18 November 2014

Highlights of Tokyo April 2014

Gosh, I'll be going to Tokyo in about 2 weeks' time and it's really about time I get my lazy butt out and post about this previous trip I took in April :p

Actually I thought of ditching this post altogether but there were a few highlights I would like to share being first time experiences. Even though I've been to Tokyo so many times and always doing the same old same old, I was pretty pleased about this particular trip.

Haneda Airport

Somehow I always find myself using Narita Airport due to the flight timings chosen. But I've heard a lot about the Haneda Airport's shopping areas like the Tokyo Pop Town and Edo Market, so I really wanted to take at a look. (There was once when I transit via Haneda but the flight was near midnight and the shops were closed.)

Landed in the late afternoon and I had about 45 mins spare time before the scheduled bus to my hotel, so decided to pop by the Tokyo Pop Town and Edo Market (initially intention was to drop by during departure).

Surprisingly the areas were quite quiet, probably coz it was a weekday?

Hello Kitty Shop - paradise for HK fans out there.

A few other character and souvenir shops.

The Cool Zone - mostly fashion and accessories.

Frankly, not very impressed with both the Tokyo Pop Town or Edo Market. Having been to New Chitose Airport last year, this paled in comparison. I guess the advantage of Haneda Airport over Narita is its proximity to Tokyo city area (60 min vs 90 min by airport limousine bus) and the ticket price (1230 yen vs 3100 yen).

Airport Limousine Bus-stop. Hubby and I usually travel by airport limousine bus into Tokyo because it's really convenient and hassle free. Just hand the luggage to the staff and they'll help to load the luggage upon boarding and alighting. If we were to take the train, we always have a problem handling/stowing the luggage (especially my huge pink lady :p).

Haneda Airport - http://www.haneda-airport.jp/inter/en/
Airport Limousine Bus - http://www.limousinebus.co.jp/en/

Century Southern Tower

Our lodging for this trip was Century Southern Tower at Shinjuku. Our usual hotel of choice is Shibuya Excel Tokyu but it was fully booked; anyways I've always wanted to try this one :)

Love the spaciousness, unlike the usual tight space of hotels in Japan.

The super king-size bed was so comfortable and I love the additional lounge chair for me to laze about.

More then sufficient space to stow our luggage. Usual amenities provided.

Spacious bathroom as well.

Full-size bath-tub which is welcoming because most of the hotels provide the typical Japanese square bath-tub. After a full-day of shopping marathon, nothing beats a good soak in the bathtub.

Best of all, the splendid view! We had the Yoyogi Park (where Meiji Shrine is) view which was awesome! Love this hotel, since it's close to the Shinjuku JR station and opposite the Takashimaya Times Square with Tokyu Hands.

Century Southern Tower Hotel - http://en.southerntower.co.jp/

New York Grill, Park Hyatt Hotel

It was hubby's birthday on our day of arrival and I had planned a special dinner treat for him at the New York Grill, Park Hyatt Hotel. Made reservation prior to the trip via email and I must say I was quite impressed with the level of service by the staff. Initially wanted to dine at Sky Restaurant 634 at Tokyo Skytree but it's quite restrictive with specific seat-in time and no guarantee of table with view.

New York Grill was able to guarantee a table with view and also willing to prepare a dish that was not on the menu (hubby was craving for clam chowder), and also write birthday message for dessert.

New York Grill Appetiser Plate for Two. Absolutely delish!

My tenderloin which came in a heart-shape (or I imagined it to be). Hubby ordered ribeye I think and we also ordered mixed mushrooms to share. Needless to say, the tenderloin was perfect.

Ahhhhh, mesmerising view. Ordered a New York cheese cake for hubby (came with free birthday message and candle). Well, the meal was expensive but well worth it given the to-die-for view, excellent food and service quality and it was hubby's big 4!

Totally loved the ambiance of the restaurant and there was also a live band (at the bar area).

New York Grill, Park Hyatt Hotel - http://www.tokyo.park.hyatt.com/en/hotel/dining/NewYorkGrill.html

Random food highlights

I love this bakery-cafe which is located near the hotel and opposite the Shinjuku JR station entrance. Lovely bread and pastry with delectable selection of salads. Great choice for breakfast, brunch or light dinner. I think we dined here a few times.

Random tonkatsu shop at Nishi-Shinjuku. My set included pork, fish and prawn cutlet, rice, tonjiru soup and hojicha. Hubby's set was pork cutlet with big bowl of tonjiru. Yummy and value-for-money (about 600 yen for his set and 800 for mine). Loved the tonjiru soup especially because usually eateries serve just miso soup.

Our favourite grilled unagi shop, Unatoto.

They have several branches around Tokyo and we went to the shop at Shinbashi. The original hole-in-the-wall shop has shifted to a slightly bigger space across the street.

The aroma of grilled unagi was intoxicating!

I ordered the regular size unadon at 500 yen whereas hubby went for the upsize at 1000 yen. Totally regretted not ordering the upsize portion coz one slice of the unagi was not enough!

Additional items to share, kankyuri soup, salad and oshinko. Loved the oshinko!

Unatoto - http://www.unatoto.com/

Accent style (craftholic)

Fans of craftholic will scream over this shop at Jiyuugaoka.

Galore of craftholic plush and accessories. Definitely much bigger collection than what's available here in SG.

From keychains
To sling pouch, slippers, towel hanger, brush...
Keyholders, pencil case...
Mini pouch, tissue holder...
Plush of different designs, colours and sizes.

Guess which one I got?

accent style - http://www.act-style.co.jp/english

Aoyama Flower Market Tea House (Minami Aoyama)

I almost didn't make it here! It was on my must-visit place but silly me forgot to search for a more precise map and I only screen-captured a simplified map taken from their website. Only knew that the nearest station is Omotesando and didn't know which exit to take exactly (if you have been to Toyko, you'll know that exit locations are extremely important else it's so easy to get lost). I just went with my gut feel and ended up walking about 1-2km and lost in the middle of Aoyama :( with heavy bags of shopping and extremely cold. Luckily I found a Francfranc store, went in to ask for directions and the staff kindly helped me.

The tea house is actually very close to Omotesando station (correct exit is A4-5), but such an obscure location! Not exactly B1 level but hidden inside a building within half flight of stairs -_-. It's so easy to miss it coz it's not exactly visible from street level (I acually missed it!) Why couldn't the website just state the exit number? Blah.

Enough of the rant. The moment I found it, all my frustrations melted after seeing the lovely floral displays.

The entrance itself could already make ladies go ga-ga.

I was actually contemplating whether to get this Kitchen Bouquet just because it was sooooo pretty!!

More formal Gift Bouquets.

Here the flowers and plants are arranged accordingly to ombre colours. How lovely is that?

The Teahouse is located within the Flower Market, with a greenhouse concept.

Love love love this place! Such a sweet and cozy place to enjoy afternoon tea. I was totally immersed and intoxicated with the ambience, and went around snapping photos :p The locals must think that I'm weird :p

They have English menu, made it easier for me to order.

Ordered a  Refresh Blend Herbal tea and a rose tea jelly parfait.

Was deciding whether to order this or a French Toast which I totally regretted not ordering thinking that it might be too heavy. Boohoooooo, saw a lady ordered the French Toast and it looked soooo good with colourful edible flowers!!

Yes, the rose tea jelly parfait was yummy as well, especially the rose tea jelly which had this fragrant sweet flora aroma. But. Never mind, I shall return for my upcoming trip!!

Aoyama Flower Market Teahouse - http://www.afm-teahouse.com/

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