June 6, 2014
Narita, Ikebukuro, Shinjuku,
06:58 Waking up for work feels terrible, but when it’s for play, sleep feels like a waste of time. Checked in for our flight. Seats are crappy, no window seats, but meh, as long as I get fun in Tokyo!! So hyped!! Luggage weight: 8.5kg, 10.9kg apiece, wonder how much we’ll end up with, hmm. Totally no mood for food, just had a quick breakfast at Maxim food2 because, yay, for once I’m at the airport early and not running for a boarding gate. Boarding time is 07:10 to 07:45. Can’t remember what time I got to the boarding gate, but enough to take the universal (Honger?) boarding gate selfie.
08:15 Take off!!!! Up and ready for an 8-day 7-night trip to Tokyo, Japan!!
14:18 Boarding JR East Rail, ¥1500, to Ikebukuro. $1500 was a 50% discount for a one way trip from Narita airport to Ikebukuro (or wherever you need on JR east line), the previous ¥3,000 for a round trip + Suica card discount was over. Suica card was ¥5,000 (¥4,500 fares and ¥500 deposit). Don’t worry, you’ll use it!
15:51 Almost as soon as we arrive in Japan, I’m already totally taken by their culture. Everything is clean and tidy, and everyone is compliant, orderly and thoughtful. There are female only train sections; almost all train signs come in japanese and english, some common tourist spots even have korean and chinese. Right next to vending machines are recycling bins for various different bottles and cans. And!! there’s rows of lockers for different sizes like small bags up to huge suitcases for a flat rate, great for tourist or even locals who don’t wanna carry all their shopping the whole day. And because barely anyone litters, food is not only allowed but there is a whole array of food stalls to restaurants within the train stations. Right here is a ramen vending machine, you can pay with your suica card or cash then sit down in the restaurant and wait to be served a hot ramen or cold soba. There’s also couple 药妆店 which sells pharmaceuticals and beauty care products, and being the 20th anniversary for Sailormoon, I couldn’t help but snap down this for reminiscence.
16:50 Checked into Hotel Grand City. It wasn’t terrible to find, but took ~30minutes the first time due to finding the way in terrible rain with one shared umbrella. It’s quoted time of 5 minutes from JR station is generally correct after you find the way.
18:04 Rested our poor legs and got ready to set out again, because it’s already time for dinner. Too hungry so starting off with appetizers when we’re barely left the hotel. Takoyaki from a window right opposite the hotel. Pretty good, authenticity I’m not so sure, not too different from the ones we have in HK, for but ¥280 (which I later shall find is actually cheap!!).
18:56 Shinjuku (新宿) is a huge entertainment, business and shopping district. Travelling on the Yamanote from Ikebukuro to Shinjuku, ¥158. It contains skyscrapers such as Tokyo Metropolitan Government Center (都厅) and NTT DoCoMo Tower to parks such as Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden (新宿御苑). It also contains Tokyo’s largest red-light district Kabukicho (歌舞伎町) and gay nightlife central Shinjuku ni-chōme (新宿２丁目). But it was dayamn huge rain and puddles when we arrived which dampened the mood, although not my hunger. Good thing my new slippers are sturdy enough for this trip, so far. (Yeah, I’ve had my share of broken, soggy, disseminating shoes on travels)
19:14 Found the small narrow street of Yakitori (串燒)!! A whole street of it!! There was one in particular that advertised the fact that they had English and Chinese menu. Hehe. Being at lost for which to pick, we fell for this obvious tourist attraction. Platter ¥1000 with chicken, chicken liver, meatball, mushroom, pig heart, pig liver. Not too bad, it all tasted a tad similar though, probably due to the sauce.
Next store we walked in, was mainly because of a very inviting and cheery old man sitting ona doorway seat. We squeezed behind a row of customers and got seated upstairs, accessible by a teeny tiny staircase (more like ladder) (Neither us nor the next table of non-locals knew whether the old man was a cheery drunk customer or an actual employee/owner). Later on, a larger group of 6~7 locals sat down and ordered alcohol and snacks, probably for an after work drink. They had a ¥400 minimum charge, but no worries, anything you eat is almost bound to get you over it. Tea and a small dish of bean sprouts is ¥400, Stew ¥600, Beef Yakitori $600, Chicken 串 ¥300, Chicken wing ¥400. Total ¥3050. My favourite was the beef and chicken wing. Not cheap, but so damn yummy we wanna eat it again and again and again!
Tummies filled, we were slightly tempted by tempura ramen next door but felt we’d spent a little over for a 掃街 (small portioned) meal. Outside was raining cats and dogs, and the flimsy overhead provided almost no shield against the rain. We had wanted to go up the Skytree the first day, but time seemed a little rushed and the rain was so big that it got postponed.
22:00 A little more snack shopping before we retire for the day. Look at the assortment of just breads we found, at 7-11 nonetheless! And of course instant cup noodles make excellent midnight snacks. G’night!