In the small residential town of Suitengumae in east Tokyo is the Tokyo City Air Terminal (T-CAT). One of Tokyo’s best-kept secrets, this terminal has airport bus rides for as little as 900¥ (about $9). You’ll want to go in to their office and buy a ticket a few days in advance. While the bus rides to the airports take longer than trains such as N’EX or Keisei Skyliner, they are about 1/2 to 1/3 the cost. And they’re much easier, quiter, and enjoyable than the hectic rush of trains.
For directions on how to get here, see our Suitengumae Post. The station is just a mile to the east of Tokyo Station and is easy to walk, bike, or train to.
You can walk from Tokyo Station to T-CAT in about 30 minutes.
The station sits underneath a huge road expressway interchange. There are convenience stores on both sides of the street, as well as a Doutour café. There is also a paid bike parking lot just to the north at the Royal Park Hotel. The lot is part of the hotel but it’s outside on the sidewalk so anyone can use it.
So if you’re looking for a dirt-cheap alternative to a train to the airport, T-CAT may fit the bill.
The huge freeway interchange. Note the Doutour café on the right.
Just behind the station to the southeast is Shiodome City Center. This complex contains various office bldgs, the Nippon TV Tower, Panasonic Tower, and a variety of underground and open-air malls.
What would Japan be without giant rubber ducks?
Nippon TV Tower/Media Tower
Nippon TV Tower is the largest of these buildings. It contains mostly offices, but also a large underground and open-air shopping mall. Definitely worth a look.
Hayao Miyazaki’s Ghibli Clock
Outside on the east side of the tower is a giant working steampunk clock designed by famed anime designer Hayao Miyazaki whose 2003 film Spirited Away won many awards and accolades. To get to it, walk up the pedestrian walkway stairs, and head towards the east side of the building. It’s right outside on the east face. The clock alarms every hour on the hour and is worth a look to watch. There are also some street-level shops + cafes on the level below the clock.
The clock is shown in the photo on the left above, and in a larger photo below.
If you continue across the street on the walkway to the east, and go back down to street-level in the photo shown on the right above, you’ll come to the Don Quijote Ginza store – one of the biggest Don Quijotes in Japan. Don Quijote is billed as an “Amusement Discount Shop” and has just about everything from food to household items, to luggage, to clothes. Oddly, for some reason this Don Quijote has a quite a good selection of cheap bikes for sale right out front on the sidewalk. The GM Hummer bike shown on the right is a mere $250 USD.
As a footnote, if you head just north of the Don Quijote, you’ll come into Ginza. On the right is one of the biggest and most upscale Family Marts in Japan. There is also the Mitsui Garden Hotel Ginza here, which at $150/night is quite excellent. Might be worth a night or two’s stay just to experience the hotel.
Nakagin Capsule Tower
Just to the south of the Don Quijote is the world-famous Nakagin Capsule Tower – Japan’s first capsule hotel. The bldg. is now being turned into a condo development. It’s worth the short walk to check out the architecture.
Panasonic Living Showroom
At the base of the Panasonic bldg., there is thePanasonic Living Showroom – which displays all kinds of products made by Panasonic for house construction, as well as entire house models and lots of brochures and info on their products. Worth a walk through. Admission is free.
Panasonic Shiodome Museum of Art
On the 4th floor of the Panasonic Bldg. is the Panasonic Shiodome Museum of Art with various kinds of art, paintings, design resources, and works by Georges Rouault.
Right across the street to the south of City Center is Caretta Shiodome – a massive mixed use shopping mall and entertainment complex. There are various floors with restaurants, shops, food stores, and theaters. One of the more interesting spots here is a lighting display outside in the courtyard right in front of the entrance. Seasonal lighting is usually displayed with great effect, especially at Christmas. There is also a nice observatory here. Definitely worth a stroll. See some of the videos at the end of this page.
Someone has even appropriated legendary Hong Kong actor Sammo Hung’s name for this restaurant in Shiodome.
Former Shimbashi Station Building
Just to the east of the large building in Shiodome is the Former Shimbashi Station Building. This was the original train station in Shimbashi which dates back to 1899. No photos are allowed inside the bldg, but you can walk around the outside and still see the original track coverings from the original line, shown on the right in the photo below. In 1938 the current Shimbashi Station was built after the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 which damaged the original line. The original building has been preserved in excellent shape and is worth a look. Just to the northeast of this a few blocks is the current Shimbashi Station.
There is an amazing old photo of the 1899 station over on the Wikipedia page about Shiodome.The Japanese back then never could have imagined the city which would grow up around the station today.
Shimbashi Station, looking back south towards Shiodome.
In between the main Shiodome area and Caretta Shiodome is the Yurikamome train line. There’s a station in between the two elevated right in the middle of the street. Yurikamome is a fully automated train system in a loop that runs across south Tokyo and all of the man-made Odaiba islands out in Tokyo Bay. There are many stops on the line including Shiodome, Odaiba where Diver City, Tokyo Big Sight, and Joyopolis are located. The train also has huge open front and rear windows so you can enjoy the view. The train crosses Tokyo Rainbow Bridge so you can get a beautiful view of the bay on your way out. Definitely worth a ride.
To get to Yurikamome, enter the elevated station from one of the stairways on the street between City Center and Caretta Shiodome, and head up to Shiodome Station. Your Suica card or other prepaid IC card will work fine at the turnstyles.
The elevated Shiodome Station – 2nd stop on the Yurikamome Line.
The elevated Shiodome Station – as seen from street view across the street. Note that there are no street-level crosswalks in Shiodome – everything is elevated for all pedestrians.
Yurikamome Line – The line starts in the north at Shimbashi (upper right), and circles around Odaiba, and ends @ Toyosu (middle right). From Shimbashi in central Tokyo, the 1st 5 stations are an easy day trip. Hinode – the 4th stop – is also very nice with waterfront views. There is also a maritime museum and Tokyo Big Site along the way.
Just to south of Shiodome is Hamarikyu Gardens – probably the most famous gardens in Japan. The entrance fee is $6 but it’s worth it. The gardens and pond inside are spectacular with great views of Shiodome. To get here, cross the pedestrian overpass to the east, walk down to street level, then head south a few blocks. As the road winds right, cross at the intersection for the entrance to the gardens. You can’t miss it. John Daub has a video on the gardens (see vid at the end).
Quitting time at an office bldg. across from the entrance to Hamarikyu Gardens. The entrance is just across the street at the light. There is also a nice long jogging path on the north side of the gardens.
The real gem of Shiodome is the area to the east on the Tokyo Waterfront: Takeshiba Pier. Lots of shops and things to do, or just sit at the waterfront and enjoy the view of the bay. To get here, walk the jogger’s path south on the west side of the Hamarikyu Gardens, loop around and cross to the left (east) into the pier area. Very nice.
You can also wander around the backstreets of Shidome – although there’s not as much to do at street level – not as many shops and attractions as other parts of Tokyo. For a more interesting street-level view, you might want to try Shimbashi just to the north, or Ginza, just to the northeast. Shidome does have a bit of an odd quasi-futuristic sanitary feel to it, but it’s still interesting nonetheless.
Toranomon to the North
If you head north from Shiodome, and pass Shimbashi – and keep going – you will shortly come to a nice area known as Toranomon – whose main feature is the Toranomon Hills complex. But there is a lot more to do in Toranomon – and it’s well worth short walk or bike ride from Shiodome.
Toranomon area just a short walk north from Shiodome – you can see the large Shiodome complex + Panasonic Bldg. in the distance.