A SINGAPORE-RUN hotel cum service apartment has just muscled its way into Tokyo’s garish Shinjuku district.
Shinjuku is a favourite place for shopping and entertainment not only with the Japanese but also with foreigners, and Singaporeans are no exception.
Hotels in the area are understandably popular with tourists but convenience usually does not come cheap.
After a colleague raved about her stay at one little-known (to the average Singaporean) budget hotel in one of her articles, the establishment received a flood of bookings from Singapore travellers.
Kadoya Hotel, as it is called, is located just west of Shinjuku Station, not far from the well-known Yodobashi Camera store, which by the way sells a whole lot of electronic and other products at a discount, besides cameras.
Earlier this month, on the other side of Shinjuku, the Singapore-based Ascott Group opened its first Citadines service apartment in Japan.
Since Citadines, a brand that is familiar to Europeans, has a hotel licence, it is able to offer one-night stays as well.
But, to be honest, the Citadines “aparthotel” – short for “apartment-hotel” and the usual term for referring to such establishments in Europe – is located more than a little distance from Shinjuku’s most prominent retail establishments such as Isetan, Marui and the ever-popular Muji store.
The nearest station to the Citadines is not the main Shinjuku Station itself, but a subway station called Shinjuku Gyoen Mae.
In fact, the name is a give-away to one of the biggest draws in the area – the sprawling Shinjuku Imperial Gardens.
By the end of this month, the Gardens will be teeming with people as it is one of Tokyo’s most famous spots for viewing the delicate “someyoshino” cherry blossoms, or “sakura”.
The area around the Citadines, while usually not as busy as in the main Shinjuku district, is nevertheless dotted with many interesting restaurants and cafes.
It is also close to one well-known enclave – known colloquially to the locals as “Ni-chome” – that is home to many small bars and eateries that have a reputation for catering to people of all types of persuasions.
Even the hotels near the enclave are of a unique character.
A female acquaintance from Singapore once checked herself into a hotel near Ni-chome and was somewhat astonished to discover that she was the only female there!
Just as an aside, “Shinjuku” once lent its name to a 1993 Japanese movie, “Nemuranai Machi: Shinjuku Same”. In English, this means “The City That Never Sleeps: Shinjuku Shark”.
Guess who directed the movie? None other than Yojiro Takita, who directed Departures, the movie that recently won an Oscar for best foreign film.
The 1993 movie is about a detective by the name of Same who sets out to solve a murder involving innocent civilians.
But not to worry. Shinjuku is as safe as can be, though it is perhaps better to avoid the seedier-looking quarters in the back streets after midnight, especially if you are travelling alone.