Saturday, February 6, 2016

Cruising in Asia: Shinjuku and Beyond - Park Hyatt Tokyo, Shinkansen, and Kitty Chan?!

Intro and Planning
Getting to Tokyo - Southwest, Sheraton LAX, and JAL First Class LAX to Narita
Shinjuku and Beyond - Park Hyatt Tokyo, Shinkansen, and Kitty Chan?!
I'm On a Boat! - Sun Princess Yokohama to Hong Kong
Hong Kong - Grand Hyatt, 10 McDonalds, and More Hello Kitty!
Getting Home - Cathay Pacific First Class Hong Kong to San Francisco

3 Years later!! I finally get around to finishing this. Lots of things have changed, but I look forward to sharing some of this. Also realizing that iPhone 4 photos are not what they used to be!

Even with a huge and completely lay flat bed, I can never seem to sleep on flights. That and it seems like they always keep the cabin temperature way up in the high 70s. We made it through customs without an issue, and headed off to pick up our JR East passes that we had purchased for ~$180 per person for a 3 day pass. We chose this option as we planned a short day trip to visit some friends in Niigata some 2 hours away by train. Picking up these passes saved us $40 each and we used our Barclay Arrival card points to pay for this, so no cash out of pocket. The staff at the JR office at the airport were very helpful, but it is a somewhat slow and manual process for them to prepare your passes. They explicitly told us we could not use them in the turnstiles but being so tired of course this quickly slipped my mind.

We headed downstairs to find the Narita Express which took about an hour direct to Shinjuku. I had forgotten just how massive some of these train stations can be, and when we arrived we had to find the right exit to catch a taxi to the hotel. The signage was easy to follow, but we were each toting large bags and it took at least 10 minutes walking through various underground shopping centers to get to the right exit. Here of course, is where the note about the turnstiles comes in. You are supposed to go to the kiosk where an agent is waiting that will check your passes and let you through. Instead... I try my pass at the gate (where the gates only close if you don't have a ticket) and I get stuck half way through with my bag jammed in the middle. After much struggling someone came to help and kindly reminded us to just go to the booth!

Outside we quickly found a taxi and we were off. Yet again my lack of sleep comes into play when I see we are turning towards the Hyatt Regency, thinking I had miscommunicated the hotel to the driver. Of course it turns out the Park Hyatt and the Regency are quite close to each other and we were simply passing it on the way and the driver reassures me he knows what he is doing (*embarrassing*).

Arriving at the hotel is kind of an odd experience, and in this case also comical. The hotel itself is on the top floors of an office building, but has a dedicated entrance on the ground floor. As we arrive at the door hotel staff immediately open the taxi doors and great us while they begin to unload our luggage. A bellhop took all of our larger bags and put them on a trolley, but the woman who greeted us insisted that she roll our carry-on bags for us personally. Up to the 42nd floor we go on our way to check in. Before you get to the front desk, you walk through an atrium, past the restaurant, through the library, and finally to the check in area.


To make the most out of this stay, I had emailed Hyatt and asked to take part in their Diamond Trial program (which has since changed to a 12 night challenge). They gave us 60 days of top tier elite status with Hyatt instantly, with the chance extended to a full year if we completed enough paid nights. The real benefit to this, is that if you apply for the Hyatt Credit card from chase as a Diamond member, it comes with 2 free nights in a suite at any Hyatt in the world. Considering 1 night in the "Park Suite King" is currently priced at $1,280 per night, we thought this would be a good place to use it.

 We were staying for 3 nights, so we used our 2 suite nights and added on a 3rd night with points (25,000 at the time, but now up to 30,000). When we arrived we asked if it would at all be possible to stay all 3 nights in a suite, which depending on capacity is not out of the ordinary. However, I later learned this hotel (or many in Japan), are an exception to this. Unless there are really extraordinary circumstances, expect you will get exactly what you book here. However, being ever so polite, someone went to go speak to the manager to inquire for us. Several minutes later they arrived to let us know that we could certainly upgrade to a suite for only $800 for the night. No thank you! We kept our "Park King" and headed up to the room. Of course with the same woman dragging our bags all the way for us!

For a standard room, I was pretty impressed, it was quite spacious and the walk through bathroom located behind the bed area made it seem even larger. Begin poorly taken photos here!


As a Diamond member, the hand written note, bottle of wine, and box of specialty cookies were the welcome amenity. Funny enough, both those bottles of water are still in our fridge at home!

Besides the welcome amenity, it seemed that each room came with another standard welcome gift of Japanese snacks. 
The fresh flowers in the room were a nice touch and definitely appreciated by my wife.


 Getting into the room itself was also entertaining. Within the course of 5 minutes we had the original hostess show us into the room and how to work things, the bellman arrive with our larger bags, room service show up to put out the welcome amenity, and housekeeping to offer turn-down service as it was already 8pm. By the time everything settled down we took some pictures, closed the shades and went to sleep!

We were up early the next morning to catch a train for a day trip, but we had time to stop in the restaurant for our complimentary breakfast, again thanks to being a diamond member. You have the option of having the buffet, or ordering al-a-carte off the menu. We had some time to spare so we ordered of the menu.

As far as hotel breakfasts go, this I think, is still my favorite. I loved how a "side" of bacon really meant an entire plate! The service was great and fast and everything was delicious! Would I ever pay menu price for any of this, not a chance!

Ok, now we were off and running to catch our train. This section I will make brief as this is already becoming quite a long post. Taxi back to the train station (so much easier without luggage).

We enjoyed the day with some old friends in Niigata, where we stopped for some Automated Sushi, Automated Sake, and couldnt resist a photo of our good friend "Kenta-san" from "Kenta's Friend Chicken"

As with every other departure from our friends, they joined us on the platform and continued to wave goodbye until the train departed!


Back at the hotel after a long day, we found the transition to our new "Park Suite" quite smooth as they had already moved all our bags for us during the day.


The room was definitely large for a suite, and by standards for hotels in Japan, it definitely seemed huge. The furniture with its distinct Japanese flair seemed a little dated though.

Not being quite so tired, I tried to go upstairs to take a photo of the top floor bar, made famous in Lost in Translation. However, it was quite busy and they insisted that I get a table and buy something if I wanted to come in. I wasn't quite up for that, so I took a quick glimpse and headed out. I was however able to go up and sneak a picture of the view from the pool.

The next day, we took a full day tour of Tokyo, which I won't barrage you with. However, one of our highlights was making our way over Sanrioworld as my wife is a huge Hello Kitty fan.

Its been several years since taking this trip and I'm glad to finally get back to updating this page. I was definitely surprised to see that in the last 2 years the site had over 7000 page views. I feel a bit bad that I let the site go cold for that many people!

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