Our family recently went on a fantastic 2-week trip to Tokyo. As a first time visitor, there is much we learned and I will write, over the next few posts, on what we found to be most helpful in our own experience for a smooth trip . Some of these things we did not realise, even after reading all the excellent stuff about Japan travel on the internet!
As an overview, we stayed in three different Airbnb apartments in Tokyo, and interspersed Tokyo sightseeing of the usual tourist places (e.g. Meiji shrine, Imperial Palace East Gardens, Shibuya crossing) with overnight trips to Nikko (overnight), Kawaguchiko (5 Lakes area near to Mt Fuji)and Hakone (one night at each place), and a day trip to Yokohama on our last day.
This post will focus on our airbnb stays, and very importantly, how we handled our bigger luggage pieces. Unlike hotels where you can leave your luggage behind, what do you do with them after checking out of an airbnb stay?? (and still go shopping/sightseeing/trips using overnight bag only/before check in to next apartment).
- Where and what kind of place to stay in Tokyo?
We used Airbnb for accommodation while in Tokyo (first time ever during our travels, and I am hooked!!). Why? All four of us could stay in the same apartment and for the excellent value (e.g. location/facilities/price per night). Our airbnb hosts were all very helpful, and each place provided a mobile wifi device that we could use when we went sight seeing so that we could still access information (e.g. like subway routes and schedules on Hyperdia). All also gave very clear instructions on how to get to the apartment, which was very important for first time visitors like us.
Our three apartments were in different areas (Asaskusa – touristy area, Tsukishima – local neighbourhood, and Shinagawa – upmarket area), but were all within a 3 to 10 minute walk to a subway line. Each apartment had its own “flavour” and you should choose one that fits your group (e.g. couple, family with small children, etc).
To cut down on travel costs and travelling time, we planned where we stayed according to ease of access to subway or railway stations, taking into account our itinerary
(e.g. for the overnight trip to Nikko, staying near Asakusa station was perfect as that was where the train station was located, and we could also collect our 2 Day Nikko pass, bought over the internet, from the tourist service centre easily).
(e.g. staying at Tsukishima to go to the Tsukiji Fish Market the next morning; its a very pleasant walk across the Sumida River, and its possible to go to the fish auction at 4 or 5 am this way!!)
(e.g. staying at Shinagawa was ideal for our last few days, as we wanted to take the shinkansen back from Hakone (Odawara – Shinagawa station, then taxi 900+JPY to apartment), and on our departure for Haneda airport, we walked from the apartment to the monorail station which heads direct to the airport).
Note: if you are adverse to setting up your own bed (which we had to do, each place had a futon or sofa bed to cater to the 3rd/4th person), or clearing your own garbage (remember, the apartment is not serviced like a hotel, but are where locals actually stay and they practice separating garbage very carefully and clearing them on certain days of the week), airbnb stays may not be suitable.
- Luggage handling -What do you do with big pieces of luggage
– after check out (around 10 am) from one apartment, before checking in to your next accommodation (around 4 pm), or before your late return flight (e.g. for us, we had a near midnight flight, and a whole day available for our final day)?
– if you do not want to bring them along for your overnight trips?
One disadvantage of an Airbnb stay is that you will (usually) not have a place to leave your bigger pieces of luggage upon checking out, usually around 10 a.m., but you may want to do further sight seeing/shopping etc. without lugging them around (in contrast with a hotel, where your luggage can be stored). Indeed, it is not a good idea to carry too much when you travel on the rail/subway, especially when it is crowded!!
Another situation is that you may be taking some overnight trip out of Tokyo and returning to a different apartment like what happened to us (e.g. Tsukishima airbnb – 5Lakes and Hakone 2 nights – Shinagawa airbnb.
There are basically three solutions to the above, which we were able to use when we faced the situations described:
a) LOCKERS – all big stations have lockers of varying sizes which can be used to store luggage (price ranging from 300, 500 to 700 JPY, for 24 hr use). Note however that big lockers are relatively fewer compared to the small ones, and it is good to check on subway/rail stations that have what you require, including the location and access to elevators. Ask your airbnb host for suggestions on this, since they have local knowledge about such things.
b) LUGGAGE DELIVERY – this is an excellent method especially when your overnight stay is 2 or more nights. After check-out from our airbnb apartment to go for our 5 Lakes and Hakone trip, we took the larger pieces of luggage to a Family Mart (like 7-Eleven), filled in a form for each luggage stating the delivery address and date/time period and paid a small fee for each piece (1340 JPY), went for our trip (3D/2N), and viola, at the appointed time at our Shinagawa apartment, the luggage was delivered!! You may want to read more about this type of service at this link.
c) WORK OUT SOMETHING WITH YOUR HOST – we were most fortunate during our overnight Nikko trip that our host allowed us the use of her apartment to keep the luggage for a small room fee (this blocks anyone else from booking the room).
For our last day in Tokyo, where we had to check out at 10 am, but our flight was near to midnight, our host did not have any reservations for his apartment on that day and let us put our luggage there the whole time till 8 pm, for free.
In the morning, we packed our bags and left it at the apartment, the cleaning lady then did her work to prepare the apartment for the next guest the following day, we went to Yokohama for a day trip, and returned at night to collect them and then went straight to the airport.
Stay tuned for more tips coming soon …
(including how we turned a 1 to 2 hour queue time to under 10 minutes at two of the more popular rides at DisneySea!!)