jump to navigation

Rainbow Bridge May 31, 2011

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo, Travel.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
comments closed

Author’s Note:  Dru’s  Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Rainbow Bridge” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-Gc

 

Rainbow Bridge is one of the most famous, if not the most famous bridge in Tokyo.  It has been used as a backdrop along with Tokyo Tower to define Tokyo.  It is a famous backdrop in the summer for the Tokyo Bay Fireworks festival as well as one of the easiest ways to access Odaiba.  The bridge itself is 798 metres long with a main span of 580 metres.  It is a main artery that has been painted white.  At night, the bridge is often lit up in various colours.  It is often lit in a rainbow of colours to highlight the bridge’s popular name, but it has been lit up for other special occasions such as pink for breast cancer awareness or other similar events.  While the official name of Rainbow Bridge is quite boring, city officials took the nickname, Rainbow Bridge, and ran with it.  On most nights, the bridge is lit up naturally so that the the white paint stands out against the traditional backdrop of black and grey buildings.

As with any bridge, there are only two ways to access the bridge itself, the Odaiba and the Shibaura side.  I would recommend the Shibaura side as there is an elevator to access the promenade which makes the walk a lot easier.  On the Shibaura side, you can access Rainbow Bridge from either Shibaurafuto Station on the Yurikamome Line or Tamachi and Mita Stations on the JR and Toei lines.  From Tamachi and Mita, it is a bit of a walk to Rainbow Bridge but it is a nice relaxing walk through some new residential areas.  The area around the bridge itself is not special.  It is a port area with nothing more than large trucks driving everywhere.  It can be a little dangerous at times to cross the street as trucks speed through the area.  It isn’t too bad as traffic isn’t too heavy and there are large gaps between cars.  Upon entry to the main anchor on the Shibaura side, you will be treated to a more touristy setting.  While there are no people to give you information on the bridge itself, there is a small display and information signs telling you where to go.  The elevator is not very quick journey as the main deck is located 7 stories up.

The bridge deck has two promenades.  There is the north and south side but you must make your decision before you head up from the bottom of the Shibaura anchor.  I ventured on the south where all the traffic was heading towards Shibaura.  The views on this side were nice but probably better on the north side.  You can get a view of Kawasaki and Odaiba from the south, and views of Tokyo Tower and central Tokyo from the north.  On the south side, it can get a bit boring as all you see are container ships and the sparsely populated Odaiba region but the photos can be amazing.  The first thing you will notice will be the wind.  The second you walk outside the anchor you are hit by the wind.  If you have ever walked across a bridge you will know what I’m talking about.  Most bridges over a body of water are subject to higher winds.  It was a bit daunting on the day that I visited Rainbow Bridge.  It was a constant barrage of wind that kept me from walking smoothly.  The second thing you will notice is the vibrations.  Being a double decked bridge with 8 lanes of traffic and a rapid transit line, it is hard to walk along the bridge without feeling the constant rumble of cars.  If you are in a car at the time you won’t notice it as much as the car’s suspension does a good job at creating a smooth ride, but when you walk along the bridge, you will get a mild sensation that a small earthquake is occurring.  The first tower is fairly close to the Shibaura anchor.  Each tower forces the promenade to go on the outside of the tower itself.  This provides a better view of the surrounding area.  Unfortunately, there is a fence that runs the entire span of the bridge.  Thankfully they cut holes into a fence around the towers so you can take photos.  At all other points along the bridge you have to take photos through the safety fence.  The fence serves two purposes.  One is to keep people from being blown off the bridge itself, and the other is to prevent suicides.  In Japan, that is understandable.

The midpoint of the bridge is not spectacular but there are signs to inform you that you are at the midpoint.  There are signs on the floor that tell you which direction you need to go to reach either Odaiba or Shibaura.  There is also an information sign on the wall to inform you exacatly where you are.  It is an interesting place as it is a small section that is neither Odaiba nor Shibaura.  You are in a “no man’s land” between cities.  Other than that, it is no different than any other section of the bridge.  It is noisy, windy, and shaky.  From that point on, things are relatively easy.  The Odaiba tower is almost a mirror of the tower on the Shibaura side.  The anchor on the Odaiba side has an elevator but you cannot use it.  The anchor on the Odaiba side is for maintenance workers only as the anchor is on an island.  There is no access to the main island from the Odaiba anchor.

The approach to the Odaiba tower from Odaiba is a long gradual slope.  There are no fences so the view is spectacular.  You can enjoy the view of the batteries that used to protect Tokyo from invaders and you can get good pictures of Odaiba as well.  It is also popular for tour groups to take a short walk to get a better view of Odaiba.  For many people, walking out to the bridge tower itself is easy but walking all the way across isn’t.  Most people will start on the Odaiba side and head to the first tower before returning.  In reality, that is more than enough but for perfectionists, walking along the entire bridge deck on both the north and south side is a must.

Rainbow Bridge is often a tourist attraction that is to be seen, not experienced.  It is not a common place to be for anyone as most people wouldn’t think twice about visiting any bridge.  In Japan where domestic tourism is very high, they do whatever they can to lure tourists to various locations.  Food is the most popular way to lure tourists to various regions, but the bridges are what connect these places.  The government knows this and they created creative ways to highlight their bridges to encourage more tourism to these areas.  One great example is the Onaruto bridge.  The Senjojiki Observatory is located under the main deck and provides great views of the sea below.  While most people will skip this, it is still a popular destination for domestic travellers.  Rainbow Bridge is not as spectacular, and honestly not worth the time for most people, but it is a great way to spend a morning when most of the shops are closed in the area.

Rainbow Bridge Information:

Rainbow Bridge (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbow_Bridge_%28Tokyo%29

Advertisements

Tokyo Fireworks August 17, 2010

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
comments closed

Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokyo Fireworks” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-tE

Summertime in Tokyo is a time when you can go to many different festivals.  The usual summer festivals with various food stalls selling okonomiyaki and yakisoba exist, and there is a lot of dancing that happens at these festivals.  The most popular annual festival has to be the fireworks festivals.  These are held weekly starting in the last weekend of July.  There are several famous fireworks festivals in Tokyo.  These include the Sumida River Fireworks (last weekend in July); the Edogawa Fireworks (first weekend in August); Tokyo Bay Fireworks (second weekend in August); and the Meiji Jingu Fireworks (end of August).  Of course, there are several more in and around Tokyo, but these are the biggest festivals.  If you are in Tokyo at that time, and have a day to spare, it’s a good idea if you can make it to one of these fireworks festivals.  If you can’t, I wouldn’t worry too much as you can see video of this at various places on the internet, especially on YouTube.

Coming from Vancouver, I have a very different idea of what a fireworks festival should be.  I am very biased in how things look after growing up enjoying the Symphony of Fire, now the Celebration of Light, in Vancouver.  The Vancouver festival lasts four nights over the course of two weeks and it is actually a competition among various companies from around the world.  They are scored on five basic criteria:

  • General Concept – presentation, structure and scale of display
  • Colour – choice and variety of colours
  • Originality – design and architecture
  • Quality of Production – rhythm of fireworks, volume of effects and quality of construction
  • Correlation of Music – choice of music, synchronization of effects, adaptation of moods

This festival has been going on since 1995 and I have grown to become extremely critical of the types of fireworks used, how it’s used, and the use of music within a fireworks display.  Needless to say, fireworks festivals are no longer as “enjoyable” as used to be.

In Japan, fireworks festivals are not about a competition.  It’s about impressing people with various fireworks, including the use of a large amount of fireworks to impress the crowds.  I have seen a couple of fireworks displays around Tokyo since I first came here.  The first time I saw the fireworks was in Atami several years ago.  Atami is a beach resort that is famous for its onsen. Recently, I have had the pleasure to go to the Edogawa Fireworks festival.  The atmosphere in Japan is extremely different compared to Vancouver.  The first thing you have to realize is that the festival is very calm and relaxed.  If you go to a festival in the city, such as the Sumida River Fireworks, you should expect to see people all over the place.  Since there is limited park space near the fireworks, it’s customary to see people set up their “camp” on local streets and just wait there for several hours.  My friend John, owner and star of Weblish was kind enough to spend a lot of time reserving a huge area in a park next to the fireworks.  We had what was one of the best seats in the city.  If you do go to a fireworks festival, and you do find a way into a nearby park, expect to see a sea of blue tarps on the ground.  It’s customary for Japanese people to rush into a site when it’s opened up and set up these tarps to reserve their area.  You can usually set up shop up to a day or so in advance, but it depends on which festival you are attending, and the rules for the year.  The second thing to note is that by the mid afternoon, people start to flood into the area.  This is a festival, and like any festival, people like to make it a big event.

When you get a spot to watch the fireworks, the next thing to do is relax.  It’s a great time to be with friends and enjoy the conversations.  To be prepared, bring lots of food and lots of drinks.  The great thing about Japan is that you can drink in public.  It’s necessary to bring enough alcohol to keep yourself happy up to and including the fireworks.  Bring enough snacks so that you won’t be starving after the fireworks.  The only question is where to use the washroom.  Like any public event, expect lines to use the washroom.  I had the unfortunate event of needing the washroom about halfway through the fireworks, and had to wait a bit to use it after the fireworks.  It wasn’t bad, but it’s not something that I’d feel comfortable doing again, if I could help it.

As I mentioned, fireworks in Japan are all about amazing the crowd.  They usually start with a countdown, if you are near a speaker, followed by a large display of fireworks.  They tend to go in a 10 minute loop.  There are a few minutes of spectacular fireworks that light up the sky followed by several minutes of smaller fireworks.  They tend to go one after another rather than several at the same time.  I believe this is done to allow the smoke to dissipate for the next round of large fireworks.  This entire process is repeated for just over an hour. If you are worried about catching a train to escape the area, you should think about leaving 10 minutes, or earlier, from the area.  If you wait till the end, you could be waiting for over an hour to just get to the station platform before you can wait for a train.  Needless to say, the trains are packed as badly as the morning rush.  If you don’t want to wait in line, chill out at your spot for at least 30 minutes, and then try to find a place nearby that you can just hang out and spend money for a couple hours.  If you are lucky, you’ll have a friend who lives nearby and you can just hang out there until the trains aren’t too busy.  The fireworks ended at around 8:30pm, and I left my friend’s house around 11pm.  The train was still packed as if it was the morning rush hour, but at least the station platform wasn’t that busy.

Comparing fireworks in Japan to fireworks in Vancouver is not an easy thing to do.  Vancouver is a beautiful display that is timed to music which makes it more art that spectacular.  In Japan, it’s the opposite. It’s all about impressing the crowds with images such as famous Japanese characters, and also to have the largest size of fireworks possible.  I’m not sure which is best, but both have their merits.  In Vancouver, everything feels different.  In Japan, with alcohol, things just feel like a party.  I can’t truly explain the difference.  You must go and enjoy the show to understand the difference, but it’s something that must be done if you have the chance to experience it.

Fireworks Information:

Vancouver’s Celebration of Light (Official Site): http://www.celebration-of-light.com/
Vancouver’s Celebration of Light (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celebration_of_Light

Tokyo Fireworks Schedule (Jalan – Note: May not be accurate past 2010 events):http://www.jalan.net/jalan/doc/theme/hanabi/13.html
Sumida River Fireworks (English): http://sumidagawa-hanabi.com/index_eg.html
Sumida River Fireworks (Japanese): http://sumidagawa-hanabi.com/index.html
Edogawa Fireworks (Japanese): http://www.city.edogawa.tokyo.jp/chi…event/hanabi8/
Tokyo Bay Fireworks (Japanese): http://www.city.chuo.lg.jp/ivent/tou…anabisaimeinn/
Jingu Fireworks (Japanese): http://jinguhanabi.nikkansports.com/

Weblish:  http://weblish.co.jp/

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

%d bloggers like this: