5 ‘Blade Runner’ Inspired Experiences in Japan

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YouTube is filled with videos of Japanese city scenes set to the Blade Runner soundtrack by Vangelis, and despite the film’s setting of a futuristic Los Angeles, it’s clear to see the Japanese influence in both the original movie and its recently released sequel, Blade Runner 2049. Read on to for GaijinPot’s top five recommendations for a neo-noir Blade Runner-esque experience in Japan.

1. Factory night cruising in Yokohama

Night view Yokohama Bay.

A former winner of the Kanagawa Tourism Award, the Factory Night View Jungle Cruise is a 90-minute boat tour through the Keihin Industrial Zone, one of Japan’s four biggest factory areas. The tour departs just after sunset from the pier behind Yokohama’s Red Brick Warehouse.

Once aboard, visitors can choose to sit indoors or outdoors before receiving a welcome drink to kick off the tour. The boat departs with views of Yokohama’s skyline, before journeying down the Kehin Canal, with giant warehouses and factories lining both sides. As the lights of Yokohama city become more distant, the boat heads toward what looks like another industrial metropolis.

The night sky changes color as the boat passes by each building; the lights reflecting from the factories shining down into the dark waters of the canal. Highlights of the tour include the imposing Toa Oil Refinery and the Showa Denko building easily recognizable by its white fluorescent lighting.

  • Location: Aka Renga (Red Brick) Pier, Yokohama, a six-minute walk from Bashamichi station on the Minatomirai line
  • Date: Fridays, 7 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays, 5 p.m.
  • Admission: ¥4,600
  • Website: http://www.reservedcruise.com/

2. Hang out with the world’s most advanced robots and androids in Odaiba

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Tokyo’s man-made island of Odaiba seems to be a robot magnet; you can’t turn a corner without bumping into a synthetic being of some kind. Even the Aqua City shopping mall has an android instead of a human staff member standing behind the information desk.

Not quite as advanced as the android replicants from Blade Runner, everyone’s favorite lovable robot Asimo performs four times a day at the Miraikan museum.  After the show, stop by the permanent android exhibition for the opportunity to interact with more humanlike (and somewhat creepy) androids.

Don’t leave Odaiba without a visit to the Kawasaki Robot Showroom where a group of Pepper robots will interact in Japanese or English with visitors, and you can enjoy a complimentary virtual reality ride.

  • Location: Odaiba can be reached by the Yurikamome line from Shimbashi or via the JR Rinkai line.
  • Date: The Miraikan museum is open every day except Tuesdays and some holidays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Admission: ¥620
  • Website: http://www.miraikan.jst.go.jp/en/

3. Visit a futuristic skyscraper in Osaka’s Umeda Sky Building

Osaka, Japan – April 28, 2017: prospective view of Umeda Sky Building and fountains in Kita-ku district by night. The Floating Garden Observatory is one of the most popular attractions in Osaka

Worth a visit for the view from the observatory alone, the Sky Building in Umeda looks like a building from the future. Two skyscrapers are connected at the roof by a large circular shaped platform. The observatory is situated 170 meters above ground level, with views stretching all the way across Osaka to Awaji Island.

After riding the elevators, the atrium and observatory is accessed by a ride up the world’s highest escalator on the 39th floor. Once outside, visitors are treated to 360-degree views of Osaka’s sprawling metropolis. Visit just before sunset for the optimum time to make your own Blade Runner-inspired video!

After visiting the observatory, head on down to the basement for a bite to eat at the restaurant floor, designed to look like a traditional Japanese street from the 1920s.

  • Location: 1-1-88 Oyodo-naka, Kita-ku, Osaka, a 10-minute walk from Umeda station
  • Date: Open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
  • Admission: ¥1,000
  • Website: http://www.kuchu-teien.com/index.php  

4. Step inside a dystopian city in Kawasaki

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The Anata no Warehouse game arcade could have been built as a set piece for Blade Runner, and this place should rank highly on any list of places to visit for fans of the movie. Outside ,the arcade looks like an abandoned warehouse and once you step inside the unmanned, desolate entrance you enter what appears to be a dystopian city.

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The warehouse décor is inspired by Hong Kong’s Kowloon Walled City, an old Chinese military fort that became a notorious sin den from the 1950s. Back then, the city was run by triads as a haven for crime, prostitution and gambling. It was demolished by the Hong Kong government in 1994 and great efforts have been made to recreate what the city might have looked and felt like. Walking through the grimy alleyways, visitors can peek inside replica brothels and apartments, as well as visit the men’s bathroom covered in fake filth.

Once you have finished appreciating the interior design, there are retro arcade games along with billiards, darts, pinball, table tennis, pachinko and slot games to enjoy.

  • Location: 3-7 Nisshincho, Kawasaki, a 5-minute walk from JR Kawasaki station.
  • Date: Open daily from 9 a.m. to 11:45 p.m.
  • Admission: Over 18-years-old only, admission free.
  • Website: http://www.warehousenet.jp/

5. Explore the alleyways of Shinjuku’s Golden Gai district

Golden Gai’s Omoide Yokocho or “memory lane.”

Another Tokyo locale said to have inspired Blade Runner is Shinjuku’s Golden Gai district. Narrow alleyways bursting with quirky bars and eateries make this area popular with locals and tourists.

Japanese local street food at Omoide Yokocho, Shinjuku.

Neon signboards are placed outside to entice customers into their establishment; usually a tiny space that can only accommodate up to around 10 people. While some bars have seating reserved for regular customers only, there are also plenty of places that are tourist friendly. Just be sure to check what the cover charge is when you go inside to avoid any surprises on the bill at the end of the evening.

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Tourism and marketing professional with degrees in Japanese and journalism.

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