Trip Planning – Flight, Hotel, Destinations, Transport

everyone will find their own best way to go about things, for me, it’s planning. 🙂

like when I cook a 8-course dinner for 10 friends, or a buffet for 23 friends, it’s all about planning – the dishes, marketing, preparation & timing to start each dish etc.

so same for me when it comes to trip planning, it will not work for me to mistake unpreparedness & lack of research & planning as spontaneity.

  1. the dates – for this what ended up as “missing sakura” Tokyo trip on 9-15apr2013, my plans were derailed (or became spontaneous to be the eternal optimist) as the weather changes brought the sakura flowering 2 weeks forward from the normal period, and Japan Guide’s Cherry Blossom Report 2013 was reporting full bloom in Tokyo on 25mar2013 instead of first week of april! but the point about planning is – once I know this, then I have to adjust the destination to places I can still find sakura (takaosan 高尾山) or where there are later flowering sakuras (eg shinjukugoen). 🙂
  2. flights – the advent of low cost carriers have really trigger mass travels. for 30 years I have been travelling exclusively SIA, but for the last 2 years, I have done quite a few trips to Shantou & HK on Jetstar. for this trip,  I was travelling alone and SIA cost like $1100 for lone traveller.  Scoot (a new LCC subsidiary of SIA) was offering around $500 economy return c/w closer to $700 by Jetstar, and since Scootbiz was just $150 more (& very much less if you were to include the 2 free meals + 20kg check-in luggage + free flight entertainment) & it was an outgoing night flight, I decided to take Scootbiz outbound & return by economy. The only downside is a stopover at Taipei! My $680 fare was in fact about same as what my daughter paid for China Eastern economy return (which stopped over at Shanghai!) I also researched on the seats! according to, Scoot has the largest seat width at 19″ to 20″ for economy and 22″ leather seats for Scootbiz for the 777-200 aircraft for this flight; that c/w JAL’s 17.3″ for economy and 18.5″ for business, Cathay Pacific’s 18″ for economy & 20″ for business & SIA’s own 17.5″ economy & 20″ business seats for the same aircraft & Jetstar’s 18″ for economy & 20″ for starclass for A330-200 aircraft.
  3. hotel – I looked at a few hotels including the Sakura chain which seems quite good & finally settled for Shinjuku Sunroute Plaza, which is just 3minutes walk from JR Shinjuku South Exit and 1 minute walk (right next door really!) from Shinjuku Teio line A1 exit. The cost for a 6 night stay was 63000yen all in including breakfast which was like <S$140/night. This was even cheaper than my recent stay at Hong Kong’s Kowloon Hotel, thanks to the lower yen forex rates. 🙂
  4. destination planning – this has got to do with what you want for the trip. for my case, it was (1)chasing sakura (2)some trekking (3) lots of food 🙂 thus I checked out the top hanami (花见which means sakura viewing) spots, and where to go for later flowering sakura like at Shinjukugoen & also at higher altitude like takaosan (600m); and of course I researched also the takaosan trails, and the Shinjuku restaurants!
  5. transport –  this is very key because of cost & time. In Japan it is very confusing as you have JR Pass, JR East Pass, JR Kanto Pass and all the places you want to go (like in my case Takaosan, Nikko & Kamakura, and Izu which I dropped) are served by private railways which you have to pay a hefty supplement. For example the All Nikko Pass works for Tobu Nikko Spacia trains which connect from Asakusa which means you have to plan to get from Shinjuku to Asakusa to connect. If you use the JR Passes, in order not to have to pay hefty supplements, you have to get to Tokyo Station and take the Tohoku Shinkansen line instead! See this important guide here!

and there is one more variable – the weather! you do NOT want to take a 3 hr journey to Nikko when it is raining or go to Hakone when it is downcast & you cannot see Mt Fuji! so your daily destination plan has to follow closely the weather reports which maybe wrong of course! as my good friend told me=that’s life!

anyway I was fortunate that during my 7 days in Tokyo I was blessed with glorious sunshine and pleasant weather(or perhaps it was I who blessed the Tokyo-ites haha..). 🙂 it was no compensation for missing the sakura full bloom though, but hey that’s life!

c.h.e.f andy


Asashi Sushi @ 8F Mylord Building Shinjuku South Exit on 9Apr2013

I was early for 2pm check in at Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku. My Scoot flight TZ202 touched down on time at Narita 11am. I travel only with handcarry (nothing to shop or cart back) for the longest time, and so got on the NEX (Narita Express) by 11.30am and arrived Shinjuku 12.40pm and at Sunroute soon after.

So I decided I might as well have a bite. As I was getting out of Shinjuku South Exit, I noticed that there was a Asahi Sushi outlet at Mylord Building there. So I took the short walk (300m) & got on the lift to 8th floor.

Asahi Sushi @ 8F Milord Shinjuku South Exit

Asahi Sushi @ 8F Milord Shinjuku South Exit

As I was meeting my daughter & her friend later for dinner (they were already travelling in Japan), I decided to just take sashimi.


tokusen sashimi moriase

There was an impressive looking Tokusen sashimi moriwase which meant specially selected mixed sashimi (see photo above) at 1800yen, so I decided to just have that.

tokusen sashimi moriwase

tokusen sashimi moriwase

This was what I had-

  1. 5 slices of aji (horse mackerel)
  2. 2 slices of hamachi (yellow tail)
  3. 2 amaebi (sweet prawn)
  4. 2 tai (sea bream or snapper)
  5. 1/2 a awabi =5 slices of abalone
  6. negitoro (minced tuna belly)
  7. 1 whole slug I ate several times before but didn’t know the name (I found out later name was tsubugai)
  8. 2 centrepiece akamai (lean toro)

The aji was very good & went very well withe the dash of ginger. We get very good aji in Singapore as well. The hamachi were quite ok but I had much better plump ones before. The tai was average but at least not those with much residue, The amaebi was good.

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The awabi was fabulous (though the photo was not as I was unable to focus well). I had Japanese abalone sashimi before but usually they were a bit tough & chewy. & they were expensive and not great so I wouldn’t usually order them. These were not tough at all & very sweet, a really nice treat!

The negitoro was also very sweet (I later tried a pair of negitoro sushi at a conveyor belt sushi place & though they looked beautiful they had very little taste).

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the slug thingy (tsubugai) was ok but still a bit tough, never my favourite but quite ok here. and the akamai – lean toro – was also good.

The 1800 yen price (=S$20++) was of course extremely cheap for the items offered. In Singapore it would be difficult to get this for S$80++.

tokusen sashimi moriwase

tokusen sashimi moriwase

So as we all already know, good Japanese food is a lot more expensive in Singapore on a quality-price comparison. There were many other good sets at Asahi Sushi like a good chirashi don for 1490yen – and it looked as good & more in quantity c/w the one at Ginza Kuroson, which to me offers the best priced quality chirashi don in Singapore at S$20++ for lunch inclusive of salad, dessert & ice tea.

c.h.e.f  andy