Always wanted to start exploring a different side of Tokyo?
We had the privilege of getting invited by Hotel Metropolitan Tokyo Marunouchi and Sendai to put the usual places on the backburner and see a different side of Tokyo and even explore the city of trees, Sendai back in Dec!
Day 1Arrival at Narita Airport + Pick up all your tickets
I took a red eye flight from Singapore to Tokyo and arrived bright and early at Narita airport, perfect to start a day of sightseeing! But first, pick up your Tokyo Subway Pass
(you can purchase one on Klook for 24, 48 or 72 hours
) to get around easily in Tokyo on the subway lines!
To use it, simply activate it by inserting the card into the ticket slot (note that some gantries do not have the card slot) and your 24, 48 or 72 hours begins?
Check In at Hotel Metropolitan Tokyo Marunouchi
Conveniently situated just 5 mins walking distance from Tokyo Station (take the Nihombashi exit, where it’s directly connected to the hotel entrance), Hotel Metropolitan Tokyo Marunouchi is largely a business hotel for frequent travellers due to it’s awesome location in the city center. You can choose to take either the airport bus or the train. The airport bus drops you at a stop that’s around 5-10mins walk away.
Thanks to our wonderful hosts at the hotel, I had the pleasure of checking out the modernly furnished rooms with amazing views during my stay! One of the most popular rooms, are their corner rooms located on most levels of the hotel. It comes with a spectacular view of the city (yes, with the busy Tokyo Station), and you can expect to lounge at the two seats in your room while looking down and pondering at the busy city below.
If you think the view ends there, well you’re wrong. It extends to the bathroom (you can always draw the blinds for privacy), which is Japanese styled, and you can sit in the corner of your bathtub while enjoying the view?
Book your room at Hotel Metropolitan Tokyo Marunochi here
The hotel also has a limited number of prayer sets (includes a pocket Quran, compass and prayer mat) available. Just remember to request for one at the front desk. If there are no other guests using them, you’re free to take them with you and return upon check out.
Lunch at Siam Orchid Supreme Thai Restaurant
Wanting to grab a quick bite and head out? During my trip, I found a newly opened Thai restaurant that’s Halal-certified! Just head towards the Nihombashi exit (same exit for the hotel), walk around 5mins in the Kitchen Street to arrive at the restaurant. They provide takeout too!
It was my very first time visiting the Imperial Palace, located around 10mins walk away from Tokyo Station (take the Marunouchi exit) and 10mins walk away from Hotel Metropolitan Tokyo Marunouchi. Before heading there, be sure to snap some shots in front of the iconic Tokyo Station!
The Imperial Palace is the primary residence of the Emperor of Japan and contrary to what you might think, there are no impressive nor opulent buildings (not that the public gets to see anyway). What you get instead, is a surprisingly peaceful respite from the bustling city. Quite an amazing feat considering that it’s located right smacked in the center of the city.
As the Emperor still resides in the palace, only the east garden is open to public and the peacefulness attracts both locals and foreigners alike. It’s not uncommon to find locals going about their daily run around the park. Admission is free and you can easily spend a few hours getting lost in the serenity?
Tokyo Station Prayer Space
There’s also a new prayer space located in the JR East Travel Service Center that’s available for all visitors. It comes complete with wudhu facilities and a prayer mat, but do remember to bring your prayer garments!
Nihombashi + Sweets Time at Tsuruya Yoshinobu!
Take it easy on your first day and head towards Nihombashi for a little exploring. But of course the main aim, is to go for a little break after all the walking around in the Imperial Palace?
My guide in Tokyo introduced me to a sweets shop in Nihombashi, Tsuruya Yoshinobu, where you get to choose one traditional wagashi (Japanese sweets) and the chef would then make it in front of you! The sweets are then served with unsweetened Matcha (green tea) and you get to enjoy it, Japanese style! When you’re done, you’re served a cup of houjicha to wash everything down. The houjicha was amazingly fragrant.
Do note that the sweets aren’t Halal-certified but we’ve checked with the chef and only vegetarian products are used in the sweets with no alcohol. Do consume at your own discretion
Dinner at Coco IchibanyaCredit: CoCoICHIBANYA MALAYSIA on Facebook
Take the subway to Akasaka, just a short distance away, and have a yummy dinner at the Halal Coco Ichibanya, a popular chain restaurant in Japan that recently attained the halal certification for their branch in Akasaka.
Marunouchi Winter Illumination
On our way back, we made a quick stop at Marunouchi Naka Dori, just a short walk away from the hotel, and strolled along the streets. The winter illumination here is one of the most popular spots in Tokyo as the tree lined streets light up with countless bulbs!
Head back to Hotel Metropolitan Tokyo Marunouchi
I was ready to crash in my twin room when I headed back, but the amazing view stopped me from heading straight to bed. It was therapeutic just staring at the city lights. Don’t forget to draw the blinds and shutters as you won’t want the bright morning light to wake you up, or maybe you do ?
Day 2 – Exploring TokyoEnjoy a Japanese and Western breakfast buffet spread inHotel Metropolitan Tokyo Marunouchi
Wake up bright and early the next morning and head down to the restaurant to enjoy a breakfast. Similar to their rooms, the restaurant also boasts an awesome view perfect to kickstart your day!
You get to choose from either the Japanese selection or the Western spread. For the Japanese selection, they offer staples like porridge, rice and miso soup with sides like grilled salmon☺️
Or you can have a mix of both! Get your toasted bread, waffles, eggs, yoghurt and fresh fruits from the Western spread.
All ingredients are clearly stated next to each food item and the staff were extremely helpful in pointing out the items that included alcohol. They also mentioned that food items containing pork were cooked separately from the other dishes. But do note that the breakfast buffet isn’t Halal-certified and they do not use halal meat either, so do consume at your own discretion.
Known as the Little Europe of Tokyo, Jiyugaoka is nice little area to explore if you’re not keen on visiting the more touristy Harajuku. The trendy area is just a 10min train ride away from Shibuya and is pretty well-loved by the locals. It’s also one of the desired residential areas by locals as the neighbourhood is
Take a relaxing stroll around and check out the many fashion boutiques or grab a coffee in one of the trendy little cafes. Of course, we also had to drop by the famous little spot, La Vita, modeled after Venice. With a small canal, venetian bridge, gondola and Italian architecture of the surrounding shops, it makes for a perfect photo opp.
Just opposite La Vita, is a cosy little Japanese teahouse that we would have easily missed if we didn’t know that it was a teahouse! Kosoan Tea House is located in a 100 year old traditional Japanese house serving wagashi, matcha, fruit platters and other small bites.
If you’re a book lover, you’ll also want to visit the famous Tsutaya Bookstore in T-Site Garden at Daikanyama! Daikanyama is an upscale area just 15mins away from Shibuya with a pretty chill vibe. It’s perfect for an afternoon/evening stroll.
Dinner at Gyumon
Since you’re already around the area, it definitely calls for dinner at one of our favourite Japanese restaurants, Gyumon! Serving mouth watering authentic yakiniku, it’s slightly pricier, but oh so worth it and definitely calls for a visit (at least once!) when you're in Tokyo.
Day 3Disneyland / Disneysea
If you’re a Disney fan like us, I think it goes without saying that no trip to Tokyo would be complete without visiting either one of the two parks
(or both if possible!). Check out our guide
on how to spend an entire day in both Disney parks. Don’t forget to get your passes on Klook
Kawagoe – Day Trip
But of course, if you’re not, then perhaps it’s time to take a step into the past and visit the little Edo of Japan – Kawagoe! Located in Saitama prefecture and just a half hour train ride away from Ikebukuro, Kawagoe is a mix of traditional architecture and city life. Definitely one of my favourite places to visit and snap some shots of the historic architecture?
Take the subway to Ikebukuro and walk to the ticketing office for the Tobu Tojo line. Tourists get a special discount on the transport passes, so don’t buy your tickets from the machine! Head to the ticket office and get a tourist pass. There are two passes, the normal discount pass and the premium pass.
I would definitely recommend opting for the premium pass as it includes the tourist bus when you’re in Kawagoe. The normal pass goes for 700yen (child at 360yen) and the premium at 950yen (480yen). Either way, you’ll be saving on the usual train ticket price!
During my short trip there, I didn’t manage to find any halal-certified restaurants in the area. But fret not, if you’re not comfortable to search out a seafood restaurant in the area, you can always opt to get a Halal bento from Halal Kitchen
Must Visit Sites in Kawagoe
Toki no Kane – part of this was under renovation works when I visited
Some of the must-visit historical/cultural sites in Kawagoe includes the Kosaji Temple, Kitain Temple, Toki no Kane (a three story bell tower with a mini shrine inside), Honmaru Goten (the only remaining building of Kawagoe Castle), candy alley (traditional alley lined with candy stores) and of course, the Warehouse District where the alley is lined with traditional buildings.
You can also pay to visit the Gohyaku Rakan statues in Kitain temple, 540 stone statues of the disciples of Buddha, each with its own facial expression. Or just opt to check out the main hall!
All these sites are easily accessible via the Koedo loop bus (you can check the schedule on the bus stops) and some of the sites are also easily walk-able and not that far apart from each other. If you didn’t get the bus pass along with your train pass, it’s priced at 300yen for adults.
Day 4Tokyo to Sendai
Sendai might not be high on any travellers’ must visit list, but being the capital city of Miyagi, this lively little city is a hidden gem just waiting to be discovered?
A one way Shinkansen ticket to Sendai costs 11,000yen (assigned seating), recommended to get it a day before your trip. You can also save some yen and opt for free seating, but as it’s a 1.5hr train ride, do head to the station early to start queuing.
Enjoy your scenic ride to Sendai!
JR East PassCredit: @rennyday on Instagram
If you’re planning to explore more cities, do consider getting a 5 Day JR East Pass
(19,000 for adults, 9,500 for children) for the Tohoku area which gives you access to Tokyo, Sendai and other cities such as Akita and Shin-Aomori. A one-way ticket to Sendai from Tokyo already costs 11,000yen, so it’ll definitely be worth your while to get the pass
Check in to Hotel Metropolitan Sendai
First stop upon reaching our new destination was to check in to Hotel Metropolitan Sendai, thankfully, as with all hotels under the JR East group, the hotel was right outside the station - around a 3min walk!
If you’re in for a complete Japanese experience, the Japanese styled room in Hotel Metropolitan Sendai is perfect for a peaceful respite. True to the Japanese style, room slippers are provided the minute you step into the tatami room, and you can immerse yourself fully by changing into the provided yukatas as well. If you’re visiting with a family, you can also request for a futon to be set out in the tatami room. Can't get anymore Japanese than that!
These Japanese styled rooms are located on the 6th
floor and you also get a view of the Japanese gardens from your room and bedroom. As the hotel only has three of such rooms, they’re almost always fully booked, so do remember to reserve the room early either through a call or online reservation!
As with the other Hotel Metropolitan in Tokyo, feel free to request for a prayer set which comes with a prayer mat, phamplet sized quran and a compass.
Book your stay at Hotel Metropolitan Sendai here
During my visit, our host also introduced me to the newly opened Hotel Metropolitan Sendai East
. The hotel is around a 3mins walk away from the station, and you don’t even have to exit the station to get there. Simply walk through the connected departmental store in the station and you’ll arrive at your destination.
The design concept for Hotel Metropolitan Sendai East is Tohoku (for the region) and not just does their design pay homage to the region, they also use local products for their amenities! This hotel is more contemporary as compared to its sister hotel and my favourite part has got to be the lounge that’s open to all hotel guests, from 5am to 11pm. The lounge is spacious and perfect for either meetings with business partners or just chilling before you start your day/when you end your day. Free flow drinks are also available for all hotel guests.
I was also brought around to take a look at some of their rooms and really loved the contemporary Tohoku design and how spacious most of the rooms were! Not to mention those full windows.
I also had a peek at the suite and well, let’s just say you can’t go wrong with a Jacuzzi and TV in your bathroom. Not to mention that the view from almost of their rooms are amazing!
Lunch at the Halal-certified Serenity or Hayase
For my visit, we had lunch at Serenity and the food was so good! I opted for the chicken thigh saute with Teriyaki sauce for my main. The chicken was extremely tender and the sauce went perfectly with it. The vegetable soup was really light and I highly recommend opting for the pita bread that’s served with olive oil. Finish off your yummy lunch with some seasonal fruits – we had persimmon The meal definitely exceeded my expectations.
Lunch at Serenity was priced at 3,600yen (approx. 32USD)
We didn’t get to try the lunch at Hayase, but if you do opt for that, you get to enjoy a bowl of rice topped with sashimi. Sounds perfect for any seafood lover! As with all Japanese meals, you get the full course of appetizer, miso soup, and seasonal fruits to top off your meal.
Lunch at Hayase costs 4,000yen.
Do remember to order your meals at least three days in advance!
For your first day in Sendai, you’ll want to hit the major sights. If you’re taking the local bus, you can use your Suica card to get around, just make sure to top up! Want an easier way to get around? Get a Loople Sendai ticket from the hotel front desk (adult at 620yen, child at 310yen). The bus stops at the major tourist spots and you get to take it for the entire day.
Site of Sendai Castle
If you’re up for a leisurely stroll and a view of the city, head to the site of Sendai Castle where you get to check out the city from the top of Mount Aoba! But do note that there isn’t actually a castle here as it was damaged by a number of fires and earthquakes, only the castle walls remain. You’ll find the famous statue of Date Masamune, the regional ruler of the area in early Edo period.
There’s also a shrine further up with a small museum and some shops where we bought a local snack – Zunda mochi, which is actually grinded edamame with mochi! It’s a dessert that’s commonly sold in cafes and eateries around Sendai and we don’t really see this outside of Sendai. Do note that it’s not Halal-certified but we’ve checked the ingredients and there’s no animal by-products nor alcohol in the ingredient list.
Osaki Hachiman Shrine
The famous Osaki Hachiman shrine is the shrine to visit in Sendai. It’s visited by the Sendai baseball team, Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles and it’s known amongst the locals for prayers related to success in your career.
When I was there, there were some construction works going on, but otherwise, you definitely have to snap a photo of the beautiful main hall, which is covered in black lacquer with gold leaf!
Located in the city center of Sendai, Jozenji-dori is the main shopping street in the city and is surrounded by shops of all types. Famous for its green zelkova trees (no wonder Sendai is known as the city of trees!), it’s best to visit the street during summer or during winter at night, when the trees are all lighted up.
Take a stroll around the area and visit the many shops or just get a cup of coffee and watch the crowd pass by!
Dinner at the Halal-certified Serenity or Hayase
After a full day of exploring, it’s time to head back to dinner at Hotel Metropolitan Sendai. Both Serenity and Hayase provide dinner options, but similar to lunch and breakfast, do remember to place your order at least three days in advance for the Halal menu!
During my visit, we had dinner at Hayase, where they served sukiyaki! It was the perfect choice for a cold winter night? I love the fact that they actually customized the broth to your liking. Not to mention that you don’t just get sukiyaki, they actually a full course Japanese meal at Hayase with cold tofu skin and sashimi as the appetizer and you get to finish off your yummy meal with seasonal fruits and wagashi (with matcha)!
The staff attending to you would help to mix the broth and cook a thin slice of beef for you to taste. You then decide if you would want the broth to be thicker (more soy sauce) or thinner (more diluted), after which she would make the adjustments and start cooking the rest of your meal.
Time for a good night’s rest in your hotel room
After dinner, it was time to retreat to the hotel room. I stayed in a twin room on the concept floor where each room was decorated according to a theme. The beds were huge so you can be assured of a good night’s sleep! The room was also pretty spacious, no issues performing your prayers!
There was a sitting area just by the window where you can chill and look at the view outside☺️
Both hotels in Sendai come with Handy phones in their rooms that provide free data! So you won’t require a pocket wifi - just head out with the Handy phone and you can easily find your way around town. There are also a number of free wifi spots around Sendai.
SendaiBreakfast at Serenity or Hayase
We had the chance to try the breakfast from both restaurants and I highly recommend the Japanese breakfast from Hayase. It’s priced slightly higher at 3,000yen as compared to the Western breakfast, 2,400yen, but it was definitely worth every yen! It’s also probably the only time I would willingly eat rice for breakfast?
But of course, if you’re feeling more of a Western breakfast, Serenity can help with that. You get a yummy omelet with three (yes, three!) sausages, vegetable soup (I loved this), a yummy salad and juice at Serenity.
Day Trip to MatsushimaCredit: @mayuhosokunai on Instagram
Matsushima is technically not in Sendai, but while you’re in the area, why not head out to visit one of the most scenic spots in the area? There are various reasons why Matsushima is known as one of the three scenic spots in Japan and it’s just a half hour trip away from Sendai!
KanranteiCredit: @onehappylulu on Instagram
Spend the morning in Kanrantei, a 17th
century old teahouse, where you can enjoy traditional Japanese tea, sweets and have a gorgeous view of the famous Matsushima Bay! Oh and there’s also a museum?
The bay is best visited by hopping on a cruise, but if that’s not your thing, you can take a walk around the area.
Matsushima Bay Cruise
The bay is best visited by taking a cruise so you can check out the scenery around with its 200 islets?
Matsushima Fish Market
Matsushima Fish Market isn’t quite like Tsukiji in Tokyo. Famous for their oysters, there are even restaurants providing oyster buffet for 2,000yen!
Dinner at Serenity/Hayase
Head back to Sendai and have dinner at either Serenity or Hayase. We recommend switching it up and try out dinner at Serenity!
For dinner at Serenity, you get to choose between two main dishes – tenderloin steak with teriyaki sauce or roasted lamb with tomato stew and mustard. Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to try the dinner at Serenity, but from the photos and the description, they sound absolutely yummy! I’ve also tried the chicken with teriyaki sauce for lunch, and I can definitely vouch for the teriyaki. Dinner will set you back 6,000yen.
But of course, if you can’t give up on your Japanese food, we definitely aren’t complaining if we get sukiyaki two days in a row?
Day 6Sendai to Tokyo – home sweet home
It’s time for our little Japanese adventure to come to an end? Take the Shinkansen back to Tokyo and if your flight is in the day, you can head straight to Narita airport!
Grab a last bite at one of the many halal Japanese restaurants in Narita airport before you head off for your flight!
So there we go! A complete 6D5N itinerary for your repeat visit to Tokyo (or maybe even your very first) ?. It's time to skip the usual tourist sites and head for a more unique experience!
P.S. Don't forget to book a stay at Hotel Metropolitan Tokyo Marunouchi
if you're visiting Tokyo, and Hotel Metropolitan Sendai
if you're heading to Sendai!
My stay at the hotels were provided by Hotel Metropolitan Tokyo Marunouchi and Hotel Metropolitan Sendai, but all opinions are ours, as always.