How about taking a leisurely walk in Ginza?

Card inside a passport caseCard inside a passport case

I’m Manfong. It’s a pleasure to meet you again. I’ve been learning Japanese since I was a university student. I went to Tokyo for my first time with my friend on a tour 8 years ago, the second time was with my colleague on a business trip, and after the third time, I could go there by myself. I don’t have any problem with either travelling or a business trip. I can speak Japanese, so I have confidence to do most things, but I still take care of trip preparation each time. I wonder if it’s because I’m a Virgo.

Other than preparing a flight ticket and accommodations, it’s convenient to check travelling time in Tokyo beforehand. I like to print out the confirmation letters, including flight tickets, hotel reservations, and shopping lists, and bring them with me, instead of relying on the data on my cellphone. You have to write down your flight number and the information for your accommodations, such as address and phone number, on immigration and declaration cards, so I thought bringing a pen is common sense, but I lend my pen to someone next to me all the time. It’s so strange to travel without a pen and pencil set.

I use a passport case which fits everything I need including my passport, pens, memo pad, and airline membership cards. This is very useful. If you don’t care about design and color, I recommend you to have a MUJI one. It’s cheaper if you buy one in Japan. My house is around Puxi, Shanghai. Using Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport and Haneda Airport is the best. But since the terminal in Shanghai Hongqiao airport is small and not many flights leave from there, the ticket prices are always costly. You’d better check the prices for airlines as soon as possible, because the prices go up quickly.

I usually check flight tickets 4 months before my trip. The lowest price for China Eastern Airlines is about 2300 Yuan (inc. tax) round trip, and time ranges are fine as well. It leaves Shanghai Hongqiao Airport at 9:40am, and the returning flight leaves at 2:30pm in Haneda airport. If you live in Pudong, there are more options. Especially since JAL and ANA are competing with each other, getting cheaper tickets is a great deal! One of my colleagues bought a round trip ticket between Pudong and Narita was 1900 Yuan! That’s really cheap! If prices aren’t too different, you should choose a Japanese airline. The airline meals are quite different and you’ll get your own monitor in front of your seat, so you will be able to relax by choosing your favorite movie in the air. Not all Pudong airlines have a private screen for each passenger yet.

Duty free shopping is the first step for departure. You’re better off getting 5% discount UR codes from Shanghai Sunrise duty free, print them out, and keep them in your wallet. Shopping Estee Lauder and LANCOME products are a good deal, but if you want to buy Shiseido brand, it’s cheaper to buy those at a department store in Japan or duty free at a Japanese airport. Their service is good and you will get some samples. I always buy impress skin care items at a Japanese airport.

First off, catalogue prices at the airport are about 20% off prices at department stores in the city. Since I have an ANA credit card, the price is a further 10% off. You will earn ANA’s miles by using an ANA credit card, it’s a twofer. So I always buy 6 months’ worth of items and bring them back to Shanghai. You should ask for samples at department stores and the airport.

Shiseido at Haneda airportShiseido at Haneda airport

If you stay in Tokyo, try Ginza. It’s convenient for shopping and my headquarters in Japan. It takes less than 30 minutes to get from Haneda Airport to Higashi Ginza without transferring, so it saves time. I recommend you have either PASMO or Suica for travelling in Tokyo. With the card, you can use metro, JR, and private rail, as well as buses. You can also buy things at convenience stores or the airport. The procedure is fairly easy. For example, if you are at Haneda airport, you can get one at an information counter at the exit of the Tokyu line. It requires a deposit of 500 yen. You should charge it with about 1,000 yen at first. When you charge the card, you will use charging machines where you can charge your card by inserting your card, pressing the “charge” button, and selecting how much money you want to charge. It prints a receipt, so it’s really convenient. The expiry date is 10 years. When you visit Japan, you will be able to use the card many times. I often use buses for transportation downtown after I arrive at Narita airport. It takes about 1.5 hours to get downtown. If you have a JCB credit card, it’s nice to check the benefit from the card beforehand.

JCB often offers discount services such as a limousine discount. There was a campaign where you got a bus ticket to Narita airport for free if you spend more than 30,000 yen at shops in Tokyo. The price from Ginza to Narita airport by a limousine bus is 3,200 yen, so it’s a great deal to get one for free. You must use JCB to get this benefit. Chugoku Bank and Shanghai Pudong Development Bank issue JCB credit cards aligned with China UnionPay. If you use a JCB credit card, please choose the JCB account at their counter. I didn’t know this system well before, and I used to pay everything through UnionPay, and bring the receipts to JCB PLAZA. Therefore, I couldn’t get a discount ticket. When you make a reservation at a hotel in Tokyo, please check the area of the room. Like an APA hotel where the room is within 10 square meters, it’s too small to stay. If you just sleep in a room, it may be fine, but when you think about it carefully, you stay in a room longer than you would think. If you stay in a small room, it would depress you and affect your sleeping quality.

So I always choose a hotel room bigger than 15 square meters. Another thing I’m concerned about is whether you can open your suitcase a full 180 degrees. 90 degrees open is not good enough. I don’t like to put my suitcase on a bed and sort things out. I refer to Jalan to compare hotels in Japan.

I downloaded Jalan’s app on my cellphone in order to search hotels any time. It has many reviews and comments in each age group. I read mostly comments from 30’s to 40’s because they carefully check hotels and agree on what points they care about. They are very helpful. There is also a Chinese Jalan. You can compare it with Ctrip.

I don’t usually use Booking.com for hotels in Japan. I have stayed at hotels in Ginza a couple of times, and my recommendations are “Solaria Nishitetsu Hotel Ginza” and “Tokyu Stay Ginza”. Both are just two minutes on foot from Ginza station.

Delicious food in Mitsukoshi storeDelicious food in Mitsukoshi store

I love the Mitsukoshi basement food floor. There are lots of desserts, nibbles, and bento. They are all delicious. There are also many store names, so it’s hard to choose which one I should pick. One dessert each night, which is a matter of course. I like buying some nibbles and eating them while watching TV in the hotel room.

The rooms at Solaria Nishitetsu Hotel Ginza are good with reasonably spacious rooms. Breakfast is delicious. They don’t have many choices but the taste is good.

The bread is tasty. I’m strict about coffee. Tokyo Stay Ginza’s breakfast is salty, so I don’t like it. There are many amenity items, including facial wash, face lotion, and bath additives, in the corner of their reception, and you can use them for free. You can also drink free coffee and tea. Since my room has a washing machine, I got some detergent from the reception. The microwave at my room is also convenient.

If you go to Haneda airport from these two hotels, I’d recommend you use Higashi Ginza station near Kabukiza because there are no stairways to the airport. It’s very hard to use stairways with heavy luggage. If I’m staying in a hotel for the first time, I save time by checking the route to the airport. I use a subway map and make sure there are no stairs.

It’s a matter of course to buy at drug stores when you go to Japan. Not many people go to a drug store when it opens, but it gets crowded in the afternoon.

Ginza’s Matsumotokiyoshi has three floors, but they’re small. It takes about 10 minutes from the hotel to get to Big Camera in Yurakucho. The shop is big and there is a duty free service. You will be able to have a relaxing time shopping. They have various brands of thermos bottles, which are popular among the Chinese. There are so many brands it makes me dizzy.

There are five floors at Big Camera in Yurakucho. You can buy items from different floors at the same cashier. Last time, when I picked an external HDD at the peripheral PC floor and told the store staff I wanted to buy other things, they wrote down an external HDD on a bulk buying sheet. The HDD was kept at the bulk buying counter on the first basement level. I took just the sheet there to pick up the item. In the same way, items I was going to buy at other floors were kept at the bulk buying counter, then I paid for them all at once. Taxation is also dealt with at the same spot.

Since I don’t need to carry items and walk across floors, I don’t get tired. But please keep in mind that you cannot bring items from one floor to the others. Be careful, there are security alarms at each exit.

It’s not always clear where to buy some of the shopping items that your friends ask you for, so print them out with the item’s picture in color. If you cannot find them at a drugstore, you should show the item(s) to sales staff and ask them where you should go.

If the design or price of an item is different, or they’re sold out, I talk about it with my friends on wechat.

My schedule is usually full of things like meeting my friends and having lunch, so I don’t have much time for shopping. I think meeting friends for the first time in a long time is more important than going shopping, so I don’t have time for additional buying requests or asking me prices from friends at Shanghai. I disagree with people who think travelling means shopping. I think it will take time until everyone understands the enjoyment of travelling.

MUJI’’s flagship shop and LOFT are located diagonally across from Big Camera Yurakucho. These are also popular spots. I usually buy socks at MUJI, which are three pairs for 1,000 yen. I think the quality is better than Uniqlo. But MUJI’s food is not good. I personally like general merchandise at LOFT. The same items are sold at drugstores, so you can buy them tax free.

I have been using notebooks for more than 10 years. These are always Japanese ones with a B5 size. I’m strict about the design inside a notebook. I wonder if this is because I am a Virgo. Lots of stationery products are sold at LOFT. There are many choices, especially after October. If you like checking stationery products, I recommend Ginza Itoya at Ginza. It’s a stationery specialized store which has been in business for more than 100 years.

Ginza Itoya has 6 stationery floors, which excites me just by thinking about it. Their landmark is a giant red clip on the building.

Many people make notes on their smartphones, but it may be difficult to fully manage your schedule with only your phone. In the end, I like a notebook. I always have a pen and a notebook in my bag. If you go to department stores in Ginza, there are many lunch choices.

Mitsukoshi’s TempuraMitsukoshi’s Tempura

The restaurants and cafes floor at Ginza Mitsukoshi offers a variety of dishes other than Japanese and Western. There are also lunch menus which are easy to order.

There are often menus in Chinese, so you do not need to worry about it. I like Tempura, which tastes different from the ones in Shanghai. If you want to eat eel, please go to Miyakawa at 8th floor of Matsuya. The tastes is awesome!

I’m more interested in Japanese local products than foreign top brands. For example, I like genten. Genten has a special store next to Mitsukoshi department store. I bought two bags. I use one as a backpack. Surprisingly, my boss also uses a genten wallet.

If you go to Japan, you should buy shoes in the afternoon. Japanese hospitality (“omotenashi”) is topnotch. Most shoe stores prepare disposable nylon socks, please don’t hesitate to use them when you try on some shoes at a store.

I noticed that Japanese shoes are lighter than Chinese ones. Another thing I found out is Wacoal also sells female shoes.

The sizes of shoes are finely divided. Each size has three different width options, so you will find the perfect size for your shoes.

Only Wacoal offers different types of width for shoes. The design of Wacoal’s shoes are not so flashy. They are like shoes for office workers. If you want to buy shoe cream or shoe straps, ABC-MART has a lot of choices.

I love coffee. Every time I go to Japan, I buy coffee beans. There are various kinds of beans available at each shop and there are usually descriptions for each bean which are easy to understand so you can choose the taste and body of the beans. I usually drink American coffee, so it’s far cheaper to buy beans for making coffee. It’s tastier and cheaper than Starbucks at Shanghai.

I developed a love for Mitsukoshi department store. I’ve got a guest card with a 5% discount. You can use the guest card at Isetan as well. Most places other than some foods and restaurants are 5% off from the original prices. You will get duty free by showing your passport at stores or restaurants. If you get a guest card, you need to show your passport in order to verify your name.

If you buy at a department store, you would have to pay the price with taxes first, then get the tax back at a duty free service center. This is different than drugstores, where you pay the before tax price.

I often went to restaurants with my friends, so next time I will introduce some good restaurants. I met my friends, ate some delicious food, was satisfied with shopping, and was fully content with everything. Soon I will go back home. The last shopping spot is, of course, the airport. After checking my luggage, I usually go to makanai, which is a Japanese cosmetic brand. The brand logo is a cute rabbit. I’ve been using makanai’s hand cream for the past several years. I’ve started buying lip balms.

The main shop is located in Kagurazaka, and there are also shops in Nihonbashi, Shinjuku, and Haneda airport. It’s good to buy some as your souvenirs. That’s all for my favorite way of walking Ginza. I’m Manfong, see you next time.

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