Japan’s second largest convention facility in the outskirts of Tōkyō
Maybe it’s not really common knowledge, but trade fairs could be regarded as something German-dominated. The two largest fair and convention facilities of the world (by exhibition space) are located in Germany (Hanover and Frankfurt). Whereas, the two largest convention centres of Japan can be found in the vicinity of Tōkyō:
Tōkyō Big Sight (東京ビッグサイト / とうきょうびっぐさいと) located on one of the man-made islands of Tōkyō, Odaiba (お台場 / おだいば), can be reached e.g. via the Tōkyō Rainbow Bridge (レインボーブリッジ). With 81,000 sqm of exhibition capacity it is Japan’s biggest fair- and convention facility.
Makuhari Messe (幕張メッセ / まくはりめっせ), about half an hour by train from Tōkyō station, located in the neighbouring prefecture of Chiba (千葉県 / ちばけん) at the Tōkyō Bay (東京湾 / とうきょうわん), is regarded the second largest convention center of the country, providing 72,000 sqm (or 75,000 sqm respectively – depending on the source you are refering to). And that’s the one we want to have a look at today. And just in case you don’t know: “Messe” is the German word for “fair” or “trade fair”, and the Japanese obviously wanted to pay some tribute to the German language by calling the convention center in Maruhaki “Messe”.
Of course, both convention centres are breathtaking examples of highly modern and most impressive architecture. However, a simple comparision of exhibition capacities puts some relation to it: The “Hannover Messe” has 463,000 sqm of space to offer, the “Messe Frankfurt” 366,000 sqm.
Naturally, that doesn’t mean that Makuhari is less worth seeing than other fair and convention locations in the world. Quite the contrary! Makuhari scores with a particular “charm” (yes, yes, I know, attributes like “charm” don’t go very well with fair centres). In any case, its location at the beaches of the Tōkyō Bay is a most lovable feature.
Here are some impressions of the three major ensembles of the convention centre, the Halls 1 to 8, the Halls 9 to 11, die Event Hall and the conference hall, called “Makuhari Center”:
One of the ways to the exhibition halls of Hakumari Messe leads through the “Word Business Garden” (ワールドビジネスガーデン), a stretched park with water, fountains – and “art”, of course.
Besides the fair and exhibition facilities, the district that was created in the 80s of the last century and opened in 1989, features hotels, restaurants and lots of shopping opportunities. The most striking buildings may very well be those of the Hotel New Otani, the APA Hotel & Resort, the Hotel Francs and the Manhattan Hotel. And, I guess, the name “QVC” will also mean something outside Japan.
Something one would not expect at a place like that is a rather beautiful Japanese landscape garden, like the Mihama-en (見浜園 / みはまえん) that connects the hotels with the seaside. For just 100 Yen one can dive into the splendour of horticulture (unfortunately, I had to do without on the occasion of my visit to Makuhari, hence just two pictures from the outside).
And all of you who just couldn’t care less about the hustle and bustle of a trade fairs, of hotels, restaurants and shopping, may want to have a look at the Tōkyō Bay and the vast park that was created at its shores, the Kaihin Kōen (海浜公園 / かいひんこうえん). At the time it was built, it must have been a particularly pretty sight. In the meantime it looks a bit dated and, considering that we are in Japan, just a touch untidy and overgrown – but you could also put it more positively: it’s just a tropical paradise!
Via a dune you reach the beach at the Tōkyō Bay. And if you know a little of the Japanese language, large signs explain to you that this beach is not intended for swimming or bathing.
Hence, one shouldn’t be too surprised to find a beach that obviously nobody is taking care of. If you want to get in touch with the water, you’ll have to make your way through quite some debris and flotsam. But the spectacular view of the Tōkyō Bay makes a detour to here certainly worthwhile. Especially on a clear day. If you’re lucky, you can even see Mt. Fuji from this spot (on the pictures below you may have to strain your eyes a bit to recognise this majestic mountain, but clear days are rather a rarity in summer – they should more frequently be enjoyed in winter).
The northern end of the beach is dominated by the QVC Marine Field (QVCマリンフィールド), a baseball and rugby stadium with space for an audience of 30,000, that was opened in 1990 with a concert by Madonna (during her “Blond Ambition Tour”) which made it into history for being the one that was utterly spoiled by rain.
How to get there:
The most direct connection is by JR Keiyō line (JR京葉線 / けいようせん) from Tōkyō Station to Kaihin Makuhari (海浜幕張 / かいひんまくはり) – by express train it’s just about 30 minutes (currently 550 Yen).
The other train stations are less recommenable, unless you are willing to walk a fair distance (at least 20 minutes) or take a bus. From the central and western parts of Tōkyō, however, you may consider the Sōbu line (総武線 / そうぶせん) that brings you to Makuhari (幕張 / まくはり) without changing trains, e.g. from Shinjuku it takes 58 minutes and 640 Yen (or 637 Yen respectively, if you use your Suica). However this station is located about 3 km northeast of the convention centre and 3.5 km from the beach, and this way is largely lined by characterless business and shopping centres. Nevertheless, should you have selected that route, don’t miss the pretty Akiba Shrine (秋葉神社 / あきばじんじゃ) next to the station Makuhari (幕張 / まくはり).