Basically, we spent 2 nights in Tokyo (covered mainly Kappabashi-Dougugai, Jiyuugaoka and Shibuya) and 1 night in Kinugawa Onsen. So I'm breaking this trip recap into 4 parts, the first part (which is this post) talks about food and shopping in Tokyo itself; part II and III are about Kinugawan Onsen, lots of photos on the ryokan we stayed in, the food and of course, the onsen. And the final part which is my favourite, my shopping haul!!
We took the midnight flight aka red-eye flight and landed at Narita Airport early Sat morning. Clearing customs was quite a breeze and we were out in the arrival hall within 30 mins which was superb, just in time to catch the next bus to Shibuya Excel Hotel. Chose to stay in the same hotel as last trip as the hotel is located literally next to the station, with abundance of shopping and food around the area. And it's also easy to get to Jiyuugaoka, just a few stops away by taking the limited express subway.
The limousine bus journey took about an hour. As usual, it was too early to check-in, so we left our luggage with the concierge and immediately headed to Kappabashi-Dougugai at Asakusa area (which sells all sorts of cook and bakeware). The weather was colder than we expected (probably about 6-8 degree celsius) or probably coz our body hadn't adjusted to the temperature. After browsing a few shops, we couldn't continue anymore due to hunger and cold so went in search of something hot to warm our body. Managed to find this family-style Soba/Udon shop near Asakusa.
Hubby ordered a Tori-Karaage set, consisted of a half bowl of Tori-Karaage with rice and bowl of Udon. The udon was different from the usual thick type that we are familiar, and tasted more springy.
Not sure if it was due to the cold weather which made us very hungry (had skipped breakfast on plane which was served at 4am!) or the food was yummy, we finished everything in no time. So with our body nice and warm, we continued our shopping at Kappabashi for the next 2 hours.
After we were done, we headed back to Shibuya for check-in. At Shibuya station, I saw a counter for ticket booking/collection and decided to collect the tickets for our trip to Kinugawa Onsen. Had booked the limited express JR train bound for Kinugawa Onsen online, but there was some confusion over the price stated in the booking system. The ticketing officer tried to explain to us in her limited English and we ended up spending more than 30 mins at the counter trying to clear the confusion. So it turned out that the online system stated only the limited express seat price but for every train ride, a basic fare is payable, something which I didn't know. Why don't they just state an overall price to be paid instead of just stating the limited express seat price? Anyway, she advised us to purchase this Nikko-Kinugawa Excursion Ticket which includes 2-way limited express train between Tokyo Wards Area and Nikko-Kinugawa, as well as taxi and bus coupons. Price is the same as what we would have to pay for a basic fare + limited express seat. In the end, we took the Excursion Ticket in case we need to take taxi or bus while in Kinugawa Onsen area.
Anyways, finally we checked into our room at Shibuya Excel Hotel at around 4pm. I refreshed a bit and went out shopping again while hubby stayed in the room to sleep. We agreed to meet back in the room at 8pm. When it comes to shopping, women certainly have more stamina than men! Time was short so I had to maximise all that I had. I started with Shibuya Mark City, which has a few zakka shops like Afternoon Tea, Natural Kitchen, Keyuca, Timeless Comfort etc. Next, went to Uniqlo which is quite near to Shibuya 109. Only bought a pair of leggings, as I found it a hassle to change, you know removing boots, coat, sweater and put them back on. Next stop, Francfranc and then Tokyu Hands, both a short walk away. By 7.30pm I was hungry and exhausted and couldn't go on anymore. We landed at 7.30am and it was like a 12hr marathon! So I went back to the hotel room to rest while waiting for hubby who had gone out.
After dinner, we wandered around Shibuya and decided to go back to the room after a while as it was getting too cold. I think I was so tired that I quickly took a hot bath and fell asleep promptly.
The next day, we woke up at nearly 11am! Wow :p had drawn the curtains completely so didn't even know that it was morning. I guess we were just too tired. Not wanting to lose anymore of my precious shopping time, I quickly washed up and headed out to Jiyuugaoka. As for hubby, he was still sleeping in bed and would probably shop at his favourite fishing tackle shops when he decided to wake up. LOL.
It took just 15 mins to reach Jiyuugaoka by taking the limited express train of the Toyoko subway line, and I was back in my beloved Jiyuugaoka! Decided to take lunch first for stamina :p Had a pasta lunch at this fast food restaurant opposite the station.
After spending an hour there, I strolled by a different route from my usual and discovered some new shops and areas which I didn't manage to find previous times!
After dinner, we walked around a while, browsed at some bookstores and went back to the hotel.
The gyoza was nicely done. Somehow the combination of ramen and gyoza just seemed perfect.
With that, we proceeded to Shinjuku using the Yamanote line; the fare was covered in the Excursion Pass. We were early by an hour as we wanted to make sure we got the right departure platform. Shinjuku station is very big and we didn't want to dash about last minute. Decided to go outside the station to browse at some shops but apparently the Excursion Pass doesn't allow exiting. We were supposed to stay within the station and go directly to the platform. Anyway, a nice attendent at the exit gates allowed us "special permission" to exit :p
So we wandered around the shops near the station for a while, bought some bread for snacking on the train and headed to the platform for our train to Kinugawa Onsen.
Stay tuned for Part II which covers Kinugawa Onsen!