I’m not sure if you’ve been on a train in Japan, but they are universally covered in advertising. A lot of the trains even have TV screens playing silent ads in the background as well (one thing that you’ll notice about the trains here as well is that people usually travel in silence…).
When you’re pressed up against half a dozen people, having the adverts are a nice distraction. You can glance around and avoid having to have any awkward eye contact with someone who’s jamming their umbrella into your guts.
The upshot of this is that you can find out about a lot of things that are going on around the city just by riding the train. As most companies here have cross-holdings in other companies (for example, the TV Station TBS also has a subsidiary that builds residential housing, and all of the major banks hold large stakes in all of the other banks), there is a lot of cross-promotion. So a certain train line might also own a theme park slightly out of town, or have shares in an aquarium… you get the picture.
In any case, I saw an ad for Toshimaen, an amusement park just outside of “Tokyo” (as in, still a part of Tokyo but away from the main CBD) recently. They were promoting their Winter Festival, where they have a lot of illumination going on and they have a special type of ticket that lets you in from the afternoon to closing, which was extended slightly to allow people to enjoy the illumination.
Now, if you’ve tried to go to an attraction in Tokyo on the weekend (or even just going shopping) you’ll know that it is always a mad house. People are so used to waiting in line now that it’s almost at the level of a national past-time.
So if you head to somewhere like Shinagawa’s Aqua Park aquarium you know that you’re in for some crowds. On a normal day you will have people sitting in seats at the Dolphin show arena for about an hour just to make sure that they will see the show. It’s the same in Ueno Park, where there are a dozen museums, art galleries and a zoo. Just getting a coffee will easily take you half an hour (if you’re lucky).
But tonight at Toshimaen, there were practically no crowds. Sure, it’s still Tokyo, so you’re never alone (something that I will discuss in a later post) but there’s not a huge line for any of the rides. Of course, this was for the evening session so I’m guessing that the daytime is busier, but it’s nothing compare to the lines and crowds at Tokyo Disneyland.
This got me thinking. Tokyo probably has a lot more of these “undiscovered” places, where you can still have a good time and enjoy the city without the masses of crowds. I’m going to try and find more of them and bring them to you.
I know that Toshimaen probably isn’t the most fun amusement park in the world, but there are a couple of roller coasters a lot of kids rides as well. Now that I have young kids who can enjoy a carousel, it is really fun to go to more “simple” amusement park instead of looking for the latest thrill rides…
Anyway, attached are some photos. Oh cool, it looks like WordPress now makes this kind of photo app thing