Stayed: Hotel Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku
This hotel was in a fantastic location, really close to the main districts of Shinjuku with lots of food options and of course the HUGE Shinjuku Station. Albeit confusing I think this station is the best to be near because it goes everywhereee!
The hotel was clean, comfortable and welcoming, the rooms were slightly small but not unmanageable for two people and the breakfast buffet was varied and all delicious. Highly recommend adding that to your booking!
Our plane arrived super early in the morning – 5:30am! Knowing this would be the case I made plans and we headed straight to the airport showers after picking up our luggage and going through a smooth immigration process. There was a little bit of a wait for the showers so we took a ticket and then wandered nearby to pick up our WiFi device from Pupuru (which I will talk about in a seperate blog because WiFi devices are so useful!). The showers at Haneda Airport are basically your own private little room complete with shower and vanity dresser with sink, and they’re absolutely lovely. Very modern and very clean! We booked a half hour, which is plenty of time to get out of plane clothes (ugh), shower and get redressed in fresh clothes! I had made sure to pack my suitcase so my fresh change of clothes was right at the top. The shower room also provides amenities like towels, soap, shampoo etc. My only wish was that the room included a toilet, but there is a share one that you can use that is kept just as clean. ~$12 well spent!
After feeling much refreshed we headed to pick up our Japan Rail Pass (more details in a seperate blog for this one too!). The JR office opens at 6:45am at Haneda Airport and there was already a bit of a line when we got there around 7:15am so I do recommend heading over there as soon as you can. We were unsure as to whether we would be able to use our JR Pass from the airport to Shinjuku so we purchased a bus ticket, and then missed the bus after waiting in line for the JR Pass! Ha! But it turned out ok because you can indeed go from the airport to Shinjuku with your JR Pass, you just need to take the Tokyo Monorail and do one easy change at Hamamatsucho to the JR Yamanote Line to Shinjuku.
We arrived in Shinjuku around 9am so it was still way too early to check into our hotel, but we headed over there anyway as we wanted to leave our big heavy suitcases with them until we could check in at 2pm. They were very accommodating, and I used their foyer bathroom which was really very fancy!
Then (feeling more than a little jetlagged) we decided to head to some gardens for some fresh air and nature revival. First up was the nearby Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden which was beautiful. Not a super large garden it was easy enough to wander through in about an hour- and if you’ve seen The Garden of Words this is the place and it looks exactly like in the film! It was turning out to be a very sunny day though and I didn’t have a hat! We made purchase of an umbrella but when that wasn’t really cutting it we headed out towards some nearby shops and I bought a very large hat a Forever 21. I was also getting very hangry at the point so it was time for our first Japan meal! Delicious cold soba ❤
After our soba recharge we headed to another garden- this time the much larger Meiji Jingu Shinto shrine and surrounding gardens. To get there we took the train to Harajuku, and whilst we were at the station we decided to pick up Suica cards as well. Although it ended up we could get most places on the JR Pass, the Suica card was still useful to have for those trips here and there where we couldn’t use the Pass. And it was very easy to get one at the self-service vendors located everywhere at the stations (they have an option to select English as the language), and it’s just as easy to recharge them.
At the start of the gardens we purchased the first of the many soft serve ice creams we would be having on this trip (this one was Hokkaido vanilla milk) and then walked and walked and walked. Eventually we came upon the shrine itself, and they were having some sort of ceremony (maybe a wedding, we weren’t sure) which was cool to watch!
By this point we were really tired out so we headed back to Shinjuku to check in and have a bit of a rest before heading out later to hunt down some dinner. After adventuring around we found a tasty looking tonkatsu place within Shinjuku station, and so began our addiction to tonkatsu in Japan- the crunch! The sauce! The cabbage! The FREE refills of rice and cabbage! ❤ I miss it so.
It was time to head to one of the most important locations of this trip- the Pokemon Centre! I have followed Kim Dao on YouTube for quite some time and her vlogs were so incredibly useful for planning the Tokyo portion of our trip. I really recommend checking her videos out if you are travelling to Japan in the near future! At Kim’s recommendation I decided Sunshine City was the place to go and wow! This was a cool shopping centre! We did get off at the wrong end of the station at Ikebukuro though so cue a bit of unnecessary walking but oh well! The Pokemon Centre did not disappoint and I bought almost the entire shop.
The kpop group Lovelyz performed in the middle of the centre by chance that day too- which was super fun! For lunch we ate at one of the (many) options at the top of the shopping centre, where we had fantastic udon. It’s going to be a trend with these blogs but the food in Japan is honestly so good. Such high quality and so delicious.
After lunch we went up to the SKY CIRCUS observation deck, which I actually thought was a better experience than SKYTREE (which we went to the following week). There was little quirky exhibitions up there and less people, and the views were just as wonderful.
Afterwards we decided to train over to the Imperial Palace to view the Gardens. Pro tip! Check what days the gardens are open first! As it turns out they weren’t open on Monday… so we just wandered around the outside of the palace for a bit (still very interesting!) before heading back to the hotel.
That night we ventured into the nearby little district of food places in Shuinjuku and had our first ramen in Japan! The little vending machine type ordering systems in Japan are quite fun ^.^
In the morning we travelled out to Saitama to visit the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum, which is well worth the trip if you are a fan of bonsai ❤
After getting back to Tokyo in the early afternoon we went to visit restaurants in the top of one of the nearby department stores of Shinjuku (I can’t remember the name of it sorry!) and had very fancy sushi lunch- we opted to try new things like sea urchin so some were a bit hit or miss but an experience nonetheless! After that we wandered around the shopping centre for a little bit (bought some things at uniqlo and embarrassed myself by not taking off my shoes for the changing rooms… don’t do that) and then! We discovered Kajitsuen Libre Shinjuku, which was right across the way from our hotel, and had THE.BEST.CAKE.I.HAVE.EVER.HAD.IN.MY.ENTIRE.LIFE. This thing was incredible words really don’t do justice. It made me really understand the cake obsession in anime though, because when I had the first bite my eyes sparkled and tiny love hearts floated around me.
Continuing with our “fancy” meal theme of the day we headed back to the same department store restaurants for dinner, this time for sukiyaki- one of my all time favourite Japanese dishes ❤ and yes- it was the best sukiyaki I have ever had! My mouth is watering just remembering it…
more anime sparkling eyes it was time to visit Akihabara!
Towering buildings lined up one after the other filled to the brim with everything you could possibly imagine as a piece of anime merchandise. Case after case, floor after floor
of figures, cosplay, posters, keychains… ❤ After dragging G around a single figure store for about an hour he decided to head off to visit the National Museum, leaving me to otaku out! After grabbing a quick tempura soba I spent several more hours wandering around the floors of merch, trying desperately to make decisions. Spoiler: I didn’t and had to return to Akihabara another day to make my purchases! But it is just so magical being surrounded by all the things you love.
Now I was in full shopping-mode so I took the train (I LOVE JAPANESE TRANSPORT) over to Harajuku to wander through another magical place for another couple of hours. Now here I bought things! So many clothes and accessories! Although the styles are repeated a lot store to store (like in Korea) I knew that back in Australia they’d look quite unique so I was more than happy to stock my wardrobe! I also had to do the “Harujuku thing” and bought a crepe. Best crepe of my life. WHY IS JAPANESE FOOD SO DELICIOUS.
Also on my Harujuku itinerary was to visit Alice on Wednesday, being as I am a big Alice in Wonderland girl. It’s a little tricky to find, and I thought I was going in the wrong direction when maps started talking me along a quieter road off the main street until I saw the little Alice door! Its not a very large place, but the décor is wonderfully Alice! The store has three levels, each with its own little store area with accessories and things, and if you’re an Alice fan then its definitely one to add to your list. I bought quite a few cute things! ^.^
By this time my wallet was considerably lighter, and my shopping bags considerably heavy, so I dragged myself away from all the things and headed back.
That evening it was raining but we decided to visit Shibuya to see what all the fuss was about! We saw Hatchi and crossed the Shibuya Crossing but to be honest I was very glad we decided to stay in Shinjuku over Shibuya. Although admittedly we didn’t see a lot of it, Shibuya just felt a lot more commercially touristy.
We had tasty tsukemen (with extra eggs and extra corn!) for dinner before deciding it was too wet and that we had seen enough of Shibuya.
After double checking first that they were open this time, we made our second trip out to The East Gardens of the Imperial Palace. They are absolutely worth a visit if you can make the time! Probably my favourite of the three gardens we visited in Tokyo- they were just so interesting and varied as you walked around. We got to look inside guard houses, and see views from lookouts, and admire a koi pond. A really nice place to recuperate from the busy, more modern, parts of Tokyo. We spent a good couple of hours there 🙂
Afterwards we wandered around the business-y district outside of the Palace trying to find some food… which ended up being a lot more difficult than we envisioned! Eventually we found a little underground food court of restaurants and I ate Japanese curry while G had tempura.
That night we wandered out around Shinjuku again as it was our last night in the city ❤ It was honestly so nice to just wander around out there at night- lots happening, lots to see and it just feels so safe. We stopped in to one of the many food options for dinner and I had a pork belly rice bowl while G had a kobe beef ramen. I also snuck in a green tea ice cream sandwich!
Then it was time to say goodbye to Tokyo (for a little bit) and head to Nikko the next day!