that they had a 1000 Yen price difference for men versus women because they should not underestimate the eating powers of the female sex. Their sushi was very good. I usually would not order squid sushi given it’s often tough and chewy but the one I had here as part of the set lunch was the smoothest, most tender squid I’ve ever had. It opened my eyes to the fact that I should not dismiss an ingredient I’ve tried before, as it might not have been the particular ingredient but the way it was prepared, or the freshness of ingredient used.
After lunch, we took our time exploring the many malls in the area, including Decks and Aqua City. At Aqua City, we met Chihira Junco, a robot working at the information desk. You are supposed to be able to ask her questions but she kept going on about facts on the island so we just moved on. Here, we also picked up some kitchenware from Daiso. It’s actually quite fun walking around looking at all the little things they have here especially with most things at a very affordable price of 100 Yen (~$1.20 CAD) plus tax. It was raining so we picked up an umbrella here for a good price as well.
We didn’t walk to far before hiding out at DiverCity in hopes of finding a nice cafe to just chill. Unfortunately, the mall is packed with people and we couldn’t find a quite cafe. We did end up trying the cheese ice cream that Aaron has been looking for here at Cheese Craft Works. It was really delicious! Think cream cheese in ice cream form.
It wouldn’t be a trip to Odaiba with Aaron without visiting Venus Fort and its car museum. They even had his Datsun there. What I enjoyed the most there was their cafe. It was quiet, where you can relax in chairs made with real car seats, with free wifi and phone charge cables coming out of toy cars. We finally got to take a bit of a breather here sipping on some tea and coffee, while catching up with blogging/admiring the cars. You can also test drive some Toyotas here if you have an international license but I figured I could also do that in Canada, so I passed.
The time has come. There was one thing on our trip to Japan that I’ve been avoiding. As a matter of fact, I was pretty adamant on skipping this activity prior to embarking on this trip. We did not really plan to go but we kind of ending up here on a whim. What was it, you ask? I was ready for my first Japanese Onsen experience. To give you some context, I’ve always been a very conservative person. I was taught from a young age to be fully dressed before coming out of the bathroom. It was only until I went to Europe with some girl friends that I learnt it was ok to walk around in a towel. At locker rooms, I always preferred to change in private rooms and not out in the open. This idea of being completely naked in front of a bunch of strangers is definitely something that I would have never considered. But something about travelling, which makes me want to try new things and push my limits. Or perhaps it was the massages I’ve gotten in Southeast Asia where privacy was thrown out the window?
Whatever it was, I’ve arrived at Oedo-Onsen Monogatari. First impression was that it seemed quite busy as we entered the front lobby. This sight of all these people made me question my decision a little. Hopefully they are not going into the bath all at the same time as me. Let me walk you through the Onsen experience here, as it can be confusing. First, we must take off our shoes and place it in a shoe locker. Here was where we got our first key. We then received our wristband with our second key at the reception area. No payment was needed yet. Our wrist band will track all our purchases and we pay for everything at the end of your stay. We then head over to the Yukata station to choose our Yukata as well as the ebi we wanted. There were around 4 designs for each gender to choose from. This part was pretty fun. Next, we entered our segregated big locker rooms and find the locker corresponding your wrist band with second key. As I was changing into my Yukata, I noticed people around me being quite discreet, using the Yukata to cover their body while changing. This I found interesting because shortly after, everyone was going to be completely naked anyway! We were allowed to keep our undergarments on at this time under our Yukatas. I placed all my belongings in the locker and just took my phone with me. I then entered the main hall of this Onsen-amusement park. This area was quite pretty, decorated as if you are back in the Edo period of Japan. There were lanterns and cherry blossoms everywhere we looked. There was a relaxing atmosphere with everyone walking around bare feet in their Yukatas. There was a souvenir shop as we entered. This is also where you can pick up a Yukata to bring home if you wanted. There was fortune-telling stall as we walked along. Next, there was a huge food court with multiple food stalls (mostly Japanese, but one Korean. There was table seating as well as tatami rooms for sitting as well. There were two Izakaya restaurants, or drinking establishments, which also serve food with drinks. Think pub. It was actually really exciting seeing everything that this place has to offer! We decided to go to the foot bath area first to start off the night. This was located outdoors and covers were provided but there was a limited quantity. It was fine because today was not too cold and the water really warmed me up. I tried walking along the stoned path in the water but did not get very far as it was quite painful. There were also fish foot therapy too if this is something you were interested in.
Finally, Aaron asked, are you ready to try the baths? I took a deep breath and then we split up into our own gender-divided bath rooms. Here I was given two towels, one large and one small. The large one stayed in yet another locker in the bath locker room. The small one is for covering important parts of your body. I was pleasantly surprised that this “small towel” wasn’t a tiny face towel I was expecting but instead a large enough towel, that when hung vertically, can cover all the important bits in front. I took another deep breath and placed everything except for the small towel into the locker and walked into the bath. Here goes! There was an area where you can scoop warm water to rinse yourself as your entered. There were also standing showers as well. Then to the right, there were rows of sitting showers with soap, shampoo and conditioner to get all cleaned up before entering the baths. Once I was in the first bath, being naked didn’t matter anymore. The water was perfect at around 40 degrees C. There were so many baths throughout the area, some warmer, some cooler. There was a cold bath area to totally cool off. In addition, there was one sauna and one steam room too but I felt a little awkward sitting in those. My favourite part was actually the outdoor baths. On the ladies side, there were individual-sized wooden tubs, which were nice for those who wanted their own space to relax. It was so nice to soak in hot water while feeling a light breeze. Aaron and I said we would meet up in 30 minutes back outside but we did not realize how many baths there would be. We agreed once we met outside that we would probably need do another round of the baths again later.
We then had some snacks and drinks at one of the Izakaya. The food was decent. Not terrible to also not the best. We read a lot of poor reviews about the food here but I guess the point of coming here is not to eat the best food in Tokyo, so we set our expectations right prior to coming. We walked around some more and had some of the lightest, most airy shaved ice ever. It was neat because we can see her shave the big block of flavoured ice. Next, we went upstairs to relax in the relaxation lounge with reclining sofas with an attached TV set to each chair! It was so awesome! There was even a room just for women too if you did not feel comfortable sleeping in a co-ed room. This Onsen is open until 9 am the next day, so for a surcharge, you can stay here overnight. We seriously considered that for a bit because we were enjoying our time here so much! We ended up just enjoying another bath round, then snacking some more on some late night ramen before calling it a day and headed home. Funny story: because this was unplanned, I did not bring clean underwear to change into; however, these were conveniently sold in vending machines in the locker rooms. I scanned my wristband and got my individually wrapped new underwear only to realize that I had chosen the one for children! I can fit into it but the fit was like granny patties but with small leg holes. It was quite hilarious. I knew I shouldn’t have picked the one with the cute bear on it.
We really made the most out of our night as we had caught the last train home. We saw others miss their train as the gate closed. It is also at this time of the day where a sea of taxis are patiently waiting on the streets to come to the rescue of these commuters. It was quite an interesting sight to see. So that ends our fun-filled day in Odaiba! See you tomorrow on our last full day in Tokyo.