No one ever likes to get teased…but I seriously enjoyed my teaser trip to Tokyo last month. When I booked my flight to Singapore, I purposely chose the flight with a long layover at Tokyo Haneda Airport so that I could step out in the city for just a few hours. I wanted to get a small grasp of what the city had to offer, which would lead me to push myself to visit this beautiful place once and for all. Japan is definitely high on my list of countries to visit, but the price and timing just hasn’t worked out for me yet. Now that I got a little glimpse, I am set to make Japan 2019 happen!
Alright, so 7 hours to get off the plane, go through immigration, get to the city, explore, and return to the airport to make my flight to Singapore…how did I make it happen? Read on to find out!
Our flight from JFK was set to arrive at HND around 5:00PM. I set a goal that we HAD to be on the train by 6:00PM to get to Tokyo Station. Keep in mind that Haneda is only about 30 minutes to Tokyo Station, whereas Narita International Airport is a lot further and most likely not worth stepping out of the airport during a 7 hour layover. I had timed that we’d get into the city around 6:30, explore for 3 hours, and head back to the airport by 9:30 in order to make our 12:00AM flight. For the most part, we stayed on schedule! I did a little research on Haneda Airport – mainly looking at the map to know where everything was located. It took us the longest to find a place to store our luggage since both storage booths were at capacity, so we found lockers to put them in. Note: we only had carry on sized luggages that fit into the smaller lockers.
In order to get to Tokyo Station, we took Tokyo Monorail located at the airport to Hamamatsucho Station. From there we transferred to the JR Yamanote (or JR Keihin-Tohoku Line) to Tokyo Station. It was extremely simple to purchase tickets, read the maps provided, and navigate where we were going! We stepped outside the station, walked down the street, and were welcomed by bright lights. Then we were on our mission to find some ramen.
Luckily for us, “Ramen Street” is located right in Tokyo Station. I’ll admit that we had NO idea it was actually in the station, so we walked around for quite some time trying to figure out where these ramen shops were. Well, sure enough they’re on the lower level of the station itself along with tons of other shops. You can spend hours here wandering around shopping, which is pretty much what we did. The ramen place I had my eye on had a long line out the door and since we were limited on time, we decided to go to one of the many other spots around. Most of the shops had the same set up: select and pay for your items at a vending machine, receive a ticket, stand in line, and wait to be seated while your food is prepping.
I ordered a whiskey highball and spicy chicken broth ramen with chashu. I normally wouldn’t order a chicken based broth, but I’m glad I did because it was absolutely delicious! The ramen here did not disappoint one bit even if it wasn’t my regular tonkotsu that I tend to gravitate to. The broth was rich and creamy, noodles were the perfect chewy texture, and the combination of toppings brought it all together. I seriously cannot wait to go back to Japan to try out more ramen spots.
After we filled our stomachs with pure happiness, we walked around the station to see what else it had to offer. There were a ton of character shops and clothing stores, which it’s so easy to lose track of time when you’re shopping! I made it a point to stop in a 7-11 to see the amazing treats it offered. I’ll admit that the one located in the station wasn’t the best, but it did show me just how much better they are in Japan than in the states.
Next thing I knew, it was time to head back to the airport. Clearly 3 hours in the city isn’t enough time to truly explore, but it was extremely nice to step out of the airport. And I want to add that it’s very doable if you’re arriving at Haneda. Be sure to have a clear schedule/plan on where you want to go and what time you need to head back to the airport to make your connecting flight.
I can’t wait to take a long trip to Japan to explore more of Tokyo and other cities. Please comment below if you have any tips or suggestions for my future trip there!