I made it to Japan! 45 minutes early too. More to come once I get to the hotel and can gather my thoughts a bit (and have wifi).
Well, I've just arrived here at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, thank goodness. The hotel will have to wait for another post, however, because we've got a lot of travel to catch up on!
Where were we? At the Shinjuku Park Tower!
The tower itself actually contains many different things, including lots of offices. The hotel starts on the 39th floor and goes all the way to the top.
Whike I was in the right place, I was on the wrong side of the building. Luckily the guard at the office entrance had a map to explain where I needed to go:
Getting around to the other side involved a bit of a maze of some very lovely walkways and courtyards:
evebtualky I made it to the other side and into the Park Hyatt entrance. The first floor lobby is lovely but very simple, since all that's down there is a bunch of elevators to get you up to the hotel. After giving my name I was escorted upstairs to check in.
The elevators, by the way, not only have lovely lighting and wood paneling, but each one features different sculptures. This elevator features sculptures of dogs:
We reached the lobby level, which starts with this wonderful atrium:
This was also my first taste of the amazing views the hotel offers. Bring so high up means that everything has a view:
It was about 6am at this point so everything was very quiet. That's just as well, because as I soon discovered the hotel is a very well-appointed maze.
Down this hallway...
Lies the casual restaurant, which was just starting breakfast service:
Turning the corner, there's a kind of library hallway:
And turning the corner again, you finally reach the lobby proper:
I checked in, but it would be another half hour or so before our room was ready. So, I headed back to the restaurant for breakfast.
While I wouldn't say Tokyo as a whole is extremely expensive (at least compared to LA), one thing about staying at an expensive hotel is everything is expensive. Keeping in mind ¥1,000 is a little under $10:
I opted for the Belgian waffles, which I have to say were excellent:
By the time I finished my room was ready, and another elevator ride brought me up several more floors to reach it.
Home sweet home for the next three days:
They'd set out pastries, parfaits and fresh carrot juice for us:
And last but not least, the view:
Time to settle in and freshen up a bit, then it's onward to explore Tokyo!
Well folks, it is late- or maybe early? After a busy first day in Tokyo I got back here to the hotel around a quarter to one, and after an hour of pouring through today's photos it's now nearly 2am. Which also means I've been awake for approximately 24 hours. So if it's alright with you I'm gonna keep the text to a minimum and try and let the photos do the talking!
After my travel companion Alexander made it in from Hong Kong, we headed downstairs around 10am to get a bite to eat at the bakery/deli on the first floor of the building:
We decided to head to Shibuya, home of a lot of major shops and department stores. While we could have taken the train, we decided to walk so as to better take in the city. It struck me for the first of many times today that Tokyo has a fantastic mix of urban sprawl and natural greenery:
And immediately after taking that photo I was nearly struck, literally, by a passing bike. Bicycles are very common and can ride on the sidewalk or the street, so you definitely have to keep an eye out. In fact later on down the sidewalk there was a chicane to try and slow down bikes passing through:
As we got closer to the heart of Shibuya the urban landscape became more dense and more colorful:
Our first stop in Shibuya was, of course, the Disney Store, the largest in Tokyo.
While it may be the largest, it isn't actually very large. What it is instead is tall: three stories. This was a common theme in shops, restaurants, pretty much everything; small spaces that go up high. The three floors each had a Disney theme: Alice in Wonderland, Princesses/Pinocchio, and Toy Story, all connected by a tight spiral staircase.
While some of the merchandise was somewhat different than what you'd find in the US, there wasn't much particularly crazy or interesting. Standouts were this line of adorable Zootopia plush (astoundingly complete too- Flash the sloth is included in the set but was so popular they'd sold out of him) and of course the :sum Tsums:
Having seen all there was to see at the Disney Store, we pressed on into Shibuya:
Not far from Disney we found, of all things, an honest-to-God Tower Records!
...which featured a whopping 9 floors:
We headed towards the famous Shibuya Crossing, a massive Times Square-style intersection:
We decided to make our way over to Takeshita Street, a major urban shopping district:
More nature and bikes along the way:
Takeshita Street is, it must be said, intense:
Thing I totally regret not trying: this cool escape-room type game thing where you have to navigate through a field of laser beams:
Takeshita is also a great place to experience Kawaii, aka Japanese Cute Culture.
Above the store in the above picture was, in fact, another Disney Store. This one was genuinely rather small:
Just across the street from Takeshita Street, once again showing that balance between urban sprawl and nature, is the beautiful Meiji Shrine:
I could have gladly spent all day here.
As it happened, due to the Golden Week holidays, there was a festival of events happening:
I was starting to fade at this point and we decided to keep moving instead of sticking around until the performances began.
We headed back towards Shinjuku, where the Park Hyatt is located:
The Park Tower in sight, we headed back up to the hotel to regroup before embarking on evening activities:
That probably seems like a pretty full day, but it was only mid afternoon. Coming up next: Tokyo after dark!
Boy is it late. One more quick post to get us caught up to the present (and then I can get myself caught up on sleep)...
After freshening up in the room, we headed out to the atrium lobby, which in the evening is a busy mix of bar, lounge, and restaurant. Amidst glasses of wine the sun set on our first day in Tokyo, which couldn't have looked better from 43 stories up:
I was in touch with a friend from high school, also named Alexander, who has been living and working in Tokyo for several years now and offered to take us out to a locals dinner. This entailed venturing out to Meguro, to some very small locals restaurants where the menus are only in Japanese.
First was Onoda Shoten, which is a sort of Japanese-Korean fusion restaurant. The entire place is very literally smaller than my apartment. Copious quantities of meat and veggies were ordered and grilled very hot, along with several rounds of drinks.
That was all pretty filling, but for the true locals experience you have to hit more than one spot. So we next went to nearly Minato-machi Baru, which is a sort of Japanese-Italian pub.
The place had something like five different menus, some with food and some with drink, all entirely in Japanese, which Alex luckily talked us through:
My cola highball (highballs are quite popular in Japan).
Also on the table were fried oysters, some fantastic potato salad, tiramisu, and a sort of Hors d'oeuvre plate of bread and curry nuts and salads, which we hadn't ordered. Apparently as Japanese pubs such as this it's standard for them to bring out a plate like this, which you're then charged for, as a sort of table charge (but at least you get food in the bargain).
It was getting close to midnight, and not only were we tired but wary of missing the train back to Shinjuku, which ended at 12:30am. We made it back to the Shinjuku train station, and walked back to the hotel— the same exact walk I'd made at 6am that morning. A full circle day if there ever was one.
Well, it's now 3:30am, and I've been up nearly 26 hours. Time for bed. Till tomorrow!
To avoid being up till 3am again tonight I'm gonna try and blog as I go a bit today. Let's see how it goes!
Today's first stop is the Tokyo Sky Tree, a very tall tower that opened about 4 years ago. It's so tall in fact that you can see it from our hotel room:
But it nevertheless took about half an hour for us to get there via the subway.
Once we got here, though, it wasn't hard to find. Sky Tree has its own subway station.
Unfortunately it's very windy today so we wouldn't be climbing the tower itself.
But there's a whole entertainment complex and mall here to explore:
Deciding where to have lunch proved a bit of a challenge:
We ultimately decided on a place specializing in Yōshoku cuisine, which is sort of weird Japanese interpretations of western (mostly European) dishes.
My lunch: menchi-katsu (a breaded and deep fried meat cake) with omurice (an omelette filled with fried rice and topped with ketchup):
This was also one of the only restaurants we've visited to offer soft drinks (sodas are big in Japan, just not during meals apparently) so I tried this melon soda, which was very sweet and quite tasty:
We continued to explore-it was very busy due to today being another national holiday:
i got to try some Tokyo Cider- cider in Japan means soda, usually a sort of bubblegum citrus flavor soda (if you've tried Ramune it's a bit like that). It even came in a souvenir Sky Tree bottle:
The tower itself:
On to the next adventure!
©2016 Ben Wszalek