Sept 30-Oct 1
We arrived at the HNL airport about 2 ½ hours early for our flight being eager to get our long planned vacation started. The commute was a breeze even in Honolulu's morning rush hour traffic as the drive from house to airport took only 22 minutes. We left my car in the parking lot at airport for number one daughter to pick up in a couple of hours after work and use for the month we are away. Check in was done at home online so we just dropped off our bags at the luggage station then an easy trip through screening on our way to the Red Carpet room. We waited there till about five minutes before boarding time, we then proceeded to the gate area for the boarding. As we were sitting in the waiting lounge we heard an announcement paging a few customers and our name were included. ‘We would like to upgrade you to business class, as we need your E-plus seating, our plane is overbooked” said the gate person. No problem here. So as we went back to our seats and sat there stunned and very happy with our new found luck another announcement rolled over the PA system.
“Ladies and Gentlemen if you take a look over at our equipment outside of gate 7(they always call the planes their equipment) you will see that the engine cover is removed and the mechanics are working to replace the generator of that engine ya da ya da ya da back up to the Red Carpet room for us, the flight left at 1:00pm, which was bout 1 ½ hours later.
After a very comfortable and happy to be in business class flight we arrived in Narita just a minute ahead of two other flights, I think from NW. Luckily we were one of the first out of the plane so were one of the first to clear customs so the whole process ended up taking only about ten minutes. We then bought our limo bus tickets to the Westin along with our return tickets from the Grand Hyatt, which qualified us for two free 24-hour Tokyo Metro tickets. Total cost for two round trip tickets was 12,000 yen.
We arrived at the Westin hotel after a 100 minute commute on the limousine bus and due to our late arrival right in the middle of the after work rush hour traffic jam. The room we were given at the Westin was a large deluxe king room which was very large and an upgraded one due to our SPG gold status. I had booked the room about 4 months earlier for two nights for 24,000 SPG points total. The rooms at this Westin should be going for 20,000 points per night but I lucked out as I check the SPG site daily and pounced on the 12,000 points per night that popped up once as I was checking. I checked almost every day after I booked and the price was always 20,000 points per night. I don’t know why it happened but am sure glad it did. When I booked the room the reservation stated that the amount was a “low rate” but we got a beautiful room all the same. I had wanted to give the Westin a try after reading emd’s report a few years ago and am glad we did. The area around the hotel is a quiet residential like neighborhood if you can say that about any of the neighborhoods of Tokyo and quite unlike the one I am used to in Shinjuku. I wouldn’t hesitate to stay there again but still prefer the more vibrant Shinjuku area although there is absolutely nothing wrong with the Westin’s environs. It’s just a matter of personal preference. I like the night life.....
We were pretty beat after our long flight and commute so went out for a fast dinner at the first place we saw in the shopping complex across the street an Italian restaurant with a Japanese name. I thought of the Panda in China at this point and for the rest of the night unfortunately (bad dreams). We both had pasta dishes, I the Bolognese she the mussels in white sauce and a soft drink for 28,000 yen total, not bad. I know we should have looked for a Japanese restaurant but remember; we would be in Japan for a whole month and will have enough Japanese food during that span to fulfill anyone’s desires and needs and just wanted something easy, quick and good. We went right back to the room after dinner where we both passed out pretty quickly after the long day of commute and time differential.
Both of us were up early this morning as most travelers from America are and almost went to Tsukiji fish market but being from Hawaii and having seen enough fish markets and fresh fish all over the world decided not to do it this time so instead we took an extended walk of the neighborhood surrounding the hotel and were back by 7:00 am for breakfast in the executive lounge on the 17th floor of our hotel. This was the best breakfast spread I have seen in a Starwood Hotel’s executive club. The breakfast was identical for both of the days we were there. There was one table with cereals, breads, assorted pastries and condiments. Another table had the bacon, ham, sausages, soft scrambled eggs, potatoes, etc. There was another table with green salads along with cooked veggies and a fresh assortment of fruits and finally another table with the Japanese breakfasts like miso soup, rice, fish, natto, and assorted tsukemono.
After breakfast we took the subway to Shinjuku JR station to activate our 14-day passes, make a few reservations and to go shopping in a store that Linda likes to shop at but when we were in the JR office it started pouring rain and did not stop for the next couple of hours. We activated our passes at the JR office at the West end of the station which is less crowded and a lot easier than the one at the East end of the station. For one thing the service agents actually helped us fill out our forms for us, which is rare (I have never seen it done in all my times to Japan) and all in all took only about 5 minutes.
We decided to stay underground to avoid the rains and took a quick subway ride to Roppongi to check out the site of the GTG venue later that evening then it was back to Ebisu to shop and relax until our dinner GTG with Mr. & Mrs. Kuranosuke and Mr. & Mrs. Lcuy at Gonpachi Japanese Restaurant in the Roppongi Hills area of Tokyo. Just a note that we were utilizing our SUICA cards for subway transport this time in Tokyo as we got them a couple of Japan trips ago and sure are handy on the subway or at convenience stores all over Japan. We would use the free Tokyo Metro passes on our return to Tokyo later in the month. Anywaysssss
Our Tokyo GTG with the HNL fodorites needless to say was a blast! Luckily there were no paper shoji windows for Kuranosuke’s enjoyment at this place. The venue was Gonpachi Restaurant, which is very popular amongst the Japanese locals, as we quickly found out when the place suddenly got jammed packed with people. A line extended out the door at one point. We were supposed to have only a two-hour time limit on our table but since Ken wasn’t breaking any windows that evening, lol. They let us keep going and going till we were done. It might have had something to do with the money we were spending on drinks and food of course, lol. The menu at the restaurant is solely sushi and Japanese food which was posted earlier in the online invite to the GTG.
We finally left close to 10:00 and walked Lcuy and Mr. Lcuy back to their hotel up the street called the Bhotel in Roppongi. It is part of a chain, the same that rkkwan stayed in Ikebekuro during his recent visit and mentioned in his recent trip report. The place looked really nice from the outside and was perfectly situated on one of the busiest main streets in Roppongi. I’ll let lcuy tell you all about it in her trip report
Anyway it was a great night, with fabulous food in a spectacular venue (thanks Ken) and with the best of company. What more could you ask for? Looking forward to another Tokyo GTG next year…….maybe in November 2010 this time on our way back from Bangkok, yes SJ weeerrrre baaaaacccckkkkk. More to come.
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Capturing the Koyo of Autumn in Japan 2009
Sept 30-Oct 1