From Sunday to Thursday last week, BDW and I were in and around (even under) Tokyo. The hubby was there for work and I tagged along. It was a big leap of faith for me and a really expensive one at that! The ticket alone plus my personal baon took a good chunk of my income but it was one of those things that I felt that I HAD to do. I had so many hesitations and one of them of course was leaving DW behind. DW survived but I almost didn’t. DW went after me when I went down from our car to enter the NAIA pre-departure area and when my mom held him back he cried 🙁 Anyway, we’re back and we’re all good 🙂
One other thing that concerned me was that my non-existent sense of direction had to grapple with this:
The awesome labyrinth that is the Tokyo Subway. Thank God I’m not colorblind. (Download a pdf copy HERE)
Seeing this myriad of crisscrossing lines had me dry heaving but I HAD to learn it or else I’ll be stuck at the hotel. To ensure that I didn’t get lost, my awesome hubby created a cheat sheet for me using Tokyo-Subway.Net You just need to enter where your station is and where you’re going and the site calculates how you could get to your destination. The routes can be filtered via travel time, fare and no. of transfers.
Tip: One of the first things we did upon arriving at Narita was to buy a subway pass together with our round trip airport bus transfers so that we were pretty much set for the subway. If you’re landing in Narita or Haneda, you can buy the combo bus and subway tickets at the Airport Limousine counters which is just near the exit. You can find out more about the passes HERE. Buying the passes set us back by Php 3,000 each. The trip from Narita to Tokyo was 2 hours with the bus speeding along at 80 kph. The bus drops you off at the hotel so it’s best to also figure out if the hotel you’re staying is serviced by these buses. The Metropasses we got with the bus transfer cards allowed us 2 consecutive days of unlimited use of the subway trains. Subway ticket prices depend on the route, number of ransfers and how fast the route is. A longer route would of course be cheaper but it could eat up your time as well.
It’s still worth studying the subway map though so that you can figure out other ways to get to your destinations while hitting other locations along the way! On BDW’s free day, we actually went to Asakusa using one of the routes suggested by the guide but we modified it so that we could also pass by Tokyo Tower on our way back from the Sensoji temple.
We planned to use the passes for my second day in Tokyo and for BDW’s free day. So for my first day in Tokyo, I bought my own ticket from this:
Good thing a small box there said English. I pressed it chose 160 Yen and off I went to Shibuya, that famous crossing in Japan’s very own version of Times Square. The best place to view the crossing is at the Tsutaya Shibuya Starbucks. The eating area is at the 2nd floor of the Tsutaya store (a books and CD store) which overlooks the crossing. It was drizzling when I got there and so I settled for a tall hot coffee and a Machang Muffin. The feeling was unreal and it was surreal. Never in my life did I imagine I’d be in Tokyo. I’ve watched too many Japan Screen Topics when I was a kid to know that Tokyo is going to be one heck of an experience. However, I could’ve just sat there all day and people watched. It was great just seeing people cross in their transparent umbrellas, designer suits and beautiful bags! The ladies that day all wore rubber boots and wellies. I walked around Shibuya in my Adidas Ballerinas which promptly got soaked and required a good drying at the hotel.
My hot coffee and machang
Shibuya is amazing but as with any city it’s the people that make it so much interesting. Young kids in their colorful crazy outfits (some looked like living dolls, some guys looked like Russel Brand complete with stovepipe jeans and messy hair) and the tanders in their dignified suits and super designer bags (pinapang-subway lang naman ang Prada at pamalengke ang LV haha) Super polite shopkeepers and attendants who smile at you and speak to you in Japanese seemingly apologizing for you that you can’t understand them haha. While I was walking around Shibuya,one thing I noticed is that no matter how the sidewalks get crowded, people gave way and umbrellas are moved sideways to avoid hitting other people and people stopped at crosswalks even if there were no cars passing! That’s discipline people and it made nervous little me feel safe and secure.
I probably walked 1/3 of Shibuya when I ended up at the Tokyu Foodshow which is a gigantic grocery and wet market. IT WAS AMAZING! The selections were unbelievable but I settled for Yakitori and coke.
Not this Coke though! They had “Healthy” Coke which is never good. We drink Coke because it’s not healthy no!
Even a Pepsi Baobab!
Expect to spend at least 500 Pesos per meal in the Big Daikon. Even the small food stalls selling a variety of cooked meals can cost you 1000 Yen and that’s without drinks. The stores we went to rarely served Coke which almost made BDW cry hahaha. In fairness the food is wonderful and is really worth the price. The yakitori is a must try especially the chicken. They grill their chicken to just the right pink tenderness, never burnt and with a light seasoning of salt and pepper. AAAH SARAP!!
Ordering food is an adventure in itself in Tokyo. Restaurants there either have a copy of their menu outside their store or this fabulous display of plastic food:
Just point to your order, then point to yourself then sign a number one with your index finger and you’re set!!
Guess which one I ordered 🙂
BDW ordered from one of the pics plastered outside the store and got this
We had our first full Japanese meal in this Akasaka alley:
Dinner was chicken yakitori, rice miso soup, coke and iced green tea! Between me and BDW and another officemate, the total bill cost us 5000 yen!
We then asked the waitress to give us 2 separate bills and we got these instead:
The waitress was so polite that we eventually downed the beers, paid for them and made do with one receipt in the end haha.
Tip: find out if the hotel you’re staying has a membership card. New Otani has one and BDW and I applied for a card each online. We were both given the cards when we checked-in. There weren’t a lot freebies but there were a lot of discounts on the hotel’s amenities. The best thing about the membership though is that members can check out late without incurring any extra charges. Our flight home was at 6 pm so it still allowed me and BDW to do some last minute pasalubong shopping and to relax before the flight.
Last Tip: Bring sensible shoes!!
I wore my Adidas Superstar Ballerinas to death when I was pregnant. They were really comfortable and so I wore that to Tokyo and brought only that pair for the trip. It got a good soaking when I was walking around Shibuya.
As soon as I got home, I pointed the hair dryer at it full blast and then I left them under a lamp in our room overnight. It was good as new the next day. I was glad that it didn’t fall apart or else I’d be walking in hotel slippers 😛
My next post would be on the highlights of my trip. There’s just so much to tell about Japan that I feel like just blabbing on and on! Please bear with me 😀