Autumn in Tokyo, Day 1

28 October, 2016

This was the second all-girls’ trip to Tokyo this year for Sarah and me. I wanted to take the less trodden paths and visit less-touristy neighbourhoods this time since all our past trips to Tokyo, together with the boys, had always included visits to the popular ones – Shinjuku, Shibuya, Marounouchi, Ginza and Odaiba.

We took the morning flight and arrived in Tokyo (Haneda Airport) slightly before 4 p.m. I had booked a room at Shinjuku Washington Hotel because the airport shuttle stops right in front of it. You might want to take this (availability of airport shuttle) into consideration when choosing your accommodation. Experience had taught me that taking the train to the hotel with luggage in tow was the least favourable option. Trust me on this, okay. The airport limousine bus service costs 1230 yen per adult and the child ticket costs half of that. Please check out the bus schedule on the website and plan your trip accordingly. The ticket counter is not too far ahead once you exit the customs. It was estimated that the journey from Haneda airport to Shinjuku Washington hotel would take about 1 hour but due to the peak hour traffic, it took double the time to reach our destination. A friend once asked if it was better to take a flight to Haneda or Narita. It depends on where in Tokyo you’re staying.

The economy double room cost about S$200 a night and that’s reasonable considering its location in the heart of the city. Shinjuku is a popular and also Tokyo’s largest neighbourhood. The economy double room was extremely small with barely enough space for us to move and open the luggage. I guessed this wasn’t a big deal as we were going to spend most of our time outside exploring the city anyway. There are rooms of bigger sizes but I went cheap this time. The hotel is huge and is popular with tourists on group tours. The hotel lobby was crowded all day during those times I was there. If you don’t like a busy hotel, this is definitely not the place to stay. The walls are thin and you’ll hear people talking along the corridor, loud and clear. I could even hear my next-door neighbour’s phone conversation clearly without having to press my ears against the wall. It was as if he was in the room with us!

What the hotel lacks, it makes it up in many other ways. The staff are friendly and helpful and many of them are proficient in English. Having the airport shuttle stopping right in front of the hotel is a huge plus point. The hotel is also linked to Shinjuku Station via an underpass. It’s a long, long, long walk to the station though. But still, you’ll get protected from the weather. It was raining when we arrived so I was grateful for that. There is a convenience store (Lawson) and a few restaurants in the basement where you can get a decent meal (e.g. a big bowl of soba with kakiage) for less than 700 yen. One of the restaurants uses a vending machine for orders. You buy a ‘meal ticket’ and then hand it over to the staff manning the kitchen. You hold one to one of the tickets bearing your order number and the staff will call out that number when your meal is ready.  To buy a ‘meal ticket’, you have to insert sufficient amount of money into the machine first and then select the meal you want. Save money on breakfast by getting foods from the convenience store also known as ‘konbini’. You can watch videos of what are some of the breakfast items available from Lawson, Family Mart and 7-Eleven.(Please use your own discretion – not all foods I post are suitable for your diet.) My favourite is the onigiri – cheap and good. If you don’t already know what an onigiri is, it is  a rice ball that comes in either a triangular or round form, seasoned with salt and wrapped in seaweed. Most of the onigiris you can find in the supermarket have fillings ranging from seaweed to cod roe. Just one of these and I’m good to go! 🙂 To my Muslim friends, you can check out what’s halal on this website.

Got these onigiris from Lawson

After dinner, Sarah and I walked to Shinjuku Station via the underpass. Initially I wanted to walk on the streets and familiarise myself with the surrounding area but since it was raining, the underpass was a better choice. There are signs in English along the underpass and you can find convenience stores and some others as it gets closer to the station. As it was close to closing time, the supermarket marked down some of their food items. Sarah got a pack of daigaku imo (candied sweet potatoes) for only 300 yen.

Oh, and I discovered only in the morning after that we had a nice view from the small window of our room. 🙂

The building on the left is the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building