I’ve recently returned from one of the best vacations I’ve ever had. Ever since I was a teenager I’ve wanted to visit Japan – I’ve a longstanding fascination with the country, from it’s history and language to culture. This year I was lucky enough to finally go there!
We timed our visit around the end of March – hoping that we’d catch some of the Cherry Blossoms and that the weather would be warmish but not sweltering. (We visited China/Hong Kong in May and found the humidity very hard!) Booking the holiday was fairly easy – we used Expedia to make things simple so we could book the hotel and flights in one go. As we were visiting Tokyo we wanted for a hotel that had great transport connections and a more central location – so we went for the Century Southern Tower. This hotel is located in Shinjuku, right next to Shinjuku station! It’s also a drop off for the airports Friendly Limousine Bus service so you can either use this service for ¥1,230 which is roughly £8.70 (At time of writing) which we decided to do.
Flights wise we went with ANA (All Nippon Airways) and flew in to Haneda, Tokyo. I’d really recommend this airline; the staff were really lovely from the moment we checked in till the moment we disembarked the plane. At 12 hours from Heathrow airport in London, the flight isn’t for the feint hearted but fortunately ANA’s selection of films and media is more than enough to keep you occupied for most of the flight.
I know people always complain about airplane food, but honestly, I was impressed with both the meals we had!
After landing in Haneda, collecting our luggage and going through security we went to find the ticket machines to buy the bus tickets but happened to spot a manned counter in the airport so bought tickets from the desk. Heading towards our bus stop Mr Lock stopped to use an ATM – did you know Japanese ATM’s speak to you? I thought that was pretty awesome! There’s also a very handy button to switch the language on screen to English. Whilst I can speak a little basic Japanese, reading it is a very different matter! Finding the bus stops was very easy – destinations are in English as well as Japanese on the departure boards over head (If you check the Limo Bus website before you travel it’ll tell you which number bus stop you need to get to your destination and the rough travel time).
It took roughly an hour and a half to get to the hotel, which was fine – after traveling 12 hours on a plane with very little sleep (our flight left at 7:00pm) it was nice not to worry about having to navigate the train system. Even better, as it was raining the bus stops right outside the hotel door so we and our luggage didn’t get soaked either.
The Century Southern hotel has a lovely entrance way. The hotel actually starts on the 20th floor so we took the elevator up and got an amazing view of the walkway below and the department stores opposite. Check in was super simple, we were given our room keys and breakfast coupons – I’d recommend adding the breakfast on; it’s about £20 a person per day, but it’s very handy to have at least one set meal a day. Breakfast is served in the hotels restaurant – Tribeks – the view from here is amazing, on a clear day you can see Mount Fuji in the distance! The food available for breakfasts consists of the usual hotel offerings, with added omelette station and more traditional Japanese breakfast foods such as horse mackerel, natto and rice. I’d highly recommend the Banana juice – it’s milk, bananas, honey and lemon and it’s delicious – I’ve tried to replicate it since arriving home and I just can’t get it quite right! The hotel also has a bar (we didn’t visit this, but it seemed like it was very popular!) and a small convince store where you can pick up any small forgotten bits and different foods/snacks and drinks.
Our room was on the 24th floor – we had amazing views on the clear days – you could see Tokyo Skytree! Every floor of the hotel has an ice machine and a drinks vending machine which came in very handy after a long day of walking about. The room it’s self was very lovely, and I thought it was quite big (I’d been warned Tokyo hotel rooms can be quite small) but we had an ensuite, a kingsize bed, chaise lounge and a table and at no point did it feel small or cramped. The rooms also had laptop sized safes and small under counter fridge for storing your own food and drink which I thought was a nice touch. Bottled water was provided daily for free and they even leave you a set of sleeping robes!
The first night we were so tired we decided to have a little wander around the area outside the hotel, buy some food for dinner and head to bed. As it was still raining we didn’t head too far away, but did you know, when it rains in Tokyo they put out umbrella stands for drying and bagging your umbrella? This is such a good idea and stops puddles of water accumulating from peoples umbrellas! I was very impressed that the bags seem to be recycled after use too.
We decided on trying to get some dinner from the food hall in the Tokyu hands store opposite the hotel. The food hall in Tokyu hands is amazing, it’s a lively, fun, colourful place! There’s all sorts to be found in there from fresh food and ingredients to ready made bento, bakery goods, steamed buns and deep fried tasty things! We even spotted some American candy on sale.
But, you guys, the second we decided on buying something, all Japanese I knew vanished out of my head!! I think was so worried about offending someone by saying the wrong thing my mind just went blank, but, I did manage in the end! Most of the separate stalls have their own till, but the main grocery part had separate tills to pay for items. We ended up with some very tasty salmon onigiri, fried lotus roots and a pack of sakura doryaki. (These were so good, I wish I’d bought more of them!) Having triumphed and managed to buy some super yummy food, we headed back to the hotel for our first night in Japan to eat and sleep!
So lovelies, that rounds up our trip out and first evening in Tokyo! Next up, adventures in Shibuya and Harajuku!
Ta-ta for now,