Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Japan trip Spring 2016 Part 13: Travel notes - Hotels, Luggage forwarding & Pocket wifi

Using this post as a catch-all for things that didn't seem to belong in any of the other daily posts, especially items that covered more than one day of the trip and general notes about the trip as a whole!

Hotel Resol Trinity Sapporo
This is the hotel we chose for 4 nights upon arrival in Hokkaido. We would be arriving at night with all of our luggage, so it was important for us to be able to book a hotel that isn't too far from a station or major landmark, especially since we've never been in this part of Japan before. It was a bit of a struggle to figure out which area and hotel would be best for us and our price range. Initially, I thought it would be best to be near Sapporo station, but based on the activities we were doing and possible future trips, my dad thought that Odori wouldn't be a bad choice.
The hotel is very near two of the exits of Odori station. We ended up doing quite a bit of walking back and forth between Sapporo station and Odori station on some occasions, but it's not hard to navigate and even on the first night upon arrival without wifi, it wasn't too much of a pain.
The room itself was very nice and we didn't have any complaints about cleanliness or service. The staff at the front desk were always willing to help us and we didn't have any issues with a language barrier. They were able to process our luggage forwarding to two different locations successfully and also capably held our remaining suitcases after checking out. Bonus feature: there's an onsen area (male and female separated) at the top floor of the hotel that is free for guests to use and they even give you instructions. I didn't get a chance to check it out but my mom went to go try it lol. She was  a bit uncomfortable with the whole thing but I don't think that's the hotel's fault and it's a really nice feature. We would stay here again!

Loisir Hotel Hakodate
We left from Sapporo and spent 2 nights at the Loisor Hotel in Hakodate. Again, convenience/location near a major station was very important to us, and this one takes the cake. It's just across the street from JR Hakodate station. Room keys are actual keys (not electronic card key) and we were only provided one per room. This wasn't particularly a problem, but we often split up and use the hotel as a meet up place, but if the person with the key doesn't come back first, the other person just has to wait in the lobby lol.
Everything was more-or-less standard and adequate but this just didn't feel as clean as the Resol Trinity. Since we were only staying for such a short time and mostly to sleep, that wasn't really extremely important to us. There were some pounding noises that we heard on and off from a room nearby but it's probably not what you're thinking lol. The window is easy to open but difficult to close and we're pretty sure that person was just trying really hard to close their window and not succeeding. Basics were all provided and we didn't have any particular problems, but I don't know if there was anything special about this place except for the location. I would recommend this for a short stay if you need easy access to the JR lines, won't be spending much time in the room besides sleeping and don't mind an older building with no frills, but otherwise I think we might try the Resol Trinity in Hakodate next time which is just a couple blocks away.

Prince Shinagawa: N Tower
Our tried and true, go-to hotel in Tokyo. Shinagawa might not be the A+ best location for everyone, but we find that it really works for us since we end up catching the shinkansen a lot and it's especially good for heading towards Kansai. Tbh we came really close to picking a different hotel for this trip, maybe one closer to Tokyo station or even Ueno, but once the price dropped down to a reasonable range for the Prince, we quickly came back to it because we always enjoy our stay there. The hotel is just across the street from Shinagawa station and there is a conveniently located 7-Eleven just near the entrance to N Tower. We arrived in Tokyo before the check-in time but we were able to leave our suitcases at the reception desk until we returned for check-in later in the day. We stayed for 2 nights.
The room was very clean but small as usual but nothing we haven't come to expect from Japanese hotels. A small selection of free breakfast is provided with your booking price and we weren't able to take advantage of it on the first morning because we had to get going early for Disney, but took our time picking out a few things on the second morning. There was an issue we had with our luggage/mail not being distributed or documented immediately and the N Tower reception desk not knowing our items had arrived when we asked the first time forcing us to spend 4 hours in Tokyo separated without wifi when we would have needed it the most, but it was something we could have further pressed ourselves, so I don't consider it the hotel's fault. If you aren't staying in the Main Tower and are expecting mail on a certain day by a certain time, be sure to ask the staff to call to see if it just hasn't been properly sorted yet!

Hotel New Hankyu
This was our first time staying at this hotel despite staying in Osaka on previous trips several times. We have come to enjoy staying at the Westin Osaka when we're in this area (it's my number 1 recommendation for size and comfort), but due to the high price during our visit time, we had to look for another option. Convenience in getting to KIX is really important to us since we tend to leave the country with a lot of heavy luggage, so I wanted to specifically look for hotels that had/were extremely close to the shuttle stop.
This is an older hotel and more comparable to the Loisor Hotel in Hakodate than the Prince or the Resol Trinity. Same 1 regular old school key issued instead of electronic card key and good location in relation to the station but not the cleanest feeling place. However...when talking about location, Umeda/Osaka station can be a little bit of a bitch to navigate through. I would still hesitate to tell you exactly the best way to get to the hotel from the JR Osaka tracks but from Hankyu or the subway station, it's fairly easy. There's nowhere to sit in the lobby except one piece of furniture that can be shared with maybe 10 people max which my bf and I had to make use of on the last day when we were waiting for my parents and we were extremely lucky there was even space for us.
I think given the choice, we would still go with the Westin Osaka for our first choice in this area when it's priced reasonably just for comfort, but as a second option, we would stay at the New Hankyu again. It was easy and convenient to catch the shuttle to KIX at a reasonable time for our flight (which was its main selling point from the beginning), but I think my mom wouldn't be able to get to the hotel from any part of any station in the area because it was just too confusing for her.

Luggage Forwarding
With all of the hotel switching and moving around we did, we are glad that Japan's luggage forwarding service works so well. We made good use of KuroNeko and managed not to have to lug around our check-in suitcases except upon arrival and departure to the airport. I mentioned this briefly in the daily posts as it applied, but here's what we did -
My mom, dad, bf and I each had one large check in suitcase when we arrived in Japan.
On Day 3, when we were checking out of the hotel in Sapporo, between me and my bf (and then in parallel, my mom and my dad) packed whatever we purchased or was done with after the first three days in Hokkaido into one of the suitcases amongst the pair of us and forwarded it to Osaka. The other one we filled with whatever we would want and need in Tokyo between the two of us, but we were sure not to have it packed to the brim (to have room for more shopping there), and had that sent to meet us in Shinagawa. Anything we would need in the meantime in Hakodate (for Day 4) needed to stay with us and fit into our carry on bags.
Our bags arrived on the soonest date possible from Sapporo to Tokyo on the same day we arrived (Day 5). I'm not exactly sure on the time, but it was certainly there by the time we actually checked-in at around 16:45 which was good because I certainly needed some of the things in there for Day 6 when we would be leaving early in the morning and probably wouldn't have to wait for the bags.
On the morning of Day 7, we packed up our remaining check-in bag with Tokyo purchases and things we no longer needed and forwarded it from Shinagawa to the hotel in Osaka, again keeping just the essentials in our carry ons. When we arrived in Osaka via shinkansen later that day and checked into the hotel, our bags from Sapporo were waiting for us.
The Tokyo suitcases arrived by the afternoon of Day 8 in Osaka, and we were able to rearrange our bags and split up our things so that I no longer had my bf's stuff in mine and mine is his. This was enough time to sort everything out before we checked out the next morning and worked out reasonably well imo!
http://emiiichan.blogspot.com/2016/05/japan-trip-spring-2016-part-4-day-3.htmlhttp://emiiichan.blogspot.com/2016/06/japan-trip-spring-2016-part-8-day-7.htmlhttp://emiiichan.blogspot.com/2016/06/japan-trip-spring-2016-part-10-day-9.html
As I mentioned, because we never needed to catch the train with our bags in the middle of our travels, we just had to deal with our one each carry on rolling bags + whatever personal item/tote or duffle. This is much better than what we've had to deal with in the past before we got the hang of using the forwarding services. There is a cost associated with it, but it is very much a pain to deal with large pieces of luggage not only on local trains, but even on the shinkansen and in train stations in general imo. You aren't as agile as you need to be and especially in a group, it can be hard to navigate through large crowds and up and down escalators and stairs. If you have large luggage, can afford it (depending on the distance, it's about 1440yen - 2400yen per bag) and consider convenience of movement very important, I would definitely look into doing this. We've always had the help of the hotel we were staying at to fill out the forms and ensure that the timing would work out, but I believe you can go to any convenience store or similar place to drop off things like this as well.

PuPuRu pocket wifi
This is my fourth time renting a PuPuRu wifi unit for traveling in Japan, and I don't want to repeat things too much. Basically, I like it, and I definitely recommend getting a wifi unit especially if you're traveling with other people (not on a tour) and aren't intimately familiar with everything you're doing. For reference, here's my past posts - Spring 2015 and Autumn 2015.
We rented just one unit for the four of us for our first four days in Hokkaido because we figured that we wouldn't be separated too much. There were maybe two or three instances where it could have been slightly handy to have one more unit as an option, but we didn't suffer too much. When we arrived in Tokyo, we wanted to have 2 additional units available to us and, when placing the order, requested delivery early in the day. I do believe that they arrived at a reasonable time but we just didn't have access to them when we wanted them due to miscommunication at the hotel. For the four hours I didn't have wifi, I really suffered and wasted a whole bunch of time. I was also afraid to venture as far as I had planned due to not being about to contact my family in case I was going to be late since there was a train delay. I felt much more comfortable being on my own when I was able to use the internet for help.
Anyway, imo, it's good to be connected, especially to use Google Maps. We use PuPuRu because that's who I initially ordered with the first time and we haven't been disappointed by them yet.

Weather
We had never been to Hokkaido before and weren't exactly sure what to expect in terms of weather. Many sites mentioned that May would feel a bit similar to early Spring in Tokyo (maybe around March) which we had experienced in 2015. I didn't bother bringing a coat, but was just prepared to double layer at night with a cardigan and my faux leather jacket. As it turns out, I feel like I packed  just the right amount of outerwear, and it really wasn't very cold except for a few really windy instances at night even for us pansy Hawaii people lol. There were a few sakura and other similar trees with full blossoms, but I think the best array was already a bit more north than where we were in Sapporo. We also didn't try to specifically go to any parks or viewing areas, so we just enjoyed the flowers when we happened upon them. I think we probably missed the peak by a week or 10 days or so,
In Tokyo and Osaka, it was hot during the day as expected which was such a rude wake up call after the great, mild weather in Hokkaido lol. Night temperatures were a bit lower but nothing a simple cardigan couldn't conquer. Overall, we've been in worse heat and worse cold and didn't need too much specialty clothing, so I'd say that May is a pretty good time to visit Japan in general!

Walking/Steps
http://emiiichan.blogspot.com/2016/05/japan-trip-spring-2016-part-2-arrival.htmlhttp://emiiichan.blogspot.com/2016/05/japan-trip-spring-2016-part-3-day-2.htmlhttp://emiiichan.blogspot.com/2016/05/japan-trip-spring-2016-part-4-day-3.html
http://emiiichan.blogspot.com/2016/05/japan-trip-spring-2016-part-5-day-4.htmlhttp://emiiichan.blogspot.com/2016/05/japan-trip-spring-2016-part-6-day-5.htmlhttp://emiiichan.blogspot.com/2016/05/japan-trip-spring-2016-part-7-day-6.html
http://emiiichan.blogspot.com/2016/06/japan-trip-spring-2016-part-8-day-7.htmlhttp://emiiichan.blogspot.com/2016/06/japan-trip-spring-2016-part-9-day-8.htmlhttp://emiiichan.blogspot.com/2016/06/japan-trip-spring-2016-part-10-day-9.html
I thought this information was a little interesting after Christa was talking to me about it during my last trip, so here's a similar screenshot of our "steps" for each day of the trip! Click through each date to see what we did that day! Can you guess which day we did DisneySea? I don't usually do a lot of walking (my average number of steps is less than 1000 per day lmao), so this is clearly a step up for me, but with a lot of water and resting whenever possible, this was definitely doable in heels! Sorry this layout isn't as nice as last time where I had the screenshots from Christa's FitBit, but if this could be useful to you, I thought I'd just quickly include it.

Conclusion
I was so glad I was able to finally get to Hokkaido and see not only Sapporo, but also Otaru and Hakodate as well. It was nice to kind of focus on something other than just clothes shopping for once, and I especially enjoyed our visit to Shiroi Koibito Park and the view from Mt Hakodate. Highlights for my dad and my bf were the fresh seafood in Hokkaido which we tried to take advantage of pretty much every day we were there! When I travel with just my bf, he gets the short end of the stick and usually just goes to whatever restaurant will accommodate my picky eating habits and doesn't include fish or sushi. I'm so happy that the crowds and weather were reasonably mild the day we visited DisneySea and that we were able to ride almost everything we wanted to (all priorities accomplished, some more than once!), plus so much more for my parents' first experience there. As for me and shopping, I'm happy with what I ended up with (Liz Lisa and non-Liz Lisa purchases), even though I didn't have a ton of time to do it and so many Liz Lisa locations have now closed!
Phew! By the end of the nine days, I was definitely ready to get home. Each day of our trips are usually filled to the brim with activities, and this was no different, but I wouldn't have it any other way. We don't yet have any solid plans for a future trip, but I can't wait to go back and see more of what Japan has to offer :)

I usually try to write this post in conjunction with the daily posts but I somehow forgot about it a bit and it feels like so much time has already passed since we've come back from the trip! I may need to update this post later with other relevant information as I remember it, but for now, this is what I have!
http://emiiichan.blogspot.com/p/contact.html
Japan trip Spring 2016 posts
Part 1: Packing (Liz Lisa outfits) for Hokkaido to Osaka in May
Part 2: Arrival to CTS & Day 1 - Curb Market, Shiroi Koibito Park and shopping in Sapporo
Part 3: Day 2 - Nijo Market, Sapporo Beer Museum & Tanukikoji in Sapporo
Part 4: Day 3 - Exploring Otaru & experiencing the Hakodate Liner
Part 5: Day 4 - Morning Market, Red Brick Warehouses & Mt Hakodate in Hakodate
Part 6: Day 5 - Hokkaido Shinkansen & shopping in Tokyo and Funabashi
Part 7: Day 6 - Tokyo DisneySea
Part 8: Day 7 - Last minute shopping in Omiya and Tokyo & Tokaido Shinkansen to Osaka
Part 9: Day 8 - Kinkakuji in Kyoto & shopping in Osaka
Part 10: Day 9 - Utsubo Park Rose Festival, Namba/Shinsaibashi & departure from KIX in Osaka
Part 11: Liz Lisa shopping, purchases & coordinates
Part 12: Other shopping, purchase & coordinates
Part 13: Travel notes - Hotels, Luggage forwarding & Pocket wifi

Japan trip Autumn 2015 posts
Japan trip Summer 2015 posts
Japan trip Spring 2015 posts
Japan trip Summer 2014 posts

4 comments:

  1. Hey! You stayed at the same hotel we did in Kyoto ^^ Lol. I'm glad you went to some new places and enjoyed it too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, the Umeda counterpart! I wonder if it was actually the same in the inside?

      Delete
    2. I think the Kyoto one is really old so I don't know if they'd be exactly the same. Hopefully the Umeda one has the bigger rooms and not the tiny ones (cause the Kyoto one had two size rooms,)

      Delete
    3. Haha this one was pretty old as well. We had a double bed room and it was more spacious than what we usually get in Tokyo but I think the thing that stood out the most was all the instructions everywhere lmao.

      Delete