Our Beginner’s Guide to Tokyo

Here is our short travel guide to Tokyo. We arrived at the end of August, just as the school holidays were ending. The flight in was full due to a lots of school kids returning from some sort of excursion to Sydney and maybe beyond. It must have been a posh school, because some of the kids were lucky enough to stay in business class. Half the flight was for the school kids and their minders and you wouldn’t know it because they were all quiet, disciplined and courteous.

 

DSCF6026

Arrival was 6am at Narita and the temperature was already 26c. The rest of the trip was averaging mid humid high 20 to 30c. Many of the Tokyonites were still wearing suits and flapping madly with their hand fans.

Mobile Phones

We hired local mobile phones from Mobal:

 Mobal Mobile

We booked online and there was no rental charges. Next time we go, we will likely do without the daily insurance.

Metro Day Passes

On arrival, we would head straight to the information centre to grab a bunch of the 1 day and 2 day passes.

Metro Passes

You can buy these cards in Tokyo but they are a little cheaper at the airport. Do note that the metro is run by 2 separate companies, the Toei line and the Metro line. The Metro line has more lines and will get you to most tourist places. Do note that Tsujiki fish market is on the Toei Oedo line. So you may want to get an all day card that serves both lines. Alternatively just pay for the extra trip.

Narita Express

Our hotel was at Shinjuku and we chose the NEX/Suica combo. Direct, efficient, comfortable and fastest. You can get cheaper train tickets but they would involve interchanges, something we would not want to do with our luggage.

 Narita Express

We bought the return ticket. We were issued one ticket for the ride which was no problem. On the return, it was easy to figure out the reservation at one of the ticket machines. This time, the first ticket was overwritten and a second ticket with the reservation details was given. We tried to enter the JR train station at Shinjuku with the second reservation ticket – body went through – luggage didn’t – during peak hour as well. As it turned out, you are meant to use the first ticket. Good thing we did not throw the first ticket away or hide it somewhere else.

Suica

This is such a convenient card. Tap and go at train stations as well as convenience stores and many other locations. Top up was a minimum of Yen 1,000. You will get a refund less a small handling fee of Yen 210. More information can be seen at

 Suica

Citidanes Hotel Shinjuku

This is the hotel of our choice. It is situated at Shinjuku east, not far from Shinjuku Sanchome, where all the shops and entertainment districts are (one night we found a lane full of gay bars). There’s plenty of better hotels on the west side (also the commercial side) of Shinjuku but we find the east side to be more lively.

The rooms are small – about 30 square metres but we like it because

1) free wi fi.
2) TV with some 50 channels.
3) small kitchenette with a stove – not that we used it at all.
4) small gym.
5) friendly and most helpful staff with excellent English. They helped us book a place before our arrival.
6) coin op laundry room.
7) did we mention location?
8) in our price range of course.

 Citidines

On the corner of the street is a 7Eleven – good to stock up on beers, snacks, instant noodles and even a rice roll for breakfast. The Lawson about 10 metres down has cheaper 2L water. And anther 10 metres down is a liquor shop – even better ranges of beers and a little cheaper. The first thing we do after a quick rest is to stock on different kinds of beers and snacks. We only stock up on water either on a later return to the hotel or the next day. On the previous trip, we found a small family run supermarket in within the block of streets, where we could buy bigger sizes of water. However, we couldn’t find it this time around.

Premium beers are just over Yen 300 for a large can (I think 500ml) – not for long with the new Abenomics of intended inflation. Cheap beers can be bought for half that.

On the first trip we exited from the Sanchome M9. The walk was a little long and there was a fair bit of swearing hauling the luggage up and down the exit stairs.

We found out on the second trip, the M10 exit at Gyoenmae was much closer. Exit 2 also has a lift! (But on the return to Shinjuku station we would enter via Exit 3 – some stairs but at least they are downward – the return platform from Exit 2 involves a underpassage with upward stairs). Take this exit, turn left, take immediate first left narrow land and you are there in no time.

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