Let me warn you first. There is a huge side effect of visiting the One Piece Tower. And that is a strong unbeatable urge to rewatch the entire damn series from episode 1. If you are a One Piece fan, you would know how dangerous this could be for your social life. I couldn’t fight it and now I’m stuck in Baratie waiting for Enies Lobby to happen and all those feels to hit again. So, consider yourself warned.
- If you’re travelling on a Tokyo Metro pass, you can take the Hibiya Line to Kamiyachou station and then walk towards the Tokyo Tower (700 meter walk). The red tower is really easy to spot so you wouldn’t have much trouble.
- Alternatively, if Toei line works too, you can take the Toei Mita line to Onarimon station (850 meter walk to Tokyo Tower) or the Toei Oedo Line to Akananebashi Station (650 meter walk after that).
Tips before you go
- Try and get the tickets online here if you want to save on the 200 yen.
- If you can, take atleast one person with you so you don’t have to randomly ask strangers to get that pic with Law. Go on a One Piece fan hunt if you have to. Going alone is not that bad either, just a little inconvenient
- Check the timing of the live show when you reach and keep it in mind so you don’t miss it. There are machines near the entrance of the show where you can get tickets in advance and you need those tickets to get in. On a day with more rush, don’t forget to get those tickets as soon as you reach.
I cannot begin to describe what the One Piece tower meant to me. It was an afternoon of wonder and pleasant surprises. There are a lot of activities so maybe going in a group will help. But if the group is devoid of One Piece fans, you’ll find yourself in many awkward overexcited situations with your companions giving you a blank look probably rethinking your friendship.
The one piece segment spans three floors of the Tokyo Tower. The entrance ticket costs JPY3000 if you get it online and JPY3200 on spot. It is a horde of picture points and games. The picture spots made me regret going there alone a little but it was a successful visit nonetheless. There was one game for every member of the crew and also, a live show.
As soon as you enter, after watching a 360 degree theater with heartfelt scenes from across all seasons of the series, you end up in a dark room with the Strawhats lurking in every corner. The figurines are so realistic I almost lost my mind.
Zoro’s Soul of Edge
The entrance to the attraction is an exhibition of all kinds of katana’s. You’d waste no time in spotting Mihawk’s huge sword hanging down the wall to your right as you go in. The line leads you into a small booth where they give you one (unreal) katana and make you stand facing a screen. You then have to fight a pacifista and random cannon balls as the software registers your real life moves. When the pacifista shows up, you have to get into a particular stance which is also the time when they take a sneaky little pic you can buy later for a 1000 yen. I didn’t have that much money so I just took a pic of the pic but I encourage you to make a decisive and amazingly Zoro like one so you are proud of yourself instead of laughing maniacally and spoiling the pic.
Robin’s Finding Poneglyph
Here they give you a real talking denden mushi. You heard it. A.real.talking.Denden Mushi. And you know who is talking from the other side? Can you guess? It’s Robin. Robin. She was talking in Japanese so I didn’t understand shit but I think I can rest in peace now.
The game itself is about finding hidden poneglyph marks all over the place, scanning it with the denden mushi and finding more of them. I drifted into all sorts of dark and probably non-visitor places in the amusement park carrying it, so the game can be a bit dangerous for overexcited people with no sense of social boundaries. While the game itself is pretty enjoyable, you feel like a stalker sometimes when you follow other groups with a denden mushi hoping they’d lead you to other poneglyphs. There are also nicer people who’d tell you where they found the hidden symbols themselves so you do not have to resort to your baser instinct. I turned out to be pretty bad with this though with a measly 56% of the poneglyphs found.
Brook’s Horror House
The name says it all. For me the funniest part of this attraction was the family in front of me. In particular, the son in the family in front of me. It was like a comedy skit. The boy was so scared of the house that he ran out of the place and then came to tell me it was too scary for him and that I should leave too. Two seconds later, his mom came rushing out looking for him trying to take him back in. Seeing her brother get all this attention, the little girl stomped out of the house and away from the attraction followed by her father asking her to come back. Somehow the entire family gathered and went back into the house, before the boy apparently decided he really couldn’t take it, got out again and walked towards the exit from the outside to wait for his family.
The horror house was not really scary (‘You’re a scaredy cat, little boy’), and if I’m saying it’s not scary, you can probably skip through it taunting all the wannabe demons. It was an alright attraction. The best part was catching a glimpse of the ghost woman, Perona.
Chopper Southend sunny issue Exploration
You have to go here. Actually there will be so much time you’ll probably go to all the attractions but I really took my time with this one. It had Sanji and the kitchen, Nami’s and Robin’s room with their cabinet and clothes and little animation snippets with Chopper and Brook.
Luffy’s Endless Adventure
Can I just say this is the best part? It is like an interactive animation of the entire series and a retelling of the precious moments of all the Strawhats. I almost cried here. There was Shanks giving Luffy the hat, the Enies Lobby scene with Robin, a model of Nami’s map room at Arlong’s that Luffy destroyed and… Ace. It was like a tribute to all that has happened in the series till now. They played little parts of the movie on a huge screen at the end too.
The Live animation
Frankly, this was not as interesting as I thought it would be no matter what the pictures make you think. Infact it was a bit funny and kiddish at some points because the characters’ faces did not really match with the characters. A great experience nonetheless.
Mugiwara and Tongari store
The Tongari store is inside the amusement park. The best thing I found there was the Franky hand pillow (you heard it). The mugiwara store on the ground floor of the Tokyo Tower has a huge collection. The best part is the One piece soundtrack playing in the background while you shop.
I think that the One Piece Tower is a place all One Piece fans will enjoy. It is a half day in Tokyo you would never forget.
More on travelling in Japan
True I had been super excited to visit the Ghibli museum.
True I had expected it to be amazing (unsuccessfully trying not to get my hopes too high).
True I had been waiting for the originality and beauty of all those movies to flood my brain again.
But I was still unprepared. I had still undermined how perfect it could be.
With breathtaking manuscripts of stop motion animation, oil paintings that looked like windows to other worlds that I know all too well, little unexpected animated features and reels and reels of film, they flaunted their skills unabashedly. And I could only stand and watch, trying not to gape.
- I would suggest taking the JR Chuo line to Kichijoji Station and then walking to the museum through Inokashira Park. It’s not too far and the park is beautiful enough to make you forget about the distance.
- Alternatively, take the JR Chuo line to Mitaka Station and the bus to Ghibli Museum
Tips before going
- Tickets! Ghibli museum requires tickets to be booked one month in advance, so this needs to be planned. You can get them here.
- If you get the 4 pm slot, keep in mind that the museum closes exactly at 6, and you might not be able to see the remaining parts of the museum after that. You might also want to get to the Laputa robot before it gets dark, as there is not much lighting around it, so put that first.
- Brace yourself for the feels.
First, is the way to the museum itself. I had a 4 pm entry pass, but I left at 2 from Shinjuku station so that I would have a one hour margin. Though I had taken the ticket to Mikata, I got off one station before at Kichijoji, just because I could see a huge park in the maps on the walk from Kichijoji to Ghibli Museum. Retrospectively, this has been one of my best decisions of the trip. The Inokashira pond and the park enclosing it is a feast for the eyes. And as I was going to the Ghibli museum, the park and the autumn splendor really set the mood for it. It was a relatively peaceful place blanketed by shed leaves and dotted with numerous park benches. Here and there, you could spot students trying to capture the beautiful scenes in their drawing pads (I gave it a shot too, but the results weren’t exactly flattering). I spent an hour in the place, sitting and drawing and looking around, and almost got late to the museum. If I had any inkling about how pretty it could have been, I would have went with more time to spare.
You could imagine my excitement as I rushed to the museum. This could be the highlight of my trip to Japan. It was the first thing I had marked on the map when it was finally decided that I was going to Japan. Ghibli, and specially Miyazaki’s, movies have meant so much to me through all these years. They have been my inspiration, my solace, my musical haven and my friends during the shittiest moments of my life.
Inside the museum, I rushed to the Laputa robot at the rooftop as it was getting dark. The only way to access the rooftop is a spiral staircase which was a nice touch. Inside the museum, there are many rooms dedicated to the creation of Ghibli movies. The animation studio has wonderful live stop motion features that look magical even in real life. Then there is a catbus room where you can look through different models and sit in a life sized model of the bus from My Neighbour Totoro. My personal favourite was a room where original paintings and drafts by ghibli artists were pasted all over the walls. I was mesmerized by the level of detail that goes into each panel. The watercolors looked beautiful but the oil paintings were on another level completely. At first, I was sure they were photos and not real paintings. I could not imagine the skills, devotion, love and respect that went into each of them. And for the first time I felt as if the movies did not do enough justice to the quality of the artwork of Ghibli.
In addition, there is a shop, a cafe and many other rooms in the museum. They also showed a cute little motion picture about a dog, Koro, in the museum which was around a 15 minute short story. There were no Engllish subtitles when I saw it, but there was not much being said in the movie and the story was pretty simple to follow. I could not get any pictures in the museum as it was not allowed >.< But take my word for it, it feels like an escapade into the Ghibli world, the most beautiful there can be.
The museum closes exactly at 6, so I did not have much time. Leaving was much harder than I had expected, and I felt a little jealous of the people working there (though I guess dealing with ghibli crazed fans who did not want to understand that 6 is the closing time no matter what could be a pain). Even if I had not been a fan of ghibli movies before coming to the museum (in some impossible parallel world), I would become one yet again after a visit here. I believe that it is a must for all those who’ve been grateful to studio ghibli ever in their lives.
PS – While I loved the experience completely, I do wish there was something about ghibli music too at the museum. They covered just the animation part. For me the music, especially by Joe Hisaishi, is as wonderful as the animation and story in the movies.
More on travelling in Japan
After much deliberation (and postponing), I finally made a trip to see the wonderful and much hyped winter illuminations at Nabana no Sato flower garden; I found them to be one of the best illumination shows I’ve seen in my life and I’m glad I chose to go.
The major hurdle for me when considering the candidature of Nabana no sato was, as always, the yens involved. Being a student in Japan sadly becomes a constant drain on your purse, and so a wise, well-thought choice becomes paramount. The question for me was whether it would be worth it. But as you’ll find through the course of this review, it was indeed a wonderful experience.
Ticket fees for Nabana no Sato – ¥2300 (includes two ¥500 coupons which can be utilized anywhere in the park)
Winter illumination dates – Mid-October to May
Illumination starts somewhere around 6 pm
- A wonderful Begonia garden (fees – ¥1000)
- Lighting displays across the park
- Two Light Tunnels, one of which was Autumn themed
- Animated light show
- Rotating Observation Deck giving a bird’s eye view of the illuminations (fees – ¥500)
- A number of restaurants
- From Nagoya Station, take the Kintetsu-Nagoya line to Nagashima station (¥400).
- From Nagashima station, take a bus to Nabana no Sato (¥220). The final destination on the bus will be written as Nabana no Sato (in English too), and the bus stop is right at the exit of the train station.
Tips before going
- Nabana no sato pass is available near the entrance to the Kintetsu line at Nagoya station. The pass is for ¥3,170. It includes return journey from Kintetsu to Nagashima, return tickets for the bus to Nabana no Sato, park entrance alongwith coupons. It’s a great way to save on money.
- Check temperatures before leaving. It can get pretty chilly in the park (as compared to Nagoya), so dress accordingly.Otherwise you’ll be too cold to completely enjoy the park *cough* like me *cough*.
- Try to reach at around 4:00 so you can look around in the park while it is not completely dark. The lighting aside, the park itself is very beautiful, so it will be a good experience. It’s also fun to see the park completely transform as the lights came up.
- Carry some food with you if you don’t want to spend extra (as you will get hungry). But the food joints in the park are very good too.
I was quite skeptical about how good the park can be. I started with the Begonia garden. The entrance fee was ¥1,000 which I paid through the coupons I got with the ticket. The garden is a world of its own, seeped in a palette of colors. The range of flowers was huge, and across dimensions, with some flowers staring at you from small vases, some looking down at you from hanging pots and others tumbling down exotic shrubs. The garden ended with a small cafe amidst the hanging vines and a pond dotted with floating flowers, a scene as picturesque as a painting. Even with my poor skills with the camera, I couldn’t get it wrong.
Following the garden, which took longer than I expected, I moved towards the chapel while walking along the lake at the center of the park. Specks of golden had stated lining the bushes all over, and the people moving around in the park had also increased. I could hear bell tolls in the distance and as soon as I reached the chapel, with a final toll, the trees around me suddenly lit up in a blinding flash of white on one side and blue on the other. It was as if the entire park gasped silently as music began to pour in accompanied with light from all directions. I realized the show had started, and hurriedly moved to the other side of the chapel towards the lake. The view was breathless. Even as I tried to print it into my memory, the colorful lights running along beautiful paths chased each other into the distance. I stood, mesmerized and waiting for the people to clear up a bit so I could get a better view.
At 5:45, as it was dark enough, I moved towards the observation deck and stood in line to buy tickets and then to get into the deck. It took two turns for me to get into the deck, but the wait didn’t feel long (particularly because I was carrying food and the child behind me was convinced that the deck was a UFO). The deck was my favorite part of the trip. I have never seen a more colorful display of lights from this height and try as I might, I couldn’t capture it through my camera. The light animation was visible from the deck too, and I decided to go there next.
I was surprised to find that the way to the animation goes through a light tunnel (this day was getting better and better). But even the tunnel could not prepare me for the splendor of the light show. The theme was ‘The beauty of Mother Nature’ and it was grandly depicted in a sea of lights. There were small snippets of animations played on a large canvas of lights, paying homage to one or the other element of nature. The way back from the animation goes through a different tunnel, themed around ‘autumn’ and lit in alternating yellow, green and red.
The entire experience was much more beautiful than I had expected. I spent around four hours in the park and only after seeing it could I understand the throng of people who had traveled this far to be able to enjoy it. It just wasn’t another light show. And if you happen to be in Nagoya (or Tokyo) around that time, it is definitely a must experience.