Sunday, 16 March 2014

Tokyo, Japan Day 1 - Ameyoko Shopping Street & Tokyo Skytree

We travelled to Japan during the November period for a 2 weeks holiday in 2013. The weather was good, not too cold and not too hot either. We covered Tokyo, Hakone, Mt Fuji, Osaka, Kyoto & hotel hopped four times. Definitely a tiring yet great experience of Japan. First stop, Tokyo!


En route to Narita International Airport via. Delta Airlines - meals on board, full inflight entertainment & most importantly, direct flight! I wouldn't want to waste my time transiting unless I'm stopping over.



Headed to JR East Service Center to activate our JR Pass for unlimited Shinkansen (Bullet Train) rides in the whole of Japan. Please note that you can only purchase in your own country and not in Japan itself. We bought our passes at JTB (Japan Tourism Board) at about S$380 per person after conversion.


Our first accommodation is located in Asakusa Station and JR trains doesn't go there. So we bought the Narita Sky Access Line ticket at 1060 yen. Read here for more info on trains from airport.



The journey from Narita to Asakusa via. Narita Sky Access Line took about 50 mins to an hour. 



Elevator/ Lifts are not very common in Tokyo, it's possible that one station doesn't even have one. Imagine we carried our luggage up these stairs T.T

There are dozen of train lines in Tokyo and first timer will definitely be confused. About 70% of Japan's railway network is owned and operated by Japan Railways (JR), while the rest belongs to other private railway companies.


We arrived at 5 pm and it's already dark in Tokyo. What's worst - we were greeted with rain and cold wind upon alighting. Here's the view of Tokyo Skytree near our hotel vicinity. 


Vending machines of beverages and lockers are everywhere in the streets.


Arrived at our first hotel in Tokyo for 2 nights - Agora Place Asakusa. It's about 10 mins walk from Asakusa Station Exit A1. Or 1 min walk from Tawaramachi Station Exit A2 which is just beside the hotel.


Agora Place Asakusa Tokyo Japan
2-2-9 Kotobuki, Taito-ku, Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan 111-0042




Agora Place Asaksua is a pleasant and affordable hotel but I've to say the rooms are super tiny. We had a hard time opening our luggage in the room. The hotel offer various amenities to rent as well such as iPad, aroma goods, straightening irons etc. (WiFi is free)

Location is convenient and surrounding attractions are Senso-ji Temple, Nakamise street and more. I would only recommend this hotel for short stays.




The JR pass that we had can only be used on trains that are operated by Japan Railways. Therefore, we would need to get train ticket separately for Tokyo Metro Line.


After checking in our hotel, next on our itinerary is to explore the vicinity of Ueno.


In the streets of Ameyoko. It was raining still & some of the stops are closed as we arrived late.




Hungry is the word to describe that cold night. Came across a stall selling Korean snacks and how can I walk off not having Hotteok! (Sweet Korean Pancakes). It's so good that we came back again the next day.



Walked over to Atre Ueno where more eateries are. Ichiran Ramen was having a super long queue so we decided to try the store beside it though the queue was shorter.



Order your food via. the vending machine and glad that there were pictures. (Take note: Put in your money first before selecting your orders) We were planning to eat more after that so we settled on 1 set - Gyoza & a big bowl of spicy vegetable noodles.


The Gyoza served here is the best dumplings I've ever had till date. Real juicy! The chewy curl noodle clings well w the spicy soup and the stir fry vegetables on it is just DELISH. You'll be sweating up a storm but you'd probably only realised it after you're done.



If you're in the area of Ueno, do check them out! There's a famous stall that specialize in Gyoza in the area of Harajuku called Harajuku Gyozaro (原宿餃子樓). Gyoza fans, I'll write about that soon!


It's very common to see Toy Capsule vending machine all around in the streets of Tokyo.



We continue walking around in the streets of Ueno & chance upon a stall selling Japanese sweets and my favourite Taiyaki! Taiyaki are delicious fish-shaped snacks described as a cross between a waffle and a cake.



Filled with very generous red bean paste filling that is made from sweetened azuki beans.



Freshly made on the spot and still piping hot. Crispy on the outside and fluffy within, just heaven!



It was on the way so we dropped by Tokyo Skytree and it's still raining. Around the base of Tokyo Skytree lies Tokyo Solmachi, a shopping and entertainment complex with over 300 shops and restaurants. 


The last admission was about to end when we arrived and we decided not to head up since the rain will affect our view at the peak anyway. First observatory deck is up at 350 meters while the second observatory will be higher at 450 meters.

Hours: 8:00 - 22:00
Closed: No closing days
Admission: 2000 yen (first observatory), 3000 yen (first and second observatory)



Love Japan's convenient store with a variety of instant food/snacks to pick from. It gets colder in the night especially with the rain and we were dead beat after a long flight in the morning. So that's a wrap for Day 1!

>>> Continue to Tokyo Day 2 - Senso-ji Temple, Nakamise Street & Ginza
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