I grabbed the opportunity to get promotional airfare to Tokyo when Northwest Airline was offering last November. After tax, per adult was about SIN$668 and it was too good an offer to miss. It was by far the cheapest ticket to Tokyo in comparison with other airlines. And so I went ahead to book the hotel stay in Shinjuku and also a night at a traditional ryokan in Hakone.
We were in Tokyo for 8 days 7 nights. It was a great trip! And need I mention, a GREAT place for shopping! It's a shopper's paradise especially if you have loads to spare!!! Also the food is great! We LOVE the bread there!
When we arrived at the Shinjuku train station straight from Narita Airport. We got lost in the station countless times trying to find our way out to the hotel. Then when we found the exit, we also got lost walking around trying to look for the hotel. Our knowledge of Japanese language is as much as saying hello, I want this, I don't want this, thank you, normal greetings and period. So when we were asking directions from the locals, most of them do not speak eigo (English), we didn't get much assistance. Even the street map is not much of a help as it's in Japanese. After much loitering around (did I mention with 2 big luggages, two backpacks and also a cranky kid in tow!) and finally getting the right directions from a travel agency (in Japanese, of course), we found our hotel. By then it was around 5pm. We got lost for about 45 minutes! Geesh!
We stayed at a very lovely business hotel in Shinjuku called Kadoya Hotel. It is situated at the other side of the business district and it's quite quiet at night which we prefer. The hotel photos do not look impressive on their website but trust me, it's a very decent and modern business hotel. Pretty big for the three of us. First five nights we stayed at their twin room which is a little cramp and the last day we stayed at their twin S room. Now that is big. At least I think in terms of hotel rooms in Tokyo. The amenities in the room is adequate. LCD TV, hot pot, hair dryer, bath robes, slippers, tempur pillows, air ioniser/purifier, big bottles of body and hair shampoo and lots of toiletries. This hotel's room price is in the 'low' range among the hotels in Tokyo and we are already paying about SIN$185 per night. Overall we are very satisfied with our stay at the hotel and the staff are very helpful and friendly. At least they speak some English! Arigato!
The next day, we have already figured out the shortest and fastest way to get to the train station. Then we were set with other challanges like which exit to take. There are the east, west (our hotel's exit) and south. All exits have different trains lines so you must KNOW where you want to go and which train lines you are going to take. We got lost again. We asked the not-so-friendly Odakyu travel staff for directions. They usually gave us a blunt and short answer (in Japanese, of course) coupled with some simple hand directions. Most of the time, we went the wrong way. I also forgot to mention that Shinjuku station is the most busiest train station in Tokyo!!! Tokyoites walk fast and I mean FAST and big steps. They are always rushing here and there and if you're in the way, they might bump into you and either give you a stare or simply said, Sumimasen (excuse or pardon me). We were so stressed trying to figure our way in the underground and then we also had to face the aggressive crowds of men and women in black all rushing to work or somewhere!!! It's quite a funny scene!!! Hahahaha!!! Talking about destressing on holidays!
We pretty much covered quite a number of areas in Tokyo. From Shinjuku to Marunouchi, Ginza to Roppongi, Shibuya to Harajuku, Ueno to Asakusa to Ikebukuro and also the lovely Hakone.
The trip was kinda hard on little Georgia as she has to walk the same distance (or almost, not counting the times when we carried her) as us. Although she did complain about the walking, she enjoyed her holidays as much as we do. We brought her to Tokyo Disneyland and we had a blast there despite it rained on and off during our day there. It rained so hard towards closing time that the temperature dropped to 8 degC!!! We were literally freezing our pants off!!! Poor Georgia's shoes and jeans were soaked and she was shivering in cold while we had to wait for an hour at the bus stop for the direct bus back to Shinjuku. Back at the hotel, we gave her a nice warm soak in the bath tub and she was all smiles again! ^_^
Our stay at a traditional and more than 100 year old ryokan in Hakone (spring resort region about an hour train ride) was relaxing and fun. We stayed a night at Ichinoyu Ryokan by the river. The view was great and the room itself was warm and cozy. Georgia and Andy loved it a lot! We were sleeping on futons on tatami. We toured around Hakone using our Hakone Free Pass. It consists of a round trip train ride from and to Shinjuku, unlimited rides on the local transportations and discounts to numerous museums and sorts. We used the Tozan train, cable car, ropeway, cruise and also the local bus. Great scenery and great place to rejuvenate our souls! The highlight of the trip is that I lost my Free Pass at the end of the day. I had to buy a single ticket back to the ryokan and also another train ticket back to Shinjuku on the Romance Car (it's a train). Thank goodness we've already covered all the touristy spots in Hakone otherwise I'm going to hate myself for it!
We love shopping! Who doesn't huh! It's by far the best shopping destination I've been to! Tokyo has everything everyone needs. It's a consumer market anyway. They build and manufacture their products based on consumer needs. Yeah of course which company doesn't but seriously, the Japanese take into consumer needs and make goods which works. They even have the fake 'flushing' sound in public toilets to mask the sound when you are doing your business to avoid embarassment. That's very smart and polite I must say. We did our fare share of shopping in Tokyo but it wasn't enough. I did not manage to buy even a single metre of fabric or craft materials there. It was simply too rush and I wouldn't want poor little Georgia to walk around with me trying to locate the shop in some hidden corners. Anyway, there's always the next trip! Hahaha! I'm definitely going to save money to go back to Tokyo for another shopping trip!!!
More photos on my flickr album! Also I'll be glad to give some tips on travelling around Tokyo if you are planning to go there with your family!