Why travel to Tokyo 東京?

Why does Suan like to shop and eat in Japan so much?

To share this story, Mel conducted a series of interviews with this shopping maestro over the course of a few months. The rationale of this methodology was to ensure no bias coming from the recent euphoric journey to Japan earlier in the winter of 2016. Further, to ensure consistency the interview questions were the same during this entire experiment.

We now share with you the findings from this study into the psychology of Japan-loving travelers.

SGDYenOne thing for sure that has happened was the continued appreciation of the Singdollar against the Japanese Yen. We are at the historically higher end of the range of value between the two currencies eventhough it has moderated somewhat in the 1st half of 2016 due to economic and political uncertainties affecting the global flow of money.

Tokyo, city of malls

Shinagawa stn rush hour2In a city of >20 million people, having enough to do during your free time is critical. Yes we know that the Japanese are generally workaholics, preferring to stay in the office till the dead of the night. Shinagawa stn rush hour4Some have even died from work exhaustion! But still 20+ million people is still a lot even when only 10% of them are “idling”! Imagine having to beat the morning rush hour every morning not just on the buses and trains, but also the stations dodging other salarymen and women making their way to work.

Ueno market4While we know that Tokyo is also a city of entertainment, our study focuses on shopping. Nowhere can it be really comparable in terms of the width and breadth of the shopping experience; from the humble wet market of Ueno to the swanky branded stores along Ginza’s pedestrian streets. Ginza street1We are sure other Asian cities too will boast of such disparity, but let’s se them to do it with a touch of class.

Do you know that there are new malls opening up almost every month in a year in Tokyo?

In 2016 for example, these were the cited by timeout:

  • Tokyu Plaza Ginza (31-March)
  • Newoman (25-March)
  • Tri-Seven Roppongi (Spring 2016?)
  • Atré Ebisu West Building (15-April?)
  • Ginza Place (Summer 2016)
  • Tokyo Garden Terrace Kioicho (27-July)

So in wards such as Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ginza for example, every year we journey to Tokyo we see a constancy of construction.

Tokyo, city of culinary marvels

So far, hopefully you had the opportunity to read our jounalogs as well as the stories we shared via our handprint pages. If not, hopefully this page will prompt you to click on theses exciting yarns of spin.

Food.

An important aspect of any journey is what you eat. You cannot travel to a country without stopping for drinks and meals. And in this metropolis that Tokyo is, we want to share with you the high/low, long and short of where you what you can expect to dine according to Suan.

In times not too long ago, we often heard of folks saying that Japan is “so expensive”. But it’s a strange wonder to know that the number of Singaporeans that visited Japan in 2015 topped 308,000 that is is 35% increase over 2014! The main reason for this is that the Yen has been depreciating against the Singdollar. But is it true that you can still find in Tokyo

Really Budget eats?

Breakfast Soba store1The answer is yes! Right in the center of the busy Shinjuku ward is a block of single storey buildings adjacent to the train station. As you walk through the little alleys here, you might be reminded of Bangkok’s markets instead. But press on and you will find a little soba noodle kiosk.Breakfast Soba store4 Frequented by working folks, it is bar top seating only.

Service is quick and there is not an extensive menu choice. A hot bowl of soba with Kakiage and raw egg costs just ¥500 and will definitely be able to satisfy your howling stomach. It has done so for these burly men!Breakfast Soba store5

And who says it is only in the corner stalls can you find affordable eats? Just step into any of the larger train stations and you will find standup or similar bar top ramen (noodle) establishments catering to the crowd seeking warm broth before taking the train. Here the most luxurious meal can be ordered for a grand ¥570! Even in the food streets such as the underground mall at Tokyo station.

Lest you think that these are exceptions you will be pleased to know that even in the budget hotels, very reasonable breakfast spread is served. We found out when we stayed for a few nights at the Toyoko inn. It only cost us only ¥8,980 per night for the room. Considering the location – ie it is near a main train station and comes with complimentary breakfast, it is not only affordable but convenient!

Mid Range

Noodle Alley - Shinagawa stn3‘Readers from Singapore should be familiar with Ramen streets that showcase some of the best establishments for a limited time (6 months we think) in the major shopping malls. Well, in Tokyo there are similar streets, except they are really along the street. One such place is at Shinagawa train station – called the Shinatatsu Ramen street. Prices range from just under ¥1000 to ~¥1300.

Our all time favorite has to be Ton Chin Kan, located in one of the streets of Shinjuku. It had been featured in some Singapore travel writer’s blog before. What draws us to reach out to this dining establishment each time we are in Tokyo is both variety and quality. There is a wide range of sets to choose from and they come in generous portions. What’s more the soup and rice are free flow! We always have 3-5 bowls of the steaming broth with the Daikon swimming in it! Find out where it is here.

Asakusa Tempura lunch2Then there has to be the finer (not fine dining) places to have you meals in Tokyo. At the busy Asakusa area, there is an inconspicuous restaurant along the side streets from the temple grounds. Named “大黑屋” (which many establishments in Japan seem to call themselves), they serve the largest tempura prawn sets that we have seen. Now the queue here starts early and at 1030am it was already a long line. So come here early! We recalled it cost us around ¥1800.

That’s not all. Tokyo is also all about affordable luxury – hence the finer dining meme. Having a beautifully crafted strawberry parfait at Shiseido parlour for ~¥1700 or drinking tea at Laduree at a fraction of what it costs back in Singapore.

If Fine dining is what you like, read all about it here.

And let us not forget. That cherry blossoms are a welcome sight in early spring each year. You do not need to go far to see them in Tokyo! At the manicured gardens of the Prince hotels in Shinagawa, you can wonder along tree-lined walkways enjoying a cool breeze as you take in views of the different species of cherry blossoms.

What’s there not to like about the city?

July 2016

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