Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Japan Travel: Budget Accommodation for Family with Children - Toyoko Inn

If you have been following our Japan travelogues - Okinawa, Kyushu, Central Japan and Kansai (coming soon), you may have noticed that for all these trips, we would stay at a particular hotel called Toyoko Inn, which is a chain of business hotels.

In Japan, to ensure good quality of sleep, many accommodations would require the visitors to book and pay for the exact number of people staying, including children. Usually the accommodations do not charge infants and children under 2 years old. For children above 2 years old and up to elementary school age, they would be charged at a certain percentage of, or even same rate as adults. Therefore, it can be quite expensive for our family of 2 adults and 2 children to stay in Japan! We are glad to find Toyoko Inn, as it is one of the hotels in Japan that allows two children aged 12 years and below to sleep-share with two adults in a twin room without extra charge! Do take note that one bed allows only one child, so for our family with 2 children, we have to book Twin room (2 beds), but not Double room (1 bed).

The room rate is about 8000+ to 10000+ yen per twin room per night, depending on the location and the date of check-in. It is slightly more expensive on Saturday, but it is still cheaper than many other hotels in Japan which cost at least double! 

Here is the list of Toyoko Inn that we have stayed so far:
Okinawa: Toyoko Inn Okinawa Naha Shintoshin Omoromachi (read our review here)
Hakata: Toyoko Inn Hakata-guchi Ekimae
Toyama: Toyoko Inn Toyama-eki Shinkansen-guchi No. 2
Kanazawa: Toyoko Inn Kanazawa-eki Higashi-guchi
Nagoya: Toyoko Inn Nagoya Nishiki
Osaka: Toyoko Inn Osaka Namba Furitsutaiikukaikan Nishi (will stay there in December 2018)

The layout of the hotel lobby and room in different branches is very similar, so by now our children are very familiar with the setting. The following photos are taken at non-smoking twin room of Toyoko Inn Toyama-eki Shinkansen-guchi No. 2, which opens in April 2018, and thus everything was new when we were there in June 2018..





Yes, you can see that the twin room is actually very small! When we first stayed in Toyoko Inn at Okinawa, we learnt to orientate ourselves, and we got used to it after a while. Though the room is very small, many things that you need are available - small refrigerator, small kettle, cups, toothbrush and tooth paste, bath towels (2 pieces for twin room), face towels (2 pieces for twin room), shampoo, hair conditioner, shower gel, hair dryer, mini safe, hangers and a bar to hang clothes. And there is free Wi-fi!

The width of the bed in a twin room is 110 cm, it is just nice for one adult and one child (provided that the child does not roll all over the bed while he / she is sleeping). During our trip to Nagoya in June 2018, we stayed at Family Twin Room at Toyoko Inn Nagoya Nishiki, one of the beds is bigger with width of about 140 cm. So you can search for Family Twin Room (one bed of 140 cm wide and one bed of 110 cm wide) or Deluxe Twin Room (2 beds of 140 cm wide) if you need bigger beds.

Family Twin Room at Toyoko Inn Nagoya Nishiki at Nagoya

At the hotel lobby, there are washing machines and drying machines for a fee. Vending machines for beverages are also available. There are also water dispenser and ice machine that are free! That saves us a fair bit on drinking water!

One more highlight of this hotel chain is the free breakfast! Well, please do not expect a wide variety of food here, it is more like homely Japanese breakfast. Other than typical Japanese breakfast dishes like Japanese-styled egg omelette, pickles, miso soup, rice balls and rice, there are also bread and jam.

Breakfast at Toyoko Inn Toyama-eki Shinkansen-guchi No. 2

Different dishes are served at different branch, and at each branch, different dishes are served every day. So far, we feel that the spread of breakfast at Toyoko Inn Hakata-guchi Ekimae at Hakata (Kyushu) is the best.

Breakfast at Toyoko Inn Hakata-guchi Ekimae

After the breakfast, don't forget to return the plates and cutlery!

When we visited Kyushu, I applied for the membership of Toyoko Inn Club at 1500 yen (one-off payment, no annual fee required). This allows us to enjoy the membership discount of 5% off on Monday to Saturday, and 20% off on Sunday. As a member, we can make the reservation 6 months in advance, instead of only 3 months in advance for non-members. This is important because the rooms are selling like hotcakes, especially on weekends!

One more benefit is that members can get free accommodation coupon for a single room for every 10th stay. To use the coupon to stay in twin or double room, we just need to pay the price difference (non-member rate). Recently, we got to enjoy this benefit at Nagoya, we chose to use the voucher on Saturday to maximise the discount (remember I told you that the rate on Saturday is the most expensive)!

After singing much praises about Toyoko Inn, we did encounter unpleasant experience like smelly room and inexperienced staff who caused annoyance.

Overall, we are still quite pleased with the experience at Toyoko Inn.

Disclaimer: We paid for the accommodation ourselves, as we are not in any way affiliated to or sponsored by this hotel chain. We are sharing this as we have generally pleasant experience with this hotel chain.


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Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Japan Travel: Central Japan 7D6N Free-and-Easy Itinerary

As we shared the reasons for visiting Central Japan in our 10 tips for planning Central Japan trip with children, though the trip was tiring due to long distance travel on trains and bus, but it was memorable as our family shared new experiences together.



Let us share the summary of our Central Japan 7D6N free-and-easy itinerary:

Day 1 Takayama and Toyama

Singapore -> Chubu Centrair International Airport (Nagoya) ->[Meitetsu train] -> Nagoya (lunch at McDonald's) -> [JR Takayama line] -> Takayama > [JR Takayama line] -> Toyama

Stay: Toyoko Inn Toyama Eki-mae Shinkansen-guchi 2

We departed Singapore at 1+ a.m. and reached Chubu Centrair International Airport (Nagoya) at around 9 a.m. Japan time. If you have experienced taking red-eye flight, you would know that it is actually quite tiring. It is especially when your child chooses to lean on your shoulder instead of against the window when he / she sleeps on the plane.

After almost 7 hours of flight, we took a train from the airport to Nagoya which took about half an hour, and we took 2.5 hours JR train from Nagoya to stop over at Takayama for a break, before taking another 1.5 hour JR train from Takayama to Toyama. If you can afford to spend more days, I would not suggest you follow the itinerary of our first day, as it is really really tiring!

Our highlight at Takayama was to eat and eat and eat!




Day 2 Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route

Toyoma -> [Dentetsu Toyama, Tateyama Cable Car, Highway bus] ->  Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route -> [Highway bus, Tateyama Cable Car, Dentetsu Toyama] -> Toyama

Stay: Toyoko Inn Toyama Eki-mae Shinkansen-guchi 2

It was a pity that it was raining and we could not walk along the Snow Corridor, the reason why we wanted to visit Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. Anyway, we visited the smaller scale of Snow Corridor, it was better than nothing! Perhaps it was a sign that we had to visit Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route again!




Day 3 Kanazawa

Toyama -> [Hokuriku Shinkansen] -> Kanazawa Station -> [Kanazawa Right Loop Bus] -> Higashiyama Higashi Chaya ->  [Kanazawa Right Loop Bus] -> Omicho Market -> [Kanazawa Left Loop Bus] -> 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kenroku-en, Kanazawa Castle -> [Kanazawa Left Loop Bus] -> Kanazawa Station

Stay: Toyoko Inn Kanazawa-eki Higashi-guchi

At Kanazawa, where we embarked on gastronomical adventure to enjoy fresh seafood and fruits, as well as learning journey to an art museum, a Japanese garden and a castle.







Day 4 Shirakawa-go

Kanazawa -> [Hokuriku Tetsudo Bus] -> Shirakawa-go -> [Nouhi Bus] -> Takayama -> [JR > Takayama line] -> Nagoya -> [Subway Sakuradori line] - Hisayaodori

Stay: Toyoko Inn Nagoya Nishiki

We were thankful that the weather was great as we strolled around the village of gassho-style houses.




At Nagoya, we checked in Toyoko Inn Nagoya Nishiki which is 3 subway stations away from Nagoya Station. One reason why we chose this hotel was that it offers Family Room, which has a double bed and a single bed, and it costs less than SGD120 per night! However, some time after I made the booking that I reaslised that Nikishi area was red-light district! Luckily no one disturbed us along our way from subway station to the hotel.


Day 5 Nagoya

Hisayaodori -> [Subway Sakuradori line, Aonami Line] ->  LEGOLAND Japan -> [Walk] -> Sample Kobo -> [Aonami Line, Subway Sakuradori line] -> Hisayaodori

Stay: Toyoko Inn Nagoya Nishiki

Our children enjoyed the visit to LEGOLAND Japan! Though we have been to LEGOLAND in Malaysia twice, the one in Japan offers different activities and experience! We also had hands-on experience on how to make our own food sample - the food models that you see outside some of the Japanese restaurants.




Day 6 Nagoya

Hisayaodori -> [Subway Sakuradori line, Meitetsu train] -> Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology -> [Meitetsu train, Aonaomi Line] -> SCMaglev and Railway Park -> [Aonaomi Line, Subway Higashiyama line] -> Sakae (Oasis 21, Nagoya TV Tower)

Stay: Toyoko Inn Nagoya Nishiki

We had a fun-filled day at two museums! I strongly recommend you to visit Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology, as well as SCMaglev and Railway Park, it was an eye opener to learn about the development of automobiles and railway.




Day 7 Home Sweet Home

Hisayaodori -> [Subway Sakuradori line, Meitetsu train] -> Chubu Centrair International Airport (Nagoya) -> Singapore

Time to say goodbye to Japan! We will be back!


How to Get from Chubu Centrair International Airport to Nagoya Station (and vice versa)

The airport at Nagoya is called Chubu Centrair International Airport. To get from the airport to Nagoya and vice versa is quite straight forward, you can either take Meitetsu train 名鉄 or bus.

We took Meitetsu train which would take 28 to 48 minutes depending on which type of train that you are taking. The basic fare is 870 yen for adult and 440 yen for child. A First Class Car Ticket "μTicket" at 360 yen per person is required to board the first class car of a μ-SKY Limited Express, as well as reserved seats on Rapid Limited Express or Limited Express train. Since we were not in a hurry and wanted to save some money, we took non-reserved seat.



How to Save Money on Transportation

As we had to travel long distance, so it was more worthwhile to get JR Pass than to buy tickets separately. For this trip, we purchased Takayama-Hokuriku Area Pass, which costs 14000 yen for adult and 7000 yen for child.



Let us show you how much we saved from getting this JR Pass.
Nagoya to Takayama by JR reserved seat = 6030 yen
Takayama to Toyama by JR reserved seat = 3360 yen
Toyama to Kanazawa by Shinkansen non-reserved seat = 2810 yen
Takayama to Nagoya by JR reserved seat = 6030 yen
Bus bus from Kanazawa to Shirakawa-go = 1850 yen
Bus from Shirakawa-go to Takayama = 2470 yen

So if we had purchased the tickets separately, we would have to pay 22550 yen for an adult. But with Takayama-Hokuriku Area Pass, each adult saves 8550 yen, even if we took non-reserved seat on JR trains, we would still save 6990 yen per adult. That is a substantial amount of saving for our family of 2 adults and 2 children!

There are 2 steps in obtaining Takayama-Hokuriku Area Pass.
Step 1: Purchase the exchange order (MCO) from local travel agency e.g. JTB, Klook, Changi Recommends
Step 2: Upon arriving Japan, go to JR Ticket Office with MCO purchased in step 1 and your passport, redeem the actual JR Pass



Post Trip Reflection

As our children are now slightly older, we are more adventurous in our overseas trips. But to be honest, though the itinerary for the first 4 days look quite "relaxed", it was actually quite tiring as the travelling time on train or bus was quite long. As compared to our trips to Taiwan and Hong Kong, when the children could stay up at night to watch TV at the hotel, during this trip to Central Japan, they actually "concussed" when their heads touched the pillows! So if you are travelling with younger children and elderly, and if you can spend more days in Japan, I would suggest that you stay at least one night at Takayama, and one more night at Toyama, so that it is not so rush and tiring.

Our expenditure (2 adults + 2 children)
Air tickets (Singapore Airline) = ~SGD2700
Accommodation (6 nights) = ~48000 yen (~SGD600)
Admission tickets = 6100 yen + ~SGD240 LEGOLAND Japan (purchased the tickets in Singapore)
Transportation = 36760 yen + SGD459 JR Pass (purchased in Singapore)
Food and shopping = 81000 yen
Total damage = ~SGD5500

Let us share with you some interesting discovery during this Japan trip!

We found Clear Coca Cola which was just launched during our trip in June 2018. Our verdict? Well, we don't think we would get another bottle of this.



At McDonald's Japan, we had Gudetama McFlurry, which was actually vanilla flavour soft serve with caramel.



Gudemata toys were the reason for us to buy McDonald's Happy Meal!



We love Baby Star noodles snack! But it may not go too well with ice-cream.



Read our other adventures in Japan:
Okinawa 6D5N free-and-easy self-driving trip
Kyushu 8D7N free-and-easy railway trip


Our Central Japan Travelogue June 2018

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Thursday, September 20, 2018

Japan Travel: Nagoya - What to Do and Eat

Known as manufacturing and shipping hub in Japan, I used to think that there is nothing much to do in Nagoya, now then I realise that Nagoya can be so fun to travel with children! Let us share with you what to do in Nagoya with children, and what to eat in Nagoya!

LEGOLAND Nagoya

Our children (and myself) are great fans of LEGO, so LEGOLAND Japan is the place that we must visit!

Read our experience at LEGOLAND Japan and SEA LIFE Nagoya in this post!



SCMaglev and Railway Park 

It is located near LEGOLAND Japan. However, it was impossible for us to visit both LEGOLAND Japan as well as SCMaglev and Railway Park on the same day, because LEGOLAND Japan alone would require a whole day! We learnt about the history and future development of railway through hands-on activities.

Read our experience at SCMaglev and Railway Park in this post!




Sample Kobo

Located at Maker's Pier near LEGOLAND Japan, Sample Kobo offers a range of food samples - food replica that are displayed outside some Japanese restaurants. The food sample look so real!



There are also lovely merchandises like key chains and hair bands.



Sample Kobo is not just a retail shop, it also offers food replica workshops! After we visited LEGOLAND Japan, we walked in and asked for a food replica workshop. Initially we wanted to learn how to make tempura and lettuce, however, this requires reservation in advance. So in the end, the children learnt how to make cup ice-cream, which cost 900 yen.



Website: http://mp.samplekobo.com


Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology

In addition to learn about the history of Toyota, Technoland at Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology offers hands-on activities that are educational and fun!

Read our experience at Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology in this post!



Sakae

Sakae is a shopping area in Nagoya. It is very convenient to get there from Nagoya Station via the subway. Other than shopping and dining in the area, taking photo with the old landmark Nagoya TV Tower together with the futuristic-looking Oasis 21 is quite an experience.



Komeda Coffee

Many Nagoya cafes offer special "morning service" - free breakfast when you order beverage in the morning! It is usually a complementary set of toast with boiled egg. One of the popular cafes in Nagoya is Komeda Coffee. We didn't have a chance to enjoy the free breakfast since we had free breakfast at our hotel Toyoko Inn. But we visited Komeda Coffee for its dessert Shiro-Noir, Danish pastry with soft serve ice-cream and syrup. The pastry is soft, fluffy and warm, it goes well with the vanilla soft serve.



We also ordered ham sandwiches, the sauce seemed to contain wasabi which we did not really like.


Sekai no Yamachan

Tebasaki (chicken wing) is a specialty in Nagoya. We bought a box of 5 (about 400+ yen) from a chain of izakaya (Japanese style pub) called Sekai no Yamachan. Since smoking is allowed in this eatery, I decided to get the take-away instead of dining in with our children.



Even though I don't like spicy food, I can still accept this chicken wing which is seasoned heavily with pepper.



If I have a chance to visit Nagoya again, I would consider trying chicken wings from another izakaya called Furaibou, as I read some where that their chicken wings are not so spicy.


Harbs

Having a sweet tooth, I have been looking forward to try the cakes from Harbs, there are many branches in Japan, but it is originated from Nagoya. However, this eatery requires minimum order of one beverage per person for dining in, so I decided to take-away a slice of Mille Crepes (about 900 yen). The fruits were fresh and sweet!



Other Interesting Places in Nagoya

There are some more interesting places in Nagoya that we would like to visit, but did not have time to explore during this trip.

How to Get from Chubu Centrair International Airport to Nagoya Station (and vice versa)

The airport at Nagoya is called Chubu Centrair International Airport. To get from the airport to Nagoya and vice versa is quite straight forward, you can either take Meitetsu train 名鉄 or bus.

We took Meitetsu train which would take 28 to 48 minutes depending on which type of train that you are taking. The basic fare is 870 yen for adult and 440 yen for child. A First Class Car Ticket "μTicket" at 360 yen per person is required to board the first class car of a μ-SKY Limited Express, as well as reserved seats on Rapid Limited Express or Limited Express train. Since we were not in a hurry and wanted to save some money, we took non-reserved seat.



Our Central Japan Travelogue June 2018


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