This year we spent a full week in Tokyo and wanted to stay in an apartment rather than a hotel, so that we could self-cater. I went to the ever trusty Home Away site (links to the UK site, sites are also available for other locations internationally) and found a listing for an apartment in the Akihabara (秋葉原) area.
The pictures on the site made the apartment look stunning, and the calendar showed that it was available for the week we planned to be in Tokyo, so 7 months before we were due to travel, I decided to book it!
Contact with the owner, Tsurusaki Ayako, was a delight. We had lots of friendly exchanges about the apartment, the location, our planned trip, and it all felt like I was dealing with a friend. Because I was intrigued by the design of this apartment, and the other rooms Ayoko had available across Tokyo, I did a bit of research into the designer, who is Ayako’s husband. I found his website, which has pictures of the other buildings he has designed. 5115 Company also has its own site with details of more of their properties.
When we arrived in Akihabara, the heavens opened and we were drenched as we followed Ayako’s directions from the JR station up to the Sotokanda/Suehirocho area where the apartment is located. It is actually next door to the 5115 Company office in a Co-op building. Ayako met us at the apartment and showed us around. During our email exchanges, I’d told Ayako that we would be celebrating our 5th wedding anniversary during our stay, and she had bought us some takiyaki (fish shaped pastries) from the shop down the street from the apartment block. They were incredibly delicious, and a lovely welcome gift. They’re in the paper bag in this picture, taken by my husband.
The apartment is on the 7th floor of the Co-op building, accessed from the back of the building rather than from Shoheibashi Dori. There is a lift as well as an external stairway. We used the lift to take our luggage up to the apartment. We used the stairs once to go up after a day walking around Tokyo and used the lift thereafter! Going down the stairs on our way out was far easier, and we bumped into some of the other occupants of the Co-op building, having a smoke out on the stairwell, from time to time.
The space was as stunning in real life as the images on the Home Away site had promised it would be.
There is more than enough space for a couple, and plenty of space for a group of four, as long as you don’t mind sleeping alongside each other! The double bed was very comfortable, with plenty of room for us Westerners. Quite often we have found that a double bed in Japan is actually a half-double and not really big enough for two lumbering gaijin, so it was a relief to know that we would have a good sleep at Goichi. Waking up to the sunshine coming through the bamboo blind in the morning was also a delight.
The kitchen is well equipped with a hot plate, a microwave, an electric rice cooker and plenty of pans and cooking utensils. We bought most of our food at the nearby Peacock supermarket, which as well as Japanese produce also had a section full of products from the UK company Waitrose!
When in Japan, though, we like to eat as Japanese as possible, so we resisted the call of home. I even shunned the English tea in favour of a Japanese brand of kocha teabags.
Also close by to the apartment, a short walk away under the railway line at Akihabara station, is a food market called Chabara. We found lots of local delicacies from around Japan to whet our appetites, and enjoyed a delicious shojin ryori lunch at Komaki Shokudo, which we’d read about on Happy Cow.
Night and day, the view from the apartment balcony was a good one. Shoheibashi Dori is a busy, four lane road running between Akihabara and Ueno. It gave the feeling that we were in the heart of the metropolis without being instrusive. Once the balcony doors were closed, you could hardly tell it was there.
The location of the apartment was perfect for us. We walked down to Akihabara a couple of times to look around the shops and to catch the Yamanote line. There was also a Ginza metro line station (Suehirocho) just around the corner that got us to places the Yamanote line couldn’t reach.
We also walked up to Ueno one day, which was a pleasant walk but longer than I had anticipated, mainly because I had misread the information booklet and looked at the page about cycling in Tokyo (the apartment has two bicycles for guests to use). Of course, it’s quicker to cycle to Ueno than it is to walk!
Just a short walk away is the famous Kanda Myojin (神田明神). We spent a couple of hours there one morning, on our way to catch the train to Odaiba for our visit to Miraikan and an up close encounter with Gundam. I’ll blog about the shrine in more detail on another occasion, because we’re hoping one day to experience the Kanda Matsuri.
If you don’t want to spend a lot of time cooking at the apartment, there are plenty of places to eat nearby, including a Jonathan’s coffee shop just across the road, a restaurant down the block and a ramen place around the corner, not to mention all the places in Akihabara. Nothing that we tried, because of being veggies, but if you’re an omnivore you couldn’t find a better located apartment.
I really enjoyed the week we spent at Goichi. On our last day, Ayako wasn’t able to meet us to say goodbye, so her husband did the honours instead. It was a pleasure to meet the man who had designed the apartment. I think I managed to convey how much we’d enjoyed our stay and liked the apartment in my rusty Japanese!
We’re already planning our next visit to Japan, and I think we’re going to stay in Tokyo again, probably using Goichi as a base to visit places like Nikko and Nakano, as well as explore Tokyo at a more relaxed pace. Or maybe we’ll try one of 5115 Company’s other properties!