Tokyo, Japan: Bucket list checked!

tokyo

I always wanted to visit Japan ever since I watched my 1st Anime show and tasted my 1st sushi. One thing that deterred me from buying my 1st ticket is the cost. Rumor has it that a coke can would cost Y200. Back when I lived in Philippines, this would be equivalent to 5 cans. Now, since I live in Singapore, the price comparison would be at par, depending on the things compared. Luckily, my salary is also at par to the expensive cost living here so traveling to Japan should not be as painful as spending it in Philippine pesos. Visa processing is easy and fast as well as there are more flight deals when traveling from Singapore.

Checklist to book before heading off: 


You can also read my previous blog on preparing for your trip for more details: Ohayo Japan!

  1. Visa (if required). You can visit Japan Embassy in Singapore, Visa is free 🙂
  2. Flight tickets. We booked nonstop 7 hours Delta flight for 833 SGD
  3. Accommodation for 11 nights worth 1.7k SGD for 2 pax, 153 SGD per night. Mt Fuji has expensive rates for hotels
  4. JR Pass + train time and routes. Regular 7 day pass costs 338 SGD or 29,110 YEN from NTAThere are promotional rates when buying with Universal Studio or Disneyland tickets. Free delivery to your doorstep
  5. WiFi rental for 11 days, paid 68 SGD from Japan Wireless. Decent coverage, just be sure to charge the battery or get a portable charger, especially if you have extensive usage.
  6. Attractions open hours as attractions can be closed on some holidays
  7. Download Google translate and Hyperdia apps for better travel

Arriving at the airport

Haneda Airport (30 mins) is closer to the city than Narita Airport (1 hour). See if you can managed to find a good flight arriving at Haneda. All set? Time for take off.

After passing immigration and collecting your luggage, you will need to get your WiFi router at the airport post office (3rd level Arrival Hall), followed by the JR Pass at the Basement level. If you have chosen your train time schedule, you can also reserve your seat in advance.

All tasks done, it’s time to head to the city. There are several ways to travel depending on the budget, speed and your destination. Not all transportation land directly at your accommodation location so do research which one is the best for you

For us, we took Access Narita and drop off at Ginza Station. We got our IC card for the subway.

Accommodation

Since Tokyo is our starting and end point of our Japan journey, we stayed at two hotels near to the attractions on those days in the city:

ginza-hotel

  1. Ginza Capital Annex Hotel is near Tsukiji Fish Market. The room is quite small, the bathroom even smaller. But hey, we expected this when staying in Japan. We spend 145.90 SGD for the 1 night stay.
  2. Hotel Wing International Meguro is near Shibuya shopping prefecture. The rooms are slightly bigger but still small in Western standard. I am amused using the Japanese toilet contraption: the seat keeps your bum warm (very useful in winter) and washes your parts with water. Ah Japan! hehe We booked this hotel for 316.8 SGD for 2 nights.

hotel-wing

Attractions

At the Tsukiji Fish Market.

  • Tsukiji Fish Market. If you are fond of exploring the local open market, this is it. Don’t forget to dine in for that fresh catch of the day.

sensoji

  • Sensōji temple. It looks really nice. There are also street shops popup at the entrance in case you want to buy souvenir or street food.
  • Disneyland/Disneysea.  Be sure to bring your fun and your sweater. Night tends to be windy since its near the water area. I found their queuing system quite good. You either fall in line or take a priority pass. The priority pass lets you go in at certain time, this cuts queuing time, but you just have to be careful on selecting which rides to get a pass. Once you take a pass for a certain ride, you have to wait for a certain time to lapse (30 mins to an hour) before you are allowed to get another pass for another ride. These pass also runs out fast so plan well. We were really lucky that 2 kind strangers gave us their pass on a sold out ride! To cap the day, we had snow flurries – yay!
  • Shibuya and Harujuku shopping. Check out the famous Shibuya crossing where swarms of people flood the street hurriedly to go home, work or just take pictures of the massive crowd. Don’t forget to visit statue of the faithful dog, Hachiko and the popular Shibuya 109 mall. Uniqlo is my favorite Japanese store for clothes and winter wear and I got bargain with my beauty products at Matsumo Tokiyoshi store. You can also find people selling in the streets in Harujuku with saleslady yelling on the current sale in Japanese.

Tokyo, Japan - December 23, 2012: Traffic stops for pedestrians crossing at Shibuya Crossing. It is one of the world's most famous scramble crosswalks.

  • Akihabara. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to check the electronic and toys-filled prefecture. Maybe next time.
  • Go out of Tokyo station to see the old architecture.

diver-city

rainbow-bridge

Where to Eat

tokyo-food

I love Japanese food – in fact, I started making homemade dishes after my trip. Everywhere in the city there will be stores selling fresh sashimi, handmade ramen, gyoza, macha ice cream, Japanese-French pastries! The [planned and random] places we went did not disappoint! Since rental is really expensive, you would notice the restaurant spaces are small and can accommodate very limited people. Most will only have counter tables where the chef will prepare your dish on the spot. This explains why the waiting line is long. Here are the places we tried in Tokyo:

  • Tsukiji Market: We initially planned to go to Daiwa Sushi or Sushi Dai – 2 of the famous stores in the area. Unfortunately, we were greeted by the long queue upon arrival. We do not plan to wait for long hours in the cold so we went to the Yamazaki. which is beside it. No queue but the food was still fantastic to my taste bud. Smooth, fresh and juicy fish. There are lots of street food stalls around the area, one of my favorite was buying onigiri. There are many flavors to choose from.
  • Shibuya: Umegoaka Sushi No Midori Sohonten. Plan to go an hour earlier as the queue gets crazy! Get a queue number and then go shopping else where. Come back in an hour and your number should be next. We got free saki since it was during new year day
  • Street food: soft serve ice cream (my favorite is the Japanese tea flavor), Japanese pancake (also called Okonomiyaki), onigiri (my fav!), grilled meat. Bento boxes are sold in the train station for convenient meal during travel. You definitely need to try the French inspired desserts, they are light and not too sweet.
  • Ramen food court. We tried it in Diver City Mall where the food court features the different prefecture famous ramen styles. It definitely was difficult to choose which to sample first. We tried Osaka and Hakata style ramen + yummy gyoza (lol, not Tokyo version). They were very nice. Satisfied foodie. Wanted to try this resto: Ichiran Ramen (in Shibuya) but we were with my relatives (on car tour)
  • Vending machine. Lol yes, I have to mention this. They are everywhere and they comes with hot and cold drinks and sometimes food. The hot milk tea is wonderful when you are huddling in the cold while waiting for the bus to arrive. Some also sells cigarettes which I find weird since you can’t really track if minor buys them.

As a side trip, we also met up with my mom’s friend, Caroline, for a nice Christmas eve mass at Franciscan chapel center, in Roppongi.

Check out my other blogs about Kyoto and Mt Fuji!

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