After spending two nights in Narita, it was time to head into the heart of the city to visit friends and family and do some major sightseeing. I decided to book a hotel in Ikebukuro, which is a good, central location, and because it was close to some friends with easy transportation.
From the station we started walking. It was fine… and then got a bit dodgy… and as we dragged our suitcase down the sidewalk I realized, I had accidentally booked a hotel right in the middle of the Ikebukuro red light district! Whoops!
Love hotels, which charge from the half hour and up, peekaboo clubs, hostess bars and massage parlours lined the streets. I have to be thankful that my kid is still small enough for it to go over her head; I don’t think she noticed that we were walking through an area full of brothels and short stay rooms. Again whoops!
(Fun fact – this is not the first time I’ve booked a nice hotel in a dodgy area. It also happened in Okinawa and though I can’t confirm it, I’m pretty sure it used to be a love hotel. Because what kind of hotel has a heart shaped bathtub?)
Finally we found the hotel – the Super Hotel Lohas Ikebukuro – and it was perfectly fine. Nice, clean, modern, not seedy at all. We all breathed a sigh of relief to find that the room, though small by Western standards, was very comfortable. There was a lovely dining room which served a very good breakfast buffet, and a great onsen-style hot spring. But the question that kept going my mind was, out of all the reviews of this hotel (which had a very high rating, mind you), did nobody think to mention the hotel’s proximity to the red light district? Too funny!
Anyhoo, Ikebukuro is a good location to stay thanks to its location on the Yamanote train line which made it easy to get around. We had a big family reunion in Harajuku at the new Kura Sushi flagship store and had a ball ordering loads of sushi from the iPad for it to come flying down the conveyor belt to your table.
The next day I had to wake up at 5am to get ready to go golfing with my husband’s aunt and uncle at their country club in Yamanashi which is west of Tokyo. We ate sandwiches and drank small cans of coffee in the car while trying to beat the Tokyo morning commute, and saw Mount Fuji in the distance looking strangely naked without any snow on the peak.
And wow, I have to admit golf in Japan is NEXT LEVEL. I thought I’d played at some nice courses in Canada, but in Japan they go above and beyond. The course is absolutely immaculate with perfect grass and gorgeous landscaping like a Japanese garden. The country club has a restaurant overlooking the valley with delicious Japanese food. And after the game, you can even soak your weary muscles in the hot springs. It was more like a day at a resort and less like a game of golf!
What I liked best was the driverless robotic golf carts. Yes, you heard me. The carts drive by themselves. And it’s been like this in Japan for a long time, long before the idea of driverless cars made it to the west. The carts are remote controlled, and follow a programmed strip that is embedded in the cart path. You and the caddy have a remote, so if you want the cart to drive up, you press the button and it comes. If you want it to drive up to the green and stop, it will do that. My aunt-and-uncle-in-law must have thought it funny that I was so impressed with what is a commonplace thing on a Japanese golf course!
Up next – hubby goes to do a few flights, while me and the kid continue our Tokyo adventures.