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Making the Most of a 24 Hour Layover in Tokyo

My most recent travel adventure  was one fine day in  Tokyo.  Japan has been high on my wish list for some time now.  Why only one day? Well, one efficiency I have learned in my long term travels is that when I am booking my annual Canada visit,  I keep my eyes peeled for any interesting stopovers I can make on the way. When I found  a booking on a five star Japanese airline (ANA) at a reasonable price that included a 24 hour stopover in Tokyo, I was on it like white on rice.

I arrived late evening at Tokyo Haneda airport. The first thing I did was lighten my load by storing my big backpack at airport, only 300 yen for 1 day. Rather than  getting a room at that late hour, I wanted to spend the night at Heiwajima hot spring which is close to the airport. They have a shuttle bus from/to the airport which saves an expensive taxi fare.  I asked for help at the airport information desk but still had a bit of  trouble getting the shuttle.  I was at the correct pickup point (for charter buses)  but I  did not see anything marked as Heiwajima or hot springs at the appointed time  I   tried for the next bus an hour later after calling the hot spring and them assuring me a bus was coming..  I vaguely remember reading online some mention of a boat race place close to the hot spring. I saw a bus  labelled  Big Fun Boat Race, though no mention of hot springs or the Heiwajima area.  I asked the bus driver  anyhow if he was going to the hot spring. He did not speak English but gave me an affirmative nod, so I hopped aboard.  With the super low crime rate in Japan, I thought what is the worst that can happen. Luckily on this dark and stormy night, after a 20 minute ride, the bus dropped me at the hot spring.
At the hot spring reception  I ordered the overnight package which allows you to stay about 10 hours overnight.  Besides the many types of segregated  hot spring pools, they have a large quiet room with subdued lighting and big comfy lounge chairs.  In the morning there is a small buffet breakfast included, starting at 7 AM.  You get towels and comfy pajamas to wear outside the bathing area.  They have large lockers to store your stuff in the dressing rooms and  a small locker at the entrance for your shoes.
I got to the dressing room not really knowing what to do but a staff member came along with a little English and helped to explain.  First take off your clothes, yes all of then.  Then clean up in the shower area, they have all the toiletries available there.  Once you are all clean , proceed to the many pools.  You can take a small towel with you to the bathing area but no clothing or towels allowed in the water.
The water is plenty hot and brackish from the minerals .  There are pools of varying temperatures and some with bubbles .  My favourite was the highly carbonated spring water, it was all tingly, like being in a hot tub full of tonic water.   After an hour or more making the rounds in the pools, it was time to see about a bit of shut eye in the lounge area.  The seats were comfy recliners that could lay flat and you could get a giant bath towel to use as a blanket if you like. There were people snoring but I did get a decent amount of sleep in.  The breakfast at 7 was simple but tasty.   After breakfast I dipped back in a couple more pools then showered.  They gave a voucher on the way out for bus service to the Heiwajima subway station. Overall for me, Heiwajima Hot Spring was a great option for my short layover.
I caught the subway into the city to the Asakusa area, an old fashioned area in the heart of Tokyo.  The subway is quite a beast but I impressed myself by not getting overly lost.  It was rainy and cool but fortunately Asakusa has quite a few covered streets to wander.   I got some good ramen noodles and gyoza for lunch.  I followed that up with a cappuccino and fruity dessert at a  little cafe in a chic mall.
I am not much of shopper but when I go somewhere new I do enjoy going through supermarkets and department stores to get an idea what local life might be like. I found a store called Don Quixote that I liked, there I purchased a bottle of the world renowned Nikka whisky.
By mid afternoon I was getting tired with all the walking and little sleep.  I thought I better take look at the famous Sensō-ji temple before heading back to  the airport.  Along the way, though  I wasn’t really hungry,  I checked out a couple of places for the world famous Wagyu beef but I wasn’t feeling it.  I carried on looking for the temple and had all but given up on the Wagyu for this trip when I was drawn in by a place with a bull statue on the sidewalk in front of it . From the menu posted outside it looked perfect.   The service was great and they had a lunch special which was surprisingly affordable. I ordered a set menu that had 2 styles  of short rib meat,  one fairly thin sliced and the other squarely sliced, both super marbled with fat and coated with a light glaze of sauce.  They bring a barbecue brazier to your table for you to cook to your own desired degree of doneness.  It did not take long, about a  minute on each side before I had my first taste.  It was absolutely divine, so tender you wouldn’t dream of using a  knife. There is a rich, slightly sweet taste to the meat.  I loved it, left this place completely satisfied.
Wagyu Beef AKA Kobe beef


Lunch set menu


I eventually did find the temple.  beautiful but heaving with tourists.  After a quick look around got back on the subway to the airport.  This was more of a peak hour and I was fascinated to watch the Japanese, still thoughtful of others and polite when there is barely room to breathe.
This day was a great day, an appetizer for Japan,  I am sure I will have more adventures there in the future.
Hot Spring- Heiwajima Hot Spring at the Big Fun center is open 24/7 with shuttle bus to/from Haneda Airport .  Overnight package was 3500 yen including breakfast

Eating- Heijoen Asakusa Kaminarimon Very good Kobe beef and I found the lunch t menu quite affordable for such a melt in your mouth delicacy, 2800 yen (about $32 CDN


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Brad the Nomad

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