TRAVELOGUE: Heidi goes to Tokyo (October 19-24, 2015)

Tokyo 2015

I’m back! It’s been a wonderful week at Tokyo, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Today’s post will be about my itinerary and experience in the city, so if anyone is heading over I hope this comes in handy! Note that this is not a sponsored post, I saved up for months before booking the trip. Also, there isn’t a spamload of photos but it is a wordy post. I’ll inserted in relevant photos where necessary.

Overview:
Booking engine: Expedia
Airline: Singapore Airlines
Hotel: Shinjuku Washington Hotel
Duration: 6N7D, October 2015 (temperatures range from 16-25 Celsius)

Price: ~ SGD$1,100 for flight and lodging | spent SGD$2,500 on all other expenses (shopping, food, entertainment)

Tokyo 2015 - Mount Fuji

This was the view that greeted me when I touched down at Haneda Airport. Pretty awesome, given that Mount Fuji is usually elusive and it takes a really clear day to see it.

Flight path: SIN -> HND (outbound), NRT -> SIN (inbound)

How to get to the city (Shinjuku):
In my case, I arrived at Haneda Airport and left from Narita Airport. After you clear customs at Haneda, you will see a bus limousine ticketing counter to your left. Purchase your limo tickets from the friendly staff there. There are loads of screens showing locations and bus timings, but just tell the staff where you are headed/which hotel and they will arrange for you. A one-way ticket to Shinjuku is JPY1,230.

The bus berth is on level 1. From the ticketing counter, walk pass the elevator on your right, then head straight to this glass corridor. You’ll see another elevator up ahead on your left. Take that to level 1. You will now be at the bus berths, look for the berth number printed on the ticket.

Do not be late for the bus, the Japanese are exceptionally punctual. If the bus leaves at 5:15PM, be there no later than 5:10PM. You wait for the bus, not the other way round.

Alright, now you are on the bus. Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride to the city (about 30-45 mins). If you are lodging at a hotel which is part of the bus loop, good on you. Just hop off. If you are not, your stop should be at Shinjuku Station West Exit. From there you can navigate your way to your hotel.

Alternative: You can also take the JR subway to the city, but I recommend not to. Their stations have a lot of steps so unless you’re prepared to haul your bags up flights of stairs, the bus is your best bet.

Why I chose the Shinjuku Washington Hotel:
The first time round I lodged at Hotel Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku. They renovated and rooms were spiffy and new. The location is within 5 minutes walking distance to Takashimaya. I loved it. Do note that in Japan, spacious rooms are very hard to come by. Expect your room to be very snug. This time, I went with Shinjuku Washington Hotel because this is one of the stops for the airport limo. Meaning, I didn’t have to lug my monstrous bags across two junctions to the main bus stop, like when I stayed at Sunroute. Granted, Sunroute also had the limo bus service but the timeslots were rather limited (starts 7AM, ends 5:35PM JST). If your return flight is at night, you will need to lug everything to the next nearest stop which is at the train station. Shinjuku Washington Hotel has more limo slots, not to mention the room rates are right up my alley.

That being said, Shinjuku Washington Hotel is a little farther and you’ll need to walk more to get to the main Shinjuku station. Rooms are much older and smaller but since I only return to bathe and sleep, I could deal with it. There is a Family Mart convenience store downstairs, rooms have free wifi and there are a bunch of restaurants and eateries within the building.

Tokyo 2015 - Trains

Getting around:
Subway is the best way to get around this city. I know many people say that the Japanese subway is a nightmare to navigate, and I do agree to some extent.

The other way to get around neighbouring areas will be by foot. Take a chance, wander and get lost in this wondrous city. If you can help it, don’t take their taxis. One trip can cost you thousands of JPY.

Here’s their subway map (I know):
Tokyo 2015 - JR Map

To keep it simple, basically the coloured lines are the Metro lines. The one in a circle (grey and white dashed) is the JR Yamanote Line. All the other fine lines are private rail lines. You can either get a day pass (unlimited rides on the metro but not accessible to JR), a single trip ticket, or a PASMO/SUICA card. I went with the one way tickets since I didn’t do as much sightseeing compared to the previous trip.

Shinjuku is a major interchange for most trains and that makes it a top choice to stay at. When switching lines, the distance between stations can be quite a walk. If you feel overwhelmed, slow down, get your bearings then continue. I’m not going to lie to you, rush hour is madness. People will be walking in all directions at an alarmingly fast pace. Something like Singapore but more crowded and with signages everywhere.

Don’t rush to get onto a train, make sure you read and understand the direction it’s headed. Also they have regular and express (rapid) trains. If you hop onto a  rapid train, make sure the stop you want to alight at isn’t one of those skipped along the way.

Itinerary:
1st day: Arrival, Shinjuku
2nd day: Shibuya
3rd day: Odaiba, Tokyo Station
4th day: Akihabara, Nakano
5th day: Nakano (continued), Ikebukuro
6th day: Shinjuku
7th day: departure

Tokyo 2015 - Shibuya

My itinerary isn’t like the usual, where it covers sightseeing of major parks and landmarks. I’ve done that on the previous trip. This time it was really about being free and easy, and doing a recap of some of my favourite neighbourhoods in Tokyo. The photo above is the famous scramble crossing in Shibuya.

Tokyo 2015 - Rainbow Bridge

This was taken on the Yurikamome monorail enroute to Odaiba. In the distance you can see the Rainbow Bridge. At some point during the monorail ride, the train will be under the bridge.

Tokyo 2015 - Odaiba

The huge ferris wheel at Venus Fort. If you are a fan of outlet brands shopping, this place is for you. To me, it was ok since I’ve not been there before. But boy, be prepared for a long day’s walking. My feet were dying by the time we were done. The place was humongous.

Tokyo 2015 - Diver City Gundam

Here’s the giant Gundam outside Diver City, which is also within Odaiba.

Food was something that I loved over there. I go with the mindset of “there’s no bad food in Japan” and there wasn’t a time where I was disappointed. Here’s some of my favourites:
Tokyo 2015 - Crepe

This is not the Marion Crepe in Harajuku. This crepe store is in Shinjuku, adjacent to Lumine Est and two doors from Lush. It’s very popular with the locals.

Tokyo 2015 - Soba

This, my friends, is from the little eatery in the basement of my hotel. It’s a vending machine restaurant and you simply choose your meal, feed your coins into the machine and then pass the ticket to the staff. The food in the photo is a mini chicken katsu don (breaded chicken with egg and onion omelette) and kakiage soba (batter fried vegetables with buckwheat noodles in soup)

I cafe hopped a little, and I have to say my one true love is Tully’s Honey Milk Latte. I probably will go have it again if I return to Tokyo.

What I really enjoyed was that I went off the beaten path and didn’t do the usual touristy things. I ambled around alleys and residential neighbourhoods, ate local food and pretty much soaked in the local atmosphere.

Shopping:

I didn’t buy any clothes whilst in Japan because the offerings were not applicable to Singapore’s weather. However, I went totally bananas at their drugstores. They have many, many drugstores in Tokyo. Popular ones include Matsumoto Kiyoshi (Matsukiyo in short) or Don Quijote (Donki in short)

Tokyo 2015 - Matsumoto Kiyoshi

Products are piled from floor to ceiling and it’s awesome. I spent a good couple of hours browsing and adding items to cart while my boyfriend  went to the SEGA arcade nearby. Win-win situation.

Tax refund: If you are a tourist, spend 5,001JPY and above in a single receipt to qualify for 8% tax rebate. Note that drugstore items are considered consumables. So if you are buying other stuff like clothes, bags, electronics, etc. you need to spend above 10,001 JPY to qualify for tax rebate. Also, not all shops offer tax refund. Before you go gaga, make sure that you see signages screaming TAX FREE or this logo before you step in.

Lastly, this was my damage. I couldn’t be happier. 🙂
Reviews to come when I finally finish unpacking!

Tokyo 2015 - Drugstore Haul

Have you visited Japan? What was your favourite thing to do? Comment and share below!

Cheerio,

hei

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