Tokyo Travelogue: Day 1
Day 1 Itinerary
- Singapore >> HK >> Tokyo - Narita Airport
- Accommodation: Shinjuku Granbell Hotel
- Don Quixote
Ok, I've finally gotten down to editing my Tokyo trip pictures which happened last May in 2015 LOL. Hope this is not too late and will be of some help to whoever is heading to the Land of Rising Sun in a few months time! Shall try and keep it as detailed as possible from whatever my brain can still remember but if you have any other questions, feel free to leave a comment down below or drop me an email personally :)
Flew via HK on Cathay Pacific to Tokyo's Narita Airport because there was a pretty awesome deal then. It was about SGD$650+ per pax although I regretted it on the day itself due to the long transit hours. In future I will just save up for a direct flight instead HAHAHA!
Anyway, travel companions on this trip were the mother, the younger brother and the bff - total of 4. And have any of us visited Tokyo before? Yes, my mother who went there on her honeymoon trip with my father close to 30 years ago. The remaining 3 of us were all first-timers in Tokyo so can you imagine my apprehensiveness while planning the trip with the bff >_<
Twinning gel nails with the bff as usual on our holidays together. Guess which hands are mine haha!
The red-eye flight from Singapore landed us in Hong Kong in the early morning, just slightly before the sky turned bright. Transit time was around 4 hours so we had a small meal and mini shopping trip at the HK Disneyland store to eyeball which Tsum Tsums are available here in case we couldn't get them in Tokyo lol.
Landing in Tokyo - Prepaid SIM Cards
Landed at Narita Airport slightly past 3pm local time and the first thing we did was to rush to the counters on the arrival floor to purchase data sim cards #dataaddicts
I have to tell you that I deeply regretted not pre-ordering the sim card online before our arrival because the prepaid SIM cards were so. darn. expensive! But since beggars cannot be choosers, we settled for the prepaid SIM cards from docomo. You can purchase them at one of the counters on the arrival floor OR head down to the level towards the trains to buy them from a store selling mobile accessories. There are only a handful of stores there and it's located directly beside the escalator so it's pretty easy to spot!
Opted for the 1GB option because the card was so expensive T____T but I do have to say that data was very strong and was only weak in mountainous areas throughout the entire time we were in Tokyo so highly recommend domoco as the service operator to get your data SIM cards from. The packet contained instructions on how to activate the card on your phone in English so not worry about this.
Note: You can choose to preorder them from eConnect Japan ahead of your trip. Free Wifi is not prevalent in Japan generally and even at Starbucks outlets the signal was very weak so do plan to get either the prepaid card or portable wifi egg if you'd like to stay on the grid.
We didn't want to take up the portable wifi egg option because my brother and I thought we may have to separate during the trip during instances where he has to take care of my mum so we wanted to have our own individual data to be in contact with one another. I've of course heard a ton of good reviews on renting a portable wifi egg but I think this arrangement would only work if you travel in small groups e.g. as a couple or in threes
We chose to purchase round-trip tickets for the Narita Express as we were also leaving Tokyo from Narita Airport. You can purchase these tickets from the Narita Express counter upon exiting the arrival gates. Tickets were priced at 4000JPY a person for a round-trip to and fro Narita Airport to most major stations in Tokyo. More information here.
For the return trip, you can book the train ride back on the day itself at whichever station you are boarding the Narita express train from. The staff will give you open tickets upon purchase during your first trip. My advice would be to do the booking on the actual day because if you miss that particular timing, the ticket automatically becomes void. So just be extra kiasee and reach the train station earlier.
Had to wait for the next train to Shinjuku which was approximately arriving 30 minutes later so we went for some drinks at a cafe inside the station. Had a major culture shock from all the condiments you can add into your beverages here in Japan lol. Apparently Iced Lemon Tea in Japan = Iced tea + pouring in the lemon syrup & gum syrup for sweetness O.O
Journey took approximately 90 mins to Shinjuku station and it was pretty comfy throughout the entire ride. Please note that the train seats are allocated!
Alighted at Shinjuku Station close to 7pm and got mindfk-ed by the entire layout of the station lol. Yes, welcome to the infamous Shinjuku station with 200 exits (incl land exits).
If you're staying around the main Shinjuku station area, lucky you because there are signs pasted around to guide you. Unfortunately, we were one of the unlucky ones who had to switch to the subway to reach our hotel (at Higashi-Shinjuku station) so we braved the crowds with our luggages to find the Toei Oedo Subway Line at the Southern Terrace Exit.
Can you please look at the crowd here ZOMG
Anyway, having been through the whole Shinjuku station experience can I just say that I never want to go through it again LOL
Seriously, I will just pay more in future for a hotel that is directly beside Shinjuku main station hahaha!
We actually managed to find theToei Oedo Subway Line's entrance after walking through the long stretch of shops, bought our PASMO cards from the machine (there are English instructions - yay!) and successfully entered into the station but..... it was to the wrong direction O.O
And getting to the opposite direction's platform is not as easy as crossing the platform like in Singapore. Had to re-exit the station and thankfully the staff helped us reverse the fee before we had to get to the OTHER side of the station to the correct entrance. This whole episode took us 45 minutes to be finally on the correct train to Higashi-Shinjuku station.
Here's our accommodation for the next 3 days - Shinjuku Granbell Hotel which is located near Kabuki-cho in the eastern part of Shinjuku.
Here's a look at the standard double bed room which the bff and I were sharing. My brother and mother were in another standard double bed room next door. I really expected the small room space but I was very impressed with how the room turned out generally.
Yup, that's deodorizer from Shiseido
There wasn't much luggage space but we made do with whatever small areas we could pack in and just enjoyed the music blasting from the sound booth. There are practically no English channels on TV so don't bank on finding anything to watch there unless you understand Japanese. Free Wifi is available throughout the hotel and the signal was pretty strong in my room.
Anyway trust the Japanese to be tip-top in their service. Here's a list of food places around the hotel's vicinity which I've scanned onto my computer and uploaded. The maps are available in the hotel lobby and I really appreciated this kind gesture because it saved us from having to walk around in circles trying to find somewhere decent to eat.
On the safety of the hotel's vicinity, I have to say the roads do get a little quieter once it turns dark but generally it is fine! And while Kabuki-cho is located just nearby, you won't be disturbed by the activities taking place there when staying at this hotel. I also enjoyed heading to the drugstores located just 1 street away to do some late-night shopping. Managed to pick up pretty good deals on items that were not available at Don Quixote.
Back to the day's activities. By then we were extremely famished as it was close to 9pm then and we haven't had a single proper meal. Settled for grilled food at a restaurant owned by a Korean lady in the area because my mother is a picky eater so this was the lesser evil.
Finally with our tummies filled, we decided to explore the area. I had actually Googled prior to departing for Tokyo the nearest Don Quixote store and that was where we headed to because most areas were closed by then lol and Donki is actually open round the clock! I was super excited to go to Donki (as what the locals call it) to be honest.
Address of the Don Quixote store near the hotel
1-12-6 Okubo Shinjuku-ku Tokyo, JAPAN, 169-0072
I got to experience Donki in person after reading about it from other bloggers! T_______T #thankyoumakeupgods
It is truly a megastore with everything under the sun really. From makeup to food, electronics to household items, Donki is a one-stop store that I highly recommend you visit whilst in Japan. If I only had one place I could visit in Japan, this would be the place I'd pick over Tokyo Disneyland really lol! Both the bff and I went a little crazy buying up alot of things (makeup for me and snacks for her lol). I used up my entire day's budget just in that store alone LOL so can you imagine how much I bought?! Oh and you can buy Kracie Popin' Cookin' sets here at very low prices. I did pick up one set which... I haven't used till today haha wth. Psssst Fujifilm Instax films are also very reasonably priced here.
Snacks for the trip and we bought a box of the Kao heated eye masks to share
*points above* This happened because we opted to get our items tax-free and they ended up being sealed shut in this bag.
Here's my thoughts on the whole tax-free situation
In order for tourists to enjoy tax-free items, your items have to sealed shut and opened only outside of Japan. Anything that is to be consumed within the country has to have its tax paid. Being first-timers in Japan, we had no clue on how the whole system worked so we got pretty confused as to why we couldn't use the items inside the bag but we still adhered to it naturally.
Anyway long story short - we left all items in this sealed bag which took up most of the space in the bff's luggage (sorry!) and opened it only when back in Singapore when... no one cared whether the items were used or whatsoever wah lau eh! We didn't get checked at customs nor asked to show the items prior to check-in at the airline counter
so you can totally just claim tax free and go back to cut open the bag and use everything lor
Yup that's it on the whole tax-free experience in Japan. I did keep those small items like make-up purchased in the departmental stores in the sealed bags because those items were more compact but the idea of having so many items thrown into one big bag is just a packing nightmare in making. So take my advice please lol.
And... that's all for Day 1 in Tokyo! Will be back soon with another entry shortly so stay tuned for the continuation of this trip :)