It has taken me quite awhile to finally get these first two days published from our trip back at the end of March-early April. Will hopefully get the rest up in a timely manner.
Day 1 was a short day due to travel. We landed at Narita airport in the late afternoon around 4:30 pm. However, there was a crazy wait at customs/immigration. The line for Japanese citizens was crazy short and those of foreign passports had a long wait. They even had two separate customs areas and it still took somewhere around 1-1.5 hours of wait time to get through. And then we needed to exchange our vouchers for the Japan Rail Pass, which came in handy throughout the trip but it was another 1 hour wait to get this pass. As you can imagine, after an almost 11 hour flight, we were quite tired. Thankfully once we received our rail pass, they also booked us on the train that would take us into Tokyo (about a 90 minute train ride).
Initially on approach to Japan I thought we’d have time to get to our hotel, put our stuff away and then head out for some dinner. I realized after all the aforementioned wait times, we’d be lucky to find anywhere open for food. Add onto that we were just bone tired and I wasn’t sure what we were going to do about foodstuffs.
After arriving at Shinjuku station (the one closest to our hotel for the night), I looked on the map and decided that it wasn’t too far of a walk from the train station to the hotel. The wife had mentioned there was a courtesy hotel shuttle from Shinjuku station though we couldn’t be exactly sure where the pickup point was. So after about a 15 minute walk, we arrived at our hotel, the Hyatt Regency Tokyo. It has quite an impressive entrance with these very large low hanging chandeliers. We checked in and immediately headed upstairs to offload our stuff. When we first arrived, I noticed that there appeared to be some restaurants and stores in the basement level (which becomes a theme in Japan). We initially looked at some of the hotel restaurants (they have a handful of them situated in the hotel itself) but it looked like most places closed at 9 pm and we had arrived just after 9 pm.
So it was off the convenience store in the basement for food. Luckily they actually stock some food that is edible and not extremely bad for you. The wife and I both picked up a pre-made sandwich and I also got a hot dog and some snacks (chips). After eating some food and cleaning up a little, it was off to bed for us.
The hotel also had a package waiting for us, which was the pocket wi-fi I had ordered. This is a definite must have when traveling around Tokyo. The pocket wifi is exactly as it sounds: it acts as an internet router/hot spot so you can connect your devices to the internet (anywhere in the city, on trains, subways, buses, etc). This becomes important because many Tokyo streets are not named and there are no housing/building numbers. Oftentimes you just have to rely on your GPS to find a specific restaurant, building, etc.
On the 2nd day we woke up and headed out in search of some breakfast. We briefly toyed with eating in the hotel but I thought maybe we’d venture out and see what we could find. On the walk from the train station to the hotel the previous night I had observed a building (Shinjuku Mitsui Building) near our hotel that seemed like it had some restaurants on the basement level. We walked that way and found a Chinese restaurant, a Starbucks, and a small bakery serving French pastries. The Japanese apparently have a love affair with all things French so there are a lot of French-related restaurants and shops. We popped into the Saint Marc Cafe for some croissants. After grabbing our jackets as it was a bit nippy, we walked across from our hotel to the Shinjuku Chuo Park. Due to the colder weather that they had experienced recently, only a few small cherry blossoms had peaked out from a few trees scattered in the park. This still didn’t stop what appeared to be a photo shoot for a married (or maybe engagement?) couple. We walked around the park a little bit and then checked out the Kumano Shrine, which was tucked away in the corner of the park.
I wanted to check out a shabu shabu place on the other side of Shinjuku train station and everything I read said that you should try to arrive before they open for lunch to get a seat (this is true of most every popular restaurant). With our trusty GPS and pocket wi-fi I guided us there on foot but once we arrived I was kinda stumped. We saw a sign of the restaurant, Kisoji Shinjuku. It appeared to be on the 5th floor. We started walking up the stairs but it stopped after the 2nd floor and you couldn’t walk any higher up. So back down to the front of the building we walked. Finally we figured out that we had to take the elevator to the 5th floor as that was the only way to enter. We arrived around 10 minutes before they opened. Luckily they were able to put us down for a table and we only waited about 15 minutes before we were sat. We tried two different levels of Wagyu beef. The most expensive meat looked like a thin layer of fat with a small amount of lean meat within it. Both were quite tasty.
We then returned to the Hyatt Regency to check out (yay for late check out due to Discoverist status). We made the trek about 4 blocks to the Park Hyatt in overcast weather, which would be our home for the remainder of our time in Tokyo. Just prior to entering the building, we were met by some employees who immediately guessed our name and escorted us right up to our room to complete the check-in process. Now this was some service. I’ve never experienced something like that before, made us feel important. We were staying in a standard room, but boy was it nice. First you entered a long hallway that took you back into the room area. There was a very spacious bedroom and sitting area. A divider separated the closet/bathroom from the bedroom almost making it feel suite-like. The bathroom had separate shower/bathtub and toilet area, with a nice sink and sitting area as well. There was a decent sized closet and dresser as well. Within the room, they had a large selection of hote room minibar items as well as a nespresso coffee maker and a hot water dispenser/teapot. I was quite impressed.
After settling in and resting a little, we decided to venture out in the rainy weather. Just south of the hotel is Yoyogi park . Within the park is Meiji Jingu Shinto Shrine. Even with the rainy weather, there were a good amount of tourists checking out the shrine.
After returning to the hotel we were looking for a close place for dinner. Luckily the basement of the building that houses the Park Hyatt has multiple restaurants along with a convenience store (and a Subway of all western fast food joints). We settled on Kitakata Ramen Ban Nai and each had a bowl. It was good and cheap.
That concluded our 2nd day in Tokyo.