Hello! It’s been an embarrassingly long time since we last wrote something, hasn’t it? Just under 7 months if the date on the post below is to be believed.
I can remember a time not too long ago where Mrs. Selfish and I were cranking out a post a day. Now I’m lucky if I get two done a year. That’s life with a busy toddler, I suppose.
Toddler Selfish loving life at the playground.
Toddler Selfish has kept us so busy, that we’ve only managed 3 trips this year! One to Napa, one to San Diego to visit the zoo, and one to the East Coast to visit family.
Hippo!! Also, Toddler Selfish.
So when my parents offered to watch Toddler Selfish over the Winter holiday, I immediately jumped at the offer and booked a trip to Japan.
For the fifth time.
Tokyo in the Winter and Snow Monkeys
Truth be told, while I’m a bit of a Japanophile (we’ve spent over 2 months in the country over the last 6 years) I was actually trying to convince Mrs. Selfish to try the Seychelles.
After a period of heavy research, we settled on Japan for a few reasons:
- 1) We are loathe to leave Toddler Selfish with my parents for more than a week, and we’d burn more than 2 days just traveling back and forth from the Seychelles.
- Japan, by contrast, is “only” an 11 hour flight.
- 2) JAPANESE FOOD.
- 3) Japanese toilets.
- 4) #($*&#$# Snow Monkeys!
Yes, snow monkeys!
We’ve had a bit of a mixed run with monkeys in the past (especially after cousin Selfish was nearly mauled by a monkey in Bali), but I expect the Japanese snow monkeys to be a bit more… civilized.
That or really, really, REALLY used to tourists since visiting the monkeys ACTUALLY looks something like this:
Kudos to National Geographic for editing out all the tourists.
Yes, it’s going to be crowded, and yes we’ll have to push (politely) past Japanese tourists and push (less politely) past Chinese tourists, but it should be good fun nonetheless.
…and loads easier than dealing with a cranky 2 year old. Just sayin’.
Booking the Flights
The easiest routing ever!
Mrs. Selfish and I are flying Japan Airlines from San Francisco to Haneda in first class on the way over, and business class on the return flight.
I booked the tickets pre-devaluation, which came to 62,500 AA miles for first class, and 50,000 for business class for a grand total of 225,000 AA miles + taxes for both of us.
JAL First Class looks mighty comfortable without a toddler.
I normally book our trips around award availability, but since my parents were doing us a solid I needed to book tickets for exact dates during the holidays, which is a different and altogether terrifying prospect.
This involved calling American Airlines exactly 330 days ahead of our travel date at exactly 5 minutes before the hour Japan Airlines releases award seats. Surprisingly AA hold times were short, which meant I either had to hang up and call back once I got a representative, or stall them as long as possible (“How’s the weather over there?”).
This process is highly competitive. So much so, our return flight booked up one minute after Japan Airlines released the award seats – zounds!
Fortunately, I managed to snag two business class seats home a day later. Should first open I intend to upgrade Mrs. Selfish and I since we’re sitting on a nice stockpile of AA miles with no future trips in sight.
Booking the Hotels
Since it had been over 3 years since Mrs. Selfish and I received the bonus for the Chase Hyatt card, I decided to apply for both of us once again. After immediately hitting the $1000 spend, we both had 2 free nights at any Hyatt in the world.
Japan Airline changed flight times for the SFO-HND route, so instead of arriving at 5am, we will be landing around 7:30pm. So instead of booking us somewhere new, I booked us in our old stand by – the Park Hyatt Tokyo.
The View Room!
Mrs. Selfish and I both have Hyatt Diamond status, thanks to Hyatt’s short lived and extremely lucrative diamond status match last November.
While diamond status entitles us to the best non-suite room, upgrades are based on availability and since we’re arriving near New Year’s I expect the hotel will be at full capacity. As a result, I decided to pre-book us into the View Room, which is my personal favorite at the PHT. The difference between a normal room and the View Room is 20,000 yen a night, which is a bit stiff, but totally worth it.
After nights at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, we’ll head by bullet train, then local train to Shibu where we’ll spend two nights at a local ryokan. I booked the room with cash (ouch!) which was pretty pricey.
If you’ve never stayed at a ryokan, the price is partially due to the fact they serve kaiseki meals for both breakfast and dinner, which are pretty expensive in their own right. Fortunately I booked the room before the yen soared against the USD, so we enjoyed a slight discount.
Shibu is a quaint town with several public hot springs where one can soak the day away. The last onsen town we visited was a pretty awesome, so I’m definitely looking forward to unwinding in an onsen or two after a busy morning jostling for monkey photos.
From there, we head back to Tokyo where we’ll use our remaining two free Hyatt nights at the Andaz Tokyo. I’m pretty excited to check it out, since reports on Flyertalk indicate the Andaz Tokyo is just as good, if not better, than the Park Hyatt Tokyo.
Andaz Tokyo Large Tower Room
Just like the Park Hyatt Tokyo, I confirmed an upgrade when booking the room. Unfortunately, this room was quite a bit pricier than the upgrade at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, but since this is our only childless trip in the foreseeable future I decided to go all in on our accommodations.
Help Us Figure Out What To Do!
So here’s the big question – with over 3.5 days in Tokyo what do we do?
At this point we’ve spent over 3 weeks in Tokyo so we’ve already done most of the obvious tourist things: the Meiji Shrine, Asakusa, sumo wrestling, DisneySea, the Ghibli Museum, stalking goth lolita girls in Harajuku, Shibuya, Akihabara, The Robot Show in Shinjuku, the Royal Palace, the Toto Showroom, visiting a maid café, etc.
Since we’re going without Toddler Selfish I am determined to do things we can’t do with Toddler Selfish. But what that is exactly I can’t figure out for the life of me.
Certainly sleeping and doing nothing are both pretty high up there, but we’ll be in the amazing city that is Tokyo. To do nothing but stay in seems wasteful to say the least.
Eating – duh!
One thing Mrs. Selfish and I enjoy is eating.
While we normally go for cheap to midrange restaurants, part of me is really, really tempted to try a whole lotta fancy meals. Not Jiru-Dreams-of-$u$hi fancy, but certainly something memorable.
As to where to eat… I’m not so sure. Tokyo has more Michelin star restaurants than any other city in the world by a large, LARGE margin – 226 vs. Paris’s 94, as of last year. What’s more, there are a ton of amazing local restaurants that are reputed to be even better (and are rumored to have turned away Michelin reviewers), so I have no idea where to even start.
To complicate things even further, we’ll be in Tokyo in the days immediately around New Years, a time when Japan historically shuts down. Other than a few temples, shops, and chain restaurants a lot of attractions and food options will be closed for the holiday.
So what do you guys think? Should we just spend our time sleeping and relaxing at the hotel? Make a manic rush for all of Tokyo’s finest restaurants? Something else?
We’re open to just about anything (provided we come home somewhat rested), so hit me back with any recommendations of crazy things to do in Tokyo!