We’re still running on New Zealand time here, so even though it feels like 12.26pm, it’s actually 8.26am. Which is kind of good because you’re all ready for the next day, showered and clean by about 6am.
Enoshima was our big trip out of Tokyo, and is roughly an hour’s train ride from Tokyo Station. We managed to leave in the middle of rush hour in the morning, to about the third busiest train station in the world – Akihabara. From there we transferred on the Yamanote line (which carries the population of New Zealand every day) to Tokyo station, and finally we caught a Tokaido Line train (Green-Orange line) to Ofuna. As always, pay the minimum fare at your first station, and use the fare adjustment machine at the other end. Of course, this only works for trains from the same company, i.e. JR trains.
You can catch a JR train directly to Kamakura Station (the Blue line), but a more fun way is to catch the train to Ofuna Station, and then transfer onto the Shonan Monorail, for 300 yen. This is a hanging monorail, and was built in the 1970’s. The monorail goes pretty quickly, and travels right through the middle of the suburbs – literally about a couple of meters away from people’s houses. It climbs up over the hills and then stops in Enoshima – the California of Japan.
Once you get to Enoshima, whether it be the Monorail Station, or the Enoshin Tram Station, turn left. Left will take you to the sea. Kathryn and I turned right. And then we walked. Walked and walked, for about half an hour, and then thought, we’re not really getting any closer to the sea. And that’s because we turned right and instead was walking back up the hill towards Ofuna. Thankfully, I asked a Japanese woman “Enoshima Aquarium where”, and her English directions pointed us the right way. Another half an hour later and we were next to the Monorail Station again. We then walked the 10 minutes towards the sea.
At the corner of the bridge to Enoshima Island is a First Kitchen. First Kitchen is pretty much a McDonalds, but Japanese. If you like Coffee, just learn the phrase “kaf-fei raatei” which is a Cafe Latte. It’ll be made by a machine and may not even resemble a Flat White, but it’s the closest you’re going to get here. One of the downsides to my Japanese is my general lack of understanding – coupled with how difficult it is to read Katakana. It’s like being 6 again. I have to translate each character into the sound it makes, and then aggregate all those sounds into a word, and then translate that word into English. And so, I ended up ordering Basil Potato. Basil Potato is pretty much french fries coated in Basil Salt. Turns out they were out of Cheese flavour. It wasn’t as bad as it sounds.
Finally we could see Enoshima Aquarium, which is a massive sandstone looking building juttling out right on Enoshima Beach. 2000 yen later, we had entered. The aquarium is quite impressive, with one of the main attractions being the massive deap sea tank featuring three sting rays, a shark, and shoals of fish. There’s some English present talking about the animals you’re viewing, but nothing to write home about. One thing that was impressive was an Electric Eel in a tank hooked up to a Christmas Tree, powering the Christmas Lights. Well done Japan, well done.
As we had arrived at 12pm, we got to see one of the main shows, which was a woman diving into said big tank and playing with the three sting rays. She treated them like they were show dogs, and they responded in kind. It was pretty impressive, and drove the 100+ kindergarden children wild. With an orgy like that, what could possibly beat it?
The Jellyfish tank. Well not really, but it was pretty impressive if you like Jellyfish. Turns out there’s truck loads of different types, and they’ll all kill you. They’re like the Kinder Surprise of the sea, jump in, and possibly die.
After the Jellyfisk tank, we headed on to the Dolphin enclosure to watch Splash! Included in the 2000 yen is a free dolphin show. Featuring about 6 dolphins and a seal, it was pretty impressive considering the size they had to play with. I think your local primary school pool was bigger than the enclosure, but still there was much jumping of dolphins, and shaking of seals hands, more than enough to leave you smiling and clapping along.
It was raining now (600 yen gets you an umbrella at 7-11), but it’s a pretty quick walk back past First Kitchen to Enoshima Station. From here we took the Enoshin Tram to Hase, or Western Kamakura. In Hase is Daibutsu, or the Big Brass Budda. It’s pretty true to the name, and costs 200 yen to enter. For 20 yen more, you can go inside, which as you’d expect, is much like the inside of a statue – not really as nice as the outside, but for 3 cents, you can’t really complain.
By this time, it was time to return home, with a race on to get back to the hostel before the rush hour crowd started. A quick walk to Hase station past all the tacky/wonderful gift shops, and then thinking about the quickest way to get home. Thankfully, you can purchase transfer tickets between different companies, so even though we were using the Enoshin, we bought tickets from Hase to Kamakura, and also from Kamakura to Tokyo (1080 yen). The rest of the journey home was pretty uneventful, the only gotcha being the train we caught to Tokyo doesn’t actually go to Tokyo Station, but does stop at a couple of stations on the Yamanote Line (like Shinjuku), so you can get off there, and then use the Yamanote line to get to wherever you’re based in Tokyo.
Beating the commuter crowd, we finally returned to Anne Hostel, Asakusabashi. Kathryn retired for an early night, and I ended up watching TV in the lounge. It was the news, and a Japanese kid was missing up the side of a mountain. After that news segment, the next news segment was on how delicious this Noodle Place and Bread place was. I kid you not. It was about 6.30pm and there was a 15 minute news article on this Ramen place and how it made the most delicious Ramen, including showing the cooking techniques of Ramen, and making the chicken stock base. If that wasn’t enough proof, they would then show people queing up outside the building to show that if the place is this popular, then it must be good. Having said this, one shot only had about six people queing up outside, which really isn’t that impressive for Tokyo. Of course the presenter tried some of the Ramen and she literally blew her load, describing it as the most delicious flavoursome thing she’s ever tried. Then it was on to the bakery, and how great that was. Awesome shots of bread just cooked being broken apart and steam and flavour just seaping out of it, followed by how white and soft the bread was. And for those people who like raisin bread but just want something more, they showed vege bread with carrots and peas and kumara all baked into the bread, so when cut had like a cross section of a kumara in it. Fantastic.
And then, it was time for the sport section.
Anne Hostel for better or worse has a vending machine inside it, selling nothing but beer. Kirin, Asahi, and Asahi Lemon Flavour. After grabing me one of the regular sized cans for 250 yen, I had a quiet beer in the lounge. This all changed when a group of very funny Australians turned up. Before long we were drinking the 500ml Asahi cans for 350 yen, and playing circle of death. With rules such as:
- No teasing;
- No saying the word “you”;
- No pointing;
- No saying skol;
- No looking at snake eyes;
- No swearing;
- No being loud.
Pretty much if you could be quiet, and politely behaved, you would have done well. About 2L of beer later, we were all feeling a little worse for wear. When I broke the circle of death and had to drink half a cup of Yagermeister, that was it, I was done, and the drunkest I’d ever been in the last five years. It was great.
The next part of the trip is finding accommodation. Once you know your flight dates and times, you can figure out how many nights accommodation you need. A great place to look at hostels and hotels is Hostel World. I had a look at the range of hostels and hotels available in Tokyo, and the quality varies. I’ve always found that people who write reviews on websites tend to not always accurately represent the truth. Of course, there is some variation on the experience people have while staying at places, due to their experiences leading up to that point, and the people they’re interacting with. If you’ve had a crap time and its raining and the people in your dorm are idiots, you’re more than likely going to be a harsh reviewer, and vice versa.
So with this in mind, I selected Anne Hostel Asakusa Bashi. Overall the place is rated 87% which is pretty good for a hostel, and comes with a free breakfast, which is always important if you’re trying to save bucks while travelling. The price is 3,200 yen a night per person for a twin private room with a shared bathroom. That works out to be $53 a night per person. And while you could get it down to $40NZD a night, that’s for a 12 bed dorm, so I think the $13 a night per person is worth it to ensure my partner remains sane while we’re over there!
When you book a hostel through Hostel World, you put down a 10% deposit of the total cost, and you pay the remaining 90% to the hostel when you check in. In this case, I paid a 10% deposit of 3,840 yen ($63NZD), and will be paying the remainder 34,560 yen ($572NZD) when we arrive.
All up, we’re paying 38,400 yen ($636NZD) for six nights accommodation in a twin private room with a shared bathroom.
As for Anne Hostel, it’s pretty close to Tokyo Station. From Tokyo Station, head on the JR Yamanote line from Tokyo Station to Akihabara Station. Then take the Sōbu Line from Akihabara Station to Asukusabashi Station. Just up the road from Asukusabashi Station is Anne Hostel.
Anne Hostel is an average hostel in Japan, and appears to be typical of what you can expect. Size in Tokyo is at a premium, and so you find yourself staying in a place that can often be crowded, noisy, and full of bustle. But you cannot expect perfect peace and quiet in the middle of Tokyo. Even when you look at the prices paid, you must realise that this is the price you pay to exist within Tokyo, not for comfort. Of course there are fantastic hotels within Tokyo that give you amazing views, but these come with higher prices.
If you’re more flexible about your room requirements (i.e. not after a private room and happy with dorms), I also recommend the Tokyo International Hostel. Being on the 18th and 19th floor the view is far more impressive, and the rates of 3,860 yen ($63NZD) a night per person is pretty reasonable.
My partner and I will be heading to Japan from the 31st of October to the 7th of November, and I’ll be documenting the process involved with doing this.
First thing’s first which is booking travel. I had to make sure that the travel period suited both mine and my partner’s needs. In order to get the best travel deals, there needs to be some flexibility.
Good sites to look at travel costs are House of Travel, Flight Centre, and STA Travel. These sites are great to get a feel of the rough prices to travel overseas. But don’t get lulled into thinking that they are the best prices or even the best deals.
For instance, going through House of Travel gets you a specific flight from a specific airline, say Singapore Airlines. But if you head to Singapore Airline’s website, you can drill down and adjust your flights, which would allow you to add in a stop-over, something that those travel-aggregation sites don’t seem to offer.
Also, don’t forget to check out other airline’s websites, such as Air New Zealand, and Qantas. Another feature of an airline’s site could be showing you the prices across a time period, and showing when prices are going to increase.
Of course, the longer you leave the flights, the more expensive they’ll become. I found a flight with Singapore Airlines for two people to Tokyo return for around $2576 including all taxes. However, a couple of days later, that price disappeared, and the next cheapest quoted to me by Flight Centre for the dates was $3200 approximately.
Anyways, heading back to Qantas, I found that if I travelled from the 31st of October to the 8th of November, instead of a week later, I could save …
By going a week earlier and being part of a sale, I ended up paying $1371.80, instead of $2027. Another good thing about Qantas is that they don’t require a passport number to book, unlike some other websites. Great if you see a good deal but don’t have a passport yet.