Haneda Innovation City: combining technology and tradition

September 2020 saw the opening of an amazing new commercial complex just next door to Haneda Airport. It is called Haneda Innovation City and it is located above Tenkubashi station on the Keikyu and Tokyo Monorail lines.

The complex of eleven stylishly low-slung buildings (eight have already been constructed) will be home to various types of businesses, but most importantly, it will be a center for technological innovation and research, specifically focusing on advanced medical research and hi-tech developments such as robotics.

At the same time, it also has a business matching center, conference/convention facilities and a concert hall that will hold 3,000 people.

All of this is exciting enough, but for “everyday people”, the real attractions are the cultural ones: bars, restaurants and coffee shops, small specialty shops, and some entertainment options that are a bit unusual even for Tokyo.

At the eastern end of the complex is a rooftop “sky deck” with views across to Haneda Airport so visitors can watch airplanes arriving and departing. While enjoying that view, visitors can also take advantage of two big foot baths–peel off your shoes and socks and dip in those tootsies! Forgot to bring a towel? No problem, a vending machine dispenses them for just JPY500.

Nearby is Haneda Dejima, where visitors can don virtual reality goggles and drop themselves into “The Heart of Zipangu”, an “immersive mixed reality” experience of images, light, and sound, combined with actors costumed as ninja, samurai and fantasy characters. Something completely different. (Save about 20% by purchasing tickets in advance.)

You can slow right down by catching the driverless shuttle bus that makes its way around the ground level of the complex at a gentle 8 kph. The French-made electric vehicle could go 20 kph on the open road, but is fitted with a governor to keep it within the Haneda Innovation City parking lot speed limit.

Or maybe you’re in the mood for more excitement. Take off in the flight simulator and channel your inner test pilot.

After all that, perhaps you just want to chill out with a hot drink and a good book. Cread!sce by Maruzen-Yushodo is just the spot for you.

There are lots of other food and drink options across the complex, with lots more scheduled to come on line in the coming months.

There is also a Keikyu Ex Inn with a shuttle bus to the airport, very handy for short-term or transit visitors.

On ground level above the station is Kotsu Plaza, a small bus depot. Here you will also find a small homage to the roots of this area, which was once a small island at the mouth of the Tama River with a fishing village and nori seaweed farming. A stone marker contains the name of the former village and a few sentiments, and an early aerial photograph embedded in the tiles tell the story.

The Tokyo Airport was built on the north end of the island and opened in 1931. It was soon taken over by the Japanese military and then by the Occupation forces, who relocated everyone–including the local Shinto shrine and a horse racing track–off the island. Eventually the facility again became a civilian airport and the gateway to rapidly modernizing Tokyo, growing eastward into the bay as increasingly larger aircraft required increasingly longer runways. This is the Haneda Airport we know and love today.

Haneda Innovation City is an interesting place for a week-end getaway, especially these days, when the options for otherwise visiting Haneda are limited by circumstance.

© 2020 Jigsaw-japan.com and Vicki L. Beyer
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