Sunday, February 03, 2013

Japan Day 1: Tokyo is Love

This must be the first time I am actually blogging about a trip so soon. I miss Japan so much. It was so much fun and also to get to experience the winter (although it gave me flu and left me with dry skin and lips). Anyway, I am feeling spirited to blog about Japan so here goes. Lots of pics too, might take a while to load...

We arrived late Saturday night. Actually our flight arrived earlier than expected. First time for me, even flights to Japan are efficient like that. We debated for a while if we should go and explore Tokyo or just stay inside the aiport. Finally, we decided on the latter. Besides, Haneda airport has free wifi, so we weren't exactly bored the whole night either.

Illuminated lights at Haneda airport

Our first meal upon arrival at the airport
It was my first time staying overnight at an airport. It was unfortunate because I had flu even before coming to Japan and the anti-histamines I took made me so sleepy. So, I was able to catch some sleep at the departure hall. Turns out we weren't the only ones sleeping at the airport, it took us some time to find some empty rows of seats as most were already occupied.

Btw, Haneda airport is a really cool place. Even the toilet is clean and spacious. Here is the best pic of the toilet that I could take:

The toilet seat is warm! And it has multiple buttons for washing and drying too lol. Gosh, I even miss toilets in Japan lol.

Early Sunday morning, we took the earliest airport limousine bus (link: to Shinjuku station, near our hotel. It costs 1200 yen per person and you can purchase it at the Ticket Counter at Haneda Airport. After that, they will teach you how to go to the bus stop. Alternatively, if you have already exchanged your JR Pass at Haneda Airport, you can take the Tokyo Monorail and then transfer at Hamamatsucho station to any stations within JR Yamanote Line. Because we arrived so late, the JR exchange counter was closed and it only opens at 9am. 

We stayed at Hotel Rose Garden Shinjuku which is within walking distance from Nishi-Shinjuku station, one station away from Shinjuku Station. We got lost looking for the Shinjuku Marunouchi line early that morning as Shinjuku station is so big (There are West, East, North, South exits OMG).

After dropping our luggage, it was time to look for breakfast.

Figuring how to buy subway tickets
In Tokyo, almost everything uses vending machine. Don't expect anyone to help you buy tickets, the guy at the station will just kindly point in the direction of the machine. It was a bit confusing but later on we figured it out. You have to first locate the station you want to go to on the map above which will show you how much it costs. Then just select that amount in the machine and the number of tickets that you want to buy.

First stop of the day: SHINJUKU~

Lovely cloudless sky
Kabukicho. Looks better at night though.
We walked around Shinjuku hunting for food. Found a restaurant serving okonomiyaki but it wasn't open yet. So sad T__T. Finally, we settled on Yoshinoya.

My rice bowl of beef and onions - 480 yen
Don Quijote
Read about this Don Quijote in the internet before coming to Tokyo. Cannot believe we randomly walk also can find this store. Anyway they sell lots of makeup products and all sorts of costumes. Was quite tempted to buy the cosplay costume but so expensive lol ;)

Because the night before I didn't really get as much sleep as I wanted, I was quite sleep-deprieved that day. When I saw this coffee machine at a convenience store, could not resist getting myself a hot cup of cafe latte for 150 yen. I think this is the only coffee I could afford (but at Shibuya I got Starbucks lol).

Coin lockers at the station
After breakfast, we went back to Shinjuku Station to exchange our JR passes.

We also reserved our seats for our shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto.

Our next place to visit is the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office building. Actually, the nearest station is Tochomae which was on Toei-Oedo line. Since it was not covered by our Tokyo Metro pass, we decided to walk there from Shinjuku station. Through signboards, we went through a walkway underpass that leads directly to the building. Although it said 10 mins on the website, I think it took us forever to reach there lol.

This is actually how the building looks from afar. A little like our twin towers lol. There are 2 observatories, one in the north tower and another in the south tower. Best thing is, they are completely free! Yup no charges at all :) However, only one observatory will be available on every Monday and Tuesday. At each tower, there are also cafes and places to shop for souvenirs. Downstairs at the lobby there is a tourist information center.

View of Tokyo from above
After touring both observatories, we then decided on a historical sightseeing place - the Imperial Palace. Too tired to walk back to Shinjuku station, we paid the fare as we went to Tochomae station and took the subway to Nijubashimae (Chiyoda Line). 

Looks a little like New York lol
At Nijubashimae, we visited the Imperial Palace Plaza. The Imperial Palace is not opened to public unless on new year or special official occasions. Instead, the public can visit the Nijubashi bridge and the Imperial Palace East Gardens.

Nijubashi Bridge

If you know how to cycle, you can rent bicycles for free near Nijubashimae station exit to explore the gardens. Unfortunately, I cannot cycle so I was left out when my friends went cycling T__T. Instead, I took the walking route and explored on my own.

We did not stay too long here because we still had two more places to visit. We visited Harajuku next which can be reached using JR Line. The reason was because cosplayers can usually be spotted every Sunday at Harajuku.

But we didn't spotted any :( Instead, we saw lots of fashionable girls at Harajuku. I am kinda liking the whole Japanese fashion and style now :)

Saw a group of pretty kimono-clad ladies at Harajuku
We were actually supposed to go to Meiji Jingu Shrine but got lost looking for the temple. Instead, we stumbled upon Takeshita Dori, a famous shopping street at Harajuku.

Crepes are a popular thing here
The entrance of Takeshita Dori

Of course, goes without saying that crepes are a must to try here. There are many choices of shops to choose from too. Not sure which one is the best. I took chocolate banana flavour and was delicious, maybe because I was hungry at that time lol.

One of the flaws about visiting Harajuku on a weekend is the amount of people! Goodness, we were all packed like sardines while walking along Takeshita Dori. Worse thing is that all the restaurants were packed with people. To go in, we had to queue for a long time because the restaurants all had limited seats (and space).

Finally, we found a tempura restaurant that had seats available for 5 of us. The tempura batter actually tasted quite good but a tad too oily for our liking. I really don't know why the set comes in both rice and soba lol. Way too much for one person to consume.

We got distracted shopping at Takeshita Dori, as well as at nearby H&M and Forever 21 stores. Both places had sales! So distracted that by the time we found Meiji Shrine, it was closed. The closing time is at sunset btw.

Besides Takeshita Dori, if you walked further down you will reach Omotesando Dori, another shopping street but with higher end branded stuff. We didn't have enough time to visit there.

Because we were all exhausted, we decided to return to our hotel to freshen up. Despite our visible fatigueness, we gathered ourselves and venture into the cold wind to visit one more place - Tokyo Tower. If you are at Tokyo, you have to visit this place as it is really, one of the prides of Tokyo. It was actually designed based on Eiffel Tower if you didn't notice lol ;)

Tokyo Tower at night
To come here, we took the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line to Kamiyacho station. From there, we had to walk around 15 - 20 mins. We just followed in the direction of the 333m illuminated tower lol. The observatory in Tokyo Tower is opened to public for admission fee of 820 yen.

Night view from the tower
After exiting the tower, the lift will bring you to a floor that has all these glowing miniature Tokyo Towers. If you look closely, each bears the autograph of a famous Japanese celebrity.

Alternatively, if you want a bird eye's view of Tokyo Tower, you can visit Roppongi Hills (but for a fee). Besides Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office and Tokyo Tower, another available observatory for Tokyo skyline is Asakusa Tokyo Skytree, which is the tallest building in Tokyo. The admission fee is a minimum of 1000yen (depending how high you want to go) and because it is relatively new, the queue will be long.

That is all for day 1 at Tokyo. To conclude this post, here is an OOTD (been so long since I was so SS).

Brown jacket: UNIQLO (Mom's); Bag: Prada (Mom's); Jeans: Mom's; Boots: Hush Puppies
Almost everything is from my Mom lol. Can you guess how many layers I was wearing? 

Besides the mandatory long johns, I was also wearing my purple UNIQLO long sleeve blouse, my mom's blue hoodie and her brown UNIQLO jacket. However, I was being quite cautious as I was still feeling unwell, so I had my UNIQLO winter jacket on me at all times. Lol.

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