This is Part 3 in a series summarizing my February-March 2020 trip to Japan, taken just before COVID-19 became a pandemic. It will likely not reflect what you can expect now, but I figured I’d post it anyway. You can read my last post, about my flight in Japan Airlines First Class from New York to Tokyo here. This post covers my first night at the Courtyard Marriott Tokyo Station and exploring Ginza.
Upon landing at Haneda, my first task was to buy a smart card I could use for transit. There are two main companies selling these cards in Tokyo and they are generally both usable (and rechargeable) at the same places. My research had me wanting to buy the “Welcome” Suica card, but I couldn’t find it at the airport, so I ended up with competitor Pasmo’s “Passport” instead, which has a 500 JPY non-refundable issue fee. It ended up being totally fine.
To get from Haneda to my hotel for the first night, the Courtyard Marriott Tokyo Station, there were two options that seemed to take about the same length of time- the Keikyu Airport line (KK) or the monorail to the JR Keihin-Tōhoku Line. Given that I had luggage, I decided the metro was the right choice, and I was on the train at 5:12pm. Even in February, about 95% of passengers had surgical masks on. The train was pretty silent, and fairly crowded, so I had to stand for the first few stops. There were a lot of people with luggage, and luggage racks – but my suitcase was too big.
It’s a little bit confusing as the single train changes signage and route names along the way, but thankfully I had gotten on the right one, which became the Asakusa subway line and took me to Takaracho station. There were announcements in English and Japanese, and monitors in the cars displaying Japanese and English information, but Google Maps ended up being the most helpful for all my transit throughout the trip, with accurate schedules and even saying which car to board.
I was at Takaracho by 5:52pm, and it was a five-minute walk to the Courtyard Marriott Tokyo Station. I picked the hotel to use a Marriott 35,000 points free night certificate, although the hotel has since gone up to category 6. I wasn’t expecting much, but the hotel was more than adequate for my one-night stay, and provided good elite benefits.
The hotel is in a large office building, with the rooms on the lower levels. Check-in is on the fourth floor, which I think is the highest in the hotel. It was a very thorough welcome, and the hotel staff was already taking precautions with masks and sanitizer pumps everywhere. My award reservation had been for a “Creators Double,” which was the second-lowest level room in the hotel, and seemed pretty small. The agent told me I was upgraded to a “Editor King” on the fourth floor, though, as a Bonvoy Platinum Elite.
For a Courtyard, the hotel had a lot of amenities for elite members. Breakfast was served in Lavarock, the restaurant on the first floor and there was a self-serve fridge with soft drinks and beer in the lobby, along with jars of candy. There was no lounge, but from 5:30 to 7:30pm there was a free food and drink service on the ground floor, which I’ll cover separately. After the agent went through all of this, I was pretty surprised that I was then offered a “welcome beverage,” with a choice of alcoholic or non-alcoholic. I went with the alcoholic and was given not one but a whole bag of beers. I was also pro-actively offered a late checkout for the morning.
The room itself was pretty sparse, and about as small as a room with a King-size bed can be. It was the smallest room I had on the whole trip, and the most Japanese in terms of size and style (small and functional). The room itself had just the bed facing a wall-mounted TV, and then a small window with an extremely tiny table and two chairs, and a mini-fridge and safe. On top of the fridge was a tea kettle and Japanese tea set.
There was a cute welcome cookie embossed with the Courtyard logo, another welcome note, and a little bag with two traditional Japanese snacks – a tea cake and a snack mix.
The bathroom was tiny, but still managed to have a bathtub, and of course a Toto washlet toilet. There were both individual toiletries and pumps.
I headed down to the ground floor not-lounge which was basically a little bakery/café that serves the office building during the day. A waitress served tables, and I just showed my key card which had a Platinum sticker on it and was given a menu (which I also got at check-in). The food was all conceivably small plates, but unlimited and more than enough for a meal. I got a chicken Caesar salad and garlic toast, and was more than sated, especially since I had been eating all day on the plane. The fish and chips looked good too. I also got a vodka soda, and then headed for a walk.
The hotel is about 5-10 minutes’ walk to the heart of Ginza, so I meandered and took it all in. Shops were all still open, so I browsed. There were tons of 7-Elevens and convenience stores and restaurants and shops even closer to the hotel as well. I wasn’t early enough for the one place I wanted to go, the Kit Kat Chocolatory café, and only the shop part was open. They had tons of fancy Kit Kats there, but they weren’t cheap. (Thankfully, I found cheaper ones later in the trip.) I also swung by Ginza Sony Park, that had a Queen exhibit, which was also closed.
I didn’t stay out late, and grabbed a Sapporo in the hotel lobby and forced myself to sleep. There was surprisingly no outlet by the bed unless you unplugged the lamp, which was annoying. There were good blackout curtains, though, and a very firm mattress. Despite the time change I managed to sleep most of the night before getting up for good at 6am.
Before breakfast, I grabbed a workout at the small gym, which had one rack of weights, a bench, and four cardio machines.
By 7:45, I was at Lavarock for breakfast. I handed in the coupon I’d been given at check-in, and had free range of the buffet. It was a compact but plentiful buffet, with an egg station, waffle/pancake station, and Japanese/Vietnamese station. The buffet had both pre-made hot items, and you could order stuff. I got an omelet which was fine. There were also two cold buffets, one that was pretty standard cheese/meat/salad/cereal /juices and another one with yummy bread and pastries. A waitress brought coffee to order, and I had cappuccinos. I sat next to folks from the Canadian Olympic swimming delegation, who were doing site visits for the 2020 Summer Olympics. That went well.
I ended up exploring for a few hours that morning, which I’ll cover in my next post, before coming back and checking out and heading over to the Intercontinental for the next two nights. In all, a perfectly fine stay at a fairly basic property, and a great value given that the elite benefits provided dinner and breakfast.