We caught the Shinkansen to Tokyo arriving around 12pm, then changed to the Chuo rapid line for our destination of Shinjuku. Navigating the bustling (and huge) train station and streets of Shinjuku with luggage was a little stressful but luckily our hotel, Best Western Astina Shinjuku, was just a few minutes’ walk from the station.
We were staying 6 nights at BW Shinjuku, with daily buffet breakfast. Although it was located in a red light district (hence requiring you to pass by some sleazy shops), it was quite safe and the location was great. There was a convenience store just downstairs, a Mister Donuts up the street and many department stores including Isetan and Uniqlo within walking distance. The rooms were small (a given), but fairly new and spotless.
After we checked in, we went back to the subway for the train headed for Ryogoku aka Sumo town. To get to Ryogoku station, we caught the Chuo rapid to Ochanomizu then the local train heading towards Chiba. As soon as we disembarked and headed out the ticket gates, we were greeted by giant photos of well-known Sumo wrestlers and their handprints.
There was even a Sumo ring printed on the station floor, as well as a height chart for you to compare how you fare against these Sumo champions.
We wanted to go to Chanko Tomoegata for lunch, but it was already closed so we headed to Hananomae, which also served Chanko (a Sumo staple similar to steamboat) and was conveniently located just outside the station exit.
I had heard that the restaurant had a mock Sumo ring inside, but unfortunately we were seated in a different area. We asked especially for Chanko, which was on a different menu to the English one so the lady had to explain what the Chanko options were to us in sign language and broken English.
In the end, we ordered the Chicken Chanko, which came with chicken pieces, chicken meatballs, a heap of vegetables and noodles to cook in the large pot of tasty Shio based broth.
We also ordered gyoza, which came out juicy and crispy, and a garlic and butter chicken dish (for under Y500), which was caramelised to perfection and still succulent on the inside.
With our bellies full, we took the short walk to the Kokugikan Sumo stadium. Unfortunately it wasn’t the right month for Sumo matches, so it was fairly deserted. We had a quick browse of the souvenir shop and the small (and free) Sumo museum there.
After that, we went back to the hotel for a short rest before leaving for Disneyland. We caught the train to Tokyo Station, then switched to the JR Keio line (we took many travelators to get to the Keio section!) to reach Maihama Station.
We had decided to go late as tickets after 6pm were considerably cheaper than entry during the day. What we didn’t consider, was how long the wait was going to be.
The ticket booths were closed and for some reason, were not going to open until 7pm, so we would have had to wait an hour at the end of one of the long queues before it even started moving. After purchasing a ticket, there was a queue to go through for the bag check, then queue again for the rides. So we decided to abandon our Disneyland ambitions, instead contenting ourselves with wandering the prettily lit outer grounds of the park.
We also paid a visit to the Disney store located outside the park, which was selling all kinds of Disney merchandise from character hats, cushions and clothing, to games and snacks. Prices were rather steep – Y900 for a packet of wipes, anyone? One of the more interesting and cute products was their range of Disney character legos.
Finishing earlier than scheduled, we wandered the expanse of Tokyo station stopping by Ekiben Matsuri, a shop selling popular bentos from train stations all over the country. The shop was packed and we couldn’t take our time to inspect each bento so I just grabbed one that had my favourite grilled eel. A few of the more popular bentos had already sold out.
The bento was more katsu than eel. The taste was okay only, and I wished that I had taken more time to make a choice.
We also had a hamburger and (runny!) egg bento from one of the many food arcades in Tokyo station, and finished off the night with a visit to Mister Donuts up the road from the hotel.