Japan – Happiness in a hidden corner

For someone who doesn’t speak Japanese, we have been visiting Japan every year. For some strange reason, I find Tokyo quite easy to navigate. Possibly because of my previous stay in Taiwan, a former colony of Japan, where traces of Japanese influence are everywhere. From agriculture to bento boxes at train stations and a love for onsen and beautifully baked bread.

Knowledge of Chinese characters or Kanji though is useful but not essential. The Japanese transport system for travel destinations is very well coordinated to serve local tourists.

Thankfully, Japan is now more user friendly for foreign tourism. Most train stations have free WiFi connections. But in the event of seamless WiFi connections, you could:

1. Get a SIM card (data only) from JTB. They’ve moved to Takashimaya. You can get JR and Limousine bus tickets there too. Or from “Follow Me”. Expect a long queue at JTB so bring water or some food to entertain yourself.

2. Or get a WiFi router from Y5 Buddy or Changi Airport. https://www.changirecommends.com/owifi.aspx
I got a Y5 buddy which was more expensive than the one from Changi airport. The 3 days I was at Kurokawa and Takachiho, I’d no reception. When I contacted the staff in Singapore through WhatsApp – no response. Although I doubt there’s anything they could do. Apparently this happens a lot in Australia where there are areas of no coverage. Getting a router makes sense if you’re sharing with 2 other persons or if you’re in a city. I prefer using a local SIM card as there were times when I worry if I was connecting with mobile data.

Transfer from airport – should you travel by a Limousine Bus or JR train?
https://www.limousinebus.co.jp/en/information/visitor_tickets/

3. Always choose Haneda airport which is located closer to the city. A 1 way limousine bus ticket from Narita to our hotel cost $3100 but if from Haneda it’s $1800. From hotel to Haneda it’s only $1200. The bus stops exactly at our hotel (Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku) at certain times. But from Narita to hotel it starts from 2pm.

If you’re travelling to another city and transiting through Tokyo, choose to connect via the same airport in Tokyo as otherwise you can’t check through your luggage to final destination.

4. Depart from the same airport, this allows you to enjoy more of the savings bundle of the limousine bus ticket for 2 way or 1 way transfer with Metro + Toei. You can get this ticket when you arrive in Tokyo after baggage claim. Ticket counter is just after exit. The limousine bus stop is just outside the ticket counter. The JR counter is beside if you choose to travel by JR to the city. For the JR pass it’s cheaper to book in your home country and pick up your tickets or validate them inside Japan airport before baggage claim.

5. The Metro + Toei card is very convenient inside Tokyo to various destinations especially for me since there’s a station right next to the hotel. We only got a Kyushu JR pass which wasn’t valid for Tokyo so the best option was the Airport Limousine Bus and Metro +Toei pass combination.

Pros and Cons of Limousine bus
1. Limousine bus is more expensive than a JR express.
2. The Bus + Metro +Toei card is a good price
3. If the bus stops nearer your hotel than the JR station.
4. You don’t need to climb up and down stairs unlike the JR station. In some JR station such as in Hokkaido the JR station has no lift nor escalator so consider carrying your luggage up and down a long flight of stairs.
5. You’ve a guaranteed seat. The bus stop is just outsidethe arrival hall.

Cons
Bus takes 20 mins longer travel time than JR train.
It’s less frequent, has limited seats and cost more. (With the metro card combination it’s reasonably priced.)
You have a JR pass for travel across Japan which in this case, to take JR doesn’t cost more.
For us, the bus stop is nearer to our hotel than the JR station. On our departure date, there was a bus to Haneda stopping just in front of our hotel. No lugging around the luggage.

Hotels
I’ve stayed 3 times in Hotel Sunroute. Convenient for Limousine bus from airport. Get the 2 way return + 1 day or 2 day subway pass. You can get the bus tickets from the hotel counter too. It’s so comfortable. Why take the bus instead of the JR? With the JR station, you need to climb up and down stairs, look for lifts etc. Bus tickets are more expensive, but hassle free. I’ll choose hotels along the route of the limousine bus. (If you’re going to Furano in Hokkaido, be warned that the JR station has no lift and my poor husband had to carry two heavy luggage up and down 2 long flights of steps. )

Across the street from hotel is a Family Mart convenience store, McDonald’s. Nearby is Yodobashi, lots of malls.

I’m embarrassed to say I don’t leave Shinjuku except to make use of my 1 day subway pass and visit Daikanyama and OK look at the Shibuya crossing.

Rooms are new but tiny. I’ve just stayed in London for 7 days and a comparable service apartment at Citadines near the Gloucester station is much cheaper than this hotel per night. Is Japan really in recession, doesn’t seem to be the case for Hotel Sunroute. My room has no wardrobe though.

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Walkway connecting Takashimaya to the hotel. About 5 mins walk.

Convenience wins hands down. I return to the hotel a few times a day in between shopping to put down bags and recharge a bit. It is conveniently located near to subway lines and JR lines and lots of shopping and eating in Takashimaya and Isetan. I like the basement of Takashimaya mall. There’s also a Tokyu Hands next to it.

Very likely I will stay in this hotel for my next trip especially so because of the bus to the airport. If you’re up at 8am in cold December, the thought of waiting at the bus stop…

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