Tokyo shop and drop

This is a really short trip and took place over the lunar new year.
It is more of a “procurement” trip where shopping and eating are the main activities and not much more. Well, at least we try to document some of the observations we have.

On this occasion, we stayed at the Grand Takanawa hotel in Shinagawa.

It had been Melvin’s “base” for his business trips in the past (as the office is near) and it sort of got stuck in our pysche to keep going back to the same few hotels of the Prince chain. Not that it is badly located, but it is not the most optimal if one were to use as a base to reach shopping zones such as Shinjuku and Shibuya.

19th February
An overnight flight, we arrived 6am in the morning and not much of sleep!
Shopping all day continued!
We had the opportunity to try out the SATS premier lounge in terminal 3 this time (last year we continued to use the Star Alliance Gold lounge). We get four vouchers per year from our Amex card, enough for two trips. The food and drink’s pretty good – must say it’s on par with Silver Kris. Quite many airlines use the lounge too. The magazine well stocked! We missed out! SATs Premier lounge1
Ginza Unagi lunch5Six hours later and we had arrived in the wee hours and got into the hotel before 9am. Dropped the luggage and we headed off to Ginza. It’s quieter on a week day but nonetheless there was already a queue at Chikuyotei (竹葉亭) before 11am!Ginza Unagi lunch3

It has a long history, founded in the late 1800s. Famous for its serving of Unagi dishes, we were told by dining Japanese guests it is one of the bests in the city!Ginza Unagi lunch2

There was the high end ~¥5000+ set and our choice of the “normal” ¥3600 box of unagi on rice. Our other set cost us ¥1800.

The actual location of the restaurant is quite misleading on the maps. It points to an alley, when in actual fact the shop front is facing the main Showa road. We walked past it, even after noting there was a queue! Just remember when there’s a queue, it usually means something’s good there…The shop is very busy and turned over very fast.

Shinjuku backstreets2 Shinjuku backstreets3 After lunch, it was followed a lot of shopping all over the Shinjuku area. We walked the length and breadth around the malls and side streets of this shopping district till it was dark. Only then did we rested at Ton Chin Kan, our favorite Tonkatsu diner.
We are lucky Tokyo night 3 as the weather had turned pleasant on the day we arrived. It had been snowing the days before according to other tourists!
In the evening we had sweet strawberries for dessert as we watched the beautiful night lights of the city from
Tokyo night 1the comfort of the hotel.
Overnight stay in Grand Prince Takanawa, Shinagawa

There is this similarity between Japan and Singapore – queues. Now we dare say that we do not have as much of the etiquette as the Japanese, but we certainly create queues just about anywhere for the food.

From food blogs, we had read about Chikuyotei, and its reputed river eel servings. It was quite an adventure in itself to locate the restaurant, being so inconspicuous (to us who do not read Japanese) that we walked past it – twice!

In the evening it was back to the comfort of our ‘usual’ Tonkatsu place in Shinjuku. And this was eventhough we were put up in a hotel 9 stops away (approximately 30 minutes by JR). Talk about customer loyalty. Here’s some!

20th February
It’s a full day of shopping at Gotemba! The bus from Shinagawa has a better arrangement of time – arriving early at the mall.
Tokyo day1 Shinagawa Gotemba bus pickup2 Shinagawa Gotemba bus pickup1
It is such a wonderfully clear day that the skyline from the hotel room simply blows you away. The air is crisp and cold and unlike most large cities, you do not get much in the way of pollution!
The express coach service departs for Gotemba from the East exit of the Shinagawa station and leaves every day at 8:10am. Arriving ~9:30am, it gives sufficient time for shoppers to “prep” themselves and window shop (literally) before the stores open at 10am.
You have time to get to the visitor centre to obtain discount booklets.
On a fine day, Mr Fuji and beauty meet (Suan). From the bus stop at Gotemba, views of Mount Fuji can be seen on a clear day.
View of Fuji from Gotemba5View of Fuji from Gotemba2Unfortunately, we did not get to see it totally cloud free (it seems to be always shrouded in cloud). Devoid of people for now, it will soon be as bustling as you can imagine it to be.Gotemba3Gotemba4
On this fine day, we can finally show how the mall looks like sans the throngs of tourists that will arrive by the busload (literally) later in the day to “sweep” clean the cabinets of luxury bags, shoes etc…
Gotemba2The calm before the storm. Wedgewood1Dolls day5Fancy a tea set at discount? Bvlgari 2Bvlgari Bags for sale.
Agnis B1Look b4 the Chinese buy them all Anna Sui1We call this the Sui 姐 store.  Fancy Chicken rice in Gotemba?Singapore chicken rice stall
Ramen Dinner3 Ramen Dinner2 After a hard day’s work, it is always energizing to gobble down a large bowl of hot noodles. This is exactly what we had at the Shinatatsu ramen street.
Located under the JR line in Shinagawa station, there are 7 ramen noodle restaurants to choose from and they are always full! cost us ¥2500 for two.
Overnight stay in Grand Prince Takanawa, Shinagawa

There are actually many bus services that link Tokyo (and the surrounding suburbs) with the ‘premium’ outlet mall at Gotemba. We do not know what we don’t and so always take the bus that departs at 8am in the morning from Shinjuku. There are similar services at Tokyo station etc…
Anyway, long story short is that it was a good shopping trip to the outlet mall. The boss got what she wanted and was glossing over her prize(s) the whole evening in the hotel and in the next few days.

21st February
Today we spent most of the day in Shibuya, having taken an excursion to Shinjuku to pick up some items.
Sushi lunch2 Sushi lunch3 It was very early in the morning that we headed to Mark city mall in Shibuya to book a place for lunch at Midori Sushi.
We were privileged to be the first in to pick up No.1 for the queue to have our meal at 11am! We had shopped at Hikarie mall and when we got back the queue had extended to >50 people!
Sushi lunch4 What is so special about this restaurant? Reasonably priced and on par with some of the known names in Tsukiji. You can even taste exotic. So we ordered two sets, both of the ¥2500 kind. It’s kind of like ‘omakase’ in our view, but from a sushi sense. Not that the restaurant does that officially. The chef(s) fill in what’s available into the set. So sometimes we get a surprise. Sushi lunch18Most are standard fare but occasionally you get… can you guess what part of the whale this comes from?
Sushi lunch10 Sushi lunch14 Sushi lunch15
Wakefield cat cafe Shinjuku backstreets1Ometesando shoe shop It was a hectic afternoon. We made a quick foray to Shinjuku to purchase items from the branded stores before heading back to Shibuya.
Spent time at the pharmacies, Tokyu hand and the specialty shops all over Omotesando area. Did not take photos, but the throng of people on a weekend is incredible!
We must have walked for miles getting from store to store and street after street of shops! There just seem to be endless array of shops around every corner in Shibuya and the adjoining Harajuku district.
One of the features of shopping in Japan is the immense variety of skin care products on offer. And the variations change very often too! What you could buy a year ago could well be obsolete before the next year you visit!
Suan chooses a few large stores in Shinjuku and Shibuya where significant discounts and tax-free shopping are offered.
Example, my face wash could be bought at ¥297 compared to “normal” discounted price of ¥348 per bottle! And this will cost S$14/bottle in Singapore!
Pharmacy store1 Haneda Crab & lotus udon4After another hard day’s shopping, it was time to have a good meal. This time we tried out Jackpot Oyster shack, where normally (when we had the time), an all you can eat buffet of BBQ oysters for ~¥3500pp is on offer.
Jackpot Oyster4 Jackpot Oyster2 But we had only time for Oyster in croquette (¥1200) and cooked oyster (¥1000) washed down with refreshing beer. The locals were simply downing fresh oyster like no tomorrow! A good place to come here with a large group.
Overnight stay in Grand Prince Takanawa, Shinagawa

Surprise is normally frowned upon when you have your meal, unless it is pleasant! And that’s the experience that we got when we dined at Midori Sushi this time. If you hadn’t guessed what the tiny bags of whitish stuff was, we’ll give you a clue : you know what whales need for reproduction? The males we mean…aiyah for some…

Needless to say, today’s the last day for Suan to complete her purchases. So, it was with lots of bags that we lugged to dinner. But eat we must and we found yet another place to put on the list of “to go” for the next journey.

22nd February
Packing the luggage (came empty, return full) – one was completely empty on the way up to Tokyo.
Tokyo day3 Messy room on check out Finally we (meaning Melvin) had the opportunity to wake up late. But it was not all easy for me, for we had to pack and squeeze all the purchases into the luggage.
Needless to say, the room was left in an utter state of mess when we were done. We had dumped a lot of old clothes along the way.
Dolls day2Then it was off to the airport. At the lobby of the hotels and the airport we noted that there were displays of dolls on platforms to celebrate Hinamatsuri (雛祭り). The idea is to use the dolls to contain bad spirits and the dolls are supposed to be floated down the river to the sea to have the spirits sent away… The dolls represented emperor and empress, attendants and musician from the Heian period.
Haneda Beef Udon2Alas the time has come to leave, and with that the end of the shopping (we wish) trip. A 30-minute ride later and we got to Haneda, where we immediately set ourselves to queue for udon at Tsuru Tontan restaurant. The restaurant is located on the 4F of the airport, which has been transformed into a food street reminiscent of old city charms of Kyoto etc.. Some of the restaurants here are branches of famous establishments from the city.Haneda Beef Udon1 Haneda Airport foodstreet1
Haneda Beef Udon3 Haneda Airport foodstreet10 Haneda Airport foodstreet8
We had some time on our hands after lunch that was spent browsing the many Japanese confectionery outlets. It was time to leave, but not without spending every last yen we had in duty free!
Flight SQ633, ETD 1640hrs for Singapore

And so ends this pilgrimage of shopping and eating with new memories of Japan.
This has been a really short trip of just four days! Short, sharp and to the point. This would be the words of this journey.

Our intent now is to spend even more days next year at the same time (February). We will need to earn the requisite air miles of 38,250 Kris Flyer miles (15% off 45,000 if redeemed online) for each pair of return tickets. And if we are lucky, we will upgrade one way back to enjoy the flight home and have more kilograms’ allowance on baggage.

February 2015

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