We were fortunate enough to spot Mt. Fuji on the Shinkansen from Kyoto to Tokyo! Little did we know that it will also be our last time seeing it, but more on that later.
The bullet train ride was expensive, but it was still pretty exciting because it’s my first time riding a train going at speeds of up to 320km/h. It honestly doesn’t feel that fast whilst we’re on it, and I even enjoyed my bento breakfast along the way.
The first thing that hit me when I arrived in Tokyo was how crowded this city is. At any given time of the day, most places are perpetually filled with people walking about, commuting, standing around waiting at train stations. I also observed that Tokyoites very often do things alone, even when it comes to having meals. I guess most of the population come to the city only for work, and their families are hours away in the suburbs.
Our hotel for our 6 nights stay was at Hotel Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku.
It was affordable and most importantly, a 3 minutes walk from Shinjuku Station Southern Terrace exit. The room has a double bed and a private toilet, but we did not have enough space to even open our luggage because it was really tiny. Everything else was good though!
Our first meal there was the famous 六厘舎TOKYO at Ramen Street, First Avenue Tokyo Station. The special Tokusei Tsukemen there is the best Tsukemen I ever had. The dipping soup had so much ingredients and the stock so tasty that I knew I had to come back again (I eventually did).
Their noodles are also different from the thin yellow ramen noodles; this was more chewy like udon. I am salivating just thinking and writing about this. There is no doubt a long queue so be prepared to wait about 30 minutes or so.
First Avenue Tokyo Station also has a Character street, where Michelle had a good time at the Rilakkuma and Totoro stores. Actually, Tokyo Station is a train station cum shopping mall so massive that Ion Orchard is probably minuscule compared to it.
Shopping at Shinjuku alone exhausted us on our first day, so we took a day trip out to Yokohama the day after to relax and visit some museums! Yokohama is about 30 minutes via subway from Tokyo, and is the second largest city in Japan by population.
Our first stop was the Ramen Museum, which was actually quite a disappointment. It’s located a few blocks away from the Shin-Yokohama Station, but we could not spot the building in the rain; our mood was also quite low because of our soaked shoes.
Anyway, it was not much of a museum, but more of a 1900s themed ramen restaurant that gathers some recognized brands together, much like Ramen Champion at Bugis+.
Therefore, it felt a bit ridiculous for us that we had to pay an entrance fee, and are also obligated to order a bowl of ramen when seated. (You would have noticed by now that I seem to be eating ramen throughout the entire trip, but don’t worry I eat soba noodles and tempura sometimes too~)
Luckily, the Nissin Cup Noodles Museum was a much better place that cheered us up from the gloomy weather.
The fun part was we get to make our own instant noodles! We paid 300yen to decorate our cup, choose 4 ingredients together with our preferred soup base, and take it home with us!
Michelle and I chose chili tomato and curry respectively, and it was really good! They are also more generous with the ingredients there than the ones we buy off the shelves. Also, I checked almost all the stores in Singapore but they only seem to stock the Seafood flavor cup noodles. Anybody knows why not Chili Tomato/Curry?
Michelle and her well-decorated Rilakkuma Instant Noodles.
That was about all for our Yokohama day trip. Cosmoworld was closed due to the rain, but I read that they had a roller-coaster that goes into an underwater tunnel. Sounds pretty cool!
A tourist attraction not to be missed in Tokyo is the newly built Tokyo Skytree. Our visit coincided with their 1st Anniversary celebrations; lucky for us because Tokyo Banana’s outlet there had a special flavored spotted Tokyo Banana – Chocolate Cream.
Starbucks also had limited edition tumblers for sale for their 1st Anniversary at Tokyo Skytree. (Needless to say, I grabbed both designs and have spares for sale. Interested buyers, PM me)
A ticket to the Tembo Deck 350 metres up in the sky costs 2000yen. To go further up 100 metres to the Tembo Galleria is another 1000yen more.
It’s really beautiful up there with a 360 degrees view of Tokyo City Skyline. There’s the famous top 3 “million dollar night views” in Japan (三大夜景), but I think this new skyscraper stands as a strong contender.
On the way to Tokyo Skytree, you can make a short detour to check out Asakusa and the famous Sensoji (Asakusa) Temple. There are many rows of shops outside the temple, and this is also where you can find the most delicious melon pan (メロンパン) in Tokyo!
It’s called Asakusa Kagetsudo (浅草 花月堂) and their melon pans are big and fragrant. The skin/crust on top is really crispy because they’re fresh out of the oven.
Here is some proof that I eat food other than ramen while in Japan. We went to Midori Sushi (美登利) at Mark City, Shibuya. Their set meal is famous for being good and affordable. At 2100yen, it is quite a bargain for the sushi they serve.
However, Michelle and I do not have the acquired taste to fully enjoy their sea urchin (uni) sushi and crab roe paste salad. The prawn’s brain juice also disgusted Michelle so much that we had so much laughs during the meal.
The Hong Kong tourists next to us, thinking that we don’t understand cantonese, were commenting on how wasteful we are, while slurping the brain juice from the prawn’s head and devouring the uni fresh off their black poky shells. This really was a memorable meal for the wrong reasons haha.
We also ventured out to Tsukiji Fish Market to try fresh sashimi. However, we were not crazy enough to queue 3 hours for the Omakase at Sushi Dai or Daiwa, hence we settled for a Donburi at Nakaya (仲家). I had a bowl of fatty tuna and salmon, and Michelle had fatty tuna and salmon roe. We found it to be decent, but slightly expensive because we weren’t able to discern how fresh it actually was.
Food enthusiasts would burn us at the stake, but we think the sushi bought from Daimaru’s basement was equally nice and much cheaper.
What’s a trip to Japan if we do not visit Mt. Fuji right? We took a 2 hour long train ride to Hakone-Yumuto Station anticipating a stunning view of the snow-capped mountain. We were so disappointed. The moment we reached we figured something was wrong because there were no Mt. Fuji to be seen, and it was confirmed by the tourist guide checking the webcam – that it was too cloudy that day.
So to all readers, please heed my advice and check the webcam BEFORE you head over to Hakone.
You can save yourself a lot of time and money this way.
Since we’re there, we decided to relax at an onsen. There are many hot springs there, but we chose the Tenzan Tohji-kyo (click link) because the reviews on Tripadvisor were #1. It costs 1200yen and we brought our own towels, or else you have to pay for 1.
The onsen was indeed very close to nature; it was open-air, and there were several pools and tiers to soak in, with varying temperatures. They also have a cave-like sauna where you have to rub yourself in salt before going in to roast. I didn’t try it because it really reminded me too much of 盐焗鸡 (Salt-Baked Chicken) that I really love eating.
As I couldn’t take pictures inside, here’s one that is a fine representation of what I saw.
Yes you got that right, I saw too much. HAHA [Image taken from another person’s blog about Tenzan Onsen]
Back to touring attractions, we dropped by the artificial island of Odaiba one evening to do some shopping and sightseeing. I guess the best mall to go to is Diver City, easily recognizable by the built-to-scale 1:1 Gundam standing guard in front of the entrance.
Nearby, there is an outlet shopping area at Palette Town, but the main eye-catcher there was the pet shop on the first floor.
They have such adorable puppies and kittens for sale, including corgis and munchkins. If we lived in Japan we would have brought one or two home with us already. They easily costs $3000 onwards though, but I guess that’s the price you pay for cuteness.
Michelle had been longing to go DisneySea the entire trip, and we were blessed with good weather (or rather we checked the weather forecast to avoid the rainy days). We bought the open-date tickets from JTB Singapore Ion Orchard so we need not queue in Japan, but it’s slightly more expensive at S$85.
They have a few exciting rides there and I read/heard that the Tower of Terror is the best one to go to for thrills. However, the Toy Story Mania Ride is also pretty fun. It only opened last year so the queueing time can be up to 2 hours, even on weekdays.
Be sure to buy the alien mochi ice-cream while queueing to omnom.
Also, if you do not understand Japanese, please do not go to the Turtle Talk exhibit. It’s an interactive talk show featuring “Crush” from Finding Nemo, and it features some top-notch technology that combines animation with real-time conversations with the audience. Entirely in Japanese. It was funny because we sat through the 20 minutes talk show laughing along with everyone else.
Another advice for DisneySea visitors is that their Fastpass system works differently, and is not like your usual express lane. You enter the park and grab a Fastpass ticket specific to the ride but for a much later timing, and come back at the given timing without the need to queue. Hence, you can have meals/watch other shows while waiting for your turn to come. The downside is, the popular rides have their Fastpass tickets sold out within an hour of the park opening anyways.
It was lots of fun and definitely not just for kids, and we spent nearly the entire day there.
One of our last activities in Tokyo was spent walking around the Shinjuku Gyoen Park (literally around). It’s very much like our Botanic Gardens but they charge for entrance, hence there is only one or two places of entry near the Shinjuku Gyoen-Mae Station. We didn’t know that, and had to walk the perimeter of the huge park just to find the entrance.
Nevertheless, we were rewarded with much greenery and little kids running about playing Mr. Wolf.
One last thing to say before I end off this Tokyo post, and also my final Japan post.
Look out for this Salt and Camembert Cheese Biscuit from Tokyo Milk Cheese Factory!
It’s the best cheese biscuit ever, and I seriously regretted buying only 1 box. I know they sell it at Tokyo Skytree, but I’m not sure where else.
I think this is a much better gift than the boxes of omiyages that they overprice and sell at the tourist souvenir shops.
Thanks for reading!
*If you are going to Japan and are a fan of Starbucks, please comment below. I need some help buying/collecting Japan’s Starbucks Cards. Thanks!