Giant robots, fortune-telling video games and Mexican food in Odaiba

Originally designed to prevent Commodore Perry’s trade fleet from entering Tokyo in 1853, Odaiba now offers dozens of attractions to beckon visitors from across Tokyo Bay with experimental video game experiences and posh fashion boutiques.

Strange, that an island bearing the Japanese name for “cannon,” created for the sole purpose of keeping out foreigners, should end up a major center for tourism some one hundred and fifty years later.

My friend Adam and I particularly enjoyed the massive, animatronic robot from the popular mechanimeGundam Wing, which happened to be demonstrating a battle as we walked up to it, complete with booming sound effects, sparse pyrotechnics and plenty of neon lights.

After the demonstration ended, we headed up twenty-seven floors to the top of the Fuji Television building where we were graced with a panoramic view of Tokyo from its distinctively orb-like central structure.

Unfortunately, it was an overcast, rainy day so taking pictures was pretty fruitless but we were still able to make out Tokyo’s more obvious landmarks.

As longtime Capcom video game fans and former GameStop employees, we were also thrilled to stumble across a Capcom merchandise store in a nearby mall.

Although its selection was limited, due to its humble size, I was excited to get my hands on some Odaiba-exclusive Street Fighter and Megaman stickers and also to take my picture with a life-sized replica of the notoriously challenging super-villain from Resident Evil 3, Nemesis, which was encased in glass near the cashier.

Miraculously, we also discovered a Mexican restaurant in the same mall so as self-identifying connoisseurs of cuisine from south of the border, we decided to give it a whirl.

Although it proved one of the most expensive meals I’ve had while living in Japan, my worsening separation anxiety, being apart from my usual Mexican food haunts in Tacoma, was finally abated.

I thoroughly enjoyed a small plate of octopus ceviche, a strawberry margherita, fresh guacamole with tortilla chips and a beer to settle the palate.

Even for a total of roughly $25, it really hit the spot.

Afterwards, we returned to the bottom floor of the building, where we decided to spend the rest of our night in the sprawling entertainment center sponsored by Sega: Joypolis.

Being further led on by its sleek, sci-fi aesthetic, reminiscent of the movieTron, I had high hopes for Joypolis’ supposedly state-of-the-art virtual reality games that I had read about online.

But much to our dismay, Adam and I found our experience of the place to be underwhelming, especially for the steep admission price.

We particularly enjoyed the racing simulator based on the sensational manga, Initial D, which put drivers behind the wheel of an actual race car, rocking and shifting on a platform with the screen placed in front of the windshield.

It was fun, exhilarating even, and quite unlike any racing game experience we had ever seen before.

Everything else we tried, including a 3D Sonic the Hedgehog movie, a California Adventure-esque flight ride, a fortune-telling video game and a zombie-themed shooter-coaster, was poorly designed and ultimately forgettable.

Still, we were glad we to have experienced Odaiba’s Joypolis, if not for any other reason than to be able to tell our friends and family to spend their money elsewhere.

Finally, it was time for us to go, so we waved goodbye to the giant Gundam Wing robot before heading home, exhausted but contented from a full day.

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