Japan Journal 2018, Pt. 2: Adventures on Odaiba

12 May

A month ago, I was flying back from Tokyo to New York. Here I continue my search for Tokyo locations used in live-action Japanese superhero shows, specifically the Super Sentai and Kamen Rider franchises, all of which stage elaborate action scenes at accessible locations in and around Tokyo. This entry is devoted to Odaiba Island in Tokyo Bay on the other side of the Sumida River from mainland Tokyo. Here’s a travel brochure shot:

Odaiba (just south of Harumi Island, which I covered here last month) has lots of cool attractions, not least the Gundam Base Tokyo store and the Giant Gundam in front of it, from the long-running anime franchise, “Mobile Suit Gundam.” It also has Shiokaze Park, the Center Promenade, the Fuji TV Center, a prominent ferris wheel, Aquacity, Palette Town, Venus Fort, the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, the Museum of Maritime Science, Tokyo Big Sight, and the Zepp Tokyo concert venue, among other spots.

Odaiba (お台場) is a popular shopping and entertainment district on a man-made island in Tokyo Bay. It originated as a set of small man-made fort islands (daiba literally means “fort”), which were built towards the end of the Edo Period (1603-1868) to protect Tokyo against possible attacks from the sea and specifically in response to the gunboat diplomacy of Commodore Perry.

More than a century later, the small islands were joined into larger islands by massive landfills, and Tokyo began a spectacular development project aimed to turn the islands into a futuristic residential and business district during the extravagant 1980s.

There’s more, something about “best-laid plans,” so go to the website I got this from, Japan-guide.com

The last time I was in Japan, in 2016, I went to the Gundam Front Museum (closed in 2017 and replaced by Gundam Base Tokyo) and took pix of the life-sized Gundam that was there at the time (since replaced by a different model) on a day, March 24, when it was cloudy, drizzly and cold, the coldest day of my trip:

My trip there this year, on March 28, almost exactly two years later, was on a hot and sunny day, the hottest day of my trip:

Tokyo weather is not predictable. I wore light clothing in 2016 and suffered in the cold. I took heavier clothing this time and didn’t need it.

Back in 2016, I also went to Tokyo Big Sight, a massive convention center on Odaiba, for Anime Japan 2016, an annual showcase for anime producers and distributors to promote their new product.

This year, my goal on Odaiba was to find various locations used in the shows I described above. There were three specific sites I was looking for: Shiokaze Park, the Center Promenade, and the Hotel Trusty Tokyo Bayside, as seen in these shots from a Kamen Rider movie and a couple of different sentai shows (“Shuriken Sentai Ninninger” and “Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters”):

I visited Odaiba on the first full day of my trip after a long morning and afternoon walking to and from various other locations in Tokyo proper on the other side of the Sumida River. Even though I was exhausted, I drove myself to do more, since Odaiba was a short monorail ride from the last location (Seavance Hall in Shibaura) on the other side of the river and my various maps led me to erroneously assume I could cover all three sites on Odaiba in an hour or two.

The sun was blazing, the temperature was high and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Once I got there I found that the Center Promenade was quite a distance from the subway station and was at least half a mile long, running east and west, with no shade and no benches to sit on. As I walked it, looking for the angles used in the Kamen Rider movie, I realized I wasn’t going to complete my goals that afternoon. I had to wear my windbreaker and put the hood up to ward off sunburn. Because it was so bright and there was no shade to stand in, I could not consult the screen shots in my phone showing these locations to match up shots since the glare made it impossible to see anything on the phone, so I just made estimates based on my memory of the shots or held my jacket over my head and the phone to see the shots, not an easy thing to do.

In the course of all this, I looked over the rail on the side of the promenade and saw the rear entrance of the Hotel Trusty Tokyo Bayside, another desired location, but one which I thought was further away. How convenient! This one offered a small plaza and promenade, patios and a wide curving staircase used in tons of shows.

So I was able to achieve two of my goals on this trip. Fortunately, I had occasion to return to Odaiba 13 days later, so I would able to locate and explore Shiokaze Park then.

The Center Promenade was featured prominently In the Kamen Rider movie, HEISEI RIDER VS. SHOWA RIDER: KAMEN RIDER TAISEN FEAT. SUPER SENTAI (2014), covered in my March 2018 Kamen Rider piece. It’s the site of a grand showdown between the Showa Riders (pre-1989) and the Heisei Riders (post-1989) and offered a suitably wide expanse capable of containing the large number of costumed Kamen Riders doing battle with each other, with various landmarks seen in the background. It’s quite a spectacular scene, with occasional CGI effects added to enhance the action.

Here are screen grabs from the movie intercut with shots of the Promenade that I took:

More shots from the Kamen Rider movie to illustrate how the location is used:

And shots from “Ressha Sentai Toqger” #20, the 2014 Super Sentai season, also filmed on the Promenade:

The Hotel Trusty Tokyo Bayside is just across a little canal from the Center Promenade. The part used for location shooting is the rear entrance or “park side” of the hotel. When I got there, I didn’t encounter a single soul and the space is situated in such a way that it wouldn’t be hard to block it off from the public while shooting a fight scene.

I first spotted this site from the monorail two years earlier as I was returning to mainland Tokyo after visiting Anime Japan 2016 and I took a picture from the train. I’m not sure if I recognized it as a location at the time or was simply taking random shots of the view from the monorail. Either way, when I scrutinized my pictures afterwards, I determined that it was indeed a location.

Here are shots from “Shuriken Sentai Ninninger” #14 (2015 Sentai season), “Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger” #46 (the 2011 Sentai season), and the “Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters” ending (2012 Sentai season), intercut with shots I took.

Ninninger:

Gokaiger:

Go-Busters:

I would return to Odaiba almost two weeks later, on April 9th, when I was scheduled to attend a solo concert by Airi Suzuki at Zepp Tokyo on Odaiba. I gave myself enough time before the concert to find Shiokaze Park (which had eluded me on the previous jaunt) and take pictures there before getting back on the monorail and heading two stops east to Zepp Tokyo.

Here’s a shot from the monorail as we headed onto the Rainbow Bridge connecting Tokyo and Odaiba:

One of the things I was most interested in locating was the angle that was used in a shot from TOKUMEI SENTAI GO-BUSTERS THE MOVIE: PROTECT THE TOKYO ENETOWER! (2012), the Go-Busters movie spin-off. Because Tokyo Tower is prominent in the shot, I had assumed it was near the Tokyo Tower and went looking for this park on my last trip. I was quite disappointed and eventually learned, through further research, that the shot was taken in Shiokaze Park, well across the river from Tokyo Tower and the Tower digitally inserted into the shot.

The walk to the park:

The main promenade into the park led right to the spot. Here’s the shot from the movie:

And a shot I took of the same angle:

See? No Tokyo Tower.

It happened to be a beautiful late afternoon, much more spring-like than my trip here 13 days earlier, and the park faces Tokyo Bay and the setting sun. (The concert would start at 7PM and doors were supposed to open at 6:00 PM.) There appeared to be lots of construction going on in the bay and near the park. The place was nearly empty when I got there and I began to wonder if it closed at 5PM, but I soon saw other people wandering in and out, including other tourists.

Here are two shots from TOKUMEI SENTAI GO-BUSTERS THE MOVIE: PROTECT THE TOKYO ENETOWER!, intercut with shots I took:

And shots from “Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger” #46:

I daresay I had better weather than the production crews on some of these shows.

And some shots of the waterfront:

And then it was off to the concert, featuring Airi Suzuki, former member of the now-disbanded Hello! Project groups, C-ute and Buono! The concert was entitled, “Airi Suzuki 1st Live~Do Me a Favor~.” Zepp Tokyo was a cramped venue and I was seated in the balcony in the last row, so I didn’t have the best sight lines, nor the most comfortable seat, but it sure beat standing up on the main floor where there were no seats at all.

It was part of Airi’s first solo tour and her chance to explore new directions. She did a lot of her old Buono! songs, always a good thing in my book, plus several new songs of varying quality. She’s also releasing a number of new singles and, next month, her first solo album, called “Do Me a Favor.” I expect great things from her.

One of Airi’s former colleagues (they were both in Buono!), Momoko Tsugunaga, had her farewell concert on Odaiba less than a year earlier, on June 30, 2017. It was in a large outdoor space behind Venus Fort on the southern side of the island (east of Shiokaze Park, south of the Center Promenade, west of the Trusty Hotel). I bought a Blu-ray of this concert while I was in Tokyo. I love that we can see the monorail trains coming and going behind the stage. I was on that train just two weeks before I watched the concert.

Momoko left show biz to teach kindergarten. Our loss is the kindergartners’ gain.

As you may have noticed, there were hardly any people in the shots I took in the three spots on Odaiba where I found the sought-after locations. As on Harumi Island, it’s fun having the run of the place to yourself.

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