Japan Pt V: Cost Summary

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We were in Tokyo for around 20 hours and spent a total of 18,500 JPY (or 114 SGD each).

Cost breakdown

Accommodation
Average cost/person/day: 40.76 SGD

35.7% or 6,600 JPY was spent on our night at Hotel MyStays Inaricho and was the biggest expenditure for this leg of the trip.

Transport
Average cost/person/day: 27.91 SGD

We spent 2,260 JPY each on public transport for our airport transfers and traveling around Tokyo, making it the second biggest expenditure. Tokyo’s public transportation isn’t the cheapest and our train to Narita Airport was already 1,030 JPY.

Food
Average cost/person/day: 23.54 SGD

The only paid meal that we had in Tokyo was the disappointing sushi lunch at Tsukiji market. We also bought some chocolates at a supermarket and we spent around 1,900 JPY each in total. We saved on dinner by eating at the ANA Business Lounge before our flight to LAX.

Shopping
Average cost/person/day: 21.24 SGD

Technically these were foodstuff such as Kitkat and most of which were bought as gifts for my friend K in US.

Misc
We bought an incense at Asakusa Temple for 50 JPY.

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Japan Pt IV: Getting to NRT & ANA Lounge

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Narita Airport Terminal 1 South

We only learned that Ueno Station was not connected to Keisei Ueno Station when we were trying to locate the platform for Keisei Main Line. Took us some time to figure out where it was but thankfully we didn’t miss the train that we should be catching.

Entrance to Keisei Ueno Station

Instead of the non-stop Skyliner (2,470 JPY, 41 min), we opted for the cheaper but much slower Keisei Main Line (1,030 JPY, 78 min).

Figuring out which platform to go to

Platform 4 for Rapid Train

Platform at Keisei Ueno

The train was relatively empty when we boarded. More passengers would board and disembark along the way.

Keisei Main Line

Both of us spent a big part of the 78-minutes ride dozing off and we were glad to reach the terminus at Narita Terminal 1.

Keisei Main Line train

We had used our PASMO to enter the station at Ueno and they needed to have the requisite amount (1,030 JPY in our case) before we could tap out of the airport station. There was a fare adjustment machine before the gantry and we topped up our cards there.

There was a cursory bag check before we entered the airport terminal itself. After going through the security, we noticed that there seemed to be an emergency at the station where large group of policemen and firemen were gathered. Not sure exactly why though.

Emergency response personnel at the airport station

We followed the signs through a series of escalators and walkways to NRT Terminal 1 South, where Star Alliance members operate out from.

SQ J check-in

A cheerful staff greeted us and inquired where we would be flying to. After realizing that our redemption was one-way only, she asked us for our onward tickets and seemed genuinely excited for us when she learned that we would be traveling around South America. She also proactively tagged our luggage as fragile after knowing that our tripod was in the checked bag.

NRT Terminal 1 was not a bad place to spot planes from the various Star Alliance members. Not surprisingly ANA is the dominant carrier here.

Nice big windows

How many airlines can you identify here?

After going through the immigration and security, we hit the gift shop to spend our remaining yens. One thing that the Japanese do very well is the packaging and all the gift packs sold at the airport are very presentable. We bought quite a bit of foodstuff for our friends in US as well as ourselves. Those Japanese biscuits and chocolates would turned out to be very important part of our diet on the other side of the Pacific.

And then it was time for lounge. We only had time to visit one and I knew which one that we needed: ANA Lounge.

ANA Lounge

Both of us were dying to have a shower and it was great that there was no wait for us.

Showers inside ANA Lounge

Sink and toiletries

Ying was impressed with the quality of the toiletries provided

After a refreshing shower, it was time to get fed. After the less-than-satisfying lunch at Tsukiji, I knew that the noodle station at ANA Lounge wouldn’t disappoint.

Cook-to-order tempura soba from ANA Lounge

There were other options such as onigiri and fried udon at the buffet counter as well.

Food counter at ANA Lounge

Hot options

Another cool feature of the ANA Lounge was the beer-filling machine.

Had to get a picture of that

The Japanese snacks went very well with Kirin beer

After a short but rather enjoyable time at the lounge, we headed up to our gate to find our plane ready to bring us across the Pacific.

Hello 9V-SKP

Japan Pt III: Day in Tokyo

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Tokyo, Japan

The receptionists at Hotel MyStays Inaricho must be the most enthusiastic staff ever. They cheerfully checked us out and allowed us to keep our bags with them until the afternoon. They also bowed when we were leaving the building or taking the elevator. Very impressed with Japanese service standard.

To reach Tsukiji fish market from where we were staying, we reckoned that the fastest way was by Tokyo Metro Ginza line to Ginza station.

On Ginza line

Hi George

It was a 10 minutes walk to Tsukiji’s outer market. The sight of shops and restaurants selling seafood made it unmistakeable.

Tsukiji

Hole-in-the-wall sushi place

Seafood

We located the information centre and it was staffed with English speakers. The gentleman at the centre gave us specific directions on how to get to the inner market.

Tsukiji inner market

Although the inner market was already winding down by mid-morning, there were still many things going on. While it was one of the places heavily-visited by tourists, the local workers just went around doing their work. Both of us were quite wary of the fast-moving buggys used to transport the fishes around the market; the people working there must be annoyed of the tourists (us included) who kept getting into their way.

Tsukiji inner market

Seafood for sale

Crabs

Fresh

Master at work

Looking at all the fishes had whetted our appetite for some sushi. We headed to the outer market where there were many sushi restaurants. As we didn’t do much research, we randomly chose a restaurant, hoping that the sushi would be awesome.

Restaurant where we ate at

We ordered two different sets of sushi (3240 JPY) from the picture menu, not knowing what exactly we’re in for.

Chef at work

The sushi turned out to look better than they tasted.

I think this is the cheaper set

The more expensive one

Unagi (from the more expensive set)

Ying is very discerning when it came to sushi as her dad is a chef specializing in Japanese cuisine and the meal was really disappointing for her (me as well). No wonder there were no other customers when we arrived and only one other couple (tourist as well) were dining when we left. On hindsight we should done our homework and chose a better place.

Ying had no recollection of visiting Asakusa in her previous trips to Japan and I thought that it would be a nice place to visit during our short stopover. We took Toei Ōedo Line from Tsukijishijō Station to Kuramae Station where we would transfer to Toei Asakusa Line for Asakusa.

Tsukijishijō Station

Posters at Kuramae Station – the ones on wanted criminals caught our eyes

Japan’s transportation system is well-known to be world-class but somehow the signs at Kuramae station failed me. We couldn’t locate the station on Asakusa Line after exiting the station on Ōedo Line and ended up walking 20 minutes to Asakusa instead. It turned out that we would pass by the headquarters of Bandai, where life-size figurines of their anime/video game characters were placed outside. Totally unexpected and a nice find.

Bandai

Figurines

Doing a Doraemon impersonation

Ultraman with blue cape

Tokyo Skytree was also visible in a distance during the walk.

Almost there

Asakusa was exactly how I remembered it to be: crowded and teeming with tourists. Nevertheless it is still a recommended place to go in Tokyo.

Kaminarimon

Rows of shops leading to Sensō-ji

Hōzōmon

Selfie

We also bought an incense (100 JPY) to pray for a safe trip ahead.

Praying

Sensō-ji up-close

Tranquil spot within Sensō-ji

After visiting Asakusa, it was almost time to head back to our hotel to collect our bags. The walk took us around 25 minutes and we also stopped by a supermarket enroute to pick up some chocs for Ying’s friend in US.

Unique building

Quite a big selection of beers at the supermarket

I reckoned that these were probably the most that we could handle in our short day in Tokyo. After collecting our bags, we headed for Ueno to catch our long train ride to Narita Airport.

Japan Pt II: Hotel MyStays Inaricho

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Hotel MyStays Inaricho

We saw the sign to Keikyu line Haneda International Airport station as soon as we exited to land-side.

Keikyu line

Information

We approached the Information for assistance and a staff helped us to purchase Pasmo (Tokyo’s equivalent to London’s Oyster Card or Hong Kong’s Octopus). There is a 500 yen deposit and we topped up ours for 1000 yen each.

Platform 2 to Shinagawa/Asakusa

Next train in 3 minutes

The ride on Keikyu Airport Express to Shinagawa took 19 minutes and cost 410 JPY.

Figuring how to transfer at Shinagawa Station

At Shinagawa, we would transfer to JR Yamanote Line to Ueno Station (160 JPY).

Ueno station

It was a 10 to 15 minute walk from Asakusa exit of the Ueno station and we found Hotel MyStays Inaricho quite easily. We followed the instructions given by the hotel and the staff checked us in within 10 minutes of our arrivals.

We were given room 709 which was at the end of a rather scary corridor.

Corridor (taken next day)

Room 307

The room was pretty small but it came with almost everything that we required. If I were to complain, the bed was kinda small for two people to share.

Towels on our bed

Work station beside bed

Sink, microwave, fridge and TV – all contained within a small space

Modular toilet with toiletries provided

I thought that the hotel was a great bargain at 6600 JPY for the night. However, it would be a little too claustrophobic to stay there for a few days.

When we were checking out the next morning, the day staff were very friendly and helped us with storing our bags for the day. Location-wise it’s very near Inaricho station and within 15 minute walk from Ueno JR station. Asakusa is also walkable from there as we would find out later in the day.

Japan Pt I: SQ 634 SIN-HND

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Happy Birthday!

The day had finally arrived.

Our transport (courtesy of ANZ Bank after SGD 1,500 spend within a month) arrived at 11am sharp and we found ourselves at SIN T3 in no time.

Limo transfer to airport

Weighing the bags

After getting our boarding passes, we headed air-side for the lounge.

Patrick’s excited too

T3 Air-side

To SilverKris Lounge

After getting our boarding passes checked by the ground staff, we headed to the dining area to grab some lunch.

SilverKris Lounge is meant for SQ and Star Alliance’s business and first class passengers only and it wasn’t crowded when we were there. There is a separate lounge for Star Alliance Gold members, which explained why SilverKris Lounge wasn’t packed.

Dining area

There were several hot food options and I went for some nasi lemak.

Our lunch – nasi lemak for me and a bit of everything for Ying

After the food, we went to sitting area to wait for boarding.

SilverKris Lounge

Patrick’s enthusiasm is infectious

We left it till late to head for our gate and it was already closing when we got there.

Gate Closing

9V-SYK

Flight: Singapore Airlines SQ 634
Depart: Singapore (SIN) – 13:55
Arrive: Tokyo Haneda (HND) – 21:50
Duration: 6h55m
Distance: 3297 miles (5296 km)
Aircraft: Boeing B777-300
Registration: 9V-SYK
Seat: 16A

A very friendly steward Lim welcomed us onto the plane. 9V-SKP is a refurbished 773 and I was surprised that there is a First Class cabin on the plane. We passed through the section and found our seats 16 A and C.

View from 16A

Steward Lim had noticed that Ying was carrying Patrick and he pro-actively offered Ying a SQ bear. Nice touch.

SQ bear

It was standard SQ with pre-departure drinks and the crew taking order for post-take off drinks. I went with water and hot green tea.

Of course I rummaged through the seat pocket.

Seat pocket content

Outside on the tarmac, there were several interesting planes at SIN’s remote stand.

Air Zimbabwe B762 (Registration: Z-WPE)

Not sure why it was there, flightradar24 showed that it left SIN on 22 May for unknown destination.

Jetstar A332 (Registration: VH-EBE)

Garuda B738 in Skyteam livery (Registration: PK-GMH)

RSAF plane lining up to take off – grey for stealth?

After take-off, I checked out the IFE in the regional configuration. The resolution didn’t seem very good.

Notice that the rather poor screen resolution

Although the selection was more limited compared to the offerings on A388 or B77W, there was more than enough content.

80 movies

126 TV shows

I settled on Chennai Express, a Bollywood comedy starring Shahrukh Khan and Deepika Padukone.

Chennai Express

It turned out to be a typical Masala comedy and there were many cliched jokes based on stereotypes on South Indians. I could understand why some would be upset of the movie.

My post-take-off drink arrived with some nuts. Eye shades and socks were also distributed.

Green tea with nuts

Socks and eye shades – other amenities such as toothbrush or shaver were in the restrooms

About an hour or so into the flight, the on-board meal was served.

Starter – Tian of Alaskan crab with mango and mesclun

It was a lovely dish since I love seafood. Main course was seafood too; my Book-the-Cook choice was baked king prawns with rice.

Baked king prawns – nice succulent prawns but not enough sauce

Ying chose the corn-fed chicken breast and it was surprising quite flavourful.

Ying’s flavourful chicken breast

We got to choose between tiramisu and chocolate mint cake for desserts. Both were so-so in my opinion.

Tiramisu

Chocolate mint cake

I declined the cheese plate and only had the banana. Pralines and post-meal drinks were also offered and it was hot green tea for me again.

After 2.5 hours with SRK and Deepika, I switched to Ted and Gang on How I Met your Mother.

Most long-winded dad ever

After HIMYM, I decided to watch another movie. This time it was a Hong Kong Police film Firestorm, headlined by Andy Lau. There were lots of action and explosions which to me were over the top. Guess this is the movie that one is likely to catch on plane but not in the theatres.

The flight coincided with Ying’s birthday and I had called SQ to arrange for a cake for her. It was delivered 2 hours before arrival by Steward Lim and another crew member and it came with a birthday card, two glasses of champagne, three soft toys and a birthday song.

Birthday cake prepared by SQ

Angry birds

Pic taken by Steward Lim

We each took a small piece each and Steward Lim offered to pack the cake for us to bring off the plane. Very good service indeed.

All good things would come to an end and we began to descend at around 9pm Japanese time.

Almost there

Japanese coast

We touched down at HND more than half an hour ahead of schedule and soon parked at our gate.

The ground staff bowed to the plane before connecting the aerobridge

After disembarking, it was still a long walk to the immigration and baggage claim area.

Walking to immigration

The queue was thankfully short and we were through in no time.

Baggage claim

Our checked bag didn’t take long as well and we were at the airport train station less than half an hour after leaving the plane. Amazing efficiency; I love Japan already!