Tokyo trip planning kind of sparked off my interest in DIY travel because ever since then, all travel itineraries are sorted out from my own research and likings. The advantages to visiting what really interests us outweigh the hassle of planning. Having the flexibility to alter plans on the go is one big plus, never do I want another experience like our previous Hong Kong trip. Moreover, this Tokyo trip was memorable for a few reasons:
1. It was our first visit to the land of the rising sun.
2. It was few months after the worst financial meltdown, remember Lehman brothers?
3. Cheap tickets to Tokyo at $476 each on Northwest Airlines (now Delta airlines)
4. Bought Great Eastern Motor (HKSE) shares at $4.51 before the trip and sold it at $5.96 during the trip.
The not-so-good thing about taking US-based airlines is that the flights usually depart in the early hours. Our flight departs at 6 am and we decided to hang around Changi Airport. Serious boredom at its best since there was nothing better to do while waiting. The flight to Tokyo took 7 hours and we finally arrived at Narita.
From Narita Airport to Tokyo
My research shows 3 reasonably-priced options from Narita Airport to our hotel in Shinjuku, taxi excluded unless paying ¥17,000 (around S$240) sounds like a good deal to anyone. The cheapest but inconvenient way is taking Keisei Electric Railway’s Skyliner from Airport to Ueno before switching to JR Yamanote Line costing ¥2,400 + ¥190 one way. Suica N’EX is a better alternative at ¥5,500 for a round trip while giving ¥2,000 credits to use on Tokyo transportation.
We alighted the bus at west exit of the world’s busiest train station – Shinjuku. The massive station has several companies running different trains services for millions daily. Intimidating new visitors and making orientation a daunting task with a myriad of passageways, tunnels and endless streams of people. My usual dependable sense of direction was missing badly during the first encounter with Shinjuku station.
An evening in Shinjuku
Foodies are spoiled for choices in Shinjuku. We walked past countless of restaurants selling favourites like ramen, udon, curry rice, yakitori, tempura, sushi etc. etc. But we endured all temptation to locate this supposedly famous ramen restaurant in Shinjuku East – Kouryu 康竜 (Closed).
Food ordering is via the vending machine outside the restaurant. For a brief moment, we ignorantly thought that the machine will dispense out our orders haha. In reality, just pick your items, pay up, collect the small ticket and bring it to your server. Thereafter, just grab a seat and wait for your food. The tasty ramen was so good that I almost drank up all the soup. There was a queue outside by the time we left.
We scrambled to temptation and had our second successive dinner at one conveyor belt sushi restaurant.
Fantastic view of Shinjuku
The agenda after dinner was to visit Tokyo Metropolitan Government building located at Shinjuku West. The observation decks at 45th floor offer a bird’s eye view of the bustling city and best of all, it’s free of charge!
The view from here is stunning, just a shame that I didn’t manage any better picture to illustrate my point.
Wander around Shinjuku
The Skyscraper district is filled with big hotel chains (Read: Expensive) whereas the other side of the train station is a classic snapshot of Shinjuku. The vibrant streets are filled with neon lights, shops, restaurants, hotels, corporations, nightlife, convenience stores, shopping malls etc. The opportunity to shop is abundance, there are interesting shops and stores lining up from the underground station all the way to the streets.
Departmental store giants like Takashimaya Shinjuku, Odakyu, Lumine, Isetan Shinjuku and 0101 are all within walking distance. For geeks, Yodobashi and Bic camera are also just around the corner. There were simply too many things to see and one hell of a lively place! You have to be here to understand what I am describing.
STAY: Hotel Sunlite Shinjuku review
We made it to Hotel Sunlite Shinjuku (ホテルサンライト新宿) in the late afternoon which is a good 15-20 minutes’ walk from Shinjuku Station. I booked a room with semi-bed via Asiarooms.com which comes with free Wifi. It was our first time experiencing the ‘legendary’ size of a typical hotel room in Japan. The semi-bed is only slightly bigger than a regular single bed which can be rather squeezy.
And the bathroom offers little spaces to manoeuvre that I kept knocking the walls. Hence, it is funny to see a bathtub in the tiny cubical. But for the crazy room price in Shinjuku, the price we paid was quite a bargain.
Hotel Sunlite Shinjuku
5-15-8 Shinjuku Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160