Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Japan Travelogue Day 1: AirBnB, Hedgehog Cafe and Tokyo Tower!

I’m finally back after 1 month to continue on my Japan travelogue. If i go at this rate at 1 post a month, i will probably take the entire year to complete this travelogue, LOL Just joking. Before i go on, i would like to thank some of you guys who reached out via social media/ email to comment on the previous post, really appreciate it! I will definitely finish this travelogue, just a matter of when :)

As mentioned in my previous post, i took a midnight flight and arrived at 8am the next day. Really good timing since we get to spend the full day in Japan. With that said, we didn’t plan too many activities on the first day since we had to settle administrative stuff like collection of tickets and settling into our AirBnB etc. 

One common question most people will have in their mind when getting their air tickets would be whether to land in Narita Airport or Haneda Airport. Well, Haneda is definitely nearer to downtown Tokyo (14km) compared to Narita (60km) but it also depends on which airline you are taking and also the difference in fare you are paying between the 2 airports. My advice is, just take the cheaper one.  
There are several ways to get to downtown Tokyo from the airport like bus or train or taxi and i chose to take the Keisei Skyliner which takes about 40 mins. The train travels the speed of 160 km/ hour which is just slightly slower than their bullet train. It’s a direct train to either Nippori or Ueno station, and from there you can switch to the local train to get to your destination. Fare for adults is at 2200 yen (S$27) Affordable and comfortable. After which, you can just get your SUICA card which allows you to travel on public transport.

Like i mentioned in my previous post, getting an accommodation around the popular areas such as Shinjuku or Shibuya can get really pricey so in order to save money, it’s better to get somewhere nearby, maybe 1 or 2 stations away and best if the tourist areas are accessible by foot or a couple of stops away.

It took me awhile to decide which AirBnB to go for, narrowed down to a few choices and i finally decided on the one above. Average out to be SGD100 a night (Do note that AirBnB charge cleaning fee and service fee on top of your room charge) The reason why i chose this place is because the location is good enough. The nearest station to my AirBnB is Minami-Shinjuku Station (2 mins walk) and Yoyogi Station (5 mins walk), in fact, i even tried walking back from Shinjuku (15-20 mins) and it’s still manageable! 

The room has everything you probably need, a double bed, sofa, basic amenities, kitchen etc. They also provide pocket wifi for you to bring around if you don’t have one! Once you confirm your booking, you will be sent a “manual” on how to check in and operate the different remote controls such as the air con and washer. The convenience store is just nearby beside the station. 

The only downside is probably there is no elevator so you have to carry your luggage when you check in or out. They mentioned that the room is suitable for 4 but i think it’s just nice for 2.  
There is also like a mini balcony with a not bad view but it was really cold and raining during the period.
After checking into the AirBnB, we unpacked some of our stuff and decided to head out to explore. But first, lunch. We didn’t know what to have for our first meal and decided to have a quick one at Yoshinoya. I’m personally not a huge fan of beef but everyone keep telling me i must at least try their beef bowl once because it’s so different from the ones in Singapore so my first meal in Tokyo was their signature beef bowl! 

It was so good. 

I totally did not expect it. I’m not sure what causes it to be so good (maybe the sauce?) but everything goes so well together. The pearl rice and thinly sliced beef combined, it’s so value for money. No wonder it’s so popular amongst the working adults. They just come in, order a bowl of beef rice, gulped it down within 10 mins and leave. Not like us, we spent at least 15 mins looking through the menu before deciding what to get when we know we were obviously there for the beef bowl, LOL 

Explored Shinjuku area for the rest of the afternoon before heading to Ropponggi to visit...

Harry's Hedgehog café 
Roppongi, 6 Chome−7−2, 岩堀 ビル 

Before i go on, here are some info that you might want to know. They open from 12pm to 8pm. Last entry is at 7.30pm. Slot reservation can be made online and it’s best to book a slot, especially on Saturday, Sundays and Holidays. Fees are at ¥1400 for a 30 mins session or ¥2800 for 60 mins. For ¥1630, you get a 30 mins session with a cup of hedgehog snack (a cup of mealworms in case you are wondering what snack it is, lol) to feed your hedgehog. There are 2 outlets in Tokyo, one at Ropponggi and the other located at Harajuku.  
As we arrived on a Tuesday, we did a walk in and took the ¥1630 package. Sanitised our hands and was ushered to one of the stations with 2 hedgehogs in the tank. We were then taught how to hold them or use the gloves provided if we are too afraid to hold them. They can get really prickly when agitated! It was not easy trying to get them to stay still in your hand while being soft and cuddly. One of them even bit me and refuse to let go! In the end we decided to don the gloves and grab it fearlessly. #doitforthegram LOL
I have only been to dog and cat cafes in Singapore so when i know that i’m visiting Japan, i immediately went to search on unique things to do and visiting the hedgehog cafe was one of them! (the other is the owl cafe which i will cover in my other posts) These little fellas are so cute, especially when they curl into a ball when they sleep! In case you were wondering if you should spent more time with them and get the 1 hour session, i would say 30 mins would be more than enough with these guys. LOL Hedgehog Cafe, checked!  
Next up, we visited the Tokyo Tower. I was deciding between the Tokyo Tower or the Tokyo Skytree. On KKday, The admission fee to the skytree is at $28 and Tokyo tower is at just $11. Well, i guess the price do play a part when i made my decision, lol. I also felt that the Tokyo Tower is more iconic as it has been there for the longest time and we always see it in posters and advertisements.  

Got my tickets in advance from KKday. Went to the counter, exchanged my voucher for the my tickets. Skipped the main queue and totally fuss free. Definitely the way to go about when going overseas!  
As we visited the place in the night, all we could see were the lights of Tokyo, nothing much. I read that in the day when visibility is good, there is a chance to see the Tokyo Skytree and even Mount Fuji! There is nothing much to see but being a tourist and this is one of the tourist-y thing to do, we just decided to enter the tower since it’s just $11. Honestly, I’m more interested in taking photos of the tower from the outside.  
At the base of the tower is a variety of souvenir shops, cafes, restaurants and also the One piece indoor amusement park. I guess if you are a one piece fan, this park is probably one of the must go for you! One of the souvenirs to get is the famed Tokyo Banana. I’ve ate it countless of times, not a fan of it BUT that day i just decided to get a 4 piece box to remind myself how it taste like and i was kinda surprised! I’m not sure why but it tasted so much better than the last time i tried it when someone brought it back to SG! Is it just a psychological thing because i’m there physically in Japan. HAHAHHAHA 

Anyway, we wanted to get a few boxes back as souvenirs for our friends and we did a quick search online that read that these Tokyo bananas are only available in Tokyo (The exact words from the article was, “It’s called Tokyo Banana for a reason.”) so at the end of our Tokyo trip before we transited to Osaka, we bought like 5 big boxes and brought it ALL THE WAY TO OSAKA in our luggage, kept it for another 7 days and guess what? We saw these Tokyo Bananas again at Kansai airport in Osaka. *roll eyes to the max* We only had like 3 days upon arriving back in Singapore to quickly pass to our friends before it expires. 天啊. So don’t make the same mistake as us, these souvenir snacks are readily available at the airports, be it in Tokyo or Osaka. So you can actually leave it to the last minute and get it from the airport. LOL 

Wait. Is that why the Tokyo Bananas i had in Singapore are not that nice because it’s not as fresh?

Hmm…  You know how they say in Japan, you can just go into any random ramen store, have a bowl of ramen and it’s probably gonna be the best one you ever had?

We tested the theory and I’ve got to say that it’s true!!!! 

We were searching for a place to have late dinner and came across this store at a back alley near our place. It was empty and ordering is only via the ticket vending machine which had Japanese words all over it. (In the first place we didn’t even know if the place sells ramen until we asked the owner, haha) With our limited Jap vocab, we managed to get him to point to us which are the ramen buttons and which is the button to add an egg (“Tamago”, i know since i love the sushi. LOL)  Randomly ordered one of their ramens.
It turns out to be one of the best ramen we ever had! The portion was huge, the soup was thick and flavourful, the ramen texture was just nice and the egg was perfect! Throughout the whole meal, we kept commenting on how good the ramen was. Warm and delicious ramen on a cold night. It was the perfect ending to the first day in Tokyo. I would totally recommend this place to you guys but i have no idea where it’s located :| Maybe you guys can try searching Araumi Ramen? 

Alright, that’s the end of my Day 1 in Tokyo. It was forecasted to be raining the entire week when we are in Tokyo BUT we just decided to randomly do a last minute check before sleeping and we realised the next day is clear out of a sudden. We immediately adjusted our itinerary to visit Kawaguchiko for a chance to see Mount Fuji (What’s a trip to Japan without seeing Mt. Fuji right!) and that’s what the Day 2 is gonna be about :) 

Till the next post!