Accommodations - Airbnb
However, we threw all of that to the wind for this recent trip because we weren't planning to catch the Shinkansen to the Kansai area and it was a much shorter trip on a whole. Since there were three of us (all adults), if we wanted to stay in a hotel, we would likely have to get two rooms. Because of that, I looked more seriously into getting an Airbnb.
Selecting the Airbnb
In the past, I've always only had me and one other person in an Airbnb apartment in Japan, and it was already a bit small. I knew that for three people, we really wanted to find a place that's a bit bigger, hopefully with a separate bedroom.
I mainly searched in the main hubs that I was a bit more familiar with - Shinagawa, Shibuya, Harajuku and Shinjuku. I didn't want to go as far as Ikebukuro or Tokyo (station) or Ueno because of the distance from Haneda Airport.
I eliminated based on distance from the JR station and price, then looked at size and amenities. We wanted an Airbnb that included pocket wifi, had at least one non-futon real size bed, heating, elevator and the best choices would have a separate bedroom/enough space for three people + luggage. Another minimum criteria was that we could receive mail because we needed an additional pocket wifi device delivered.
We did quite a bit of searching and comparing and contrasting between our options but eventually settled on an apartment in Shibuya. Despite never staying in Shibuya before, I wasn't too nervous because I could tell that the location was just beyond Shibuya 109, and I knew we wouldn't have too much trouble navigating to the apartment late on the first night with all of our luggage.
Being in Shibuya has a much different feeling than being in Shinagawa. There were more stores and restaurants that we were interested in very close to the apartment and it's constantly bustling. Shinagawa station is also a busy station but the areas just outside thin out a bit. I really did enjoy having easy access to Shibuya 109 and stores like Don Quixote and Daiso just a few blocks away. In terms of getting to Shibuya from Haneda Airport, we did have to deal with the transfer at Shinagawa and then also go down the stairs with all of our suitcases to get to the Hachiko exit. We waited until a less crowded time to do so, but it was a bit of a pain that the elevator only accesses the other side of the station.
One thing I didn't overly love about Shibuya was constantly being approached by (host club/self-advertising) men who would walk really close to me and talk into my ear for long enough to make me feel really uncomfortable if they thought I was alone. On one walk back to the apartment from Shibuya station, I literally had three different guys try to approach me for whatever reason. This was never something I dealt with in Shinagawa, no matter what the hour was.
It was good that the Airbnb provided us a pocket wifi unit even though it was really only effective in the Tokyo area. We didn't try and use it much in Nagano or Shizuoka or Omiya but when we did, it had a hard time catching signal if at all. But regardless, having the unit included in the Airbnb fees was great for us when it was working and would have been an additional expense we would have had to pay had we stayed in a hotel instead.
Additionally, it was nice to have the use of a microwave which we don't usually have access to in a hotel. There was also a small stove with kitchen supplies and washing machine, but we didn't use them during our short stay.
One negative for Airbnbs in general is that you're usually only provided with one key and if you're traveling with other people but not sticking to them like glue the entire time, it can be a little restrictive. There's also a much bigger problem and consequence if you accidentally misplace the key.
My parents were also really nervous about sorting the trash incorrectly, but this specific Airbnb host's instructions specifically asked us to leave the trash (sorted best we could) in the room.
Compared to getting two hotel rooms each for 6 nights, we definitely saved money by getting an Airbnb even though we booked for an extra night (7 nights total), so we wouldn't have to bother with checking out at a much earlier time than our flight and finding a locker for our luggage. On past trips when I stayed at an Airbnb, I would usually check into a hotel for the last night so I could make use of hotel resources like luggage holding and the lobby + it being the shuttle stop on the last day. This time we stayed all the way through, and I really liked the flexibility a bit more because we could pack and repack until we needed to leave and also freshen up using the bathroom before our midnight flight. It was well worth the convenience and still cheaper than changing to a hotel with 2 rooms for the last night.
Pocket wifi - Pupuru
|Sorry! I somehow forgot to take a picture of the Pupuru pocket wifi during the whole trip, so all I have is this one of the Airbnb provided wifi unit. They function very similarly though and were approximately the same size!|
For this trip, we rented one unit from Pupuru because we've been happy with their service and rates for our past trips. However, we had a bit of a blip. This was our first time getting the device mailed to an Airbnb, but I made sure to double check with the Airbnb host what to use as a mailing address. (We cannot pick up from the Airport because we arrive too late at night and all the services are usually closed. It does not make sense to go all the way back to the Airport the next day to pick up the device if it can be delivered for a lesser price.) Several emails from Pupuru stated that the delivery time we requested (10:00 - 12:00) was a guaranteed delivery time and that the person receiving the unit should be present during that time period. We wanted to make sure we didn't miss the unit so we left my dad in the apartment for most of the first day's morning and it didn't arrive by 12:00, so he wasted his time. It still hadn't even arrived by 13:00 and we know the delivery service is usually very timely. It ended up being a big fuss and Pupuru gave the delivery service the wrong address or something equally stupid but thankfully Ebony was able to help us resolve it by allowing us to use her phone to make calls (we would have had to pay extra to use ours). Without Ebony's help, idk what we would have done because it seemed like a giant waste to have left someone in there just to wait who knows how long. In any case, it was delivered at the 16:00 - 18:00 time slot successfully and Pupuru agreed not to charge us for that day (equivalent of 400yen) but I'm not sure that evens out to the wasted time on a short trip. Because of this, I may explore my options a bit more and consider using a different pocket wifi rental service in the future instead of jumping straight to using Pupuru like I have in the past.
I recently got a message on Tumblr asking why I didn't use any of the alternatives to renting a pocket wifi device like renting/buying a sim card or a Japanese phone. The answer is basically that I most often travel with other people and using one of those alternatives would mean getting one for each person. If you have a wifi device, multiple phones can share the access. Plus, the Airbnb already provided one unit, so we just needed to get one other one for those occasions when we wanted to split up. Otherwise, we'd probably still need to get 3 sims or 3 phones or hassle with switching sim cards on the go.
Weather - late January
How I prepared
At the beginning of preparing for this trip, I was really worried about being too cold since I wasn't bringing any pants and some people seemed to think that was a horrible idea because of the temperature and my not being used to cold weather. However, somewhere in the few weeks before leaving, I got concerned that it would be too hot to wear a coat and I would have brought it for nothing or look like a weirdo for wearing one lmao. In the end, I settled on bringing one coat - my white fur detail pom pom coat from the 2016 Liz Lisa My Melody fukubukuro tote. The other clothes I packed were all long sleeve but short in length, and I brought with me one pair of knee high boots and one pair of gloves. I had to hope that I wouldn't be too hot or too cold with these. The good thing about Japan is that I knew I could probably buy more layers if necessary once I got there and saw for myself. It's not like I have a plethora of winter items at home so buying something new wouldn't be too redundant.
What I actually needed
As a matter of fact, I was comfortable for most of the trip in the clothes that I brought with me or items I bought as the situation demanded it. There was a morning or two where I tried to go down to the convenience store without the coat to see how it felt, but yeah the coat was definitely necessary most of the time we were outdoors and the sun wasn't out, and it worked really well imo. I think a lot of people have their doubts about Liz Lisa outerwear but for me it seemed quite on par for what was required for winter in Japan combined with suitable other layering. The boots definitely helped a lot as well. I was okay on the days where I decided to wear the pumps (+ tights) but I was obviously warmer with the boots.
On the last day (Day 6) of the trip, it was actually unusually sunny and warm and that was the day I decided to go coat-less and legwear-less (minus thin ankle socks) but with a knit long sleeve top + the satin blouson as my outer. There were definitely moments where I was too hot but it was mostly because of the heating in select stores/venues on a whole, I felt pretty good. It probably also helped that I had already had a bit of time to adjust to what to expect weather-wise by that point.
Another big factor that helped me stay warm was a face mask. I always get a question or two about being a "germaphobe" after posting pictures of myself in it, but I mostly wear it because it helps keep me warm and protects sensitive skin on my face which isn't used to that kind of climate. If it also works as a barrier for germs, that's just a good sign benefit tbh.
I feel like I should also add that I always forget to bring warm enough clothes to lounge around the apartment in. I usually just assume that I'll be kept warm by blankets at night but what about when I need to move around the apartment and do stuff before going to sleep or in the morning before I get ready? The Liz Lisa roomwear I bought on the first day helped with that a lot lol.
Tokyo vs. Nagano/Jigokudani vs. Shizuoka
There wasn't a huge difference between how the weather felt in Tokyo versus Shizuoka (where we were mostly content with what we had, see above), but we knew to expect colder temperatures in Jigokudani just because of its location and the kind of activity we were doing. I've mentioned it about 3-4 times so far, but I had to specifically buy a few things just to prepare for going to the Snow Monkey Park because I had read so many reviews about how it can get miserably cold. I think we ended up visiting on a day with much milder weather than its known for this time of year (and as a result there were less monkeys in the onsen), but it was good for us because we weren't suffering due to the cold. I have to admit that since I stupidly didn't bring my gloves or the circle scarf down with me to the monkey area, I did get cold after about an hour of just standing and staring at monkeys, but that was my fault. I was definitely comfortable for most of the visit. However, my iPhone 6s wasn't. It kept shutting off because it was too cold and I think my coat pocket and my hands weren't warm enough to keep it on either. After the first 1/2 hour, I couldn't take any more photos lol. That happened to my dad's phone as well after about 45 minutes or so. My mom's iPhone 5SE was the only one that survived the whole visit without shutting off due to the cold, but she also has the most protective (diary style) case and the most recently purchased phone among us.
Jigokudani / Snow Monkey Park and Izu Cactus Park again, especially if I was going with someone who hasn't done it before. Honestly, I would even do the exact same itinerary again for both because I think those days went reasonably well. I feel a bit more confident with how to navigate to those areas after having done it myself, and I would love to share that experience with other people. I did enjoy going to the Yokohama Inner City Zoo and recommend it for certain kinds of people, but I think once was enough for me.
On a whole, I had a really good time on this trip and think there was a good mix of activities and lazy, browse-as-you-go shopping moments. There might have been a few small changes I would try to make, like maybe fitting one or two more illuminations into our schedule, but otherwise I'm quite satisfied with our experience and I can't wait to go back!
This is probably the least exciting post in every trip series, but it helps me keep track of the overall odds and ends for the trip for my own personal use. If I don't record it now, I usually end up forgetting or the memory warps. I'm always happy to have these posts to look back on and reference if I need to recall something for a future trip or give advice to a friend. Hope they're not completely boring for everyone else!
✲ Japan trip Winter 2017 ✲
Part 1: Arrival and Day 1 - Tokyo errands, Ebony/Liz Lisa & Shiodome Caretta Illumination
Part 2: Day 2 - Yokohama NOAH Inner City Zoo, Knot, Chinatown & Machida 109
Part 3: Day 3 - Nagano Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park & Omiya
Part 4: Day 4 - Tokyo shopping, Imperial Palace & dinner with Yuni
Part 5: Day 5 - Shizuoka Izu Cactus Park (Capybara onsen!) & Mount Omuro
Part 6: Day 6 - Last minute shopping, Ameyoko & Harajuku
Part 7: Liz Lisa & Other shopping purchases/coordinates
Part 8: Travel Notes - Airbnb, Pupuru pocket wifi & weather
Part 9: What's in my bag - Japan trip edition
✦ Japan trip Spring 2016 posts
✦ Japan trip Autumn 2015 posts
✦ Japan trip Summer 2015 posts
✦ Japan trip Spring 2015 posts
✦ Japan trip Summer 2014 posts