Choosing omiyage at Haneda Airport, Tokyo, Japan

One of the last things that I always do before leaving Tokyo is to buy omiyage (souvenirs) at the airport. In this post, I thought I would describe some of the omiyage at Haneda Airport, so you can have some more information about what is inside some of those pretty boxes.  During my first trip to Tokyo, I had no idea what to buy at the airport.  I saw people buying lots and lots of colorfully wrapped boxes, but I wasn’t sure what was in them.  I think I ended up buying a box of Tokyo Bananas and some matcha flavored Kit-Kats before hopping on my flight.

During the following years after my first trip to Tokyo, I have been lucky to be on the receiving end of omiyage~ and now I have a much better idea of what to bring back for family, friends and colleagues. Here are the items I brought back this trip, from Haneda Airport:

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In this post, I’ll go over the way that the box is wrapped, and some of the main ingredients, and of course,  most importantly what the treats look like and taste like.

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Hello Tokyo! Number Sugar and Spiral Market in Omotesando

Information: Number Sugar| Address: 5-11-11 Jingumae  1F, Shibuya 150-0001|Phone: 03-6427-3334 |Hours: 11am to 8pm (Closed Tuesdays)   Spiral Market |Address: 2F, 5-6-23 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku | Phone: +81 (0) 3 3498 5792| Website: http://www.spiral.co.jp/en/shop_restaurant/spiral_market/

One of the new (to me) discoveries I made on this trip was the discovery of the Omotesandō (表参道) area.  I never expected to love it so much, but I really do.  The streets are dotted with lots of fun, quirky little shops, and it’s also an interesting place to people-watch. In addition to visiting the Nezu Museum during this trip, I also discovered two other gems that I would make repeat visits to next year: Number Sugar and the Spiral Market. 

Number Sugar is a confectionery store that specializes in handmade caramels.  They have 10 flavors that are made fresh, on site, daily.  However, after exiting the Omotesando subway station, it was a bit of a wild goose chase.  On paper (or on Google Maps) the streets of Tokyo are labeled by district (chōme), block (ban) and house numbers (gō).  Theoretically, this seems clear enough, until you realize that there are hardly any visible street signs!

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Hello Tokyo 2017: Tokyu Hands, Shinjuku, Part One: Stationery

Information: Tokyu Hands, Shinjuku Store| Address: Times Square Building 2-8F, 5-24-2 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo| Opening Hours: 10:00 to 9:00pm| Website (in English) http://www.tokyu-hands.co.jp/foreign.html?lang=en

A trip to Tokyo would not be complete, unless you visit Tokyu Hands. It’s so hard to describe, but it’s basically an emporium of Japanese ingenuity, filled with gadgets, lotions and potions, and everything you never knew you wanted until now.  Tokyu Hands is definitely not just a tourist destination, because I observe that Japanese people shop there too.  The stationery floor is usually filled with office workers and teenagers (I imagine the stationery section must be one of the most satisfying forms of retail therapy after a long day of work or school).

The branch that I visited is the Shinjuku store, located in the Times Square Building, and it’s just a two minute walk from the New South Exit of JR Shinjuku Station. If you only have time for one visit, I would advise allocating at least one to two hours here, because the store is 8 floors. It’s sensory overload, but in the best, possible way. My advice is to shop there about an hour to an hour and a half before the store closes at 9:00 pm.  The crowds have thinned out considerably by then, so you have plenty of room to browse, and there is hardly a wait for the cashier, or at the tax return counter downstairs.

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During my first visit to Tokyo Hands a few years ago, I was completely overwhelmed. I think I may have had a mini-melt down in the belt buckle/ leather laces section (why was I there again?!). Since I was staying nearby, I divided up my visits over the 5 days that I was there, which made the experience much more productive (and rational).  I only zeroed in on the items that I was especially interested in: beauty and cosmetics (3rd floor ) stationery (8th floor) , and kitchenware (4rth floor)  and just limited my browsing to those three floors.  For clarity purposes, I will divide the coverage of my Tokyu Hands experience into two posts: stationery and kitchen gadgets

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Hello Tokyo! Harbs Strawberry Cake (東京下午茶:Harbs 草莓蛋糕)

Information:  Address: Lumine EST Shinjuku, 3-38-1, Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, B2F | Tel.03-5366-1538| Hours: Weekdays: 11:00am -10:00 pm (last order 9:30 pm) Weekends and holidays: 10:30 am-10:00 pm (Last order 9:30 pm)| Website: http://www.harbs.co.jp/harbs/eng_menu.html

One joyful discovery made during this trip to Tokyo, is that strawberry season is in the winter in Japan. Every grocery store we stopped in, there were gorgeous, plump, perfectly red strawberries on display.  This particular example is in the basement of Isetan Department Store, in Shinjuku.  Each strawberry is individually nestled in a small compartment to prevent jostling.  (And at 3780 yen~ or approximately $35 USD for 12 strawberries!!)  But don’t despair, there are less expensive options in other grocery stores, and even in the convenience stores, so have a look around.  Another option is that most of the bakeries in Japan also take bountiful advantage of strawberry season, and there are lots of cakes and desserts featuring strawberries.

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Hello Tokyo 2017: Nezu Museum and Cafe 根津美術館

Information: Nezu Museum |Address: 6-5-1 Minami-Ayoma Minato-Ku, Tokyo 107-0062, Japan|Website: http://www.nezu-muse.or.jp/en/index.html  |Subway: Omotesandō station of the Ginza, Hanzōmon and Chiyoda lines: 8-minute walk from Exit A5 (stairs only), 10-minute walk from Exit B4 (escalator available), or 10-minute walk from Exit B3 (elevator and escalator available).  |Opening Hours: 10:00am-5pm, closed Mondays.

 

On my second day in Tokyo, I went to Nezu Museum, based on my friend Peter’s recommendation.  Nezu Museum is located in the Aoyoma (青山) neighborhood, in the northwest part of Minato-ward.  The museum houses approximately 4000 pre-modern Japanese and East Asian works of art, including paintings, calligraphy, ceramics, and textiles.  There is also a cafe, and a garden on the grounds of the museum.

Whenever I’m traveling, I get a little nervous about finding things. I have the worst sense of direction, ever, and there does not seem to be a remedy in sight.  Whenever possible, I like really precise information about subway exits and landmarks.  So I’ll try to include these types of directions in all my posts, so maybe you can find your way more easily!

The closest subway station to Nezu Museum is Omotesandō station of the Ginza, Hanzōmon and Chiyoda lines. The museum is about an 8 minute walk from Exit A5. Please note that there are quite a few stairs to come up on, but once you emerge from the station, you will see this sign:

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Hello Tokyo! Hotel Recommendation: Sunroute Plaza, Shinjuku, and breakfast ideas at Gontrain Cherrier and Blue Bottle Cafe

In this post, I thought I would write about some of the basic amenities that made my trip so enjoyable. I’ll give you a quick review of the hotel that I stayed in, and my two recommendations for breakfast. I learned from a previous trip, that I am not one of those people who likes surprises when it comes to hotel rooms. I like to know exactly what the room will look like and what is nearby. That’s why if I find a suitable hotel, I usually will stay in the same one whenever I’m back in the country.  During my first trip to Tokyo, I stayed at Sunroute Plaza, in Shinjuku based on the recommendation of my friends, Carol and Laura, whose advice I trust with my life.  They were right, the hotel was perfect for my needs. First of all, there is an airport shuttle that goes directly to the hotel, from both Haneda and Narita airports.  The ground staff and driver help you with your luggage, and each piece is tagged and labeled before being placed in the trunk of the bus. The hotel is the last stop on the route, so you don’t have to worry about missing your stop.  At the end of your stay, you can book and purchase your airport shuttle ticket at the front desk, and that’s one less thing to worry about on your day of departure.

Once you arrive, the check-in process is smooth and efficient.  The staff is professional, friendly and bilingual.  I always want to see the inside of the hotel room when reading reviews, so here is a shot of my room:

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The room is small, but adequate.  I had to think a moment about how to open my suitcase, but after trying a few angles, I finally figured it out.  There are no drawers and just a tiny closet in this room, so you have to basically live out of your suitcase. There is a desk that faces a big window, that lets in plenty of light.  The window sill is also nice and wide, so you can store some items on it. All the electrical outlets in the room are located on this desk, so if you have a lot of gadgets that need to be charged, you might want to bring your own surge protector, or power strip.  There is free wifi in all the rooms, and also downstairs in the hotel lobby.

And the view from the window!  The glass is double-paned, so even with all that is going on inside, you don’t hear any street traffic or noise.

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Hello Tokyo! A preview of upcoming posts.

Hello everyone!

I’m back! I had such a wonderful time during my trip and I can’t wait to share my adventures with you in the upcoming weeks.  A few highlights can been seen over on my Instagram, such as my trip to the tranquil Nezu Museum, my mothership, Muji, and even a sojourn to the Traveler’s Factory, a trip that I’ve dreamed about since my friend Peggy introduced me to Traveler’s journals a few years ago.   My friend Laura joined me for part of the trip, and treated me to Harb’s strawberry cake for my birthday, which ticked off another item on my Tokyo wish list. I have series of posts planned about what I saw, ate, and of course, bought.  So I hope you will come back every Monday for the next couple of weeks, for a little glimpse of the Tokyo I experienced this time.

親愛的大家~我回來啦!從東京回來後, 感覺很滿足,收穫也很多。 我會花一點時間整理一下照片 & 文字   In the meantime, 可以先去我的 IG 看看喔! 也祝大家新年快樂 雞年好運!

Enjoy!

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Shinjuku, Tokyo