I gave our friend, Tomo, a list of sights we’d like to see in Tokyo but told him to use his own judgement. Since we had only three days and no knowledge of public transportation in a city of nearly 14 million and a metro area in excess of 37 million, it was essential to have a plan and I was grateful not to be in charge of it. In the end, we were delighted with his choices and the efficient use of our time.
Tomo picked up husband Jim, friends Lori and Rick, and me at Narita Airport following our flight from Singapore and whisked us off to Mitsui Garden Hotel Gotanda. He had approved our choice of location in the ward of Shinagawa in advance and we were exceedingly pleased with our accommodations.
We were so impressed with Mitsui Garden, I want to share more photos with you. (Click on each photo to expand.) I am not, however, receiving any remuneration for my rave review.
The lobby and lounge area including an outdoor garden were attractive and comfortable.
Our room, though small, was well-appointed, clean, comfortable, and well worth the total price of $157 per night.
Breakfast, included in the price of the hotel, was generous and delicious. We like to eat a big breakfast, have a snack or protein bar for lunch while sightseeing, and enjoy a nice dinner at a restaurant. It saves time and money to eat one meal out. This breakfast fortified us for the day.
But two surprises made this hotel the best ever. First was the public bath in the hotel. Lori and I were keen to try it out but the men voiced a hard pass. The public bath or sento is a very old tradition in Japan. Originating in the 6th century for cleansing the body and spirit according to Buddhist teaching, by the 12th century the wealthy had also adopted the ritual. Finally in the late 16th century the masses, who didn’t have bathtubs in their homes, adopted the custom of communal bathing. At one time sento etiquette allowed mixed bathing but eventually the sexes were separated. Other rules of etiquette require the removal of shoes before entering the bath house and cleansing oneself before entering the bath. No soap or washing is allowed in the bath itself. The bath is for soaking, relaxing, and conversation. Honestly, Lori and I were relieved to be the only ones in the women’s bath so we didn’t have to deal with the embarrassment of sharing the bath with others while nude. No photos are allowed in the public bath so click here to see photos on the hotel website. The photo below is Lori and me ready to go to the public bath in the spa clothing provided by the hotel.
The other surprise at the hotel was the toilet, or I should say the Shower Toilet, as I read it was called on the instructions. It looked just like toilets we’re accustomed to but it was actually bidet equipped.
I’ve seen bidets all over the world but I’ve never used one and now that I have, I’m a believer. In my opinion, no bathroom should be without this remarkable hygiene equipment. I think I was always a little put off by the fact that the bidets I’d seen previously didn’t have a seat or instructions for use. This one had both. Ours at the hotel included a heated seat, too, which was a nice addition. I’ve read you can also get a dryer on the bidet to totally eliminate the need for toilet paper which, you may have noticed, has gotten pretty expensive. File this under TMI, if you must, but I’m telling you the Shower Toilet was a Eureka moment for me.
We first arrived at our hotel late in the day and Lori wasn’t feeling well so she and Rick stayed in while Tomo took Jim and me out to dinner. For our first meal in Japan, we went to Ootoya for authentic home style Japanese comfort food. Ootoya serves an extensive menu of teishoku which is similar to prix fixe, a set number of courses at a fixed price. Teishoku consists of miso soup, rice, a main dish and several sides. It is served on a tray and is typical of the meals that Japanese eat at home.
Following dinner, we returned to our hotel for an early night. The next day we had a full schedule of sightseeing which included Shibuya Crossing, Meiji Shrine, the Imperial Palace, conveyor belt sushi, and the Imperial Hotel. Please come back and I’ll tell you all about it.
Based on events from March 2019.