Coffee and Hakone

Pretty early start to the day, we wanted to get out early so we could have a full day looking around Hakone before we do the bike tour on Sunday. We left Tokyo on the 7.04 Shinkansen. Knowing nothing in Japan opens much before 7am, our chances of getting coffee were slim, however we did find one place in the station. Coffee was pretty bad, too hot and burnt, but drank it anyway.

It took three trains to get to Gora, bullet train to Odawara which only takes 30 min then two local trains. At Odawara you purchase a “Hakone Free Pass” (¥5000) which lets you use almost all transport within Hakone and covers the trains up from Odawara.

There was a little bakery here, so grabbed an interesting looking thing. Turns out it was like lemon custard filled donut. Nicer than it sounds and looks.

The second train is really interesting, in parts it goes up an 8% incline, which for a train is super steep. It’s one of the steepest railways in the world. It has three “switch backs” along the route to deal with the mountains it climbs.

We were at the hotel by 9:30 so left our bags to go and explore around Hakone. The hotel is great, right next to the station for easy access to everything, really modern and has its own Onsen.

Lemon Pastry for Breakfast

Hakone-Yumoto station

Gōra Station and Hotel

Later in the evening when we returned the the hotel, they had a café open, so decided to try the coffee. Machine made and they charge ¥500 for it. Better than the breakfast coffee!

Night out in Shinjuku

I contacted a friend who lives in Tokyo who I haven’t seen since my last trip here in 2009 and organised a dinner out for our last night in Tokyo before heading south. Big thanks to John for passing on Maria’s contact details!

Maria checked with me what food we did or didn’t like. I mentioned I don’t like seafood (a real dilemma when in Japan) so Maria booked us Into a “meat” restaurant called 300B. It was in a smaller street and in the basement. Don’t think they had English menus but wasn’t an issue with Maria being able to translate.

We purchased the all you can eat and all you can drink package for ¥5000 that’s valid for a 2 hour seating. I can say we got absolute value for money, we had so much food and plenty of drinks. It included beer, wines and spirits. I tried some plum wine, more like a plum spirit and it was delicious. Very very easy to drink way too much of that. The food was sensational.

The waiters bring you slabs of meat and you cook and cut it yourself at the table over a small electric grill. As well as meat you can choose all variety of things, we also ordered some octopus and salads.

There was a group of Japanese work friends celebrating a birthday next to us and when we offered to take a group photo for them we were instant best friends and drinking buddies for the next hour. Thankfully Maria speaks fluent Japanese and could translate for us.

Cooking the meat

Plum wine

Fondue and Octopus dish

chicken dish and mango dessert

After dinner Maria took us on a walking tour of Shinjuku, Kabukichō and Golden-Gai. Kabukichō is the red light district, although it seemed relatively tame compared to other cities in Asia and Europe, if you are male you will get hounded by touts offering you all manner of questionable services and experiences in the various establishments dotted throughout the area, even if in female company. Maria sent them packing with a few short and sharp sentences in Japanese!

The Golden Gai area is mostly ancient narrow streets with hundreds of tiny bars that fit no more than half a dozen patrons. Most have a cover charge of ¥500-¥1000 yen and drinks are normally around the ¥1000 yen mark. Quite a few are not welcoming of tourists and have a “members only” sign in English at the door.

The area looked amazing at night with all the lanterns and dim lights. We ducked into the hotel that has the Godzilla on its roof. Unfortunately the roof was closed and we couldn’t go outside but I managed to get a shot from the window.

Tokyo Skytree and Team Labs

After Shimokitazawa and Shibuya we took the metro over to the Skytree, then after that took the water bus over to Odaiba (from Hinode station). This only cost ¥520, takes 20 minutes and you get an awesome view of the Rainbow bridge. Walked from the water bus terminal over to team labs (about 20 minute walk) and checked out the Toyota display. This was free.

Not really a great day, but the view was still ok

On the water bus to Odaiba

Toyota display

Inside Team Labs


We had planned to spend the morning, get some coffee etc in a hip and trendy area of Tokyo called Shimo-Kitazawa, which is a little bit off the main tourist track, it’s supposedly a bit like Harajuku designed more for Gen-X. It’s not on a JR line so we purchased a SUICA card to use the metro. You get there by going to Shibuya and taking the Inokashira line. Took us a while and a few wrong directions to find it.

We made one fatal mistake though, we got there way to early. At 9am almost nothing opened till 10 or 11 so all the hip and happening places were closed and not happening right now. So we headed back to Shibuya, did a bit of shopping and found a place that did more fluffy pancakes.

Luckily we grabbed a coffee when we left the hotel at 8!

Dinner in Shinagawa

Last night we had dinner in Shinagawa again near the hotel. Didn’t feel like venturing too far as we had walked 19km during the day and it had started to rain. We picked a restaurant on the 6th floor of a building close by.

As soon as we walked in they warned us there was no English menu, but they had pictures so we were not too fazed. We had our own private booth which was a little weird but at least it kept a bit of the smoke and noise out, which I assume is the purpose.

Food was sensational. On the more expensive side, at A$50 each for the night. We had a lamb based dish, that was amazing.