Last week we celebrated J’s birthday in Tokyo. The day started with cards and brioche with nutella – a little taste of home – then off we went to school for our morning of Japanese class. Our sensei very kindly brought in a cheesecake and we all shared it in a very English way, with a cup of tea, during third period. After class we headed from Iidabashi to Odaiba in Tokyo Bay to explore the museum of emerging science. I was in charge of the birthday celebrations in Tokyo and after researching a lot of Tokyo museums I thought this one, with its Asimo robot, replica section of the ISS and stem cells under a microscope would be the most interesting to J. To be honest the blog reviews were a mixed bag but I thought there was enough there to occupy us for the afternoon.
The trip to Odaiba itself on the monorail is really fun and the views over these artificial islands and are brilliant. It looks very different from the rest of Tokyo, mostly because there is so much more land and space between buildings. The architecture around this area is worth a trip in itself. But there is also the replica Statue of Libery, Gundam Statue, Fuji TV Building, Decks Tokyo Beach, Telecome Centre and Rainbow Bridge.
We spent a good few hours in the museum which has a reasonable entry price at just 620 Yen, which includes a ticket to the planetarium show. I think it was a good idea and J seemed in the mood to explore. The museum has 3 exhibition floors which are then zoned into the world science, emerging technology and frontier exploration. All the exhibits are interactive, indeed we were greeted by a robotic seal that would respond to sound, touch and sight stimulus. There were also robots marionettes that would try to mimic human body language as you speak through a microphone (blinking during conversation, nodding during pauses, hand movements as you spoke etc…). The robotics section was a great excuse to practise our japanese!
We also met Asimo, ‘wrote’ binary messages through a simulation of the internet, all of which gobbled time up so, before we’d even got to the top floor, we had to go watch our booked 3d planetarium show (the dark room with reclining seats all the invitation needed for a lot of the audience to catch 40 winks) on the link between stardust and human existence. Nothing groundbreaking but a fun show and we had our own headphones with English voiceover.
What was more fun though, and the exhibit J most loved) was the temporary show on Mars (“Kasei”). Recent relief photos taken by the Mars Orbiter where blown up to tapestry sized versions showing Mars geological features. The really cool bit though was that they had been made into 3d so you could walk around Olympus Mons or get a sense of the scale of Valles Marineris’ canyons (or so he tells me!).
We went straight from there to a replica module of the ISS, complete with toilet and kitchen. This was interesting but you could never have accused them of going overboard! It was the only non-interative exhibit and it was a bit crowded. So we spent more time examining the horny albino crabs recovered from the ocean floor and their isolated geothermal vent community and a replica of the submarine that collected them. Finally we spent the rest of our time (the Miraikan closes at the relatively early 5pm) until the auld lang syne compulsory melody (played ubiquitously in Japan to get you to move on) in the human body section. Examining stem cells under a microscope inserted with human liver, retina and skin cells. My favourite exhibit were the male and female chromosomes and distilled DNA viewed through separate microscopes, they certainly merit their names!
All in all, it was a very fun museum with some really cool bits and thankfully it was all in English too. However some exhibits take up quite a bit of time to do thoroughly and at the end of the day we felt that compared to some great sections others failed to reach the spent time / interest value equation. So it’s hard to work out how to divide your time successfully. We certainly could have done with another couple of hours to have not felt as though we rushed through. Also a lot of the exhibitions have science demonstrations but usually only twice a day (Asimo for example was retired to being the plexi at 3pm) so you really want to get there as early as possible (it opens at 10am). So now you might say I’ve contributed yet another mixed blog review!
The museum had a really good gift shop, which J loved, and we spent about half an hour in their playing with different toys. J picked out a few birthday presents including a pocket kite and a keyring compass. His favourite thing for sale were some solar charging transformers…
After the museum we went on a quick walk around Odaiba and snapped some selflies with the Gundam statue and took in the view of Tokyo Bay as the sun was starting to set.
We then headed back into town to Ginza as we had a reservation at Gyu-an a restaurant specialising in Kobe Beef. There are hundreds of amazing restaurants in Tokyo so picking one for a birthday treat is hard. I eventually decided that what I wanted most was for him to try something totally new, so Kobe beef seemed like a perfect choice. After reading a lot of blogs it seemed like Gyu-an did the best value set dinner and it was also a traditional Japanese style restaurant.
The set dinner came with a choice of starter of either snapper sashimi or asparagus. Then you could choose a beef starter of either raw beef sashimi, smoked beef or roast beef. The main meal came with your choice of Kobe beef either sirloin, fillet or chateau briand. With it came rice, miso soup, japanese pickles, a salad and some vegetables. The meal also included a desert and coffee. The set meal for 150g of Kobe fillet was about 12,000 yen.
The starters were good but nothing special. However, the Kobe beef was AMAZING! Interestingly there was a big difference between the fillet (which I had) and the sirloin which J had. The sirloin had a lot more fat evenly dispersed throughout the meat as well as fat around the outside like a normal steak. This meant that the texture was very soft and rich and just a tad oily. The fillet had little fat within the meat itself and came with no fat around the outside, which meant it was a lot more meaty and the flavour was markedly better than the sirloin. Personally I liked both, but I would not order the sirloin for myself as I found the fat a bit rich after one of two bites and the flavour was stronger in the fillet. I am now interested to try the chateau briand, more or less raw!! The steaks came with two different sauces, soy and garlic and salt and pepper.
I would definitely recommend Gyu-an Ginza, the staff were extremely helpful when I tried to book by email, the tatami seating is extremely comfortable and the menu was thoroughly explained in English. The starters may have been just so-so, but the Kobe steak more than made it a worthwhile trip. All in all I think it was very good value for money in a lovely setting! After our fill of delicious beef we went on a walk around Ginza which it brilliantly lit up by lights at night!
Tokyo Museum of Emerging Science & Innovation:
Nearest station: Telecom Center Station on the Tokyo Waterfront New Transit YURIKAMOME.
Opening Times: 10am – 5pm CLOSED on Tuesday.
Kobe Beef at GYU-AN GINZA:
Email for booking: (english is ok) firstname.lastname@example.org
Telephone number: 03-3542-0226
More blogs about Tokyo…
Or go straight to the Tokyo section of my blog for a full list of post!