It was the last day of my trip which felt like I only just started – Time blew past like the Shinkansen. I woke up late and checked out. Went back to my trusty lockers at the station before going to having a breakfast at Shinjuku. Then Google gave me a restaurant Kabukichi かぶきち and I found it in no time. Entered and sat at the counter and was given an English menu. Pointed at a medium size Yakisoba and was served a tasty plate of yakisoba with a raw egg on top of it, for Y830. Delicious!
I spent some time at Sega with the UFO claw machines trying to game the machine but I lost Y800 combined. Then I made my way to Kaihimmakuhari station where the Tokyo Auto Salon 2019 was being held, some 1 hour away. Although I managed to get a seat, there were just too many bags and stuff that I bought that I was struggling to carry along.
When I arrived at the station, I was surprised that I couldn’t find a locker. And there were a lot of people around, which I thought was mostly attributed by the Auto Salon. I made my way to Plena Makurari and found some lockers there, but almost fully taken up. Quickly placed my bags into 2 small lockers, and brought the pillow that I bought along to the exhibitions, because it was too large to squeeze into the lockers.
As I had a flight to catch at 6pm and I had only arrived at 2pm as that was the time the exhibition was opened to public, I only had an hour to rush through it all (train ride was about an hour to Narita). There was an amazing number of people. I thought that a weekday would not generate so much crowd but I was damn wrong! It was a long walk to the halls and after paying Y3800 for the tickets, I tried to walk quickly around, firing camera shots as I went. What’s so different about the Tokyo Auto Salon and the Singapore Motorshow was that there were customised cars on display for the Tokyo one, and so many of them! Different body kits that was only limited by the creativity of the owners showcased how one car could looked so awesome! All the halls were taken up by the Auto Salon but I managed to rush through them in time. As I exited the hall and followed the human line, I was shocked to find myself entering another building with many more halls of car exhibits! Given the time I had, I had to give it a miss painfully, along with another section on rally cars.
I had missed the train timings and had to take a taxi to Narita from there. I didn’t have enough cash and so I went around trying to get an ATM but for those at the Mitsui Outlet, I wasn’t able to withdraw money. Feeling defeated, I decided to pick up my bags first and found an ATM by 7-11 that I was able to withdraw money from. Took out about Y100k in anticipation for this fare to Narita and went to the taxi stand near the train station.
Boarded the taxi and then it was a 30mins drive to the airport in which I took a short nap and let the meter jump without sweating over it. Thankfully I arrived at the airport just after 4pm, but I paid about Y13600 for the taxi, which translated to about almost SGD175! Expensive.
Proceeded to check in and it was self service kiosks which was pretty easy to follow through. I dumped my haversack and then proceeded to go through security with my 2 bags and my pillow. At security, they stopped me to look at the stuff I brought in my bags and unfortunately, I had the SK-II that I bought for my mother that was more the 100ml and that was not allowed! I totally forgot about it as I was more concerned about not checking that in and breaking it since my haversack was soft. Thankfully the staff was understanding and escorted me out to go through check in again. I was pretty stumped on how I could check in and at the counter, the staff provided a box for the my item to be contained and that could be checked in. Wow!
Went through security a second time and this time without issue (and the same staff recognised me and chuckled as I was successful this time around). Narita airport was as much a shopping haven as it’s main city. I walked around carrying my bags of goodies but couldn’t resist to just get the Bai Se Lian Ren 白色恋人 biscuits as that seemed to be representative food that tourists bring back from Japan. After that, I proceeded to go to the gate. There was quite a wait during boarding and once onboard, I was seated beside another Japanese man. At the window seat, I couldn’t make out what was out there since it was already dark by 6pm. There seemed to be a delay in take off but I just went to sleep, the sleep deprivation over the last few days was hitting me hard.
Throughout the flight, there wasn’t anything major except that I had to ask for a reset of the entertainment system. Otherwise, it was dinner followed by a lot of sleeping until the we landed safely into Changi, some time after 1am.
This was the first solo trip of my life and I thoroughly enjoyed this trip, both because it was a different experience and that I loved the experience in Japan! However, I did felt a little sad to return back to Singapore as the trip felt a little incomplete… Wanted more time in the Auto Salon, wanted more time to taste the food, wanted more sushi and seafood from Tsujiki, wanted to visit more themed cafes, wanted more time to roam the streets, wanted more engagement with the Japanese people…it was a little rush in every aspect of the activities that I partook. I am sure I will be back in the future, but until then I will have to wait.
The fourth day in Tokyo started out slowly as it was a day that I didn’t plan a lot. I googled for a good breakfast place and a Eggs n Things showed up. I was looking for somewhere closed to Akihabara and Tokyo as I had to go pick up my jeans before taking the Shinkansen to get out of Tokyo.
After getting ready, I brought out my bag of goodies that I had bought over the last few days to the locker in Shinjuku-Sanchome to deposit in there (since I had only one bag that I could lock and there weren’t any storage in the room for other bag). Then I took the train to Ginza and walked along the shopping street to the Kirarito building. The only place that was opened at that time was the restaurant but there was a lift catered to reach that floor. Entered the restaurant that was somewhat empty and was seated at the end where I found myself a table that had an accessible power point that I used to charge my phone.
Ordered the delicious looking eggs Benedict and a nice cappuccino, for Y1976, taking it slow. This pace was relaxed, completely different from the previous few days where I was rushing from point A to B, and this time I found myself enjoying the moment.
After breakfast, I took the train to Akihabara and visited a Muji store at Akiba Tolim building. There was a entire level dedicated to Muji and had quite a range of products for home usage. I couldn’t find anything that I would like to buy though except for small card holders (and also because I had no more space to carry stuff back).
Proceeded to walk to Evisu store to get my customised jeans which was supposedly opened from 12 noon but they were opened earlier. Then I made my way to Tokyo station to search for Tokyo banana snacks which I only found after a while searching the huge area for that store. Bought a couple of them before going to the Shinkasen ticketing to get my ticket to Atami. for Y3670. Being too smart, I also bought tickets for return trip but I had forgotten to indicate the departure station to be Shizuoka. I realised my mistake and quickly requested the station staff to allow me to exit and rush back to the counter where they made the change for me, with a top up to final amount of Y5830. I made it in time for the 12:56 train to Atami.
It was a 48mins train ride to Atami on the Shinkansen and I took the time to catch some sleep. It didn’t last long as I was eagerly trying to catch the view of Mt. Fuji, which I did but it was shrouded in clouds.
Exited the station and just outside the entrance was the hot spring footbath for public use. I knew I had to do this and went to sit with the people there, took out my shoes and socks and dipped my feet into the hot water. It felt good. After a good 5mins, I removed my feet and allow the cold weather to dry my feet before putting back my socks and shoes and walked towards KKR hotel.
Initially thought I could just walked into one of the public onsens but as I was walking, I didn’t find one that was obviously a public bath and I didn’t really have that much time as I would be heading to Shizuoka to attend a concert. Since I had read previously from on online blog about KKR having this onsen, I just set my mind to visit that instead.
It was about 10mins walk and I had initially went to the back of the building, where one staff actually told me (in Japanese) to walk further down to reach the main entrance. At the reception, I asked if they spoke Eigo and was surprised they replied that they couldn’t. Anyhow, the staff informed the costs to be Y1728 and gave me a plastic bag with a tiny towel inside for use in the onsen (its advisable to bring a bigger towel for drying). I took the lift to the 7th floor and stepping out, I was welcome by the majestic view of the Sagami bay. I quickly googled on what was needed to be done before entering the onsen because I wouldn’t be able to use the phone once inside. So it was about showering, drying outside before stepping into the public bath – got it!
Once I walked past the main entrance, I left my shoes at the shoes cabinet and enter a place where there were lockers for use and a long vanity table. So I didn’t know if I should be just stripping naked there and then. Just then, one local took the locker next to me and I tried to start a conversation. Unfortunately his Eigo was limited but I managed to get the gist from him, yes strip, go bath and use onsen. Somehow it ended up with him saying he liked me (what?), which was pretty awkward.
After he stripped and proceeded inside, I did the same a little bit later. With the tiny towel that was good enough to cover my privates, I went to the bath to sit on the little stool to take my shower, using the shower foam and shampoo available there. There was also a pail available but I didn’t understand how that was useful when there was already a shower head for use.
I went to the long onsen pool, taking it slowly as my body got used to the temperature. It was really hot and I stayed there for some time before moving on to the jacuzzi hot spring. There was a sauna and a cold pool as well but those I didn’t utilised. Then I decided to go outdoor because having to stay in the hot spring with cold air in the face would be the most enjoyable experience. As I first step outside, it was a little chilly and stepping into the onsen felt fantastic. Once fully submerged, I just enjoyed the dip with expansive view of the bay in front of me (view was available indoors too but behind window), absolutely fantastic! Alternating leaving my feet in the water and exposing my top to the cold, this sort of achieve the idea of sauna and cold pool combo.
After about an hour and a half, I went back to take a water shower and dressed up to leave. I was rushing for a train ride to Shizuoka and would like to get there around 5pm. The Shinkansen tickets costed Y3050 and a short half an hour to the Shizuoka. The journey boasted views of Mt. Fuji, in which I was snapping away happily. After alighting, I changed to the local train to Shimizu, where the concert was being held. Upon arrival at Shimizu station, I managed to see Mt. Fuji in clear sight. During this time when the sun was about to set, I saw a pink Mt. Fuji.
Checked into my hotel, Vista Shimizu and retrieved my concert tickets, which was delivered to the hotel reception a few days earlier. I was glad that all went well despite this last minute whereby an online service provider, called Onegai Kaeru (O-ne gai means wish), helped to get the tickets from a reseller platform and arranged for the delivery of the tickets. Went to my room to put down my bag and charged my handphone and lazed a bit before heading out to Shimizu to get some green tea, as Shizuoka was known as the green tea producing city.
I walked into a traditional tea store and asked for Eigo but none was spoken but thought the store owner was extremely friendly. Noticing that we weren’t getting anywhere, he recommended that I visit another store so I got out. After a line of stores selling various things, I found another store that seemed to have tea sold in packages. Tried my luck again and this time it was a little better, as store owner seemed to understand a little English. Bought some green tea from there and proceeded to dinner at Macs, where I ordered myself a local flavoured Teriyaki burger meal. Like myself, I saw a couple of Ayumi fans having their dinner, and they were dressed for the concert, with items related to the queen of J-pop.
Returned to the hotel room to pack the tea into my bag and left for the Shizuoka cultural center with my tickets. I was looking forward to the concert as I had never seen a full concert of my favourite Queen of J pop, Ayumi Hamasaki and she had never had a concert in Singapore (other than a short one together with Avex artistes). My only worry was if I would be allowed in with a ticket that didn’t have my name. My worries were just uncalled for as there wasn’t a doubt at all from the staff and immediately after the security checks, I proceeded to the souvenir stall to get myself a tee (and a couple of confused exchanges because of the credit card issues) and then I was in the hall, seated and ready to rock n’ roll!
Handphones were prohibited for use though as much as I wanted to just capture an image to bring home. Throughout the concert, I didn’t see a single person using the handphone and I followed as well. It was a great concert even though I had not heard of the songs before (as I didn’t follow her albums for some time already), but the catchy beats together with the atmosphere from the Japanese fans were just electrifying. Had stood for almost the entire 2hrs of the concert including the encore, and together with the synchronised hand movements, it was as much as a light dance workout then a concert! The cost of attending this was expensive but I guessed its worth it for a fan who had yearned for years to watch her concert live, bucket list checked!
The same punctuality exhibited during the concert as with the Shinkansen, it ended on the dot of 9pm which gave me enough time to catch the last train back to Tokyo. I thought I could even make the earlier ride and returned quickly to the room to get all my stuff, checked out and headed to the subway. When the train arrived, I was surprised to find that it had all reserved seats and no one actually boarded the train. Without much choice, I waited for the next train at the original timing that I had planned for. Otherwise I could have taken a bath at the room.
At the Shizuoka station, I had some time before the Shinkansen arrive and I took the time to visit the store there to buy more green tea products. Then it was about an hour ride back to Tokyo station and then a further 17mins to the Shinjuku-Sanchome station. Retrieved my bags from the lockers and returned to the hotel.
I wasn’t ready to end the day so I left again to go visit a Don Quijote (also known as Don Don Donki in Singapore) to check out what’s to offer in this 24hrs shopping paradise. There was 4F worth of stuff to see and I managed to get myself a thermal flask that was incredibly cheap due to a sale and got a HelloPika at a discount too!
Went back to the hotel for another dip in the jacuzzi and then off to dreamland.
Started day 3 early despite sleeping late the night before. For breakfast, I had planned to have that at the famous Tsukiji Market. Although the inner market where the auction for the giant tunas used to take place had moved to Toyosu Market, the external market was still intact. I didn’t know what time the market would be opened but couldn’t wake up earlier than 8am, I quickly packed my bags and checked out with all my baggage.
Headed to the subway Shinjuku-Sanchome to dump all the bags into a locker since that was the nearest location to my next accommodation and took the train to Tsukiji. It was a 20mins ride and I proceeded to walk in the general direction according to the Google maps. After walking for a while, I realised I overshot and had to track back. Apparently the markets were not very obvious from the main roads. Then as I took one of the smaller street in, I found it lined with seafood restaurants, some of them still not opened at 8plus in the morning. Resisted the temptation to just go into any restaurant, I walked onto a street that was marked as the Tsukiji Outer Market and was surprised to see not many stores opened. I thought I was in the wrong place and proceeded to walk South East but there was nothing. I went back to the few stores where there were also a couple of customers around and started to order some food.
There was a brightly lit store that had urchin for sale, and ordered one dish of seared urchin to start. The urchin placed on a wooden plate of sorts and the lady used mobile flame torch to go over the top of the urchin, giving a slightly charred texture. Didn’t had time to take any photos of the process because my camera didn’t work as it was too cold and by the time I took out my phone after fiddling (and cursing) the camera, she handed me the delicious urchin, for Y1000. Took my time (of course need to take photo) with this delicacy that tasted slightly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, and it was quite a huge portion! Satisfied with the first dish, I proceeded on to the next stall where there were more people gathered around a stall with a couple of seafood choices on display and a makeshift bbq stove.
Y1000 yet again for pointing at one of the scallop that the staff went ahead to cook with 2 mini flamethrowers. Then adding some soya sauce and cutting up the scallop into bite size pieces, I was handed a plate of steaming hot and delicious scallop! After the scallop, I went on to one of the corner shops that seemed to have just open for business. The chefs were busy cutting up slices of sashimi and packing them, while another was making sushi. On the signboard overhead was a Otoro sushi, 3 pieces for Y1500. I didn’t hesitate, having heard from a colleague previously that that was the best part of the tuna, hence the price so I had to try it. Immediately the chef got down to preparing the sushi, skilfully slicing 3 pieces of tuna of the same dimensions and pressing them onto the rice. I had the opportunity to see the size of a giant tuna head that was placed in one of the fridge while waiting for my sushi to be done.
The sushi looked different, not the usual plain red tuna sushi that I was used to. The taste of the sushi was unexpectedly different too! I couldn’t get a hint of the usual tuna taste at all, and it was really platable. Very quickly, I gobbled up the 3 pieces, dipping into the soy sauce that was available there and yearned for more. Having already spent Y4500, I thought I should stop.
I visited the tamago store last, and spent Y100 for a solid piece of tamago, soft and warm and delicious too. During this time, people were already starting to stream in and other stores were also starting business. I explored the area a bit more and found out that the little alleys from the street into the buildings actually led to more restaurants inside, and I could have spent my time there to have a sushi breakfast, in front of the chef but I am already full (and spent my money) so I left for the station soon after.
My first visit today was to Ueno park and then to Nezu Shrine, a shrine with many of the red wooden gates known as Torii. Upon arrival at Ueno station, I proceeded to walk into the giant park. Winter wasn’t the best time to visit the park since it did just looked normal to me. The freezing temperature was wreaking havoc on my camera and it couldn’t be operated most of the time. Frustrated, I depended on my iPhone to take the pictures but had to minimise for fear of it running out of battery before the end of the day.
Within the park, I found myself walking into a Toshogu shrine, an old shrine that was dedicated to the founder of Tokugawa shogunate. Not a big place to explore but definitely one that had historical significance. After walking out, I followed along the path and went past the Ueno zoo that was housed within the park. I decided to exit the park (and there were quite a couple of museums within the park itself but I hadn’t plan to visit it) and walk to Nezu Shrine.
From the map, there was a Nezu subway station that was closer but I thought I could just walk from Ueno park since it looked near on the map. After some good 15 mins of walking, that brought me past many small streets of residential places, I finally find myself at the shrine. There were already many visitors there, including a bunch of school kids that were out there on excursion. I took my time to appreciate the buildings taking photos and such before heading to the long footpath of Torii. And this place would be the best instagram worthy place to get that shot with the Torii all lining up behind. It was here that I splurged on some charms for my family, including for health, studies and happiness, at Y500 each.
I was done with visiting and proceeded to the train station to get to Naka-Okachimachi station. From there I took a walk to one of my favorite Japanese brands, Evisu. I was expecting something really flashy but I was surprised to find the store in a rather quiet part of the street and the entrance was dull. I would missed it if not for the recognising the godly faces on the doors. After entering the store, I was awed by the large variety of products that was available for sale! The staff approached me and asked if I was looking for anything (again with Japanese before switching to Eigo) and I was brought to the 2nd level that catered for jeans. I also found out that the store only has number 1 and number 2 jeans, those that were extremely costly in Singapore.
I had to get something since I was already here and she helped with giving me some sizes to try on. I was shocked that I had to wear a 36″ waist (normal 30″) due to the extreme shrinkage after wash and was assured that no further shrinking will happen. The number 1 was made in the traditional method of sewing and I was able to customised what I wanted to have on my butt pockets. All in, I paid a hefty sum of Y41k (no tax rebate available), but I guessed its something I was willing to spend on which would last me for years plus it was customised!
As I went back to the station to proceed to Akihabara for my 2pm Go Kart experience, I stumbled upon the Ameyoko street. Curious what was being sold there, I stepped into one of the store specialising in cosmetics and found the bunch of products that Wifey wanted, including the Shiseido products! I knew this was going to be the place where I would settle the shopping for family back home. Walked on to another store and found one (Silk Road Cosmetics) that sold SK-II items, where the initial store did not carry. The price was pretty decent (compared to online) and had tax refund so I just went ahead to buy it. I was informed by the store staff that the pharmacies would carry the rest of the other items that I was looking for but I was trying to get to Maricar and left for the train ride to Akihabara station.
For the ride, I had to proceed to another building for the drive off but it was a pretty short walk from Akihabara station. Upon reaching, I found 2 other people already suit up in costumes. Settled the administration with the staff, found myself a spongy spiderman suit and I was suited up too. There was a locker available to place my bag, so I only carried a phone and my camera with me. The staff pushed the 4 go carts onto the street and after the briefing, we mounted onto our rides and then it was a freezing one hour roundtrip to Asakusa and Skytree before going back. It was kinda fun riding a go Kart on the street and in a silly costume sometimes drawing attention of the pedestrians. After downloading all the photos from FB messenger, and a hardcopy souvenir photo, I boarded the train to return to Ameyoko for the rest of the shopping.
Sticking to the advice given by the Silk Road Cosmetics staff, I walked further to a pharmacy named Matsumoto Kiyoshi store to get the rest of the items. The store had 2 floors full of cosmetics related stuff and there were staff that could speak various languages, catered for tourists. With the photos given by Wifey, I managed to check off all except one which was some horse oil face mask of a particular brand. I even got myself some hand cream to apply on my cracked fingers (due to dryness of the weather) which I thought worked really well.
It was past 4pm and I was racing against the setting sun to go visit the Asakusa Senso-ji Shrine. This was the one with the famous huge lantern and upon arrival at the station, I made a beeline to the Shrine after walking past a sheltered walkway. There were just a lot of people, granted the popularity of this tourist attraction. Made my way into the main temple to pray, the Japanese method (throw coin – bow bow – clap clap – bow) and also tried to get myself a Omikuji, the one that one uses a container of sticks with numbers and shaking one out to get the fortune read. Unfortunately, I scored a bad fortune and ended up leaving this paper onto the rail that so as not to bring it home.
After exploring the surroundings, I took the main walk path back to the main gate that was on the main road, passing through rows of shops selling souvenirs and food. Got myself a little red lantern souvenir before ending up at the main gate, where there was another huge lantern (There were actually 3 in total which I didn’t know!).
I walked in the general direction to try to get to the subway for my next destination, the Tokyo Skytree. However, I got lost where I was able to see the surroundings of Asakusa, mostly more shopping. A quick check of the Google map and I was back on track to the station. Hopped onto the Skytree train and walked directly to the ticketing counter with my Klook QR code. At the ticketing counter, they printed out the tickets for me to proceed to the observatory deck.
Again, this was a busy place as it was another popular tourist attraction. We entered the lift and as with other tallest buildings around, the elevator climbed quickly causing the ears to get blocked once in a while. I took the option of only accessing the lower observatory but had more than an eyeful of Tokyo city all lighted up at the 360 degrees observation deck. There were a lot of people but enough space to get close to the windows for photos. There were also multiple displays with professional photography service as well which I avoided. One of the highlights of the visit was a 10min video presentation of a game Kingdom Hearts above the windows as it went all the way around the floor. There were various cartoon characters showcased, many of them from Disney and familiar to all.
While on the way back to ground level, I had to go a floor down to take the lift where there was more viewing space then the one above. There was also a cafe at this floor and a small section with a see-through glass floor for those daredevils to look down. A short queue for the lift and soon I was back at ground level.
There was an integrated shopping mall called Solamachi with retail and restaurants but I was interested in only one of the store, the Pokemon Center. At the Pokemon Center, which I needed to google to find out its location, was a store with tons of Pokemon soft toys and merchandise. I couldn’t decide whether to get a sleeping Eevee or a sitting one and eventually chose the sleeping one to encourage my boy to sleep. Also go him a pair of Pikachu socks, cos he liked both Pokemon but I couldn’t get both soft toys since he had too many soft toys at home. There was also the HelloPika toy that he was interested in but it was selling about the same price back in Singapore so I decided against buying it.
During my search for the Pokemon Center, I noticed a familiar name that I had googled before that had a pillow that my mother was looking for. It was in another mall across Solamachi so I just walked over to Nitori at Central Square Life to find the pillow and sure enough, it was available. Asked the staff for assistance to retrieve the pillow and paid before heading back to Solamachi in search for dinner.
There was a food court available amongst the many other restaurants and I ended up with having Ramen from Ippudo Express for Y1030 to ease the hunger from the lack of lunch all the way to dinner time. Then it was a long way back with all the goods that I bought to Shinjuku-Sanchome station.
Picked up my bags from the station lockers and I headed to my accommodation for the next 2 nights, Hotel & Spa An. It was a love hotel which I only realised it after the first day in Tokyo (should have known when it’s mentioned adults only!) when I mistakenly walked to the accommodation which offered rest rates (a couple of hours). The reception was behind a counter where I could only see the hands but checking in wasn’t difficult as they got one of the staff to meet me and inform about the details of the room, which when described, I was in awe – It had a sauna, a jacuzzi and KTV!
With the keys, I went up to the top floor on the 6th and the first impression I had was that it felt more like a suite then anything else! (A massive space upgrade from the capsule that I had for the 2 previous nights) Upon entering, I see a luxuriously designed room, lots of space, a big bathroom with the said facilities, totally happy that I made a good choice staying here. And it didn’t felt like a love hotel (thought it would looked be simple dingy rooms in Singapore context) at all.
The only complaint I had was the lack of storage space though it had a small locker for important items. I spent some time on the KTV that was amazingly updated with new songs (but not on the original MTV) before having a video call with the family back home using the wifi. Then it was soaking in the Jacuzzi before checking out what was on TV (there was free VOD movies, and lots of porn on VOD or normal TV) and then to sleep on the huge bed.
Day 2 started early, wasn’t sure if it was because I couldn’t sleep well in the pod or I was just terribly excited to go explore Tokyo. Googled to find out where I could get some good breakfast and was shown a result not too far in Shinjuku. Got out of bed and got ready to check out. Although I had another night here, I had to check out before 10am and check in again because they had to do some cleaning. However the locker was allowed for guests to be utilised so after taking out what I required and leaving the rest in the locker, I left for breakfast.
Just a stop away, I got off the Shinjuku station and using the Google maps, I walked towards the Aaliya Cafe. The cafe itself was situated at the basement and upon arrival, there were already a few tables taken up by diners. An English menu was given and I made the order pretty quickly for a standard french toast. The food was served on pretty tray but that was nothing compared to the taste of this French toast, it was great! It was nothing like I have tasted before in a French Toast, the soft creamy middle was covered by slightly thin crispy exterior, coupled with the sweetness of the cream, I was loving every bite of the bread!
As soon as I had been served, I was done with breakfast, probably due to rapid devouring of the tasty bread. Paid the bill and complemented the staff for the Oishi breakfast before exploring the stores around. I came upon a Jeans Mate and was elated to find the Anello bags there. Did spend a bit of time considering what colours to get and what size and eventually decided on a dark blue medium size one, amongst the limited choices there. I was quite concerned that I may not find another store that carried this bag, from experience of that store in Shibuya, so I just bought it.
Then moving to a tall building that housed a departmental store Laox, I went to look for more thermal flasks, also briefly looking at the watches that were sold there. It was pretty surprising to find the G-shocks actually were costlier in Japan than in Singapore (at least that’s what I thought), and so were the other watches. Proceeding to the household items floor, there was yet again a shelf full of thermal flasks. Sent some photos to wifey back at home and left, knowing that I would probably be able to see another Laox elsewhere.
Took the train to Tokyo station as I wanted to settle some shopping wishes first. This was for the Issey Miyake famous Baobao bag, and it was mentioned that the flagship store at Marunouchi would be good place to go while the other stores would normally be out of stock or lined with Chinese tourists. Disembarking at Tokyo station, I was in awe of the historical building of the Tokyo station and took a few pictures of it when I came up to the ground level. Then it was just a few minutes walk to the corner block of Issey Miyake.
The staff was conversant in English and I had to carry out a live videochat with wifey to decide the type and colour of the bag that she wanted, as those identified earlier from the website were unavailable. Finally settled for a Y51k bag tax free after introduction of the different combos and even having the staff carried it for size comparisons. Opted to leave the bag at the store after paying as I knew there would be lots of walking around and shopping and it would not be a good idea to lug the bag around but with the commitment to return before 8pm closing time.
Was initially wanting to visit a Muji store but one of the big ones that used to be in Marunouchi was already closed down. Got back onto the train and next destination was IT heaven in Akihabara. Upon alighting at the Akihabara station, the Yodobashi Camera store just next to it and this was the place where I would be purchasing my Nintendo Switch. But before reaching that level, I was surprised to find the entire building selling all electronics and electrical appliances throughout the different levels! It was like a Harvey Norman on steroids. I made a brief walk on one of those levels and saw things like robotic vacuum cleaners but didn’t stay long as my interests were elsewhere. There were thermal flasks (again) which I managed to find the one that Wifey wanted (200ml bottle for Y1980, cheapest yet) and also checking if she wanted anything else. Then upon reaching the 6th floor, I entered, again, the heaven of toys and games. The entire floor had different toys, models like Gundam, arcade games, Gachapon (capsule tikum). There was another section that was security isolated from the rest of the floor, the games section where the Playstations and Nintendo Switches were.
I was planning to get the Pokemon edition of the Nintendo Switch but it was sold out. Comparing the consoles, it was cheaper to get them in Japan, with the Tax refund. Games wise, whilst comparing with one of the more popular game store in Singapore, the games were comparable or even more expensive, except for the bundle Let’s Go together with the Pokeball. After much deliberation, I ended up getting the console (Y29980) and the bundle (Y9880) and left the games to be purchased in Singapore.
Before heading to lunch, I turned on my Pogo and found a raid that was about to begin. I made my way there to check out and experience the Pogo scene in Tokyo, after all, this was the birthplace of Pokemon. I waited for the 10mins or so and people started to stream in. I realised that there weren’t any much difference from what I experienced in Singapore, in terms of demographics of people playing and interactions.
I walked in the general direction towards one popular maid cafe called @Home for my lunch and as I sorta lost my bearings and found myself walking through the tiny street next to the building of @Home. Along this street, there were many girls in cosplay uniform handing out flyers to attract customers to their themed restaurants, something that I guess was extremely popular in this fantasy paradise of Akihabara. I didn’t want to change my plan and continued onwards to @Home. Entered the lift and realised that there were at least 5 floors of this cafe, and I didn’t know which to go. I decided to just go to the highest floor to see and when I exited, it was kinda crowded. So I took the stairs and head downwards and ended up on 5F, which looked relatively less crowded. Waited until one of the staff came over and explained the costs and duration and general instructions.
I was then led to the front row seats just in front of the stage. Thought there would be some sort of performance but there weren’t any as I found out later. The stage was a place where the polaroid pictures were taken. After making myself comfortable, I was shown a menu for the food with packages that included a photo opportunity with one of the maid of my choice. There was also something known as premium maids that would need additional costs if I chose that but I stuck to just one of them, someone by the name of Mai. There were also options of playing games with the maids, for additional costs, but I didn’t really have the time nor the money to experience that.
Then I was given a “Master” card (cos I was the Master?), something like a membership card that I supposed if you visit often enough, you get to upgrade?? The people around me were a mixture, like a group of 3 local guys there to celebrate birthday, a Japanese couple, a foreign tourist couple next to me and even a single lady. While the locals got more engagements with the maids as I supposed communications were much easier, the staff actually tried their best to carry out small talk with whatever Eigo they could manage.
When my omelette and matcha latte arrived, the maid serving asked for subject as a picture for them to put onto not just the latte, but also the omelette! I asked for a Pikachu which she promptly applied the green stuff onto the creamy latte top with ease. Then for the omelette, I asked for Ironman. “Ummm” then I asked for Mario and more “Ummm” and finally I said “Eevee” thinking that this would be just as popular a figure as Pikachu and it was still “Umm”…Took out my handphone to show her the picture and she proceeded to draw on the omelette with the ketchup bottle. Its tough being a maid, needing to do all this nonsense for customers, I thought.
Just before I could eat, the maid informed that I had to say some magical chants to make the food taste good. With clenched fists together at chest level, and moving from left to right to left, I had to chant “Moe Moe Kyun” with her. Could be embarrassing to those not used to doing cute stuff, but I guessed that’s just part of Japanese Kawaii culture. After my chant, I proceeded to munch down my lunch, the food wasn’t bad but it wasn’t something fantastic either (so much for the chant). The main point of the visit was really more to experience theme cafe then to have good food.
A few minutes later, I was being called to stage for the photo opportunity with my chosen maid. Had a few exchanges with her, who spoke pretty decent English. She seemed to look a little more caucasian then Japanese and she claimed that she did have some European blood in her. Then I had to choose a head gear that was either bunny ears or cat ears. Took the bunny ears and with the cutesy pose together with Mai, my polaroid was taken. Back at the seat, I waited for the bill and in between, there was one or two more short exchanges with other maids but nothing else more. Was given the polaroid in a nice card frame, another postcard with a message that I didn’t understand and a pair of chopsticks to take home as souvenirs. The experience though, I felt, didn’t really meet the Master-Maid relationship and merely superficial, such as being called a Master for the sake of it. A simple act of helping the master manage his coat would be nice but the lack of such service showed that the experience focus was more on the acting cute part but not on the service.
My next destination was to go Maricar, the Go-kart that went viral because of its likeness to the awesome family game Super Mario kart with the track on the Tokyo street. It was a couple of blocks away, but along a small street. There was a staff there which I checked for any scheduled trip for the day but was disappointed to find them fully booked. Booked for the next day for a 1hr slot although he recommended a 2 hour drive instead. Paid Y5000 plus Y500 for insurance and borrowed the cable to charge my dying handphone and also to use their toilet that was decorated with disco coloured lighting.
I decided to return to retrieve the bag that I bought in the morning at Tokyo and upon arrival at the station, I noticed my coat pocket had an unfamiliar ringtone coming out of it. When I reached for it, I was shocked to find not 1 but 2 phones, one of them did not belong to me! I couldn’t pick up the call but tried to call the number from the missed call on my own mobile, to find that the phone belonged to the owner of Maricar and somehow I must have taken it by mistake! Thankfully, he agreed to meet me at Tokyo station instead and concurrently, I went to pick up the bag and not too long after, I managed to hand over the phone to owner’s friend whom was helping him pick up.
From Tokyo, my next destination was to visit Ginza, another major but atas shopping area of Japan. I was supposed to get some Shiseido products and there was a Shiseido store in Ginza. As I walked along the streets of Ginza, I was amazed to see that each building was owned by one company, not just for the luxury brands but for any brand! Another interesting observation was that I had seen ladies wearing kimono walking down the street! Didn’t know why this was so but it seemed pretty normal to everyone else.
When I arrived at a red building that was named Shiseido, I went into the first floor and was surprised to find them selling pastries. I thought there was another pastry store named as Shiseido. Tried Google map and walked a few blocks to another Shiseido building and I found out from the security that I was at the corporate office and the red building was the right location, only that the one with the cosmetics were just across the road on the left! Feeling like an idiot, I made my way a few blocks back again and sure enough, another tall block belonging to Shiseido was there! Now I know Shiseido actually diversified into pastries as well.
Went into the building that seemed to have an army of staff and showed the photo of what I needed but that was no longer available. What was available though, Wifey wasn’t interested and so I continued to walk towards Uniqlo. The store in Ginza was in one entire block, consisting of twelve floors! They had one entire floor just for heat tech products alone. Spent quite an amount of time getting stuff for the whole family and at the 11th floor where they had collaboration pieces, I bought myself two tees. Went up and down a couple of times when Wifey had “live” suggestions to buy some stuff so had to go to the different stores catering for men, women and kids.
Then it was time for dinner and another themed restaurant that I planned to visit was Ninja restaurant. While making my way to the subway, I bought myself a sweet potato from a makeshift lorry and as it was too hot, I left it in my bag. Boarded the train and headed towards Akasaka, and this was when I experienced the infamous train squeeze that the viral videos were showing. Somehow, even with what seemed like a packed train, the people on the platform could all still go into the train. Thankfully, it was a short ride for me and all my shopping bags and sweet potato remained intact.
Ninja restaurant was part of a long building but the restaurant only had an entrance and no other windows, thus keeping the secrets of Ninja within its walls. I entered without a reservation and thankfully there was available seats (probably because it was late too, but they were opened to 1030pm, and each seating would take about 1.5hrs to 2hrs).
After confirmation of my dinner, I was asked to wait for a Ninja who would be coming to escort me. He appeared soon enough, dressed in all black, with only the eyes exposed (came with glasses which was funny) and he brought me through a hidden entrance. I had been informed not to take any photos as it was deemed dangerous for me, thus I just followed closely as we had to walk up and down, even had a wishing well to make a wish and saw a ninja activate a chained bridge to cross a broken bridge with his ninja chants before I arrived into the restaurant proper. I was brought to the Ninja village called “Durian” (or something in that pronunciation) and sat at a table, which was pretty dimly lit. The other tables all had customers but some were close to leaving. I was showed the menu, in the form of an ancient scroll, after handing over my jacket to the ninja (much better than the maid) and ordered the standard 8 course dinner with a non-alcoholic ninja cocktail that was part of a very famous incantations (for those familiar with such incantations especially from the movies in the 80s). As my phone was dying, with the cold sapping the battery faster than usual, I helped myself with the power supply nearby (luckily) as I plugged in my power charger that I brought along, as the ninja staff couldn’t help me find a charger that could charge my iPhone.
The dish was then served one at a time, just like fine dining, and I am very impressed with the quality of food! From the first dish of shuriken crackers to the last one, I enjoyed every one of them and they tasted really good! After the food, there was a magic show by the master ninja which was nice and she even thought me a trick so that I could bring it back to show to my family. Awesome experience! This wasn’t cheap though at a cost of Y7074 but I thought it was well worth it. After fulfilling my request to take a photo with one of the ninja, I was escorted out of ninja village, again with more drama, ninjitsu magic of extinguishing fire and even a final surprise in the form of a ninja showing me a scroll with a message to come visit again after I stepped out of the main entrance. Lots of effort there.
As I tried to get to the subway for my final location of the day, I had a videochat with my family whom were about to go to bed. Had to find a place to finish the call before boarding, for fear of disturbing the other commuters on the train. Then to Roppongi I rode, purely for the sake of getting a Hard Rock Cafe Tee. Over in the distance, I took a photo of the orange Tokyo tower that stood out, amongst the street lights of Roppongi. It didn’t felt very different from what was I saw in Shinjuku or Shibuya. Had to get the clothes from the restaurant store as the merchandise store was already closed for the day. Didn’t spend much time before I was on my way back to 9 hours.
Once back, I checked in again, and spend quite some time to do some packing as I had bought quite a fair bit of stuff. Then it was bath time followed by a visit to 7-11 store to get a beer to eat with my sweet potato. Spent some time at the lounge surfing the internet and attempting to finish that massive potato but couldn’t and retired for the night, at about 2am.
My Tokyo trip started late, both in terms of planning and the actual day itself! I only bought the tickets 6 days before flying which was good because JAL actually had prices compatible to the crazy Scoot prices, full flight vs budget with compatible flight times, it was a no brainer for me.
After spending the weekend with my family, I soon found myself on the way to the airport for my 220am red eye flight to Haneda airport, Dad gave me a ride to the revamped Changi Terminal 1 that was tied to the Jewel. Check in was quick since I was backpacking and then I was roaming within the transit areas. Had to draw out more cash to exchange for Yen as I found out late that cash was preferred mode of payment and also that one of my accommodation I had to pay at the hotel itself, which I had forgotten to cater for when I first exchanged the cash for a Y100:SGD125 rate. The airport rates were bad, but there weren’t other choices at that place and time.
It was my first time on JAL and once onboard, I was immediately drawn to the dark red and black colours combination. Comfort wise, there weren’t much difference I thought compared to SQ etc. The entertainment system wasn’t fantastic though and there weren’t much choices (maybe there weren’t any good movies that were converted to free airlines movies during this period). Anyhow, I was off to sleep almost immediately, saving my energy for Tokyo rather than the movies on the plane.
Some 5hrs into the flight, I was already awake couldn’t really sleep comfortably. There was sunlight in the horizon and breakfast was about to be served. I realised that I was not at a great seat, my seat view was blocked by the wing of then plane. Furthermore, looking at the flight path, I wouldn’t be able to see Mt. Fuji from my seat since I was on the right side while the plane would past Mt. Fuji on the right side too.
Breakfast inflight was pretty good I thought and I cleaned it up as soon as it was served. The rest of the journey was spent dozing on and off till the plane landed in Tokyo smoothly. While taxiing, the view of Mt. Fuji could be seen from Haneda Airport, an amazing sight.
I took off quickly in a bid to start my exploration as soon as possible. Upon reaching the immigrations, I went to take the immigrations form declarations to fill in as I wasn’t given one on the plane, suspected that I might have been skipped as they assumed I was Japanese. But it wasn’t a big problem and I proceeded to the immigrations quickly. There was a queue but people were moving fast with the help of a staff directing people to the counters. I cleared in a couple of minutes.
Since I didn’t have to wait for a luggage, I walked towards the customs where I saw people handing paper forms to the customs officer which got me stumped for a moment but I still tried my luck. While approaching, the officer asked for the form in which I showed that I didn’t have one and he immediately pointed me towards one of the walls with the empty forms, no other way about it. Quickly I filled up this second form and went through customs without any issues.
One of my first task upon arrival was to go pick up my 72hrs subway ticket that I have purchased on Klook. The instructions that accompanied the ticket was pretty simple, turned left upon exit of the arrival, and sure enough the counter was there. There weren’t anyone queuing there and I received my subway ticket quickly and a subway map and left, not being sure of what the subway ticket allow in terms of ridership even after the staff explained to me.
Walked towards the monorail and purchased the tickets to Yoyogi (which looked the closest on the map), as I wanted to visit Meiji Jingu Shrine first since it was still early and the accommodation will not be ready for check in. The ticketing machines had English options but there was a staff nearby that helped me with the first ticket purchase. She verbally guided me through the options so that I could help myself another time. Then it was a short train ride to Hamamatsucho. Made a transfer there to another line with the help with a very important website, Hyperdia.com, I was able to tell which was the ride train to board based on time schedule. Even so, it took a while to understand, which I learnt at Hamamatsucho.
At this station, there were 2 ways to get there, one by subway and one by JR. What I saw on Hyperdia was that I would need to take the JR line to Yoyogi, not realising that I have paid for the full tickets price to Yoyogi via subway and that JR and subway tickets were not interchangeable! As a result, I paid another ticket on the JR line instead because when I tried the 72hrs subway ticket on JR, I was denied entry too! (and was thinking that it was a bad idea to get the tickets that didn’t allow me to utilise it) Confusing at first but not so after getting used to.
From Yoyogi station, I walked towards the shrine following the directions on my Google map, data enabled. The shrine was within a big park and it took a while to walk there. There was an amazing number of visitors to the park considering that it was a Monday morning and the closer I got to the shrine, the more I people I saw. And these were locals visiting and not tourists! Upon arrival at the gate, I was surprised to see many people and there seemed to be some sort of event going on, with lines of people queuing and staff in their traditional costumes guiding people to the shrine for prayers. Later I realised that it could be because it was still the first week of the new year and many locals may be renewing their prayers at the shrine, as I saw collection stations outside the shrines for old amulets to be disposed before entering the shrine. There were also signages on entry points for wishes and offerings and I couldn’t make out the rest.
I walked the few gates and snapped pictures of the washing stations and the surrounding and skipping the visit to the shrine (since I didn’t know how to make an offering or wished to queue up in the horrendously long line) and left towards my next destination, Harajuku.
From the shrine, I walked towards Harajuku station and it was almost as long a walk to Yoyogi. Then I left my backpack inside the lockers, with an automated locker computer that had a choice of English instructions. Y300 later I was walking towards the young generation street of Harajuku, in search of an Owl Village.
Owl Village was an cafe that had owls in there and it wasn’t immediately visible where this cafe was situated as it was on the 4th floor of the building. I took the elevator up to the 4th floor and was briefed at the counter for the different packages available to choose from. I took the cheapest one with a drink (I thought that I could get lunch there but they didn’t have food) with an hour time to spend with the hours for Y1500 and another Y500 so that I could feed the owls. There was already another couple there and they were within a isolated compound with the owls while I sat at the drinking area to have my green tea. I had to wait for some time to elapse which I didn’t really know why, before I could go and check out the owls.
The staff that led me around introducing the owls by their names, and how to pet them. There were at least 6 types of owls and I couldn’t remember a single one of their names unfortunately but I sure damn well remember how to pet them, for fear of losing one finger at the start of my trip. It wasn’t my first time petting an owl but it was still amusing nonetheless, though why the owls were awake (but looking tired) at this time did bother me a little. Took many photos, and videos and then had a feeding session to feed almost all the birds with miserably small amount of meat (but at least the birds seemed to become more awake with the food). While doing so, I could get one of the owl to stand on my arm (with the leather glove of course) by instructing them to fly onto the arm with the food. Picture moment there and also amazed at their flight back to their stand upon dropping of my arm. A while later, another big owl was brought in and as the staff played with the 2 big owls, attracting them with toys to lure them into stomping on the toy, I also had fun doing the same thing with them. Before leaving, I was given a badge with a choice of photos of a pair of the owls as mementos, For those who had not experience close contact with owls, this was one experience worth trying.
As much as it was fun, I hadn’t fulfil my hunger since the cafe didn’t offer anything substantial for lunch. A quick Google for recommended places for lunch churned up a rather interesting result, Kawaii Monster Cafe. Had seen some mixed reviews about this monster themed cafe and thought that I am as well experience it myself, since I am here for pop culture experience, right? A quick walk through the quirky street of Harajuku and I found myself in a building on the escalator upwards to the 4th floor. Right at the entrance was a colourful sign of the cafe with a staff standing behind a rostrum.
Had no reservations (many online recommended to do so) as I was trying my luck anyways and I was allowed in after explanation of the duration of stay and the entry costs of Y500. Then as the door opened, I was led in by the staff dressed up as a monster and was welcome into a realm consisting of a myriad of lights and colours and giant oversized cake. Swiftly we walked to my table and I couldn’t really comprehend what I saw. Sat down on a 2 seater table and the waitress (who wasn’t dressed up in the same exaggerated fashion) explained to me first in Japanese (then I asked for Eigo, first of the many to come) and she tried in English and then left me to decide on what I wanted. Settled on ordering the colourful spaghetti with the blue drink with popcorns for Y1300 and Y900 and then looked around at the design of the area – facing giant lips. Just to my left I could see giant milk bottles hanging from the ceiling. Interesting little place.
Food came and I was surprised that the food wasn’t bad (maybe I was hungry), and the drinks was expectedly sweet. The different sauces plus the colourful pasta made the dish looked like a paint palette! I took my time to enjoy the meal before going around to explore the other parts of this cafe. Apparently it was not so crowded at this point in time and so I managed to see the other sections that had distinctly different monstrous designs including the toilet that was full of bling as well! Settled the bill at the table and before leaving, I asked for a selfie and a photo of the cast, before passing through the gift shop and back down to the ground floor.
With renewed energy, it was time for shopping. Before the trip, I had identified the locations of the Japanese brands that I wanted to visit to see if I could get a made-in-Japan fashion piece home. Not too far from my lunch place was a street called Omotesando, also known as the Champ Elysees of Tokyo, were 3 of the Japanese brands. My first stop was at Onitsuka Tiger.
The store was not along the main road but on a really quiet street. There were actually 2 buildings for this sneaker store, one being the store that sold standard stuff and the other more made in Japan stuff. Looked around the large varieties of colours and had a check on the price. The shoes were going at Y8000 for the normal designed one and those that were made in Japan were costing in excess of SGD300. I wasn’t ready to pay that amount for a pair of shoes so after being brought over by one of the staff, I excused myself after a while.
Walking along the same street, I soon came upon the Bathing Ape store, a Japanese street wear brand that was horrendously expensive everywhere else. This standalone 3 storey building did not really have a lot of designs to choose from and were still expensive though definitely cheaper comparatively. I went up to the top most floor and chose a tee for Y6800, the cheapest of the lot. Paid for the tee without tax (same amount since that number was before tax) as tax refund was immediate. What I found weird was that they had stapled the receipt onto one page of my passport. Tried to ask why but couldn’t figure out his English and thus left.
Last but not least, across the road, and also at one of the branch roads, I found Porter. This store was 2 storey but huge. There were quite a variety of goods with the 1st level on a variety of bags and the 2nd level mostly bigger leather products. There were also collaborated pieces which was definitely out of my league and I contemplated for a while on what to buy after exploring the 2 floors since the prices here should be cheaper though not dirt cheap to just buy without thinking. I had initially thought that I would get a boston bag to carry all the goodies that I have purchased in Japan but these would cost more than a hundred in SGD and it did not make sense if the bag was only used for this one time and end up spending most of its life in the storage. So I left empty handed.
I returned to Harajuku to take the JR down to Shibuya. Upon arrival, my first visit was to the Hachiko statue, the famous loyal dog. Then it was a walk to the Shibuya famous scramble crossing for a quick photo (thought I wanted to get a better view on 2nd floor of Starbucks but the line for coffee was excessive, probably many doing the same) and then a walk to the Mandarake. Mandarake according to forums online, was a heaven for people looking for toys, comics and collectibles, new or 2nd hand and it was real! Going down 2 flights of stairs to a large basement, I entered a world filled with shelves and shelves of comics and toys! There were also many display cabinets with toys in poses and these brought back childhood memories of what I used to read about, or watch on TV or play. Head on to a small section of Transformers (less popular compared to Japanese originated toys) and managed to snag a Bumblebee SS-18 toy for Y2200 to play, cheaper than what I could get elsewhere because the package was deemed slightly damaged. After spending enough time to roam the walkways, I left with my prized possession.
Next I popped into Tokyu Hands to shop. This was one huge store, unlike the Singapore’s branch, consisting of up to 9 floors, and each floor with a sub floor, and they sold a lot of lifestyle products. Earlier on at Harajuku, I was searching for Anello bags that were said to be available in store Jeans Mate, but there weren’t any at the branch in Harajuku. Tokyu Hands in Singapore offered these bags but upon arrival at the bags section, I was disappointed yet again. Still there were other items that were on offer such as thermal flasks from Tiger and Zojirushi that were sold here much cheaper (like half price?) than those in Singapore. Couldn’t get any since the particular design was sold out so I ended up only getting 2 ink stamps (they do stamps customisation for names but need advance engagements) after scaling the 9 floors.
The day became night quickly and I made my way back to the Shibuya train station and got up to one of the passageway at the 2nd level where I could take a picture of the scramble crossing before my train back to Harajuku. Claimed my bag from the lockers and then it was a ride to Shinjuku Sanchome. As I trekked towards my accommodation, I realised that I was on a street of love hotels (noticeable by boards showing rates for short stays) and double-checked my phone and found that I was at the wrong accommodation which was meant for the last 2 nights in Tokyo! Luckily Shinjuku was largely walkable and the freezing cold did make the walk to my capsule hotel easier, plus brightly lit stores along the way, I was there in no time. Bad thing though was the phone batteries were sapped almost 25% faster and I found myself at risk of not being able to access my phone due to the dying battery (I didn’t print hardcopies for bookings or maps). I saw the 9hours sign on a building along a street that seemed like a Korean town because there were quite a bit of Korean brands there, and entered the minimalist designed lift lobby.
Checked in was done rather smoothly with a staff with excellent English and I was handed a paper with instructions and a bag with towers, PJs and toothbrush, and a QR card for the lockers. Taking the gender specific lifts down to the gender specific pods, I stored all my stuff into the locker and went into my pod to charge my handphone and catch some winks while at it. After napping a quick 30mins, I went up to the next floor where the main shower was to take a shower, which had all the bathing amenities within the shower itself. I was also in awe when I entered the toilet cubicle and had the toilet seat automatically opened upon my entry. Mind blown by the toilet technology!
Returning to the pod to retrieve my barely charged phone, I returned to the streets in search of dinner. My initial plan was to visit another themed restaurant, known as Robot restaurant to get some dinner and watch their show (even though many online recommended to get dinner outside as the food was not going to be tasty). I had missed the earlier show and the last one was at 945pm, which was very late. Since I wanted to call back Singapore to talk to my family at around 11pm, which was 10pm in Singapore, I wouldn’t be able to make it as the show was about 1.5hrs. I left in search for a proper dining place.
As I was in the infamous red light district of Tokyo, known as Kabukicho, I was frequently approached by touts on the streets, asking if I was interested in visiting their soaps (brothels). They could be very persistent if there’s any slight interest was shown and even had photographs on phones to show so as to get some arrangements going. So to reduce such interactions, I would just excused myself with “wife’s waiting for me at dinner”. I found it interesting though that in the area of Kabukicho, it was not an all men area, because it was also a place where ladies could look for male company as well! Of course walking through that area, I wouldn’t get pestered but touts were going for the ladies instead.
Google gave a recommended area near Kabukicho for good ramen and in a couple of minutes, I found myself at Takahashi Ramen as I couldn’t find Ramen Jiro and settled with that for dinner. The restaurant was pretty high tech, with ordering through iPads, and thankfully with whatever Eigo that the staff can offered, I got myself a upsized version (as I was hungry) of salt ramen with flying fish stock and some green tea and soon was I slurping away to a satisfied dinner. Paid on a automated paying machine and left.
Before leaving for the hotel, I went into one of the buildings with a Sega sign to find out what’s in there, since this was a brand name that I was familiar with when young. It was actually a place full of UFO machines and with the Y100 per try, I was tempted to try my luck in getting a huge size Eevee. After 4 attempts, I gave up on the flimsy claws as I couldn’t find a way around, even though a few times Eevee was lifted up only to slip and fall back quickly. Fun though.
Back at the hotel, I stayed at the lounge to call back home, excited to share the tiring but fulfilling first day I had in Tokyo. While I wished to have done that in bed, it was not possible as the pods were not noise insulated and using of phone there was therefore prohibited. Nonetheless, the lounge had powerpoint for my charger to keep my phone alive and free wifi for video calls. Then it was sleep, as I pulled down the blind to the entrance of my pod, and switched off the light. First experience and not too bad.
Total duration 5D4N Singapore is 1hr behind of Tokyo, Japan. Flight time is 6hrs 20mins on Japan Airlines from Singapore to Tokyo Haneda Airport and return flight is 7hrs 50mins on Japan Airlines from Tokyo Narita Airport to Singapore.
Monday morning flight on 7th Jan at 220am and arrival in Tokyo in the morning of the 7th Jan at 950am. Return flight from Tokyo on the 11th Jan at 6pm and arrival in Singapore at 1250am on the 12th Jan.
This escape plan was an impromptu one when I thought I needed to clear leave and the idea of a solo trip come to mind. I had never done it once in my life and since wifey wasn’t keen on trip to Japan anytime soon, I thought I would just go there on my own!
Budget nature: Budget buster
The airplane tickets weren’t cheap at all even though the travel dates were on weekdays as it was kind of last minute. However, I managed to get a seat on JAL at $900++ vs the Scoot $1k+, it was still not too bad (another one by Delta was $600+ but considering the later flight time, I opted for JAL). The exchange rate between SGD and Yen was average, but the cost of living in Tokyo was quite high. Furthermore, “cultural experiences” cost money too!
Travel was done almost exclusively by foot and train (subway, JR and Shinkansen, yes they are all different). It took some time to get used to the what tickets were used for each but once that’s done, it was easy. Language could still be a barrier especially outside Tokyo but nothing an online translator, sign language or absolute sincerity couldn’t fix!