Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Day in One Place - Tokyo

A Day in One Place - Tokyo

Who says you can't see one of the greatest cities in 24 hours?! To get you into a Japan state of mind, I suggest watching Hachiko: A Dogs Tale with Richard Gere and Lost in Translation which are a few of my favorites!

Narita Welcomes You
Once you arrive, you will go and follow signs to baggage and go through Immigration which is easy. Depending on how many flights come from abroad, it could take around 20-40 minutes to queue the line. You will then proceed down an escalator to baggage. Baggage is very organized as is the rest of Japan. Getting checked bags does not take too long but they do need to unload about 400 bags or so for these jumbo jets so be patient. One last step before you exit the terminal is Customs which takes a few minutes. Should you need yen for your trip there will be currency exchanges in the main terminal. I suggest the ATMs which will be to your far left as you exit Customs. You will see 7-11 Banking among others. I usually take out 10000 Yen for a 2-3 day visit. You can basically use a credit card to charge anything except I had an issue at the ticket wall stations and used yen when I couldnt Visa. Suica and Paismo are also alternative forms of payment which I will explain shortly.  If you are on a layover, I suggest one of the better hotels in Narita. I stayed at the ANA Crown Plaza once for a layover which was nice. I have had friends also stay at the Hilton. If this is your option, you will go out to the island to either #16 or #25 depending on if you are in Terminal 1 or 2. This is where your hotel should pick you up. Should you be staying at one of the airport hotels, your hotel should also offer a shuttle back to airport for train to Tokyo. You MUST bring your passport with you. There is a checkpoint at the airport and the security will come on board to make sure you have it. Its nothing evasive just security measures. Don't forget to ask your hotel should also have the Tokyo Handy Guide. It is a tourist guide that has the basic/major points with pictures, maps and descriptions. Its helpful when you have to point to where you want to go and are having trouble with the language.

To get to the city, there are two types of trains I've used, the N'Ex and the Keisei Skyliner. The NEx (Narita Express) which is like an Amtrak and costs a bit more with a reserved seat or you can take Keisei line. Both run about $48 USD round trip. The NEx out seemed less crowded and relaxing and you can take pictures from your seat. You can get a foreigner discount by showing your passport and I think it was 1500 Yen. I usually purchase my Keisei ticket online before I reach Tokyo and present the voucher receipt. You will go to basement of airport by taking the escalator. You will see the two counters. Make sure you go to the correct ticket counter. The Skyliner will be on your left just before you enter the station platforms. If you buy the Keisei Skyliner ticket, don't forget to ask for the Wi-Fi code for the train. You could also buy your return ticket after specifying the date and time. Most clerks speak or have an understanding of English. I highly recommend getting a Suica/Paismo card. It's much easier to tap and go with the trains and can be used a many shops and restaurants around Tokyo as well as vending machines. With ticket in hand, enter the station and go to your platform.

Once you arrive into the city, my first stop was Shibuya. Before exiting station, go to The FoodShow on lower level. It is the most amazing food hall you will see. They have all kinds of groceries, bakery, prepared foods, dumplings, wine, desserts, etc. I picked up some dumplings like (70 Yen each) and some fruit salad. Additionally I have enjoyed the bakery items, fresh sushi and gelato way in the back of the food hall. Last visit, there was a small dining area towards the back of the hall which allowed you to stand and eat your food. At this point, I would also find the restroom since it is a normalone and not a squatting kind. Its in the far back of the FoodShow. Public restrooms are hard to find in Tokyo overall.
Shibuya Crossing
Food Show - Lower Level Shibuya Station

Exit so you are near the Hachiko Statue(Hachiko Exit). Take a picture as its a very famous statue. There is a cute boutique also in Tokyu that sells the Hachi dog. The Shabuya intersection there is famous as well. Its like a six-way stop. Pause and watch them all cross. This was featured Lost in Translation. A great place to take it all in, too, is the Starbucks directly above the Shibuya Crossing.

Takeshita Dori - Harajuku
Next stop Takeshita Dori (Takeshita Street) Harajuku! Walk up Mejii Avenue. As you start, you may see a Taito Station arcade which is pretty common here. Try your luck. Its hilarious. They also have taiko drum games which can be pretty exhausting as well. Continue up Meji Avenue about a mile and a half. There will be one section where you will need to take stairs up and over. You will also pass a few ramen places, kabob, Birkenstock, and others. Takeshita will be on your left and it marked by arches. Turn left onto this street full of Harajuku girls (fashionable young Japanese girls) and start shopping. Great people watching. Walk all the way to the end of Takeshita Dori, exit and turn left your next stop is Mejii Shrine then right over a walkway into Mejii Shrine. (You will pass Descente, a soccer gear store and a Gap). Harajuku Station is also in this area. A great connecting point to other parts of the city.

Mejii Shrine Torii
Mejii Shrine - This should be about two blocks off Takeshita Dori. You will walk over a transportation bridge. You should see a big Torii gate. Enter into what looks like Central Park. Snap some photos of the Saki and wine barrels. Turn into the park to find the Shrine. Wash your hands starting with your left one and proceed in. I spent about twenty minutes here. Walk back out and over same bridge. Cross street. You should see a Garretts Popcorn right there on your left, and yes, a line. Go up that street which will join you back to Mejii Avenue. There is a Quicksilver also on that street as a point of reference.

Go back to Shibuya Train station up Mejii Avenue and either find the ticket booth or the ticket kiosk. I found a cheap Ramen place midway back and had that as a late lunch for about $4USD. Your next stop is to Asakusa on the Ginza line which takes about thirty minutes. You are going to the Sensoji Temple. Exit train station and turn right and go about two or three blocks. You may also see pedi-cabs/rikshaws there. You will then see a cluster of people standing on a street full of shops that lead to the Sensoji Temple. Shop and walk through, take pictures, etc. You can buy some toys and candy and artwork from Ukiyo-e Gallery on the right side of street. There are tons of people and school kids. Walk to end and there is your temple. Make a wish with the wooden sticks and wash your hands, etc. Before you leave, use the restroom here, too. One last treat - face the large shrine then go to your left to a shopping arcade. Here, on the left corner, you will find a bakery that serves sweet Japanese bread. You can even get it with whipped cream. They only take yen and I think it's about 45 yen. Walk up to through the arcade and explore this amazing area of Asakusa.
Sensoji - Asakusa

View from the Park Hyatt Tokyo
Shinjuku - Once you get back to the train station, Ginza line, you will go to  Shinjuku. This is another popular hub and also where the Park Hyatt is located (it was featured in Lost in Translation). Exit station and go up Koshu Kaido Street towards Park Hyatt. It's almost just as easy to take a cab which will be about 800 yen. Ask anyone for the specific direction if you are unsure. If you decide to walk, you will pass a Pachenko gaming center. Open the door as it is the loudest place you will ever hear. Try a few games if you want. Once at the Park Hyatt, make your way to the 52 floor. I dined at the New York Bar on the 52nd Floor of the Park Hyatt. Expensive but worth it. There is live jazz after 8pm and a small cover charge of about 2400 yen. The views are amazing. They also have small plates that are awesome. This is why I would skip the Tokyo Tower and go here! As for dress code, it's a mix of business and tourists. I have arrived in jeans and a sweater and had no issues.You can also cab back to the Shinjuku station at the end of the night to train back to your hotel, etc.
Sadly your time is up in Tokyo and you'll need to return to Narita International Airport. Checking in with a U.S. based carrier was easy and efficient. There are a lot of shops before security so I suggest buying your items and placing them in with your checked bags before you check-in so you don't have to carry them through security. There are also some great restaurants, too, and an outdoor dining area as part of a food court that overlooks the runways. Tokyo is one of the greatest cities in the world, and even if you only have 24 hours, you can still see and do so much. The people were very helpful and gracious. I walked and walked around and felt safe. It was amazing. Have Fun! Sayonara!

Songs: Big in Japan
            My Woman from Tokyo
            Turning Japanese