HOTELS IN TOKYO
We stayed in Shinjuku for both our stints in Tokyo (in between our visit to Kyoto).
City Hotel Lonestar Shinjuku
2-12-12 Shinjuku, Shinjuku 160-0022, Tokyo Prefecture
Located in the heart of Shinjuku near the Golden Gai area, City Hotel Lonestar is around £40 pp a night with friendly staff, clean rooms with toiletries and complimentary breakfast! Great location and good price although the rooms were small, as expected.
Nishi-Shinjuku Hotel MyStays
7-14-14 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku 160-0023, Tokyo Prefecture
There are a number of My Stay hotels around Japan. This one is based in Nishi Shinjuku and was around £45pp a night. Friendly helpful staff again but the room was even smaller than the City Hotel Lonestar. Nice, modern hotel with ample toiletries but I preferred the Ni Chrome area of Shinjuku.
THINGS TO DO IN TOKYO
I spent 6 wonderful days in Tokyo before and after my trip to Kyoto. If you are travelling around during your time in Japan, I thoroughly recommend purchasing the Japan Rail Pass, which you can use on the majority of trains. The cost for a 7 day pass is around £195 depending on the exchange rate, which is pretty much the same as a return fare from Tokyo to Kyoto, so definitely worth it if you are jumping on a couple of other trains.
You can order a pass here: https://www.japan-experience.com/japan-rail-pass and they send you a book, map and document to exchange for your pass in advance.
When I arrived at Narita airport, I exchanged my ticket for an official Japan rail pass. Note that you do not have to activate your pass at the airport – customer services were also very helpful and booked our return tickets to / from Kyoto for us at the airport.
Here is my 6 day itinerary for Tokyo, based on staying in Shinjuku. See separate tabs for bars and restaurants I visited. The prices are based on my pretty poor exchange rate of £1 = 125 yen.
Fairly chilled day wandering around Shinjuku area including Hanazona Shrine – look for the large red Shinto gates on the left hand side of Yasakuni Dori, just before a large set of traffic lights (free entry).
Shinjuku Gyoen National Gardens – beautiful garden completed in 1772 divided into French, English and Japanese with an old domed botanical greenhouse and beautiful lake. (entrance £1.75).
I recommend buying a Suica IC card (500 Yen deposit) from the machines, which you can use like an Oyster card for travelling on the metro.
Travel to Ueno Station to get to Ueno Park, which is known as Japan’s first public park. Not as amazing as some of the places in Tokyo but is a nice area to wander around with various shrines and temples. There is also a small zoo if you fancy it. Entrance to the park is free and you just pay to get into some of the temples if you so wish (I chose not to). Just outside the entrance to the park is a street food market too!
Travel to Asakusa Metro Station and visit the oldest temple in Tokyo, Senso-Ji Temple, which was surprisingly FREE ENTRANCE. Entrance to the temple is through the red Kaminari-mon, which translates as Thunder Gate. Once through the gate, there is a large row of small shops selling all sorts of bit and pieces. At the end lies the temple itself and to your left is the five storey pagoda. This is an absolute must do.
We then walked to the Sumida River Cruise which departed from Hinode pier at Asakusa Azuma Bridge to Hama Rikyu Garden. The cruise lasted around 35 minutes and cost around £8 with entrance to the gardens at the end. This sadly was not as good as I thought, as the river itself was not that picturesque and there was no English commentary.
I visited Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens (£2.50 entrance) north of the Imperial Palace in the morning. These were my favourite gardens in Tokyo – really quiet (e.g not too touristy) and you can just immerse yourself in the surroundings with a beautiful lake in the middle.
In the afternoon, we wandered around the Imperial Palace and Grounds which are free! The compound contains the remains of the emperor’s residence, moats, towers, gates and more. It was much larger than I thought, so definitely keep some time aside. Make sure you do not miss the Sakurada-mon Gate, Ote-mon Gate and Nijubashi Bridge, Wadakura Fountain Park and the Imperial Palace East Gardens.
We started off our day in Meiji Shrine near Harajuku (free entry). It was not as impressive as some others (e.g. Senso-Ji) but if you are in the area, definitely worth popping too.
We moved on to Yoyogi Park, which is a huge grassy space with performers, small food stalls and perfect for picnics. We watched a group of Japanese men in Elvis gear dancing – it was fantastic:
In the afternoon, we explored Harajuku, which was extremely bustling! People go here for the atmosphere and the shopping. The most touristy part is Takeshita Street where there are a number of side streets, containing clothes shops (vintage, fashion, trendy etc) and plenty of food stalls, including crepes, which is what Harajuku is famous for!
We booked a day trip through Japan Experience to visit Mount Fuji and Hakone (cost of £100). The itinerary was as follows:
07:30 – 08:30 Pick-up Service
We were picked up from Shinjuku and traveled to Hamamatsucho
09:00 – Hamamatsucho Bus Terminal(120 min)
Depart from Hamamatsucho and head to Mt. Fuji by bus.
Mt. Fuji 5th Station(30 min)
The bus will head up to the 5th Station along the Subaru Line. The 5th Station is situated at 2,300 meters (7,546 ft) above sea level. Beautiful views! Make sure you wrap up warm.
We had lunch overlooking a beautiful lake
Lake Ashi Cruise(15 min)
This crater lake along the southwest wall of the caldera of Mt. Hakone was formed by a powerful volcanic eruption nearly 3,000 years ago, and provides postcard views of Mt. Fuji towering 30 km northwest. Admire the superb view of Mt. Fuji from aboard a ship.
Mt. Komagatake Ropeway(50 min)
Take a 7-minute ropeway ride to the peak of Mt. Komagatake. A total of 50 minutes will be spent here, including time to walk around at the peak. Take a cableway ride up to the spiritual Hakone Shrine Mototsumiya (original shrine) that nestles at the mountaintop.
Depart Hakone and return by 5pm
Whilst I was tempted by a trek around Mount Fuji, we just did not have the time. On the bus, our guide told us some beautiful Japanese stories and taught us Origami. The views from Mount Fuji were impressive and I also loved the ropeway ride to the peak of Mt Komagatake, where you get time at the top to wander around.
In the morning, we wandered around Shinjuku city area:
We then walked 15 minutes to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building where you can get a lift to the North or South observatory for free and see beautiful views of the vast city that is Tokyo! Surprisingly, there was not much of a queue – an absolute must given you do not have to pay for entry.
Early evening, we made our way to Shibuya to see the famous busy scrambled crossing – I went to the Starbucks a couple of floors up from the crossing and waited patiently for my space at the window. It really is something else watching people cross from all different directions.
Tokyo is an amazing city – so many different areas to explore and the people are really friendly and willing to help out if you look a little lost.
EAST LONDON GIRL TRAVELS