It has been a tradition for our family to celebrate and spend the New Year (not CNY, as this post has long been overdue, and we’re not Chinese) holiday with my husband’s family out of the country, particularly Hong Kong. We started with just ten people then. Now, our family is composed of 20 people, 10 grandkids and 10 adults. For this year, to coincide with my FIL’s 70th birthday, we went to Tokyo, Japan to celebrate.
Before, it was fairly easy to go around, we just used public transportation. But since this time we are far too many, and with small kids to boot, we had to hire a private service. Though we’ve all been to Tokyo before separately, this was the first time for all 20 of us to travel together so we wanted to go to the usual tourist spots as a group.
We hired Mr. Yosuke Yokokura of discover-japan-tours.com as our guide/driver. Among the three companies that provided private tours that we inquired at (one of which was owned by a Filipino), he had the best rates for tours and airport transfers. He was also the most prompt in answering e-mails (which I take as a good sign). Mr. Yokokura is very fluent in English so communication is not a problem. He was very nice and accommodating. I highly recommend him when in need of private service in Tokyo.
Our party of 20 stayed at Hilton Tokyo located in Shinjuku. It was about a 20-minute walk to Shinjuku Station, 5 minutes via the free shuttle service. The rooms are quite spacious compared to typical Japanese hotel rooms. It was relatively quiet, with no malls or restaurants nearby. The nearest Family Mart is about a 5-minute walk. If you want any action, you have to take the shuttle bus to Shinkuju Station. The breakfast buffet was not that impressive, in my opinion. They serve the same food Every. Single. Day. The hotel restaurants are very expensive, Michelin-starred (they they are not) expensive. I suggest eating elsewhere, Tokyo doesn’t lack for good, inexpensive food. Checkout was a breeze though. They send a form to your room on your last day, just fill it out, and leave it at the reception. And as expected, Japanese service was top-notch, the best in the world.
A tip when going to Japan (or Hong Kong) in the winter – buy winter clothes when you get there. The moment we arrived, I hauled myself to Uniqlo to buy Heattech thermal and winter coats. They are so much cheaper there compared to here. Case in point, a woman’s thermal top cost P990 here, Y1290 on sale (P520) there. For our family of 5, I spent a total of Y50,000 (around P20,000) for 4 winter parkas, 10 thermal tops and bottoms, 5 knitted caps, and 5 gloves. The savings was well worth freezing for a couple hours, if you ask me. Most, if not all of the shops are on sale by the end of December anyway. Better yet, take a trip immediately to the outlet shops in Gotemba, where there’s Columbia and North Face to get extra savings.