Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Three Days in Tokyo: Off the Beaten Path!

This is one post of a multi-part series covering our Two weeks Tokyo & Hokkaido Travel Guide:
    ▫ Singapore Airlines Suites Class from Singapore to Tokyo
    ▫ Three Days in Tokyo: Off the Beaten Path
    ▫ Sapporo, Otaru and Cape Kamui: Scenic Self-Drive Guide
    ▫ Furano, Biei, Sounkyou and Asahikawa: Amazing Autumn Colours
    ▫ Jozankei, Noboribetsu and Hakodate: Unparalleled Beauty
    ▫ Scoot's ScootBiz Class from Tokyo to Singapore

October 2015 was our third visit to Tokyo! Since we'd already sort of covered most of the 'major items' in our previous two visits, we tried to look for some of the more quirky, lesser-known attractions. So if you're looking for something a little off the beaten path, hopefully this trip report and itinerary gives you some inspiration!

Day 1, Arrival in Tokyo: A bed, a bathroom, and a bowl of charcoal-grilled eel!

Okay, considering we had a daytime flight and only touched down on Japanese soil at around 5 in the evening, this really is only a quarter day. Anyways, clearing immigration and arrivals formalities was a breeze, and we picked up our luggage barely half an hour after stepping off the plane.

If you've already activated your JR Pass, the JR Narita Express (NEX) is probably the best way to get to the city. We aren't using the JR Pass this trip, so we take the Keisei Skyliner (¥2,470) instead - all the way to our hotel for the next three nights: Hotel Niwa Tokyo.

Hotel Niwa Tokyo

Hotel Niwa's not too bad. It's got basically all the amenities that any decent Japanese hotel has, like toiletries including razors and toothbrush/toothpaste, and pajamas for sleeping so you don't have to bring your own. The rooms are also fairly large for Tokyo standards, and we really like the Japanese-style decor. However, at roughly ¥18,500/night (for two persons without any meals), it is quite a bit pricier than most other Japanese business hotel chains.

Hotel Niwa Tokyo Bathroom

This being Japan, of course there is a bidet built into the toilet seat! Functionality-wise it's a little spartan, though: No temperature control for the seat, no temperature control for the water, no massage/pulse function ... though to be honest these are total #firstworldproblems.

Hotel Niwa Tokyo Bidet

Having deposited our luggage and freshened up a bit, it's time to go get some dinner! We take a short hop on Tokyo Metro's Marunouchi Line to Ginza, to get some charcoal-grilled eel goodness at Hitsumabushi Bincho (ひつまぶしびんちょ). If you're interested you can check out our full review here.

Hitsumabushi Bincho Ginza

Day 2: Ramen, Robots, and a tourist Onsen!

Breakfast of champions? Our hotel rate didn't come with breakfast, so we just walked around until chancing upon a random ticket vending machine-type restaurant selling udon, soba, tempura and curry rice. About ¥750 for a combo hot udon and mini tonkatsu curry rice, which is plenty good enough for two average appetites.

Vending Machine Udon Curry Tonkatsu

We then take the Yurikamome to the artificial islands of Odaiba. This elevated train line is a tad pricier than taking the below-ground JR Rinkai line, but we recommend it nevertheless as the views are a lot more interesting:

Odaiba view from Yurikamome

We arrived slightly too early for our first target destination, the Megaweb: Toyota's huge open-to-the-public showroom, so we took a ride on the Palette Town Ferris Wheel (¥3,080 for an entire cabin; reasonably priced if there are 5-6 of you), followed by some UFO Catcher and other video games at the nearby Leisureland.

If you're interested in doing a free test drive (Toyota makes most of their in-production models available), make a beeline straight to the Ride One counter the moment Megaweb opens at 11am to place a reservation for the car and time slot that you want. Note: International Drivers Permits are mandatory.

Toyota Megaweb Odaiba

Other than that, you can easily spend a couple of hours at the Megaweb ogling and admiring the dozens (maybe hundreds?) of cars littered around the showroom floor. There are also some other exhibits - for example Toyota-affiliated racing teams, a small cinema, and assorted driving simulator and motion simulator experiences. All free of charge, of course!

Toyota Megaweb Odaiba
Toyota Megaweb Odaiba
Toyota Megaweb Odaiba

For a late lunch we walked to the nearby Decks shopping mall, for Yotekkoya's Kyoto-style ramen. Full review here.

Yotekkoya Ramen Odaiba

With our bellies suitably stuffed, we head on over to Diver City Tokyo Plaza to 1. Ogle the Giant Gundam out front, and 2. Do some shopping! We won't bore you with every single shop we visited, but just a notable mention: P.S.FA makes some very nice work shirts at relatively cheap prices. They have multiple other locations in Tokyo, too, so do check them out!

Giant Gundam Diver City Tokyo Plaza

Next stop, the main reason why we visited Odaiba: Oedo Onsen Monogatari. The best way to describe this place is perhaps a touristy Hot Spring Theme Park. It is a proper hot spring, with multiple indoor and outdoor gender-segregated baths, and mixed footbaths, using water pumped from 1400m below sea level. But on top of that the other areas are designed to resemble Edo-era Tokyo (17th-19th centuries); it's loads of fun walking around in the provided yukatas, sampling the food, playing the various games and having an all-round great time.

If you've never visited an onsen, this one is probably the best one to visit. Thanks to its positioning to tourists, there are English-language posters, placards and other instructional hand-outs to guide you on the do's and don'ts of a Japanese hot spring experience!

Oedo Onsen Monogatari
Oedo Onsen Monogatari
Oedo Onsen Monogatari

Slightly after sunset, and after a long soak in the natural hot waters, we change out of our yukatas and take the train to Shinjuku. Tokyo's premiere entertainment, neon and red light district deserves an entire post by itself but tonight we're just going to hit up Torikizu Yakitori for some delightful charcoal-grilled chicken and leek skewers. The more charred, the better!

Torikizoku Yakitori

We cap off the night with a visit to what is probably the most awesomely ridiculous attraction in all of Japan: Shinjuku Robot Restaurant! It's loud, it's flashy, it has costumed girls riding dinosaurs fighting robots. Can there be any cabaret show better than this? We submit that there cannot! For prices, videos and more photos, check out our full review.

Shinjuku Robot Restaurant
Shinjuku Robot Restaurant
Shinjuku Robot Restaurant

Day 3: Seafood, Disney, and Melon Bread that doesn't actually contain any melon.

We wake up in the morning and head to Tsukiji Fish Market to find out the answer to the question "where should we eat eat if we can't be bothered to queue for Sushi Dai or Daiwa Sushi?

Tsukiji Fish Market

The Inner Market area doesn't seem that attractive: Pretty much every other sushi shop in the area has a decently long queue. Our reasoning: If you're going to queue anyway you might as well queue for the "big two" sushi restaurants. So we decide to head to the outer market ...

Tsukiji Fish Market

... and make a beeline to Tsukiji Itadori Uogashisenryo (introduced to us by RegentCid,'s resident Japan guru), which serves up an amazing Hitsumabushi Kaisen Don. Do check out the full review here; but in a nutshell it's an amazing concoction of raw seafood, topped off with a huge portion of creamy, buttery uni, designed to be eaten three different ways. Highly recommended!

Tsukiji Itadori Uogashisenryo

After a couple of hours selecting some superbly curated cups, mugs, plates and other bowls from our favorite shop in the inner market, 上田陶器店 (Ueda chinaware store), we head over to Asakusa.

Asakusa Sensojii Temple

If it's your first time to Tokyo you should totally take some time to visit the amazing Sensoji temple. And maybe even consider engaging the services of one of the many rickshaw pullers to give you a tour of the area. The darling and I are here only to feed our stomachs though; with arguably Japan's best Melon Pan (Melon bread) at Kagetsudo Asakusa 花月堂!

Kagetsudo Asakusa Melon Pan

Amusingly enough, Melon Pan doesn't normally contain any melon. It's a plain, sweetened bun topped off with a crispy cookie layer. Doesn't sound much on paper but trust us; A hot, fresh-out-of-the-oven melon pan from Kagetsudo is an orgasm for the taste buds.

Kagetsudo Asakusa Melon Pan

Depending on your pace, you might have a lot of extra time here to slot in something extra -- for example, maybe a side track to Ameyoko (another shopping street not too far away), or the Tokyo Sky Tree (also quite nearby). But for us because we started the day late, and spent a LONG time shopping in Tsukiji's markets, it was already late afternoon and time to head to Tokyo DisneySea for our starlight (after 6pm) entry ticket.

Tokyo DisneySea

A word of caution: If your primary reason for visiting TDS is for the rides, then you should really dedicate an entire day to it. We're just here to enjoy the theme park, the cold air, the closing parade and Halloween fireworks!

Tokyo DisneySea
Tokyo DisneySea

That concludes our three days in Tokyo! If you've read this far we hope that this write-up helps you in your future planning. Do stay tuned as we continue our Japan trip to Hokkaido, and if you've got any questions do leave us a comment below!

No comments:

Post a Comment