For my return flights home to Washington, DC, I intentionally booked a twenty-two hour layover in Tokyo between my inbound flight on Air China from Shanghai and my final leg in ANA First Class to Washington-Dulles. Why, you ask?
Because I freakin’ love Tokyo. And my buddy had never been.
That, my friends is an opportunity to maximize my routing on this award.
I’d been to Tokyo before on a previous globetrotting adventure, so I was pretty familiar with certain areas in the city — mainly Shinjuku since I stayed at the Park Hyatt Toyko last time. Since I knew Shinjuku well, I figured that would be the best place to stay this time around — we could hit some highlights and be done with it. I was looking for a Hyatt property, and the Hyatt Regency Tokyo fit the bill nicely, as it is a few blocks from the Shinjuku Station and was reasonably priced.
An Around the World Trip — Oktoberfest and Asia
- United Global First Class Chicago to Munich
- Oktoberfest… and Six Other Highlights of Munich
- Le Meridien Munich
- THAI Royal First Class Munich to Bangkok
- THAI Royal First Lounge and Royal Orchid Spa
- A Layover in Bangkok
- THAI Royal Silk Business Class Bangkok to Shanghai
- Two Days in Shanghai
- Park Hyatt Shanghai
- China Eastern Economy Class Shanghai to Hong Kong (to Shanghai)
- A Weekend in Hong Kong – Ten Highlights
- Hyatt Regency Hong Kong, Tsim Sha Tsui
- Grand Hyatt Shanghai
- Air China First Class Lounge – Shanghai-Pudong
- Air China Forbidden Pavilion First Class Shanghai to Tokyo-Narita
- A Twenty-Two Hour Layover in Tokyo and the Hyatt Regency Tokyo
- ANA Suite Lounge – Tokyo-Narita
- ANA First Class Square Tokyo-Narita to Washington-Dulles
Getting to/from Tokyo from Narita
Tokyo’s Narita Airport is not near downtown Tokyo. Not even close. In fact, it’s about 45 miles.
As such, your only options to get to the city in a reasonable amount of time for a reasonable price are the Narita Express (N’EX) Train or the Airport Limousine Bus.
The Narita Express runs from Narita Airport, directly to downtown Tokyo and then on to Shinjuku Station. The cost for a one-way ticket from Narita to Tokyo currently runs about 1,500 yen (~$13 USD), but the return from Tokyo to Narita can be significantly more (double or more). The N’EX leaves every half hour, and takes about an hour to get to downtown, and about 1:20 to get to Shinjuku.
The train itself was quite comfortable — much more so than the bus. I was able to relax and have a couple of beers as I watched the Japan countryside zoom by as we approached the sprawling metropolis of Tokyo.
The other option – the Airport Limousine Bus runs from Narita to many different hotels in and around Tokyo, as well as Shinjuku Station. The timing varies for the buses, and it runs about $30 USD each way. I’ve found that it’s easier to take the N’EX from Narita to Tokyo, but when going back to Narita, the bus is often easier since it leaves directly from your hotel.
We took the bus back to Narita the following morning from the front door of the Hyatt Regency. Super convenient. It took about 1:45 and I slept the entire way since we were out way too late the previous night.
Hyatt Regency Tokyo
We took a short cab ride from the Shinjuku Station to the Hyatt Regency since we didn’t feel like carrying our bags the six or so blocks to the hotel. Check-in was quick and non-eventful.
We went up to our room on the 25th floor — a standard double room overlooking the Shinjuku Central Park. The room was modest — nothing overly special. It was clean and comfortable. The only thing we were looking for out of this hotel stay was a place to crash after our inevitably late night out.
It was a convenient, comfortable hotel. Nothing more. Nothing less.
We never visited the lounge. We didn’t have a meal. We didn’t check out the facilities. All we did was use it for a few hours of sleep.
As such, that is the extent of my “hotel review.” Sorry ’bout that.
By the time we got to the hotel and showered, it was approaching 5pm and starting to get dark. The goal for the evening was to get to Harajuku, the Meiji Shrine and Shibuya Crossing before heading back up to Shinjuku for dinner and drinks.
Well, we made it to Harajuku.
It was getting dark, and the clouds were threatening rain, but we still managed to walk the colorful and “trendy” streets of Harajuku to take in a little of the nutso, Japanese fashion, teeny-bopper-laden streets and crazy anime shops. My last time in Harajuku allowed me for much better pictures, but what are ya gonna do?
We ventured across the tracks to try to get into the Meiji Shrine, but it was already closed for the evening. Fail.
At that point, we were getting hungry and decided to forgo Shibuya and instead head back to Shinjuku for dinner.
Ideally, we would have loved to experience the Tsukiji Fish Market the following morning, but we simply didn’t have enough time to have breakfast there and then get back to Narita in time for my flight home. Since my buddy wanted sushi, we relied on Trip Advisor for a good recommendation, and it sure didn’t steer us wrong!
The Trip Advisor app lead us on a six block walk from the Robot Restaurant to Sushi Zanmai — an unassuming, two-story sushi joint in Shinjuku. We got a couple massive sushi samplers, and it was excellent. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
Shinjuku – The Robot Restaurant and Golden Gai
After our delicious meal, we really just bounced around Shinjuku for a bit, just taking it in. We went by the World-famous Robot Restaurant and just watched for a while. I do want to go in some day, but we didn’t feel like waiting for a table.
We then headed to a British Pub on the outskirts of Golden Gai to have some beers and watch the Japan v Brazil soccer match. As you can imagine, it was quite the scene with the home Blue Samurai playing Neymar’s Brazil. We ditched this place at halftime because the smoke was getting to us.
Then… we went to Golden Gai.
Golden Gai is an area of a few square blocks that are occupied by hundreds of micro-bars. I’d be willing to bet that there are more bars per square foot in this area than anywhere else in the World. Each bar holds no more than 10-15 people (most of them seat less than that). It’s an incredibly fun place to just bar hop for the night. Alas, we made a night of it! One bar to note was the Albatross. It was featured on an Anthony Bourdain show, and really was pretty cool.
We stayed out that night way too late, but made it back to the hotel for a few hours of sleep before our bus departed for Narita Airport.
Tokyo is one of the most amazing cities that I’ve ever been to. A layover certainly doesn’t do the place justice, but it sure makes for a fun one! Even during my last trip when I stayed for four days, that was not enough to see Tokyo. At the end of the day, I’d rank Tokyo as one of my favorite cities anywhere, and I can’t wait to go back!