Japan is the kind of country that produces an unexplainable sense of awe and wonder from anybody who talks about it. It’s difficult to pin down exactly why – it could be to do with the fascinating clashes between traditional and modern culture, or the delicious and unique cuisine found throughout the country. Whatever it may be, Japan remains one of our favourite destinations to travel to. Below we have featured some of our favourite locations and tips for travelling around Japan.
Before flying out to Japan – or anywhere for that matter – it’s becoming more and more important to prepare for the sudden lack of internet as you step off the plane. While a lot of mobile phone providers are starting to offer inclusive mobile internet across Europe, Japan remains mostly untouched by these deals.
As such, prepaid data sim cards and portable Wifi hotspots are a MUST if you plan to stay connected. We have had a hands-on with one of the Wifi-To-Go packages from eConnect Japan, who offer a range of different devices to help on your travels across the country.
We tried out the 4G bundle, which comes with a portable WiFi router, an extra battery pack, carrying pouches and chargers. The portable router fits easily into your pocket and is smart to look at. The power button is the only thing you need to use, and setting the device up is simple using the enclosed instructions. Aside from a few minor cut-offs, we had a very consistent connection throughout our entire time Japan, and it even managed to connect whilst on the trains and subways. The WiFi router also supports up to 10 devices simultaneously, so if you’re travelling with a big group then this would be a great shared investment.
This little device is an absolute life-saver and helped us locate our hotels and activities with ease. We found that the connection speed was much faster than any of the public wifi spots we tried. Thanks to the portable battery included we never once ran out of battery during our long days out – if only the same could be said for our phones. The only thing to keep in mind is that the device does run very hot, so we would recommend keeping it in the carry pouch and letting it cool down every now and then. Once you’re finished with your trip in Japan you simply have to pop the device and accessories into the free post package included. This can then be taken to any post office or post box around Japan.
Before planning your trip any further, navigate over to the eConnect website to see what devices they have on offer.
The Prince Gallery Hotel
The Prince Gallery Hotel in Tokyo is situated in Kioicho, a town with a lavish past, and towers high above the surrounding area to compliment the city skyline with its gorgeous architecture. The hotel has a strong artistic focus, and we were lucky enough to get a tour of the hotel and try the numerous facilities they offer.
The Prince Gallery has a selection of different rooms to pick from, ranging from a 42 sq ft guest room to a 148 sq ft suite. Each room is furnished extravagantly, with an emphasis on bringing in light and using creative designs in a sophisticated style. The large windows in every room show off a breathtaking panoramic view of the city below. In the bathroom area, you will find a walk-in shower and bath area which is surrounded by ‘electric glass’, which can either be transparent or opaque at the flick of a switch.
When it comes to relaxing and fitness at The Prince Gallery hotel, you’ll find no better place to start than the spa and fitness area. There are also male and female bath areas, which feature shower areas, hot and cold baths, and a sauna. We found it to be quite an interesting experience, as it mixed traditional Japanese bathing (similar to onsens) with modern aesthetics.
When it comes to eating at The Prince Gallery hotel, there are 3 main options for you to pick from. The main restaurant, Washoku Souten, serves Japanese-style food and is open from 11:30AM until 10:00PM. If you’re looking for something a bit closer to home there is also Oasis Garden, an Italian restaurant which serves a decent selection of high-quality Italian cuisine. For us, the stand-out area of the hotel was the Sky Gallery Lounge Levita. This two-story bar area features a vast kaleidoscopic view of the city with intricate glass fixtures surrounding it.
The Tokyo Station Hotel
The Tokyo Station Hotel is one of the oldest operating high-end hotels in Tokyo. Having recently celebrated its 100th anniversary in November 2015, it has been designated as an important cultural property of Japan. With the imposing architecture of the Tokyo Marunouchi station and a European-styled interior, The Tokyo Station Hotel offers a more traditional flair of luxury while embracing the Japanese hospitality or omotenashi. The location of The Tokyo Station Hotel is extremely convenient, being located right by Tokyo station; this makes travelling around the city and back to the hotel a much more pleasant experience.
There are several different room types on offer, from a classic room to an enormous Royal Suite. When entering the beautifully furnished rooms you immediately notice the high vaulted ceilings and towering windows, which offer a gorgeous view above to the restored domes, and below to the bustling train station entrances. The incredibly comfortable king size beds are easily large enough for two people (and then some), with a mattress which envelopes you and helps you sleep soundly. The bathroom was also relaxing and spacious with a walk-in shower and a well-sized Victorian bath tub.
As well as the buffet-style breakfast, The Tokyo Station Hotel also offers ten different restaurants, cafes and bars with a myriad of options; these include classic French flavours, Japanese Sushi, and Italian wine bars. A fitness and spa service is also offered, with spa baths and a premium fitness lounge which stays open until 11pm on weekdays.
Overall, if you are looking for a well-located traditional luxury hotel in the centre of Tokyo, we would definitely recommend staying at The Tokyo Station Hotel. To find out more information please see our full review, and to book a room for yourself, head on over to the Small Luxury Hotels website.
Grand Nikko Daiba
If you take a trip across the Rainbow Bridge from central Tokyo, you’ll end up in Odaiba – a large artificial island in Tokyo Bay. Although it was originally built for defensive purposes in the 1850s, today’s Odaiba is a popular sightseeing and shopping destination for Tokyoites and tourists alike.
On this island is the Grand Nikko Tokyo Daiba, a behemoth of a building which gives views across the entire northern area of Odaiba. It’s located only 20 minutes from Haneda International Airport and 15 minutes from the central business area and is a great place to stay for both business or leisure. We spent the night in the aptly named ‘Luxury Room’, which included amazing views over the night scenery.
Although the beds were fairly comfortable and the room included all of the necessary features, we felt that this hotel was better suited to business travel, rather than a holiday. We would certainly recommend it for anybody passing through Odaiba and looking for a place to stay the night, but we wouldn’t suggest travelling out specifically to visit it. You can find out more information on the Grand Nikko Daiba website.
Ohara no Sato Onsen
One of the last places we stayed in Japan was Ohara no Sato Onsen, located out in the mountainside around Kyoto. This bathhouse was hidden away down mountain paths, and with no phone signal around us, it was an excellent test of our orienteering skills. It was absolutely worth the walk, though, as Ohara no Sato offers up a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
This ryokan is a type of traditional Japanese inn which are known for their tatami-matted rooms, communal bath areas, and other communal rooms where guests and staff may visit in their yukata. Our room at Ohara no Sato was cosy, fairly basic, but made us feel like we were taking a step back in time to the Edo period of Japan. Having to make our own futons was a fun experience, and the green tea and sake on offer were delicious.
The main attraction of Ohara no Sato is the open-air bath area, which features indoor baths, outdoor baths, and natural open air baths which look onto the surrounding forest. In the evening you can treat yourself to the original miso-based hot pot dishes, which offer another traditional DIY experience.
We would recommend Ohara no Sato to anybody looking to experience a more traditional side of Japan. You can find out more information and make a booking on booking.com.
Disclosure: For this blog post we were able to gain access to a sample product or service.
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