Tokyo hotel: Prince Shinagawa N Tower
In Tokyo, we decided to stay at the Prince Shinagawa N Tower again. We had previously stayed there during our last trip in July 2014 and were really happy with the location. The room size definitely leaves something to be desired with something ridiculous like 16 sq. m, but we were willing to make the sacrifice of staying in smaller rooms because of its familiarity, proximity to Shinagawa station and also proximity to Haneda Airport. Shinagawa is a major stop on the JR Yamanote line with easy access to Shibuya, Harajuku and Tokyo stations. It is also a shinkansen stop which was really handy for us since we were planning on using the bullet train to get to Osaka in the second half of our trip, and it was nice not to have to transfer lines with our baggage.
To get to the Prince Shinagawa from Haneda Airport, you simply need to take the Keikyu line to Shinagawa station (no transfers necessary). It costs 410yen. Once you exit the train station through the Takanawa exit, head towards the McDonalds, Anna Millers and Wing Takanawa just across the street via a large, frequently used crosswalk. Walk past McDonalds and a restaurant with outdoor seating (on your left) and Wing Takanawa (on your right) and the 1st floor of the Prince Shinagawa will be right in front of you. The lobby is on the second floor. There is also a small 7-Eleven near the entrance of N Tower as well. The Annex and Main tower of the Prince Shinagawa will be to the left of N Tower.
The room itself is quite small, especially compared to the average hotel room in America for the price you pay. However, you still have all the regular amenities (double bed, chair, desk, tv, bidet toilet, ofuro tub and sink) and whoever designed it did a pretty good job for efficiency imo. I really like the little shelf near the full length mirror in the hallway, and I used it a lot. The similar small shelf near the bed was also often used. If you don't have a lot of luggage (we did), the room probably feels a lot bigger as well. I wrote about this hotel in my Part 1 post of last year's trip so please check that out if you'd like more info since I don't want this post to be too repetitive and just say the same things lol.
Osaka hotel: The Westin Osaka
In Osaka, we booked with The Westin Osaka. One of my friend's friends who travels to Japan a lot (he works for an airlines) posted a picture on IG of his hotel room at The Westin Osaka which I remembered when we were looking for an Osaka hotel for this trip. We had previously stayed at the Hotel Monterey Grasmere Osaka near the JR Namba station during our summer 2014 trip and wasn't fond of the location. Although it was very close to the JR Namba station...it wasn't actually close to the shopping district and was like a seven minute walk to the main (subway) Namba station which seemed like forever during the hot summer.
The Westin Osaka has a slightly less desirable location than a few other hotels nearer to Osaka/Umeda stations, but we decided to stay here because the rooms promised to be MUCH bigger than the average Japanese hotel (almost 2-3x as large), it offers free wifi, and we were able to adjust the temperature ourselves. Apparently, according to reviews, there are a number of hotels that have standardized temperature control for all rooms during the colder months, and it is purposefully made to feel very warm. My bf really doesn't like warm air, and I knew that it would be a priority for us to have room where we would be able to adjust the thermostat ourselves for comfort.
The Westin Osaka has a great step-by-step tutorial for how to get to the main lobby of the hotel from Osaka station on their website. This was great for us because I thought we'd have to catch a taxi from the station for our first time. Obviously walking is much cheaper. The very specific pictorial left little doubt about how to get there, and I feel like even if you're a bit directionally challenged, you'll still be able to find it. I found the access guide ahead of time and downloaded each step's pdf as a jpeg and saved them onto my phone's photo album just in case something happened and I wasn't able to quickly access the internet when I needed to. If you're extra worried, of course you can print out the steps as well lol.
The rooms. OMFG. I have to admit I was wow'd. I knew the room would be bigger than we were used to in Japan, but it was really quite fantastic imo lol. Bigger than even some of the hotel rooms I've stayed in in America! And nicely decorated but not tacky as well. My bf and I had our own room as did my parents, and we really wanted the rooms with one King bed but apparently those were more expensive than the rooms with two double beds, so we went with what was cheaper lol.
|with natural lighting lol|
Also the hotel wasn't very close to the nearest train station (especially not compared to the Prince Shinagawa's proximity to Shinagawa station), the Westin offers a free shuttle bus to and from Osaka station which leaves about every 15 minutes during peak times on a specific time table (below on the left). And there are two buses, so even if one is a bit delayed, that shouldn't muck everything up too horribly. But it really takes about 7-10 minutes to go to or from the station on a good trip, so there is a bit of leeway either way.
There is an airport shuttle bus that leaves direct from the Westin to go to KIX. I wrote a bit about this on Day 8's post, but the nearest leaving time to our flight time was 04:58pm which was about an hour early for our flight, but our best option in terms of cost. I think it was around $14/person, but the other family ended up reserving and paying for the tickets for all of us, so I'm not 100% sure. Considering we were on the bus for quite awhile (over an hour I think), the price is not bad imo, especially compared to a taxi. The Westin is the first stop for the airport shuttle, so you and your luggage will be the first to load. If you can figure out where the other shuttle stop are and can get there with your things (before it leaves the Osaka station area), you can likely have about half an hour more shopping.
|View of the Westin (pink arrow) from the airport shuttle|
Pupuru pocket wifi
On our previous trip in July 2014, we went without a pocket wifi. I had been in Japan during my study abroad without wifi and thought I had gotten around fine, and so I although I knew such services existed, I didn't spend a lot of time looking into it. I knew there were a few big name companies but I don't really know a lot about how many gigs you want or speeds or things like that that made one better than the other or one price expensive and the other price cheap so I really just let it fall to the wayside.
While I was researching for new things to do in Tokyo for this trip, I came across a review for Pupuru from asiatravelbug which compelled me to look into this specific company more. I mean, that's essentially what I was waiting for anyway. Someone to break down in layman's terms what these things do and what settings the average person would want on a trip in Japan and if it's worth it or not since I am okay not posting to IG or FB until I get back to my hotel (which would have wifi as a basic requirement for us booking there). (I've read Cheesie's blog posts about a specific company before but those seemed Malaysia/Singapore based and not helpful to me in the US.) Anyway, I checked out Pupuru's website, looked up a few more reviews and decided that the price was decent and there were enough positive reviews that it seemed legitimate, so that is who my family decided to book with. We initially just purchased one pocket wifi and the other family was going to purchase their own (on their own). Then, when my parents decided to fly up a day early, we purchased a second one that would be available to them immediately after landing.
The pocket wifi comes with a charger and informational how-to but the most important thing is the wifi device itself. Ours was small and rectangular. Easily fitting in a pocket or purse/bag. Sometimes it would get quite warm but nothing that caused us to be concerned with it catching our things on fire.
We all agreed that having wifi on this trip made it much more enjoyable than the last trip when we were often guessing and just wandering around and getting lost and not always catching the most efficient train. We used Google Maps and Hyperdia a lot to help us navigate and get around. Both work very well on mobile. It was also just good to have wifi when we were killing time on a long train ride or bored or something. We didn't have any issues with the data limit as far as I know and it was nice that up to 10 devices could connect even though we had maximum 10 people with 10 devices total among 3 pocket wifis throughout the trip.
Overall, I would highly recommend getting a wifi device or something similar if you're going to travel to Japan since free wifi is not super prevalent. Some areas and malls will have it, but half the time you need to go to the info desk and get the password, and it's only valid for X amount of hours and blah blah blah. It was really nice for us to have wifi whenever we wanted, especially to communicate with each other since we split up quite a bit, and iMessage was really handy and allowed us a bit more leeway since of explicitly having to meet at ABC place at XYZ time else someone think the others were hopelessly lost. Pupuru worked well for us this time and unless we can find a cheaper company, we would likely look to use them again.
Japan trip Spring 2015 posts
Part 1 - Pre-trip planning
Part 2a - March 21, Day 1: Liz Lisa Shibuya 109 Yui Kanno event
Part 2b - March 21, Day 1: Hawkeye Owl Cafe
Part 3 - March 22, Day 2: Kawatsura Strawberry Farm, Chiba, Shinjuku
Part 4 - March 23, Day 3: Tsukiji Fish Market, Yokohama, Machida
Part 5 - March 24, Day 4: Omiya, Ikebukuro, Takadanobaba, Asakusa & luggage forwarding
Part 6 - March 25, Day 5: Shibuya, Shinkansen & Osaka
Part 7 - March 26, Day 6: Tennoji MIO, Nara Deer Park
Part 8 - March 27, Day 7: Kobe (steak), Namba/Shinsaibashi & Keiko
Part 9 - March 28, Day 8: Kyoto, Berri & home
Part 10 - Hotels and Pupuru pocket wifi review
Part 11 - Liz Lisa shopping items/coordinates
Part 12 - Liz Lisa x My Melody 6th collab OPs and hand towel
Japan trip Summer 2014 posts
Japan trip Summer 2015 posts