This time round, it's purely an eat and shop vacation without any onsen side trip in the outskirt area. I reckon the weather is not cold enough to fully enjoy soaking in onsen, ideally it should be minimally 15C and below for best experience. So the itinerary I planned upon reaching went something like this.
Day 1 - Shinjuku, Tokyu Hands and Kinokuniya
Day 2 - Shinjuku, Uniqlo, Muji. Roppongi
Day 3 - Jiyugaoka, Shibuya
Day 4 - Aoyama Flower Market, Kappabashi, Harajuku
Day 5 - Kichijoji, Harajuku
Day 6 - Shinjuku, Takashimaya, Don Quijote
Will be blogging in 6 parts as follow:
Part I - Century Southern Tower, some Shinjuku area
Part II - Food in Tokyo
Part III - Jiyugaoka, Musashi-Kosugi
Part IV - Aoyama Flower Market, Kappabashi, Harajuku
Part V - Kichijoji
Part VI - Shopping haul
Our flight departed from Changi Airport early in the morning and by the time we arrived at Narita Airport and cleared immigration, it was 3.30pm. The temperature was a cool 20C! Actually anything was okay for us because at that time we were having bad haze situation in SG, just glad to get away from it all for a few days.
As usual, we took the convenient airport limousine bus to our hotel since it would arrive directly at the door step. The journey took slightly more than 1hr30mins as there was a traffic jam along the way.
Our hotel for 5 nights at Century Southern Tower, which is a few minutes walk from JR Shinjuku Station, and opposite Takashimaya Times Square, Tokyu Hands and Kinokuniya. Super convenient location. I got a Mystery Deal directly from the hotel website at 110160 yen nett, for 5 nights, Scenic Twin Room. This was about S$260 per night, very good steal! Usually I prefer Twin Room in Japan hotels as the room size is bigger, easier for packing luggage :p
Look at the size of this Twin Room, consider very big for Japan hotel standards. Previously we stayed at the double-room, and their double room is also very big and comes with real King-size bed (usually the bed in Japan double room is queen size only).
View of the hotel at ground level. The hotel occupies level 20 to 35, below that is the office tower. So basically all rooms in the hotel command excellent views.
This time our room was on level 35, the highest floor, facing the Shinjuku National Goen Park. It was raining when we arrived.
View on a good day. The narrow pointed tower in the horizon furthest away is Tokyo Sky Tree!
Love the skyline of Tokyo!
Below us are the train tracks, in between Shinjuku Station and Yoyogi Station. Opposite Takashimaya Times Square, Tokyu Hands.
Was standing on the linkbridge between the hotel and Takashimaya one night and saw everyone taking photo of the moon which was very bright and round.
Quite common to see street buskers near the station exits.
I think this was a new beauty/personal care store near the east exit, opposite Lumine Est. Or probably I didn't notice before? There are many personal care (or drug and cosmetic) stores in Tokyo, this is a slightly more upmarket one, the store displays are very clearly marked and neatly categorised. There are 3 levels, very spacious and comfortable to shop, even with a cafe. There are many chinese sales assistants at the B1 level; besides explaining the uses of different products, also encouraging you to buy and buy. The best part about this shop is the late closing hours at 11pm, because usually shops in Japan close by 8 or latest 9pm.
Besides this shop, there are many other personal care shops cum pharmacy all over, something like our Watsons. They carry all sorts of products and prices usually at a bargain. So probably it's a good idea to compare prices before buying if you could afford the time. And nowadays, most of these shops are tax-free, we could see tourists buying by the truckload!
Nowadays more and more shops in Japan are tax-free for tourists, even for consumable goods like drugs/cosmetics/personal care products. All you need is spend 5000 yen above, the rebate is direct, just remember to bring along the passport. For non-consumable goods, the minimum spending is 10000 yen above. For consumable goods, they will pack everything in a sealed clear plastic bag and you are not allowed to open the bag while in Japan to qualify for the rebate. I believe this is to prevent foreigners for buying on behalf of locals. 8% rebate is actually quite substantial if you spend a lot. At the airport, there's now a special counter just to process the tax refund slips, it's located before the immigration.
For zakka lovers, there's a Francfranc just outside Century Southern Tower. Francfranc is a home and living concept store which is popular in Japan. The brand ventured to Singapore and opened 2 branches at Vivocity and JCube for 2 years (1-2 years ago) but has since withdrawn.
Craft and haberdashery lovers will definitely go ga-ga at Yuzawaya, a hobby and craft specialty mega-store with branches all over Japan. The one located at Takashimaya Times Square is not the biggest branch but already enough to drive me nuts. I didn't have time to explore the entire store in detail as taking photos alone took me 30 mins. So didn't manage to buy anything :(
Just look at the rows and rows of textiles in different colours, designs, patterns, materials etc. It's like all the shops at Textile Centre Singapore combined.
The ribbons!! All the ribbon shops combined in SG also not as many as the colours, materials, patterns, designs here! Why?
Tools and materials to design and make your own bags.
Yarn lovers would be buried alive by the yarns here. And these are just a small section of yarns available.
Knitting/croquet hooks and more tools.
There are also craft corners to take lessons or DIY on-the-spot.
These are just some interesting places that I covered in Shinjuku this time. I mean Shinjuku itself is so big, there are so many areas worth exploring but there's always not enough time :(
End of Part I. Stay tuned for Part II on FOOD!