Tokyo, Shinjuku: Hilton, Udon and Kabukicho
Our short stay in Hong Kong was finally over. After more than 4 hours of flight, we landed at Narita airport. It took us quite a while to finally got out suitcases before we made our way to the information counter to sort out our train tickets to central Tokyo.
It was more than an hour ride on the train, which we then finally reached Shinjuku, where we were based for the next 4 days.
Hilton Tokyo is centrally located in the ultra-modern city centre of Tokyo’s Shinjuku skyscraper district. It is about 10-minute walk from Shinjuku Station on JR Line and 2-minute walk from Nishi-Shinjuku Station on Marunouchi Line and these stations are connected by underground passages to the hotel.
A choice of seven restaurants and bars serving the finest International cuisine. Le Pergolès was recently awarded with 1 star in Michelin Guide Tokyo 2010. There is also a Fitness Center that opens 24/7, two outdoor tennis courts, indoor pool, sauna and massages for men and women.
It was unusually cold when got out from the taxi. Without waiting much, we were greeted warmly by two door porters and then went to the reception. The lady politely asked for my name. “May I please ask you to proceed to Executive 37th floor for checking-in.”
To our surprise, we have been upgraded to Executive Junior Suite Room on the 35th floor. The top 7 floors at Hilton, which have been newly upgraded with facilities and superior services are specially dedicated for Executive Floor guests. The check-in process was smooth and impeccable.
I was really impressed with the space and the Western design with unique Japanese touches such as shoji, yukata robes and slippers. I love the idea of Japanese touches in the sleek designed adopted by the Hilton. An exquisite, low to the floor sofa set and a square wooden table enhance a snug atmosphere for the upmost experience of relaxation. The spectacular urban view over Shinjuku almost took my breath away!
After a long journey, I thought I would spoil myself in a long and warm shower to chase away my tiredness. It was a great relief before I started to explore Tokyo!
Since we were just a stone’s throw away from Kabukichō (歌舞伎町), we decided to check it out. Kabukichō is an entertainment and red-light district in Shijunku. There are lots of shops, restaurants, nightclubs and hostess bars. It seems to me that it’s a sleepless town in Tokyo!
A stroll on the street in Tokyo was amazingly different. Neon lights are everywhere. As we got closure to Kabukichō, music and noises got clearer. Some pachinko game halls were probably the noisiest place I have been on earth! Such an impressive sight!
A lot of people were in street. Many groups of white collars were chatting and discussing which izakaya (Japanese pub) to go after a hard day of work. Izakaya serves mouth-watering, nutritious and inexpensive small-plate cooking, along with free-flowing drinks. It is a vital place for socializing after work.
The streets were flocked with a lot of young people too. Most Japanese girls and women I saw are predominantly well dressed and always with full-on makeup. Many wear skirts and some with the shortest skirts they could get. 9 out of 10 are usually with brown or blonde hair that is nicely styled. That made me ponder how long they spend on a daily basis for self-grooming?
In a place like Tokyo, you will most likely find it difficult to find a restaurant to dine. Not that there are no good restaurants but there are way too many of them to choose from! Worse is, all of them look equally good!
In Japan, most restaurants specialise in a particular area. Sushi restaurant serves sushi and nothing else. Ramen places serve nothing but only ramen. It’s not like elsewhere outside Japan where you go to a Japanese restaurant, you have a menu filled with variety to choose from.
We didn’t want to limit our choices by trying out only places that were recommended in the guidebook or on the internet. So, we walked around the area for about 30 minutes and couldn’t decide which one to go for. When you are spoiled for choices, it is hard to decide!!
Not too far from where we stood, we saw a big noodle shop. From outside, it looked like a place frequented by the locals. We finally decided to go for it! On the menu, there is only udon to choose from. But, served in different ways. You can choose big or small bowl; strong or mild flavour of broth.
What I liked about this place when we first stepped in was the sights of making fresh udon. I was going to be the freshest bowl of udon in my whole entire life!
I settled for a small bowl of udon served in strong flavour of broth and with slices of pork. As for Arnaud, he ordered a small bowl of udon with no broth but served with a raw egg.
The intense flavoured soup was a great base to be accompanied with freshly made udon that was cooked so perfectly – slightly chewy and not soggy, a real pleasure to eat! Slices of pork served on top of the udon practically melted in my mouth upon my bites; it couldn’t be more tender than this! Arnaud’s choice wasn’t a disappointment to him. It was just simply delicious to have two simple main ingredients – raw egg and fresh udon, sprinkled with some toasted sesame seeds.
We walked to Shinjuku station and waited for 15 minutes before the Hilton shuttle service finally arrived. The complimentary shuttle service runs every 30 minutes from the Hotel.
My eyelids grew heavier as darkness fell. I saw a pillow menu on the bedside table and reached for it.
“There are different types of pillows -Memory Foam, Polyester and Sobagara, Feather and Foam Core, Sobagara, Foam Core, and Feather.”
“That’s pretty impressive! How exciting!”
“Sobagara is a Japanese tradition pillow that is made from buckwheat hull.”
“I will get that one.” “Me too!”
So, I rang house keeping for the Sobagara pillows. Not too long, I heard a knock on the door, presented with 2 pillows was the friendliest smile I have ever seen!
“Have a good night.”
A promising good night sleep followed and I knew that the comfort at the Hilton would make my stay in Tokyo enjoyable.
The next day began and I woke up from my deep sleep. Not even wasted for a minute, I got myself ready. While waiting for Arnaud to get ready, I heard my stomach grumbling! I hurried him as I couldn’t wait to have my first breakfast in Tokyo! We made our way to 37th floor. “Ohayou gozaimasu.” I bowed slightly too.
There were Western and Japanese breakfast to choose from. I quickly decided that I would start my day with the traditional Japanese breakfast. There were congee, rice, miso soup, pickles, Japanese egg rolls and a few more items to choose from. As for the Western-style breakfast, eggs, bacons, sausages, pastries and cereals were on offer.
There’s nothing better than having a great breakfast to start the day! I felt energetic! My second day in Tokyo had begun.