Autumn in Tokyo for 11 D/N (Nov 2018) – Tips and Strategies
After months of planning for this trip (including Airbnb new rules in Japan which greatly affects our plan, refer https://enjoypassion.wordpress.com/2018/07/13/airbnb-blessings/) , finally came the day of our adventurous journey to this futuristic metropolis that EnjoyKia is fond of ever since a teenager. Since we have decided to visit Japan more than once, this trip we explored only TOKYO. I’ve re-collected below, some tips / highlights of our trip:
Since we spent around 11 days in Japan, the most valuable sim card (at the time of research) was Japan Welcome Sim under NTT Docomo prepaid. The usage duration is 15 days. Before you travel you need to apply on their website and create your ID account. Then select your plan (0, S, M, L, XL) and place to pick up your SIM, and pay with a credit card online. You may earn extra (free) high speed data by filling out questionnaires and watching ads.
When you arrive in Japan, you can collect your order at a couple of “exchange places” in airports. To activate you need to insert the SIM into your device.
You may use either PASMO or SUICA when traveling in TOKYO city, however i suggest PASMO train card since you will be fully refunded of your deposit (Y500) upon returning the card. You may also use the cards to purchase things from convenient stores. Bear in mind that transportation in TOKYO is really expensive, we spent around RM1K for 2pax just for the train! (That’s mostly due to the fact that we stayed quite far away because of the Airbnb issue mentioned above).
Tip: In the case where your destination is just next station, just walk there, especially if you are in big city station, because you will spend more time (and money) using the train!
There is another train option called Tokyo Subway ticket where you can buy in 24, 48 or 72 hours. It can be cheaper if you travel around a lot, however it can only be used for certain lines, which is a downside for us as many train lines were not covered. Hence, we did not purchase this.
We stayed at Airbnb M1-Tokyo Yaguchi in Haneda. It is a spacious, clean and high-end very much alike a hotel (even better as there is washing machine & air-dryer for our laundry), everything is great except for the location. Thus it costs us more train money and travel time. I don’t suggest staying so far but we didn’t have much choice during our time of Japan Airbnb issue, where demand > supply.
Budget estimation: For hotel / non-sharing Airbnb (with own room & bathroom), cheapest is around Y250-300 per night at Tokyo.
OTA TOURIST INFORMATION CENTRE
If you are bringing kids, or happen to be in OTA, I definitely recommend to check out OTA Tourist Information Centre! You can try kimono there and take as many pictures as you like, for FREE! You can also bring back your printed photo as souvenir from them.
Besides Kimono wearing, you can try out the mongiri paper crafts there too, for FREE (and bring back as souvenir!) There are these few activities and games that are very suitable for children, and even bring back fond memories for adults too. Oh ya, you can even learn to write your name in Japanese!
For good decent food, I recommend Ootoya. It is delicious though a bit too salty/sweet which is typical of Japanese food. Almost all restaurants in Tokyo provide free tea and some like Ootoya, free add-ons of rice. Their rice is really yummy! You can even choose brown rice instead of white rice, which costs the same.
Personally, picture below is by far the best meal I’ve eaten in Tokyo. Called “Aburi-Don”. Stall name Maguro, somewhere in Odaiba. It costs Y1200:-
Budget estimation: Y500 per pax for breakfast, Y1000 per pax for lunch and Y2000 per pax for dinner (conservative calculation).
Tip: To save on food, you may have some meals at Konbini (convenient stores), their food tastes much better than i thought!
SHOWA KINEN PARK, TACHIKAWA
I’m a big fan of parks during Autumn and Spring season! Yes, no trip is complete for me without going to a park. This time around, I’ve never seen anything as beautiful. No matter how hard we tried to capture its natural beauty, I still feel the actual nature is much more breathtakingly beautiful than what we can capture in the picture!
There is an entrance fee (Y450) for the park. We rented a bicycle (with a fee), we enjoyed so much cycling around the big park.
WORLD HERITAGE FUJISAN
No trip in Tokyo is complete without going to Mt Fuji! We booked our tour from Japanican for Mt Fuji, as it is not easy nor cost-effective to go there on your own.
First sight of Mt. Fuji from afar, I felt so touched that I almost cried, it is SO beautiful! To me, seeing it in real is so different from seeing from a picture, its beauty is indescribable! We are indeed very blessed because according to our tour guide, Mt. Fuji can only be fully seen 160 days per year (no clouds covering even the tip), and know what.. the day that we went was the best view of the year! She kept mentioning we are SO lucky, so lucky indeed!
Tip from me: Choose the day with the greatest sunshine (from weather forecast).
On the way down from 5th Station, we went to Oshino Hakkai & Shiraito Falls, which is another beautiful place not to be missed. If the sky is clear, you may see Mt Fuji behind too (such as the one in my picture).
If you are interested in the JAPANICAN tour that i used for this Mt Fuji tour, you may refer this link https://www.japanican.com/en/tour/detail/BUS1J00701MKS/?typecd=TOU&destcd=V21&kw=golden&sbit=4&typegrpcd=TPA
It costs Y8000 per pax (without lunch). We opted for no lunch after reading their reviews, so we bought our own lunch from 711 convenient store, no regrets.
If not for the extra free “compensation” in which we received USD100 voucher to purchase any Airbnb experience, we’ll never have bought this Airbnb Experience (refer my story from https://enjoypassion.wordpress.com/2018/07/13/airbnb-blessings/ ) Hence, looking at the good reviews and price, we happily chose this Electric Bike tour around Tokyo https://www.airbnb.com/experiences/293275?euid=625ffffd-ecbe-7e1b-1c10-9250654f051b
We walked around Akihabara & Ameyoko market in the day where we did some shopping for Japanese snacks, before going for this E-bike tour at night. We enjoyed ourselves very much with our 2 friendly tour guides cycling around Tokyo at night!
DISNEYLAND & DISNEYSEA
It was the 35th Happiest Celebration! (I wonder whether the usual Disney event is any less happier?)
We bought our tickets from KLOOK, pick up at Shinjuku INBOUND LEAGUE. We wanted to save the picking up hassle but we were unable to buy directly from TOKYO DISNEY website (it kept showing error).
It was our first time to DISNEY! We were too excited so we bought 2-days ticket, for both LAND and SEA. The only equivalent theme park we went previously was Universal Studios at Singapore which we enjoyed very much, so automatically we tend to compare them. 3 main comparisons observed:
- Unlike Universal Studios, there is no “fast pass” for sell at Disney. However, you may take the fast pass ticket (first come first serve), then go to another ride/attraction, and then come back by your allotted time-slot for that ride. Hence, do strategize your rides to save your time on queueing up. Note that not all rides have fast-pass, and since it is a first come first serve basis, it will either run out of fast-passes, or your allotted time-slot will be many hours later.
- The rides at DISNEY is much comfortable & feel safer compared to that of Universal Studios Singapore. Japan technology is better eh?
- All narrations in TOKYO DISNEY are in Japanese! It was a big turn-off for me, i actually enjoyed Universal Studios Singapore more because everything is in English which we can understand. When you watch 3D theater there, or anything with story-lines, there isn’t any translations either.
Some tips from me:
- If you want to watch parades, check out their time in advance and block your time accordingly. I especially love the parades and outdoor shows after sunset, where the beautiful lights are all out. We enjoyed “Electric Parade Dreamlights” at Parade road in the evening. The outdoor shows called “Fantasmic!” at DISNEYSEA and “Celebrate! Tokyo Disneyland” at DISNEYLAND are marvelous and not to be missed. However, you may skip the final late night fireworks session at DISNEYSEA – We noticed that fireworks were put off at DisneyLand; So even though DisneySea mentioned fireworks, the fireworks were in fact seen coming from DisneyLand (from next door).
- I particularly recommend the cruises like Jungle cruise, boat cruise, and electric railway, because it is a great & relaxing way to enjoy the awesome scenery.
- It is helpful to download Tokyo Disney app in your handphone, it shows you the waiting time and many information you will need, in real time.
- At the park, check out the hand-washing stations, they have a soap dispenser that releases Mickey-Mouse shaped soap form.
- If I were to only choose between DisneyLand and DisneySea, i would choose the former one (personal preference only – maybe because I love castle more).
OTHER PARTS OF TOKYO
a) Harajuku + Shibuya
Here, we just walk around and enjoy the cosplay and Japanese teenage culture around the streets. At Takeshita Street, you may check out funky stores, trendy fashion boutiques and young people in outrageous outfits. We went for some shopping and food.
At Shibuya, we enjoyed walking back & forth the famous “Shibuya crossing” where the street is jam-packed with pedestrians crossing at the same time with you. Also, it is famous for the Hachiko dog memorial, a faithful dog with a sad story.
Our agendas in Shinjuku were:
- Shinjuku Kappo Nakajima for lunch (cheapest 1-Michelin-star restaurant). It is a very small restaurant actually, located underground. There was a sign that says those below 6 years-old are forbidden (not sure why, but when we were inside, I noticed smoking is allowed, maybe that’s why). I ordered “Nizakana set” which is simmered sardines in soy based stock, costs Y800, pretty cheap for food in Tokyo, what more to say it is Michelin-starred). If you were to ask me, I would say the food is not bad, but other restaurants in Tokyo may be equally good too. I love fish (cooked, non-fried) prepared by Japanese chef, there are not many who serve cooked fish, mostly are raw, and rather pricey, so for me, this is a good choice.
- Went to a place called INBOUND LEAGUE to collect our physical DISNEY tickets that we bought online from KLOOK. There, we were served with free coffee. And we were intrigued by their toilets which are very high-tech, it automatically opens and closes the toilet lid when a person is detected.
- Visited Kabukicho (red-light district) which is bustling with colors at night. Walked around for a while, it was the only time it rains (drizzle) throughout our Tokyo trip.
One of my favourite places in Tokyo 🙂 It’s Tokyo’s most futuristic hub.
- Mega Web – Toyota Theme Park. A place where you see, rise and feel cars. For technology or car-lovers out there, it is free!
- Yumenoohashi (Rainbow Bridge). Suggest to go in the evening / night to enjoy the beautiful lights.
- Venus Fort (European themed interior) – Remember to look up at the ceiling, it is the image of a sky that changes from time-to-time.
- Diver City – A giant Gundam in front of the building.
- Aqua City – There is a robotic info woman named ChihiraJunco stationed there, but do not have high expectation of her. She does not reply to you, rather she will only reply based on the questions you selected on the screen. Besides the robot, you may go to the top of the mall to see Tokyo bay view.
I don’t understand Japanese language but if there is only one word you learn, it could be “sumimasen” (last letter “n” is silent). I hear this very often, in fact, everyday, and i learn to speak that to them too. It is a very useful word. It can mean “Excuse me”, or “I’m sorry”. It’s extremely helpful when you need to call someone’s attention (asking for direction etc), or when you want to get out of people’s way. Japanese use this word very often, just like Taiwanese always use the word “不好意思”, as to show politeness. I find it very useful as I usually will get their favorable attention with that word.
Another 2 words I’d learnt are:
- “domo” which means “very, thanks, or hello”.
- “doko desu ka” (the letter “u” is silent) which means “where, location), example, “Shinjuku doko desu ka?”
I downloaded the app called “Jspeak“, if the Japanese doesn’t speak English and you cannot understand him, get him to speak into the app (Google translate is good, too). We encountered situations whereby we used the apps to get the communication going.
SOME MORE GENERAL TIPS/INFO
- Check out “My Tokyo Pictures”, a project run by the Tokyo Tourist Information Center, whereby you post your pictures to your own social media, tag them, and in return you get some free gifts! You’ll show-off your pictures on social media anyway too, right?
- If you are flying off from Haneda Airport, remember to go up to the highest level to have a magnificent view of the airplanes while waiting for your departure time.
- For bottled water, the most valuable one we can find was Y98 for 2L from Lawson, which is mineral water from Mt. Fuji! (Good deal)
- All price tags exclude 8% tax (In order to be eligible for tax refund, >Y5400 per receipt.)
- I love the Modern Toilets in Tokyo, everything is perfect except for seat warmer function which is too hot for me personally.
- If you love green tea ice-cream, check out Nanaya Aoyama, try to go for higher intensity (There is intensity level for you to choose from).
- If you love cheese tarts, do check out PABLO. We tried other brands like BAKE and we think PABLO is much more delicious!
- Japanese snacks are not as “healthy” as those of Taiwan and Australia. And not cheap either! But they definitely have some kawaii (cute) stuff. They have good electronics items too.
- Japanese are not friendly (they don’t greet strangers like Westerners) but they are extremely helpful. We encountered many cases whereby they helped us to their utmost capacity! We were very touched by their dedication to help us foreigners, took their time and went the extra mile for us, and just because we opened our mouth to ask for help, they took it as their responsibility. We were not sure whether most people are so helpful or is it we were so favoured to meet all such people in Tokyo! Thank God for that 🙂
- Yes, Japan is costly, so do some research and plan out your itinerary beforehand. There are several free things to explore! For us, we spent less than RM10K (all-inclusive for 2pax, including air tickets) for our 11 days + 11 nights Tokyo trip.
SPECIAL THANKSGIVING ITEM
- We thank God for it did not rain during our whole trip in Tokyo except for 1 evening. Before we went, the weather forecast showed raining almost everyday during our trip period, so we prayed hard and the weather keeps changing. Even the local told us the weather cannot be predicted, as it changes every day!