An Odaiba view we’ll never be able to see again.

It’s not unusual to feel a little melancholy at this time of year, when summer is winding down and we’re about to head into the shorter, colder days of autumn. Today, though, we’re in an especially bittersweet mood, because Tokyo’s biggest Ferris wheel is about to close down for food, marking the end of an era for the Odaiba district.

The Palette Town entertainment complex opened in 1999, when Odaiba, a man-made island in Tokyo Bay, was Tokyo’s newest trendy spot for dining, shopping, and musical events. The complex’s Giant Sky Wheel (also known as the Daikanransha) quickly became a symbol of the neighborhood, with its 115-meter (377-foot) height making it the tallest Ferris wheel in the world at the time.

Unfortunately, Odaiba has been through some ups and downs in the years since. Sure, its status as a newly created landmass means it actually has empty space, which can be hard to find in Tokyo, and its coastline offers beautiful views of the city skyline across the bay. On the other hand, it’s also a bit out of the way from the city center, with rail access only on the Yurikamome and Rinkai lines, neither of which is particularly convenient for most Tokyoites or travelers. Last summer saw the closing of Odaiba Oedo Onsen Monogatari hot spring facility, followed by the shutdown of Toyota’s Megaweb showroom and classic car museum, both part of Palette Town, within the past nine months. The Venus Fort shopping center, also part of Palette Town, closed its doors for good in March.

The Giant Sky Wheel is still holding on…but not for much longer. The Ferris wheel’s last day of operation is scheduled for August 31, and so we stopped by for one last ride.

The closest station is Tokyo Teleport, on the Rinkai Line, but there’s some extra walking to be done these days. The Giant Sky Wheel is tucked along the side of the Megaweb building, which sits between the station and the Ferris wheel. Because demolition work has already started for Megaweb, though, you can’t cut through the building anymore, so you’ll need to walk around its northeast corner to get the Giant Sky Wheel.

▼ Tokyo Teleport Station (pink), Megaweb (yellow), and Giant Sky Wheel (red)

Thankfully, there are signs up pointing the way to the new route to the Ferris wheel, and after a few minutes of walking, you’ll come to the corridor that leads to the ticket booth.

Tickets cost 1,000 yen (US$7.40) for adults, 500 yen for children in elementary or preschool, and kids 3 and under are free. That might sound steep, but Ferris wheels in Japan are a leisurely ride, with a full-rotation trip on the Giant Sky Wheel taking about 16 minutes.

There are two kinds of cabins: color and see-through. More than their appearance, though, the big difference is that color cabins aren’t air-conditioned, while see-through one are. Ticket prices are the same either way, but there are fewer air-conditioned cabins, and with our visit coming in the summer, the wait for an AC ride was 50 minutes, compared to just 5 for a color cabin, so we opted for the latter.

The scenery was a little surreal as we rose up into the sky. The first thing we saw were the remains of the Zepp Tokyo concert hall. We couldn’t help wondering if any of the bit of rubble were literally pieces of the stage that so many artists had stood on over the past two decades.

With the Ferris wheel being so close to Megaweb, we also had a clear view of the building which had once been a glittering venue for Tokyo’s latest technology, but now looked like Godzilla grazed it with his tail during a rampage.

The now-empty Venus Fort, too, had a sense of foreboding to it, and we imagine it would be even more unnerving at night, shrouded in darkness with all of its exterior and interior lighting permanently turned off.

But then, the in-cabin announcement let us know that we’d soon be arriving at the 115-meter zenith of our ride…

…and when we did, the view was every bit as beautiful as it had been in its heyday, when Palette Town was brand-new and full of promise for the future.

The Giant Sky Wheel stays at the same speed for the whole rotation, but it’s slow enough to give you some time to reflect on what you’re seeing at the top. It was definitely a mix of emotions, with the view showing just how big and beautiful a city Tokyo is, but with the realization that once the Giant Sky Wheel closes, we’ll never be able to see this exact view, from this exact point, ever again.

As we passed the top point and started back down, though, our spirits got a boost.

On the roof of the Palette Town parking garage, there’s a heart.

We’re not sure if it’s always been there, or if it’s something that’s been added as a final thanks and goodbye to the Ferris wheel’s final few batches of riders. Either way, though, it’s a reminder that if you know where to look, you can always find something to smile about, so thanks, Giant Sky Wheel, for giving us one last great view.

Ferris wheel information
Palette Town Giant Sky Wheel / パレットタウン大観覧車
Address: Tokyo-to, Koto-ku, Aomi 1-3-10
In operation until August 31, 7 p.m.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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