Touring a car exhibition area isn’t something that I find exciting, so you wouldn’t usually find it on my travel itinerary. But my bloke rarely makes a request when I’m putting together our travel plans, so when he asked to see the Toyota factory on our 2017 trip to Japan, I could hardly refuse.
The Toyota factory and the nearby Toyota Kaikan Museum is at Aichi, Toyota, Toyatacho near Nagoya. It offers free plant tours where you can see the diverse efforts underway to develop eco-cars, new safety measures, and the creativity needed in production. The Museum also has a shop offering automative-themed goods such as models, toy cars and books.
My problem with this was that the Toyota request was made only a few weeks before we left for Japan. All of our accommodation was booked, and none was anywhere near the Toyota factory.
I figured we could visit on a very long day trip from Kyoto that would likely involve a Shinkensen, local trains, buses and perhaps a little foot slogging, depending on what route option we took. Everything would have to go like clockwork to achieve this on a day return trip. Was it too ambitious?
As I was trying to work this out, my son spotted an online article in Time Out Tokyo about Toyota’s Megaweb in Tokyo. TIME OUT TOKYO is invaluable when planning a trip to Japan. It described the Megaweb as a giant Toyota showroom on Odaiba Island in Tokyo Bay, displaying Toyota’s latest models, car accessories and technologies. A place where visitors can experience hands-on experiences of next-generation Toyota technology, including virtual test drives!
Megaweb is also a place where, if you want to get behind the wheel of Toyota’s latest offerings for real, you can test drive cars over 2 laps on a specially designed 1.3km outdoors track, providing you have a Japanese driving license or an International Driving permit. There is a small charge for this of about 300 yen a car – about $4 Australian.
I feel like one of those advertisements … ”And there’s more!” Because there is – the Megaweb has a museum called the History Garage, exhibiting cars from past decades – cars of every brand and description from throughout the world. It’s not limited to Toyota vehicles, and it includes a fabulous shop for car enthusiasts! Need a rest – there’s a small cafe at the History Museum too. You’ll find the History Museum across the Forecourt from the main Megaweb in the Venus Fort Shopping building. Took me a while to figure that out, so hopefully my directions will set you on the right path!
Now, I must let you in on a little secret here. The other attraction of the Megaweb for me was that I had an escape plan if I became bored with the cars. A few metres away, across a forecourt, is the Venus Fort Shopping Mall – I could hit those shops as hubby lingered and lusted over Toyota’s latest offerings!
There is also the neighbouring giant Daikanransha ferris wheel. It’s 115-metre high and it was the world’s tallest ferris wheel when it opened in 1999. And if that’s not enough, there’s the amazing experience of the team lab Borderless Digital Art Centre, a short walk away. Hubby could stay with Toyota all day – I could be happily occupied close by!
But here’s the thing – I loved the Megaweb. I found myself just as interested as hubby. I never got onto the Ferris wheel – let’s face it, with my fear of heights, that was probably never going to happen. Nor did I get to see the Team Lab centre – a treat I’m still withholding for my ‘return after Covid’ trip! After visiting the Megaweb, we both went into the Venus Fort Shopping Mall – an upmarket centre with leading international brand shops and a great offering of restaurants and cafes.
But I digress. Back in the Megaweb was every sort of Toyota vehicle you could imagine. Whilst hubby was intrigued by the technical aspects of new cars, I loved exploring the interior design features! Luxurious seats that swivel and lower to let you easily alight from the vehicle. I can see that being handy as I descend into old age. And tiny cars that would be great scooting around my tiny town in!
There are also plenty of interactive experiences on offer too, and if you have any children with you, they can ride on mini cars.
ACCESS TO THE MEGAWEB: There are a number of ways to get to the Megaweb from central Tokyo. We chose the Yurikamome, Tokyo’s first fully automated transit system, controlled entirely by computers with no drivers on board. To be clear, the Yurikamome is not a monorail. It runs on rubber tyres wheels on elevated tracks, guided by side walls. And it’s a treat in itself, with wonderful views en route.
The very best seats for the best scenic ride is at the front where you would normally have a driver. So aim for the front if possible. The trains run very regularly – every 5 minutes on weekdays and every 4 minutes on weekends – so it’s worth waiting for a train where you have a good chance at a front seat. It’s also worthwhile going on a weekday to avoid crowds.
The Yurikamome service links Shimbasi Station with Toyosu station via Obaida Island. It covers close to 15 kilometres and takes you across Tokyo’s famous Rainbow Bridge. It stops at Stations on the island and there are great views along the route. For the Megaweb, alight at Aomi Station. You’ll see the Megaweb directly ahead once you emerge from this very tiny station.
Our Tokyo accommodation was close to Tokyo Station, so it was a quick ride on the circular JR Yamanote line to reach Shimbasi Station. Have a leisurely breakfast to start your journey after 9am to avoid after peak time!
The Yurikamome above ground terminus is across a small forecourt just outside JR Shimbashi Station, on the east side. There are plenty of direction signs in English, so it’s all fairly easy.
The Yurikamome is not covered under the JR pass, so you will need to buy a ticket. Again, so easy. The ticket machines have an English button, and there’s staff on hand to assist. I think they are pretty used to foreigners approaching railway ticket machines with great apprehension, so they are help you out with a big friendly smile. There are various ticket options, but my recommendation is an all day ticket currently at 820 yen – just under $10 Australian. This enables you to get on and off at the various stations on Odaiba Island to view other attractions. And there are plenty of them.
I’ll tell you more about Odaidba Island and the highly unusual Venus Fort shopping centre in my next blog.
There’s no cost to enter the Megaweb, but there are small costs for some of the interactive attractions, including the outside test drives.
The Megaweb was one of the highlights of our 2017 trip to Tokyo, and guess what – we returned again in 2019 with friends and once more had a great time there! Post Covid trip? Yes – I suspect we will check out the latest at the Megaweb and see more of Odaiba Island. And maybe we will overnight at Nagoya to see the Toyota factory!
The Toyota Megaweb internet English site can be found at:
You can find out more about the Yurikamome on its English site at: