Help me travel to the future (in Tokyo)!
November 4, 2006 6:30 PM   Subscribe

Help me travel to the future (in Tokyo)!

I will be in Tokyo for three days. That isn't a lot of time to look around, so I am being selective. A lot of images and products I have seen that come out of Japan look futuristic to me. I would like to see and experience the most modern and future-esque stuff that Tokyo has to offer. This includes the hotel I stay at, food, stores, museums, people watching, and transportation. I'll take any and all suggestions, and feel free to use your own interpretation of what "future" may mean to you. Thanks!

In particular: I'm a product designer by trade, so I have a definite interest in seeing some interesting consumer goods. And does anyone know where I could test drive the new Prius?
posted by Eringatang to Travel & Transportation around Tokyo, Japan (18 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
You should spend a day in Miraikan. It blew my mind.
posted by aeighty at 6:58 PM on November 4, 2006


I'm a graphic designer who's done the industrial design tour in other cities across Japan but mysteriously not Tokyo, where I have only spent about 40 hours (my work has kept me further west). When are you going to be there?

The elevator to the Mori Art Museum at Roppongi Hills was the highlight of my transit through Tokyo. The Tokyo/Berlin design exhibit at the Mori was equally badass, but the orange elevator will stay in my heart for life.

Check PingMag for all your Tokyo design needs.

The Kanazawa 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art is wrapping up its Kazuo Kawasaki exhibit on November 12th - I adore the city (my second home) but it's more than just a day-trip from Tokyo.

Time for me to go to bed as I just flew out of Narita two days ago and am brutally jet-lagged. Again, only spent half an hour in Tokyo Station just passing through. Of course, I was leaving just as Tokyo Design Week began :(
posted by avocet at 7:35 PM on November 4, 2006


I don't think the future will be "futuristic" a la anime or whatever, so if you REALLY want to see "the future," go to inner city Detroit.

But for what you seem to be looking for, it's probably worth a trip to Harajuku to see the Cosplay kids all dressed up like cartoon characters and middle-age-otaku fantasies.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:07 PM on November 4, 2006


You want futuristic? Check out either a privately-owned toilet or a subway station. By all means, avoid watching any television (particularly live-action) if you want to retain your impression that Japan is somehow "futuristic."
posted by DoctorFedora at 8:40 PM on November 4, 2006


When I was there this summer, I went to this bad-ass museum in Shinjuku, the NTT Intercommuncation Center, located in the Tokyo Opera City building. Run by the telecom company NTT, it has all these amazing interactive technology projects. One I remember well was a console where you design your own sea creature, and then you can go to a pool of water and actually play with it as it swims around and interacts with other creatures people have created (it's a projection). I was there for hours playing with all the projects. It's not immersion, but to imagine how some of what I saw will be integrated into future technology made me tingly.
posted by lovejones at 8:44 PM on November 4, 2006


I'll second the Miraikan recommendation.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 9:46 PM on November 4, 2006


I don't know if you're into architecture, but this building has to be the most futuristic and cool looking one I've ever seen a picture of.

I believe I heard that the sphere is a restaurant, but don't quote me on that.

I did some googling for it and ran into this site, which appears to be an online resource for people like you. It also has a page which features the Fuji TV building. It says you can get there on the monorail. (Which is pretty futuristic in its own right.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:53 PM on November 4, 2006


If you're looking for futuristic products, the place you want to go is the Akihabara shopping district.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:01 PM on November 4, 2006


Here's the official home page of "Akihabara Electric Town". (Here's the Wikipedia entry for it.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:27 PM on November 4, 2006


Hmm... in reality, much of Tokyo doesn't look "futuristic" in the slightest. There is a homogenous modernity to it, however, owing to the fact there wasn't much left of the city following WWII. Also, buildings big and small were thrown up left and right during the Bubble Economy years of the 1980s, and while some of these projects may have seemed "futuristic" at the time, they're not all that spectacular 20 years on.

That said, there are some areas worth checking out...

I always found the Shiodome area to have a super-modern vibe... probably because it's seen a lot of development in recent years. From there, you can take the Yurikamome Line over to Odaiba, which is futuristic in an amusement park sort of way.

Elsewhere, Shinjuku deserves a visit... it's futuristic in a clean and sterile sort of way. Akihabara is kind of gritty, actually, although there are some new developments going up that are gradually changing the character of the area (not necessarily for the better, if you ask me). Roppongi Hills is a pretty cool development. There are also some intersting spots in Marunouchi... it's also a good place to contrast the new and the old.

If you want to travel a bit farther afield, the Minato Mirai 21 district in Yokohama has a futuristic vibe. It's also home to the the tallest building in Japan, the Landmark Tower. There's also Makuhari New City, out toward Chiba... kind of a Shinjuku clone, but more business-oriented. I used to work out here (although the neighborhood I lived in nearby was FAR from modern).
posted by jal0021 at 10:36 PM on November 4, 2006


The maritime museum on the Kobe waterfront has static displays of two ships that look like they came out of the Thunderbirds show. One is a hydrofoil that apparently moved forward by bobbing up and down, and the other used super-conducting magnetohydrodynamic propulsion. What's more futuristic than superconducting magnetohydrodynamic propulsion?
posted by Popular Ethics at 12:16 AM on November 5, 2006


(d'oh, Tokyo). Well, to exonerate myself, you'll find one of the superconducting thrusters from that ship displayed at the Tokyo Maritime Science museum.
posted by Popular Ethics at 12:23 AM on November 5, 2006


You would be doing yourself a disfavor if you did not visit the first-floor level (at the very least) of Tokyu Hands.

While it does not scream "futuristic in that it has no discernible buttons", it is a life lesson in the awesomeness of useless yet entertaining (note that I do not use the word gorgeous) design. I personally acquired two solar-powered toys, one of which is a pair of plastic leaves in a plastic pot (with plastic dirt), that do nothing but wave gently. Why???? Because they can, was the answer I finally realized. And they are wonderful.

I promise nothing with regards to furniture.

Go there.

ALSO: find yourself a vending machine that makes stencilled images on your fingernails. Well worth the very surreal experience.
posted by mireille at 3:17 AM on November 5, 2006


THANK YOU for all of these great suggestions -- I'm gonna go make myself a little Tokyo plan on my futuristic tablet pc now. I wish I had more time there!

Joeseph: Maybe part of my motivation is that I currently live right near downtown Detroit. This could explain why I want to build a more optimistic and forward-thinking vision of what's to come...

Avocet: I will be there from Nov 23rd to the 25th. Too late for the exhibit!
posted by Eringatang at 10:08 AM on November 5, 2006


If you want to step off the airplan and go "wow, it's like living in the future!" I'd go to Dubai or Hong Kong.

I've felt Japan's "futuristicness" is subtle. There aren't great mech battles in the street and no archologies, though you will occasionally see people dressed like mech pilots. But you'll see people dressed as almost anything they can imagine.

Rather Japan's futuristic feel is a cultural thing. They're forward thinking and aren't afraid to plan long term, and aren't afraid of the benefits of technology, while understanding the dangers. This gets reflected in the pop culture and you've only seen a small taste of it if you rely on imports. For Americans (Especially Middle Americans) there's also a futuristic feel from the size and density of Tokyo, and all the small but necessary changes that this makes to daily life. Take the train/subway. The Japan rail system is something I desperately miss every time I travel. A bullet train ride is sort of futuristic, but probably not practical for your short visit.

Enough of my gum flapping. I'd say best bet is Odaiba and Yokohama as jal0021 has suggested. And Shubuya/Shinjuku if the future means lots of blink lights and giant video walls. Try a , and somewhere you get a ticket for ramen out of a vending machine. And go to a convenience store and a game center (There's a big one on Odaiba. You might like Ginza and stop by the Sony showroom and the Nissan building where they have car prototypes on display. (And the finely crafted buildings there have a certain Mall of the Future feel)

And of course for a hotel, stay in a
Capsule hotel. (Note: that's sarcasm. Unless you're a masochist I wouldn't recommend it. Now a Love Hotel... that's something different...)

I guess you can go to Harajuku on Sunday and watch the cosplay kids (the scene is fading though) but that's not the future, that's just cultural differences.
posted by Ookseer at 10:31 AM on November 5, 2006


I wish I had more time there!

This will be your real problem, I think, as jet lag could be a serious problem. I know it takes me a couple days to acclimatize, and there's very little to do in Tokyo in the wee hours.

Note that Steven C. Den Beste's building is just one of several wild structures on the reclaimed land of Ariake. I'm surprised they're claiming the automated Yurikamome line to get there is a monorail -- this wasn't obvious to me, riding it (unlike the suspended Shonan down in Enoshima, or even the line to Haneda airport).

As recommended above, for the most futuristic of Tokyo I'd just head for Shinjuku and Shibuya -- and the area around the Tokyu Hands in the latter is as good as it gets.
posted by Rash at 10:50 AM on November 5, 2006


No jet lag for me, as I will be traveling from Angkor Watt (aka the past).
posted by Eringatang at 6:58 PM on November 5, 2006


there's very little to do in Tokyo in the wee hours.

You must be joking right??
posted by dead_ at 7:11 AM on November 6, 2006


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