Big City Day – Tokyo

19 Jan 2016

Hello! I may not be very good at delivering on my promise of daily posts but I promise I will catch up. I am right now in Hokkaido but need to report on Tokyo part of my trip first. I landed at Tokyo at around 8.30 am on Sunday and took the skyliner to the city (one way ticket costs around USD 20). Haneda Airport is quite far from the city center and you will need around 55 minutes to first get into Ueno from where you can take the subway to your final destination in Tokyo. You can buy a roundtrip skyliner ticket at a discounted price and also benefit from combined offers covering Tokyo subway if you are in the city at least for a day. However, please note that there are more than one subway/city line companies serving Tokyo area so you need to be careful choosing your daily subway ticket and make sure the areas you intend to visit are covered.

In about two hours after landing, I was at my hotel. I – for the second time – chose to stay at Hotel Claska in Meguro district. Hotel Claska is a design hotel (with an amazing design shop + their own furniture shop right across the street) with great prices for a city like Tokyo. I at both times could get a room for around USD 100 per night and it is a great rate for a hotel of this quality. I mainly stayed in Meguro area for the day but made a quick trip to Shinjuku to look around some camera shops. I am so used to buy things online – I always feel overwhelmed when visiting big electronic stores and usually end up buying nothing. Same thing happened this time (my usual overwhelmingness kicked in even stronger as – if you have been to Shinjuku – you know how noisy and distracting it can get). The camera shops in Tokyo already put up their place holders for the recently announced mirrorless camera – Fuji X-Pro 2. It will however be out for purchase in February. It is too bad that I just missed the launch  of this new camera as I have been waiting for this camera for more than two years (and will hope that prices in Turkey will not be much higher than in Japan (it is surprisingly the case for most of Fuji models)). My previous experience with Fuji mirrorless cameras was with X-E1 but I quickly sold it as I could not get used to the electronic viewfinder. X-Pro line offers the only mirrorless Fuji cameras with an optic viewfinder. Also I definitely need a back-up camera to pair with my beloved Canon 5D Mark II (which paid few expensive visits to the repair shop over the last two years).

Lobby at Hotel Claska.

Meguro district is an area which feels more mellow and laid-back compared to the other busy neighbourhoods of Tokyo. It feels like my own little Kyoto in Tokyo. There are many home design stores on the main street leading up to Claska and I this time also had a chance to check out some used book stores along the way. Claska has a pocket guide for its guests listing the places of interest in the area including a list of restaurants serving all tastes. Looking at the design of the hotel, I knew I could easily trust their taste. So after a quick trip to Shinjuku, I came back to the peacefulness of Meguro area and at Claska`s recommendation, walking through a street full of design shops and nice looking cafes, I went to a sushi restaurant for dinner – Sushiya no Yoshikan. The food was great and the atmosphere was also interesting – I was the only non-Japanese in the restaurant and Claska gave me an English menu they put together with the warning that I may otherwise have hard time ordering. I did a lot of people watching and occasionally talked to the sushi chef (who actually spoke English) who was so into his job that the restaurant had number of fish art painted by him hanged on the walls. During dinner, I also read few pages from the book “Kitchen” written by a fairly famous Japanese writer Banana Yoshimoto. Now that I had finished the book (quite short – 140 pages) – I can say that I enjoyed the book but I wish that less number of events that took place in the story but each event had been analysed in more depth. It was a fun read in anyways.

Express train to Tokyo from the airport.

I had an early night on Sunday as I had a 6.40 am flight to catch to Asahikawa, Hokkaido. I got up at around 4 am and to my surprise, everywhere was all snow white! It was such a beautiful view but I had to run to the airport so could not get many photos. When traveling within Japan, thank to the fast train service, the usual option is to get a Japan Rail pass. A 7 days rail pass costs (I purchased mine for around USD 240) almost the same as a round trip ticket between Kyoto and Tokyo, so it is an amazing deal if you are planing on covering various different regions of Japan in the same trip. However, if you are traveling to Hokkaido, a train from Tokyo will take around 10 hours to Sapporo (shinkansen (fast train coming up in March 2016))- from where I need to travel for another 3 hours at least. So if you are short on time and need to get on a plane to cut the 10 hours train time down to 1.5 hours, check out the amazing Visit Japan airfares offered by All Nippon Airways – otherwise known as ANA. While a one way ticket from Tokyo to Sapporo or Asahikawa costs around USD 300 (seriously) if you purchase the regular fare, you can get the same ticket for around USD 84 (seriously) if you are not residing in Japan and can show a proof of an international round trip ticket to Japan. ANA is also a Star Alliance member so you can collect miles using their services if you are on the same mileage programme. That`s all from me for now and I will be in touch again hopefully tomorrow.