Shinjuku, my least favorite neighborhood in Tokyo, was our first destination of the day. Dropped by the No.1 Travel branch there to take care of my South Korea plane ticket. Stepping off the elevator into the open office, we were greeted by a chorus as every employee situated in rows and rows of computer terminals faced us and welcomed us. Nice formality, but was it necessary? Also seems a bit disruptive for those on the phone. With my ticket taken care of, we hurried back to the JR Station where we passed by a corner barber shop advertising a 10 minute cut for $10. I wonder if you pay through the same type of machines used at ramen shops and other fast food eateries.

Panasonic Center
With the visit to always unpleasant Shinjuku over with, Terry and I made our way to the opposite end of Tokyo to Odaiba to check out the Panasonic Center and Toyota's Megaweb. Tokyo's Panasonic Center facility was much larger than the one in Osaka, but paled in comparison. It lacked one very important type of display, the exploded-products where you could see every single component that goes into a product. Their model, showing how image stabilization works was also lackluster compared to the one in Osaka. In the center of the showroom was a room where they mocked up a virtual wall, different wallpapers or views, media (as books), email access, etc. were to be available through this central wall. Great ideas but still far off, and since the virtual wall was pretty much a prop, I give them an F. The Nintendo section (not available in Osaka) stole quite a bit of our time as we played each other in Super Smash Brothers and classics off the Wii such as the original Street Fighter. It may have been the only saving grace of the Tokyo center.

On the way to Toyota's Megaweb facility (and the adjoining Venus Fort) we walked through a mini-mall and decided to check out the IDC, a large furniture chain in Japan. Heads-up, nifty but not worth the visit unless you plan on living in Tokyo for a while, then the pricey furniture may be perfect for you.

We made the Universal Design Showcase the first stop since it closed earlier than the Toyota City Showcase or the History Garage. The UDS had on display a variety of dashboards, drivers seats (with car frame, dashboard, steering wheel, pedals and gear selector), steering wheels and other items we drivers interact with the most in a car. It was interesting seeing the changes through the years, those coming from manufacturing improvements as well as those dictated by the engineers improved understanding of how drivers interact with their vehicles.

On the auditory side, there was an informative wall where we could sample different emergency and notice tones, pretty interesting experiencing how the combination of frequency and interruption period changes the tension that people feel.

Other than Toyota products, the Showcase also had a collection of well designed products, ranging from forks and knives to staplers and fabric. Best product there was probably the staple-less stapler. Called the Sun-Star Paper StitchLock Zn, I think I might have seen this at the MoMA at some point, but it was nice being able to play with it at the showcase.

Our next stop was the History Garage all the way on the other end of the Venus Fort mall. On the way there we passed by a LEGO store and stopped to take some photos before meandering through the History Garage. It was nice to see Toyota highlighting so many important cars from other manufacturers. Among them was the 1960 BMW Isetta 300, better known as Steve Urkel's car.

The floor below the History Garage was dedicated to the Grand Prix Garage. In addition to Toyota cars from various auto racing leagues, they had a ton of models and other memorabilia for sale (not just Toyota products). The Team Toyota Pit (a demo garage) would have been much more interesting if we were allowed to go in there and see everything up close instead of viewing it behind a glass wall. After snapping a few shots with Schumacher having coffee, we were off to the Toyota City Showcase to wrap up our Odaiba visit.

At the Toyota City Showcase, of note were the free driving simulators, one on a road course, the other on a dirt course. Basically modified versions of Gran Turismo featuring a Toyota vehicle. There was also a mini-movie theater featuring the Fuji Speedway. The audience section sat on top of a motion simulator that proved to be a little nauseous. During some of the tight turns, I would turn my head more than the viewing angle would allow, staring into the darkness, made me a little sick at times.

The F1 aerodynamics display cracked me up, with all those spoilers and noses, Toyota is still at the middle of the pack at best. The F1 reflex test located outside the Mega Theater was fun, think Terry kicked my ass in that game. Here's an animation of him playing the game, had to stitch this together from photos taken pretty far apart since I didn't think about making it an animation until after the fact. According to Terry, the animated GIF "fails to convey the full sense of my outright speed."

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