Around The World In 21 Days: Back In Tokyo!


  1. Introduction
  2. Delta Comfort+ ECP-ATL-JNB
  3. Hilton Sandton
  4. British Airways Economy JNB-PLZ
  5. Conrad Pezula
  6. Knysna and the Garden Route
  7. Westin Cape Town
  8. Exploring Cape Town + Penguins!
  9. British Airways Economy CPT-JNB
  10. Protea Hotel OR Tambo Airport
  11. Kenya Airways Economy JNB-NBO-DXB
  12. DoubleTree Hotel Jumeirah Beach
  13. Exploring Dubai
  14. Kenya Airways Economy DXB-NBO-SEZ
  15. Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort
  16. Exploring Mahe Island
  17. Kenya Airways Economy SEZ-NBO-BKK
  18. W Bangkok Hotel
  19. Exploring Bangkok
  20. Vietnam Airlines Economy BKK-HAN-NRT
  21. Back In Tokyo!
  22. Delta Air Lines Main Cabin NRT-DTW-ATL
  23. DoubleTree Atlanta Airport
  24. Delta Air Lines Comfort+ ATL-ECP
  25. Conclusion

I found myself standing just outside the doors of Shinagawa Station in central Tokyo. For starters, after nearly three weeks on the road and 26,000+ miles flown, I was starting to get a bit worn down. Jet lag might be your first thought, but that wasn’t necessarily the cause. I’m nearly certain it was the carting my heavy and awkward duffel around from place to place. You see, you don’t get a good workout until you experience carrying this overstuffed bag through a bustling train station. In reality is that the weight isn’t the problem, but unless you use the backpack straps, there’s just no good way to carry it. Oh and those backpack straps? They don’t work very well when your day-to-day bag is a messenger.

So, I was there, mere feet from the taxi stand outside the station catching my breath. The city had this familiar feel despite having only visited Japan once before; perhaps it was the beautifully sunny day. Despite knowing that the trip was nearly over, there was still a level of excitement. One of the things that had happened in the four years that since I had visited Japan prior to this is that I experienced tremendous growth in who I am as a traveler. And by that, I don’t mean having a ridiculous amount of airline and hotel points and all the flavors of elite status.

It was 2011 when I first came to Japan for a week away from work and everything else in Florida. Admittedly, I was still young in very many ways; I hadn’t even been out of college for a full year yet! Sure I had been to Europe twice while in college, took a train down the West Coast, and flew to Australia for a week on a whim right after graduation. So, although I had some good travel experience under my belt, I hadn’t been somewhere as “foreign” as Japan was until then. What did that mean in 2011? Well, like all my trips up to that point, it was short! But it also meant I never really fully immersed myself and more or less just bounced from tourist attraction to tourist attraction. Sure there were those moments in 2011 where I did, but it really was the race to see everything.

This time it would be different.

In those four years since, I had refined who I was as a traveler. Back then, I was decidedly less adventurous; in a sense I had come out of my shell in regards to travel as I gained more confidence in traveling. One could argue that I merely saw Japan, but didn’t even experience it. I think there would be some credence to that statement, considering that in 2011, I didn’t even a single piece of sushi. But now, I found myself a sushi-lover and many more miles under my belt. It was time to make the most of a two night stay in Tokyo.

Sheraton Miyako Hotel Tokyo
We start out my time in Tokyo at the Sheraton Miyako Hotel Tokyo; located in the Minato Ward of Tokyo, the hotel is a short taxi ride from Shinagawa Station and within walking distance of the Shirokanedai Metro Station (the hotel offers shuttle service to the station, but it only takes less than 10 minutes to walk). I arrived fairly early in the morning, definitely before check-in time, after having flown in from Bangkok via Hanoi the night before. As expected, they did not have a room ready for me yet, but when I came back a few hours later, they were ready for me to head up to my room. Which was great, because after spending a day in Bangkok, flying through the night, and walking around nearby areas in Tokyo, I needed a hot shower!

Sheraton Entrance

The Room
I booked my award stay for 10,000 Starpoints per night about a month in advance for a room with two single beds. I had not been upgraded in advance as often happens as an SPG Gold member, but when checking in I had inquired about what the possibility might be for at least a single queen bed. Thankfully, since I had to wait anyways, they were able to get me into the a room with a King Bed by the time I returned from my walkabout.

The room, while not massive, was plenty spacious for myself, and felt like countless other Sheraton hotels that I have stayed at over the years. Nothing unique, nothing special, but all that so familiar.

Room Entrance

The Location Of The Bed Would Be Awkward With A Travel Companion

Thankfully I Was Not Here For Work…That Desk Is Tiny!

Services and Amenities
During most of my hotel stays, I find myself in a hotel restaurant or bar at least once during my stay. This time however, I would not once step foot in any of their F&B outlets or even take advantage of other hotel services. I just hardly spent any time at the hotel other than to sleep! There was a lot on my agenda for Tokyo, of which spending time in a very average looking Sheraton in a quiet neighborhood, hadn’t made the cut. Of course I’m sure no one blames me for that! There is one service that I did take advantage of a few times and that is the hotel shuttle that drops off at the nearby Tokyo Metro and JR stations. While the walk wasn’t bad, when there is a minibus waiting right outside the door when you’re leaving, it can be an easy choice to make!

Walking The Streets Of Japan
I think I did more aimless wandering through the streets of Tokyo than anything else during my time here. I didn’t go back to make any repeat
visits to tourist attractions that I had been to the last time I was here; instead I focused on taking things in slowly and not rushing from place to place.

As I walked on that first evening, I did make my way back to Shibuya and it’s famous pedestrian street crossing, as that is always impressive to watch the crowds go back and forth. Plus, with it getting dark, that area has plenty of dining and entertainment options.

So Many People!

In my case, I decided to visit a “robotic sushi” restaurant, UOBEI. Unlike the conveyor belt sushi restaurants where you just grab plates as they go by, at UOBEI, you order sushi on a tablet and then the food is carried from the kitchen to your seat on an automated roller system. It works out pretty well (and the tablet has an English option, which is perfect for me!

Sushi Ordering Tablet

Just Delivered Sushi, Via The Conveyor Belt

Akihabara is one of my favorite places in Tokyo to spend time; and no, I personally am not into Japanese Animation. Akihabara for me is all about the electronics stores ranging from the towering stores like Sofmap to the little stalls on the backstreets selling used electronics and equipment. As an Engineer, it is fun to wander through all of these places; you never are quite sure what you will find for sale at some of these places. 5.25″ Floppy Disks anyone? Or about a vending machine with Integrated Circuit chips in little pods instead of toys?

On The Streets Of Akihabara

Floppy Disks Anyone?

South of Uneo station and both adjacent to and underneath the the tracks of the Yammanote Line, lays another area that I enjoy walking around in. While the weather was not very good to me on this trip, this area feels a little more grittier, with shops of all odds and ends and a few good places to get ramen in the alley way under the elevated rail line. If the weather had cooperated for me, I would have head to nearby Ueno Park, which really is a gem in the middle of Tokyo, but with the rain I figured I was already getting wet enough as I walked around!

Market In Ueno

Shrine In Ueno

Just A Little Bit Wet That Day…

If one is a fan of yakitori, then in Tokyo the place to head for is Yurakucho Station. Near the station and under the elevated tracks (picking up a theme here?), are many places to indulge in a yakitori delight. You really cannot go wrong with any of the options either accessible from the road the runs along the tracks or from the ones in the “yakitori alley” under the tracks. I sat down for a late lunch myself at one whos’s name I wouldn’t be able to tell you, but I basically found myself sitting on a crate. Good Stuff!

Down This Hallway Under The Railroad Tracks You’ll Find Plenty Of Yakitori Joints

Literally Sitting On Crates

Who Doesn’t Like Meat On A Stick

An advantage of heading to Yurakucho Station is that the Imperial Palace and Gardens are a very short walk away. I had not planned to stop by here at all, but with the sun setting behind the palace, I figured it might be a good opportunity to capture this landmark in a different light. I think I was somewhat successful, and it was interesting walking along the edge of the moat as the sun disappeared and Tokyo turned to night.

Yurakucho Station

Imperial Palace At Sunet

Tokyo Skyline At Sunset

The only thing I regret is that I headed over to Hibya Park right after, which I had never visited, but I figured why not! Unfortunately, at one point I was walking up a slippery hill, and I well….slipped. Camera in hand too. Thankfully, I nothing got banged up and I just wound up with mud on my hand.

Couple In Hibya Park

Hibya Park

As a mega-city, filled to the brim with neon lights, Tokyo has plenty of options to keep anyone entertained into the middle of the night. Or even the next morning, if that is your style! (Disclaimer: I most definitely was in bed before seeing the sun come up the next day; I wasn’t going to spend an entire day sleeping when I had a very short time here.)

One of the things that I had always incorrectly assumed about Japan, and despite having been to Tokyo before, is that there would be a plethora of karaoke bars where one can make a fool of yourself in front of a crowd of strangers. Turns out, there might be more of those kinds of establishments in my small beach town in Florida, than in Tokyo. There are a ton of karaoke establishments in Tokyo, however they are designed to where you rent a room, typically with others, and you singalong in some relatively privacy. I certainly wasn’t going to do that, as I can do that for free in my hotel room. The hunt for an actual karaoke bar thus commenced.

In flipping through my Lonely Planet Tokyo guidebook, I stumbled on the entry for the Fiesta International Karaoke Bar. Located in the basement of a building next to a police station in the Roppongi district, it was exactly what we all picture when we think of a karaoke bar. Taking the elevator down to the basement, you open up right to the bar counter. Upon paying a ¥3500 entry fee (which includes three drink tickets), you’re free to sit back or sing as much as you want. Curiously, I was the only foreigner, and with being at least 5,000 miles away from anyone that I knew, I figured that I would get up on stage. The only problem? I didn’t go up there just once; I may have been up there quite a bit singing what seemed like everything under the sun! There may have even been a bit of country music, which I had noted in the song book, which I think mostly left the audience confused. Oddly, it took me to get up there and sing some Journey, which was probably the only song that managed to get everyone involved! Seriously, at one point a random guy jumps up on stage with me wearing a wig and holding an inflatable prop guitar and starts to pretending to jam! It was a fantastic way to cap off that night, and I bid my farewell and hopped into a cab as the crowd dwindled to a select few who started to sing along to YouTube videos.

It Was A Party At The Fiesta That Night

While the rest of this globetrotting adventure was focused on going to new and unfamiliar destinations, Tokyo was about going back to the familiar. It was probably the best way to cap off this trip, and definitely gave me a different perspective on this city. Straying from most of the major tourist stops it was about finding some of those things I liked from the last time I was here as well as finding those hidden gems in the city. I never would have in 2011 step foot in a karaoke bar, let alone get up on stage multiple times! As I mentioned early on, this part of my trip really allowed me to contrast with how I’ve grown as a traveler in what seemed like just four short years.

Sometimes it can be a good thing even when you are spending considerable time and money planning and going on a trip to consider those places that you have been to before. I originally had tried hard to find anywhere but Tokyo to be my final stop; Seoul, Beijing, Melbourne, and even Palau. But as I kept searching and searching, I just couldn’t make anything work! I honestly at one point I thought the trip was going to be in jeopardy of being able to be completed without able to find away to get from somewhere in the Asia-Pacific reason back to the US. I was even willing to do whatever even just got me back to US soil, even if that meant buying a separate one-way flight back from the gateway city to home. Thankfully, when I was playing around with Tokyo, I was able to get flights all the way back to Panama City on the same ticket, I knew it was just meant to be! Sometimes this is how things work out, and as I keep saying, I’m glad it did. Besides, there’s plenty of other opportunities to visit other cities and countries in the future!

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