First time we got to Tokyo, Park Hyatt was on the agenda because of New York Bar from Lost in Translation. It wasn’t my choice. I wasn’t too keen on it as the movie didn’t make much of an impact on me. I also thought that it would be an expensive poshy 5 star hotel more suited to safe travellers and people with deep pockets.
I remember a friend telling us that all they did in their Tokyo trip was to eat at hotels pretty much every night because Japanese food was a little foreign to them. Indeed, when we were going to Tokyo again, their response was “what’s there to do in Tokyo?”
As it turned out, Park Hyatt is an expensive and poshy 5 star hotel. But what great views it has from the New York Bar, located on Level 47. I was enthralled from the first moment you come out of the elevator and walk though the corridors of the hotel high up in a commercial building to the second set of elevators for the bar (there is also a restaurant on the other side of the floor.) When you exit from the elevator, you are greeted by not one or two but 4 bowing and polite attendants.
The hotel is a long 20 minute walk from Shinjuku station. It is easily confused with Hyatt Regency, which is close by. On one occasion, a policeman gave us directions to the wrong Hyatt. On another occasion, when we did a commercial coach day tour, the taxi also took us to the wrong Hyatt for the morning pickup. In order to walk there from Shinjuku station, just look up and walk towards the government metro twin tower building. From there on, just look up again for the 3 tower commercial building. Sounds easy, but when you get to the commercial building, the lobby to the hotel elevators is also difficult to find. So for your first trip, you are best to catch a taxi and have the name of the hotel written down in Japanese.
Ever since the first trip, Park Hyatt has been our little treat of Tokyo, a sort of welcoming drink to ease and excite us for the city.
After 8pm, there is a 2,000 yen surcharge because of the live jazz band. That is our cue to leave. When we got to the hotel lobby (ground floor), we were mistaken for hotel guests and were told that there would be a free hotel shuttle bus to Shinjuku station. We naturally waited and took this opportunity! We were ready for our next night life adventure – PISS ALLEY!!
Piss Alley, or politically correctly known as Memory Lane, is a section of streets near Shinjuku station full of old style cramped yakitori eateries. We finally made an effort to find this fabled alley for dinner. It’s a small block and can also be difficult to find. It is on the western side of Shinjuku station and you are best to look up for the Bic Camera and Uniqlo neon signs and go in that direction (there is also a Bic Camera and Uniqlo neon signs on the east side, so once again don’t get confused. Yep, there is so much foot traffic, it was worth their while to have the same shop on both sides of the station, although the Eastern side is a joint venture between the 2 stores and is known as Bicqlo) When you see the big Jumbo neon sign on the other side of the road, just walk through the closest small alley and you are there.
Piss alley is so called, because back in the old days, there were no public toilets. Nowadays, you do find public toilets in the middle and some shops advertise that they have their own. Some of the shops are so small, they could only fit about 6 customers. They mostly serve yakitori and beer. We came here for the off cuts, cartilages etc If you look hard enough you will also find whales as well as horse meat.
We randomly picked one and entered. Some shops have English menus and menus with pictures. Some shops have Chinese speaking hosts, which can be helpful. At this shop, we picked the mixed set and let the chef surprise us. The prices were a world from Park Hyatt. Anywhere between 400 to 900 yen – good cheap eat, you could say.
So were the beers. I paid about 600 yen for a long neck of Sapporo (vs >1,000 yen for a 375 ml beer in New York Bar). My friend paid about 500 yen for the big pint of draft beer. You can’t go wrong with cheap beer and good yakitori. We were both surprised and had big grins when the beers were brought out.
The skewers were delicious although we all vetoed on the stick of pure chicken skin. Just stringy in texture. Rather bland and watch out for cholesterol outburst.
We spied a sake bar earlier and decided to go there afterwards.
We went for more fried food and lots of sake.
Unfortunately, we were told the last order was at 11.30pm even though it was a Friday. Probably because the last train was at 12pm. We were told there were other places that open till 3am or so. Our friend had a flight out to China the next day at 8am and so we called it quits for the night. We did come back to Piss Alley a few more times.