I have been transiting at Narita Airport since the late 80s while I was still pursuing my undergraduate and graduate degrees in the USA; BUT I have never visited Tokyo city! Nowadays, I believe everything happens for a reason.
My daughter’s (my second child) convocation ceremony for her Master Degree was scheduled to be held on 28th May 2019 in Melbourne. However, I could only depart KL on 24th May and must arrive in Melbourne on 27th May 2019 so that I could attend the convocation ceremony the next morning.
Earlier in May, while I was looking at my options to fly to Melbourne from KL, somehow an opportunity arose that I could redeem a FREE Japan Airlines Business Class Sky Suite ticket from Narita to Melbourne. So, if God wants me to go to Tokyo that is what I shall do even if it is only for two nights 🙂
But my backside was itchy, instead of flying from KL to Tokyo, I decided to fly to Hanoi instead. From Hanoi I will then take a flight with Japan Airlines on Business Class to Narita, Tokyo where I will spend 2 nights before departing for Melbourne.
So, before I touch on my Tokyo Trip, I will first share with you guys some tips in the event you want to visit Hanoi for a few hours like I did.
Tips On Stopover In Hanoi
I landed in Hanoi Terminal 2 just before noon. Since I was flying out on the same day at about midnight, I decided that I would store my backpack at the airport instead of carrying it all over Hanoi city.
Luggage Storage At Hanoi Airport
The Luggage Storage Room is located on the second floor of Terminal 2. You will have no problems getting there as there are adequate signage to indicate the direction.
I planned to return to the airport before 9pm. Therefore, it cost me VND80,000 to have my backpack stored there. As you can see below, the storage price varies and it only cost VND110,000 if you store your luggage there for more than 30 days! Go figure.
Express Bus No.86 Noi Bai International Airport To/From Hanoi
I then took the Express Bus No. 86 from Noi Bai International Airport to Hanoi city. It cost me only VND35,000 which is about USD1.50!!! Freaking cheap right.
Once you are out of the arrival terminal, turn to your left until you see the Bus Stop for Bus No.86. You do not need to purchase any ticket before hand. Just enter the bus and an attendant will then collect the money from you and issue you a ticket.
The bus was clean and air-conditioned too. However, I tell you, the bus driver was honking non-stop but then again you can’t really blame him as there were motorbikes everywhere and the roads were kind of narrow.
Below is a map showing the bus stops for the Express Airport Shuttle No. 86 around Hanoi city. You can also google for more information but I think the map I have prepared for you below should be sufficient for you to easily figure out where to board the Bus No.86 to the Airport.
NIA (Noi Bai International Airport) Business Class Lounge
I checked in at 9.10pm for my flight to Narita with Japan Airlines Business Class on Boeing 787-800. I was invited to the lounge and you can click here to read my report on Hanoi NIA Business Class Lounge.
Japan Airlines Business Class Hanoi To Narita
Below are a few photos of the Japan Airlines Business Class Sky Suite. I will present to you soon my full report on JAL Business Class Sky Suite Narita Tokyo to Melbourne.
For breakfast I had the Western Set – Bacon, Egg, Croissant and Pancakes with Cream and Strawberry Sauce……………. I was in heaven 🙂
My Tokyo Trip 2019
Express Bus Narita Airport To/From Tokyo
I landed in Tokyo at about 6am. I tell you, Immigration was a breeze and the Customs officer was really polite and friendly. Interestingly, I had to declare on the Customs Declaration Form if I had any gold products which I did; therefore I tick YES on the form because I was wearing a gold bracelet and gold necklace too.
As usual, the first thing I did was go look for a smoking area and upon exiting the terminal, I could see a smoking booth across the road 🙂 Smoking booths outside a building?! Why can’t we just smoke in the open? Later I found out that some stupid people banned smoking on the streets in Tokyo (or maybe entire Japan too?)!!! WTF! As if the pollution from the vehicles are not cancerous.
I asked one of my followers who travels to Japan for holiday very frequent how to get to Tokyo city and he told me the easiest and cheapest way is by bus. He even gave me the link – click here for Keisei Express Airport Bus. It only cost 1000 Yen and 1900 Yen for one-way and return respectively.
So, after smoking I entered the terminal again to look for Keisei Bus Ticketing Counter and bought return tickets. The counter staff could communicate with me in English.
The journey to Tokyo city was about an hour. The journey was really smooth and it is because Japanese bus drivers (most if not all Japanese people) are very disciplined and cultured. The bus driver did not even honk once unlike the bus drivers in Hanoi, hahaha.
I arrived in Tokyo city about 9.30am (because I was dilly dallying at the airport where I took my own sweet time). Below is the Bus Stop No.3 where I departed from the Express Bus AND it is the same place where I boarded the bus again to the airport.
Since my trip to Tokyo was Free and Easy (literally), I had nothing planned and it was too early to go to my hotel (about 10 to 15 minutes walk from the Bus Stop) to check-in. What I wanted was to go check out my favorite ramen, i.e. Ippudo Ramen, but they only open at 11am. So, I decided to head to the Imperial Palace to have a look see. I have taken the trouble to show you the path I took from the Bus Stop to the Imperial Palace, haha.
So happened while outside the Imperial Palace, I saw a sign that states that there will be an Imperial Palace Tour at 12.30pm. I then asked one of the attendants and was told that the tour is FREE! The lady told me (yes, she communicated with me in English) that I should come back and wait in line at 12.30pm where they will issue tickets for the tour (limited to 300 people based on first come first serve basis).
It was about 10am+ and the tour will not start for another 2 hours or so. Therefore I decided to hunt for my favorite ramen, i.e. Ippudo Ramen, located at Marunouchi, which I had no idea where it was, haha.
Ippudo Akamaru Ramen – The Best Ramen In The World & Smoking Rooms
Oh, I must tell you, Tokyo is the cleanest city on earth! There is not a single rubbish bin on the streets but yet everywhere is spotless including the alleys! And by then I have also realized that there were no one smoking on the streets which is impossible as I know Japanese are heavy smokers.
Anyway, I got lost looking for Ippudo but I found a smoking room at the basement of one of the buildings I entered! And the room was called REFRESH ROOM – the words describing the smoking room was so appropriate for my case, hahaha.
After some asking around and with my smartphone, I managed to locate Ippudo.
As usual, I ordered my favorite ramen, Ippudo Akamaru Ramen, the best ramen in the world.
Here is my conclusion about the Akamaru Ramen I had in Tokyo – The Cha Siu was lean & nice and the ramen itself was the thin type that I like BUT I still prefer the soup in KL!!! Actually, FYI, I also prefer the Akamaru served in KL versus in Melbourne. I tell you, the best ramen (tonkotsu soup) in the world, i.e. Ippudo Akamaru Ramen, is in KL Gardens/Mid Valley!!! But in Japan, the Cha Siu is better anytime.
After lunch, I went looking for a smoking room again and had no problem finding one as all I needed to search for is a floor directory which will then indicate where the smoking rooms is located!
Imperial Palace FREE Tour
I then decided to walk back to the Imperial Palace which was about a 10 to 15 minutes walk. When I reached there about 12.10pm, there was already a queue, all kiasu people like me, hahaha.
And exactly at 12.30pm, they started handing out the tickets. Mine was No. 129.
At exactly 1pm, we were allowed in to the palace ground. Before the tour started, we had a briefing on what to expect and what we were not to do.
FYI, the Imperial Palace Tour is only offered on Tuesdays to Saturdays in Japanese or English. However on Saturday, they also offer Mandarin, German and Spanish speaking guides. The tour itself will take about an hour walking around the Imperial Palace Grounds. Below are photos I took during the tour.
Most of the actual original buildings have been burned down and only a few survived the big fire.
After the tour, it was already 3pm. Therefore, I decided to walk to my hotel. My legs were already so tired as I had been walking non-stop since morning. But because I was so damn “kedekut” to pay for taxi, I decided to walk to the hotel (about 20 to 25 minutes walk) and foolishly suffered in silence (come to think of it – why was I so stupid saving my children’s future inheritance for what?!).
Apa Hotel Ginza Takaracho – Non Smoking Room
I booked 2 nights at Apa Hotel Ginza Takaracho via Agoda and with my Maybank AMEX Reserve, I only paid about RM555 after 7% discount. However, I made a BIG mistake booking non-smoking room! How the hell would I have known that I couldn’t smoke on the streets! And too bad for me, all the smoking rooms have been booked!
For the price I paid for the room, less than RM300 per night, I am more than satisfied as the room was clean and spacious enough for me to move around. There was even a small bathtub in the bathroom!
After a shower I took a short nap before dinner. I just walked around nearby the hotel and there was nowhere I could smoke!!! Had dinner at a nearby restaurant that cost me less than 1000 Yen. I had to use a machine to order my food and had no idea what to do, hahaha. Asked the waitress and she guided me. It worked like a vending machine, insert money first and then press the button of your choice based on the relevant photo.
I did finally find a place to smoke after dinner. You see, some restaurants’ customers are permitted to smoke in front of the restaurant premise on the street and this is indicated if there is an astray at the entrance to the restaurant. I came across one restaurant with an astray at the entrance so I smoked there, hahaha.
After dinner, I returned to the hotel and asked the reception if I could have a smoking room the next day. After some checking, they said YES! However, I needed to check out by 11am and could only check in again after 3pm. Of course I agreed and was overjoyed that God knows that I had been suffering and granted my request.
McD & Smoking Room
I decided to head to McDonalds for breakfast which was located about 7 minutes walk from my hotel. Upon reaching McD, I was overjoyed that they had Bacon, Egg and Cheese Bun 🙂
After I finished my breakfast, next on my itinerary was to look for a place to smoke. I noted that many people were entering a building right opposite McD. So I walked towards it and right at the entrance there was a no smoking sign but that did not deter me from entering the building to look for the floor directory. And as expected, there was a smoking room at the basement level. So I took the escalator down and then only realized why there were so many people – it was a horse betting house, hahaha.
I entered the smoking room to take a few fags. While I was smoking I noticed an old man smoking and betting too (he was looking at the paper in his hand while a race was on going which was announced over the PA system). It then came into my mind that this old man is truly blessed – enjoying life to the max in his golden years smoking and gambling 🙂 Who says smoking kills? I tell you it is the negative energy you generate and being a slave to money that causes stress which leads to illnesses and health issues.
After breakfast I returned to the hotel to check out and handed my backpack to the receptionist for safe keeping and headed to Takashimaya.
On The Way to Takashimaya
On the way to Takashimaya, I found out one of the reasons why Tokyo is so freaking unbelievably clean………. the Japanese besides being very disciplined and cultured, they volunteer to clean the streets! I saw many young people picking up the little rubbish that was on the streets. I then approached 2 handsome young men and ask them if they volunteer every week to clean the streets and one of them told me that they were ordered by their company superior to clean up the streets on selected Sundays, hahahaha.
Oh yes, once again I communicated with the two young men in English. I am surprised that almost everyone I communicated with in Tokyo could understand English including the attendants at 7-Eleven, Family Mart and Lawson.
I tell you, if all the companies in Malaysia instruct their staff to “volunteer” on selected Sundays to clean our streets, every city in Malaysia will look as clean as Tokyo too. Not only that, many government agencies practice 5S, well, if they want to follow Japanese system, do it to the max and not half-way. The government agencies should be ordering their staff to clean the streets every weekend too, hahaha. And if all the government agencies and private companies follow what the Japanese do, we can save billions of Ringgit flowing out of our country as we do not need to employ foreigners to clean our streets anymore.
Takashimaya & Smoking Room
The Takashimaya shopping complex was huge and even had a separate building called Watch Maison just for watches.
Smoking Room at Takashimaya Tokyo
After checking out both the Watch Maison and the pastries and sweets at the main shopping complex, I asked the Information Counter where the smoking room was and I was told it was at the Roof Top.
So I took the elevator and they had beautiful young Japanese ladies as lift attendants!
The Smoking Room at the Roof Level is just next to the lifts/elevators. I went to the vending machine and bought a can of Coke Lime to go with my fags.
Tokyo Station – Ramen Street, HighBall Bar and Smoking Rooms
After hanging out at Takashimaya for about close to 2 hours, I headed to Tokyo Station Ramen Street for lunch.
If you google, Rokurinsha Tsukemen (a dipping noodle dish) was highly recommended. I on the other hand love Tonkotsu Ramen and Oreshiki Jun was recommended by many bloggers.
The Tokyo Station Ramen Street in located at Level B1. Take the escalator down to B1 (I took the escalator in front of Daimaru) and look for First Avenue or JR Line. Once you at First Avenue, look for the Directory and you will then see how to get to Ramen Street.
When I reached Rokurinsha, the Q was freaking long!
Below image shows the outlets at Ramen Street:
So I headed to the Smoking Room nearby for a quick smoke.
I then joined the Q to try out the so called famous Tsukemen at Rokurinsha. I had to wait more than 45 minutes before I was even seated!!! Once again, I had to use the vending machine to place my order. The waitress could speak English.
Well, did I enjoy the Tsukemen? Let me put it this way, it was unusual and if you are in Tokyo, you should try it.
After lunch, of course I headed back to the Smoking Room for a fag and then went jalan-jalan around Tokyo Station and ended up in Level 2 HighBall Bar where the bartender was a beautiful young Japanese girl and I ordered the new Suntory Ao World Blended Whisky.
There is also a Smoking Room at Tokyo Station Level 2 which was more comfortable as there were seats in there.
After I finished my Suntory Ao World Blended Whisky, I went to Daimaru (another huge departmental store located in Tokyo Station itself) and as usual I went searching for the Smoking Room and they had two at Level 8 and 12.
I went to the 8th floor and unlike Takashimaya, the Smoking Room at Daimaru was nice and spacious and had a view too!
I spent a couple of hours at Daimaru looking at this and that and bought some pastries for my early breakfast the next day. At about 5.30pm I headed to Ramen Street again for dinner and this time I had the TonKotsu Ramen at Oreshiki Jun. Once again, I had to order via a vending machine, by this time I could operate one without any assistance.
So was the so called Best Tonkotsu Ramen at Tokyo Station good? Well, I prefer Ippudo’s Akamaru Ramen anytime 🙂
After dinner I walked back to the hotel as I needed to check in again for the Smoking Room.
Apa Hotel Ginza Takaracho – Smoking Room
Finally I got a place to smoke all I like, hahaha. The room layout was different from my first room.
I went to bed early as I needed to wake up early to catch the Express Bus to the Airport as my flight departs for Melbourne at 10.30am.
I woke up at 5am and for breakfast I had the pastries I bought at Daimaru Tokyo Station the day before. Apa Hotel provides instant coffee in the room.
I checked out of the hotel at about 5.45am and walked to the Bus Stop No.3 and took the bus to Narita.
While at the airport, I saw a Casio Edifice Solar Powered watch which I thought would be a nice souvenir to remind me of my Tokyo Trip 2019.
After I bought the watch, I then headed to Japan Airlines Sakura Business Class Lounge. The lounge was huge and dining was on the upper level. However, I did not take any photos of the lounge seating as it was super crowded but only the food they were serving. Soon I will be publishing My Live Travel Report With Japan Airlines Business Class Sky Suite Tokyo to Narita.
I really like Japan, the people there are friendly and I have no issues communicating in English I must visit Japan again and the next time it should be longer so that I can check out more places.
That’s it folks for My Tokyo Trip 2019 and next is my report on Award Winning Japan Airlines Sky Suite to Melbourne.
Click here to read My Live Travel Report with Japan Airlines Business Class Sky Suite Narita to Melbourne On Boeing 787 Dreamliner. After experiencing Japan Airlines Service, I now know why there are an award winning airline. I tell you, i was only flying Business Class with JAL but their In-Flight Service is just as good as Singapore Airlines Suite Class and Qantas First Class.