Hotel Review: Centurion Hotel Ikebukuro

Centurion Hotel Ikebukuro is part of a chain of hotels and cabins in Japan. It is situated in Ikebukuro, Tokyo, a few minutes walk from East Exit of Ikebukuro Station.

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The entrance to the hotel is just beside the 7-11 in the ground floor but you have to take the lift to the 3rd floor for their reception area. The staff that greeted us spoke little English, good enough to get by. But it did take a while and a lot of hand gestures for them to finally understand that I was inquiring whether my package arrived at the hotel or not.

Room

I knew that hotels in Japan were small so I didn’t expect much. The room we got was, I think, a twin room with a pull-out couch which accommodated 3 guests. It was a little cramped but we had enough room for our 3 luggage and enough room to walk.

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The room had a big TV (sadly, all channels were in Japanese) on the foot of the bed, a small fridge and a small cabinet with yukatas and slippers.

The bathroom was also small and compact, it didn’t bother me too much. It was also well stocked with shampoo, conditioner, body wash, facial wash, a complete skin care line, and other amenities. The one thing that amazed me was their electronic toilet, I have heard of these TOTO toilets that have electronic bidets and seat warmers but this was just awesome – no more ice cold seat in the morning (hahaha!).

Amenities

The room we got was non-smoking but if you are a smoker, you can always opt to reserve a smoking room or just go to their smoking area just beside the reception desk and lobby.

They also have vending machines located in the 3rd floor. Also located near the lobby is an area where you can do your laundry.

Breakfast

Complimentary breakfast served is down in the 2nd floor Denny’s. They served the usual breakfast food you can choose between Japanese style or Western style breakfast. You can choose from different kinds of main dish plus a choice of side with either coffee, tea or soda. I personally like the rice meals more than the ones that serve bread because at least the rice and soup was served hot.

Other than the breakfast combos offered, you can order other food or desserts but I don’t think it is covered with the complimentary breakfast ticket.

Internet

I also choose accommodations based on whether they offer free wifi in the rooms or in the lobby. It’s a good thing the hotel has free and fast wifi in every room. You can also opt to rent a pocket wifi for 500 yen per day from the reception area.

Location

Centurion Hotel Ikebukuro is located in 170-0013 Ikebukuro 1-8-9, Toshima-ku, Tokyo, Japan. It is approximately ~3-5 minute walk from the East Exit of Ikebukuro station. It was a short walk from the station and is surrounded by different shopping malls and stores. For more inquiries, call them at 03-6912-6031.

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Useful apps to have for your Japan travel

While I’m on the topic of traveling to Japan, I want to share a list of useful apps I personally used during my travel. Since I always have my smartphone with me I found it convenient to install applications on my device rather than buying a guidebook or getting a map. So these are a few of the apps I found useful during my trip.

Rome2Rio

This is a trip planner that helps you navigate the country you are in. It instantly displays different routes via flight, train, bus, ferry or driving options in getting from point A to point B in the quickest way possible. It also displays estimated travel time and fares. Rome2Rio is available in both Apple and Android devices.

Hyperdia

This is a train timetable application similar to Rome2Rio that shows a complete timetable of all kinds of transportation. All you need is to click on the date, time and mode of transportation you want to take to get to point B, and the app displays different routes you can take with the corresponding departure and arrival time of each transport. Then you can choose which route you prefer based on the number of transfers you need to do, total cost and total travel time.

The Hyperdia  by Voice is similar to the regular Hyperdia app but is only available to iphones. It is a voice recognition software that sets the parameters of your search automatically and provides you with direct access to the train timetable.

You can download the app in your Android device, while for Apple devices you can download the Hyperdia by Voice which is only available in selected countries.

GoogleMaps

Google Maps is a widely used navigation app not just in Japan but all over the world. Similar to the previous apps this shows you different routes you can take to get to your destination. By clicking on your intended destination you can choose from different routes such as via car, train, bus or by foot with the corresponding estimated time. And by selecting the route you are given instructions as to train line, platform, or direction you need to follow to get to your destination.

I personally found this the easiest to use and is my go-to app in all my travels.

Maps.Me

Maps.Me is an offline version of google maps so you don’t need internet connection when using this app. It is available in both Google play, Apple app store and Blackberry. You do need to do an initial download of the area map, it is best to do this when you are in your own country and connected to the internet. Once you have completely downloaded the map, you can now use navigation, search and other functions while offline.

Google Translate

This app is a life saver in situations where there are no English signs. All you need to do is take a picture of what you want translated and it automatically translates it to English or to your chosen language.

GuruNavi

GuruNavi is an easy to use “food/ restaurant/ cafe finder”. All you do is select your location and select what kind of cuisine you are looking for. You can also filter your search to restaurants offering an English menu, free Wifi, smoking or non-smoking, etc.

Other apps you may want to check: TDRnow – Disney app that shows wait times for Tokyo Disney Resort, Navitime, Japan Travel Guide with Me.

*You definitely don’t need to get all these apps, you can just choose which one you think is the most useful for you. I find Maps.Me or Google Maps as a must especially if you are a first time traveller.

How to Apply for a Japan Visa

Traveling to Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Hakone or anywhere in Japan has always been a dream of mine. Nowadays, flying to Japan is now more affordable with the rise of low-cost or budget airlines such as Cebu Pacific and Vanilla airlines. Aside from that, Japan has also relaxed their visa policies. So here are tips on how to apply for a Japan visa if you’re a Philippine passport holder, like myself.

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Decide what kind of Visa you plan on getting

I personally applied for a tourist visa so I’m going to focus more on that in this entry. There are also other kinds of visas you can apply for, such as:

  1. Visa for Tourism
  2. Visa to visit friends/ distant relatives
  3. Visa for visiting relatives
  4. Visa for commercial purpose
  5. Visa to attend conference by Private or Public Organization
  6. Visa to visit relatives invited by US Military Personnel
  7. Visa to visit spouse of a Japanese National
  8. Visa for Spouse of a Japanese National
  9. Visa for an Official or Diplomat
  10. Visa for house servant hired
  11. Visa for application with Certificate of Eligibility Issued in Japan
  12. Visa for Transit
  13. Visa for Medical Stay
  14. Visa for Nikkei-Jin
  15. Visa for Filipino parent of Japanese-Filipino Children
  16. Single-entry tourist visa for Philippine Nationals joining Package Tours
  17. Multiple Entry Visa

Prepare your requirements:

  1. All documents must be original.
  2. Philippine passport
  3. Visa application form. This can be printed form the Embassy website, click here, or from any accredited agency. Fill up the form completely and truthfully. The embassy may not accept application forms with blank items, no signature or no date; and may deny the application if it was incorrectly filled out.
  4. Recent photo. The photo must be 4.5cm x 4.5cm, with white background taken at least 6 months from application date. Be sure to write your name and birthdate on the back of the photo.
  5. Birth certificate. It must be issued within 1 year from the Philippine Statistics Office.
  6. Marriage certificate (if applicable).
  7. Daily itinerary. The itinerary should cover your entire stay in Japan. It should show your daily activity plan and complete address of your accommodation. Sample itinerary.
  8. Bank certificate.
  9. Income Tax Return.
  10. If a guarantor will shoulder part or all of the applicant’s travel expenses:

Guarantee letter.                                                                                                                     Proof of relationship between applicant and guarantor (e.g. Birth Certificates etc.) Bank Certificate (original) and Income Tax Return (ITR Form 2316) (clear Photocopy) of Guarantor.

* Please use A4 size paper in printing your documents.

Apply from an accredited travel agency

In applying for a visa, personal appearance is not needed. All you have to do is submit your complete requirements to your nearest agency. In Cebu, there are 3 agencies located in the city. For my last trip to Tokyo, I used Friendship Tours & Resorts Corp in Oakridge Business Park in Mandaue City. We submitted our requirements, paid the fee and got our visas in about a week. There are some people who received their visas in less than 2 – 5 days if you applied during the start of the week, on the other hand give at least a week if you applied during the weekend since they don’t send out the forms during the weekend.

Discovery Tour,Inc. Door No.203-A1 2nd Flr.Northgate Center, Don Manuel Gotianuy Complex, Gov.Cuenco Ave., Banilad City, Cebu. Fee: 800 php.

Attic Tours Phils., Inc. Lobby,Waterfront Airport Hotel 1 Airport Road,
Lapu-lapu City, Mactan Island, Cebu. Fee: 1,500 php.

Friendship Tours and Resorts Corp.  Unit 215A Business Center B, Oakridge Business Park,  880 A.S. Fortuna St., Banilad, Mandaue City. Fee: 1,200 php.

For a complete list of accredit agencies in your area, click here.

Make sure you have enough in your bank account.

You will need to provide a copy of your bank certificate and ITR. It’s best to have enough money, at least 100,000 php in your account should be enough. You should have had this amount at least 6 months to a year, a sudden and recent infusion of money in your account may raise a red flag.

Show proof that you will return to the Philippines after your stay in Japan.

This can be in a form of employment certificate, letter of leave of absence, an ITR, or travel history such as old passports.

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Remember, submission of requirements does not guarantee approval of visa but so far I haven’t heard of someone getting denied, but to be in the safe side make sure you provide all the necessary documents needed.

Once you get your approved visa, you only get a 15-day single entry visa for first time visitor. On your second application for a visa, if you get lucky you may get the multiple entry visa.

Given the ease of applying for a Visa and the advantage of having it in your passport there is no reason not to plan a visit to the Land of the Rising Sun.

I think Spring and Autumn is a beautiful time to visit Kyoto and Osaka, you can experience Golden Week during Spring or you can enjoy the autumn foliage of yellow and red during Autumn.

Year-round however, Japan is a must visit. It has a mix of modern and traditional sites, amazing food, and for the kids at heart, different theme parks. So what are you waiting for? Visit Japan with your family or with friends or, if you dare, solo, and start exploring the wonders of Japan!

A Guide to Renting Pocket Wifi in Japan

Exploring a new country is usually a scary and exciting thing, what with getting lost and what not, but it gets easier when you have the right tools to help you navigate this new place. The tried and tested guide maps are always useful, you can find maps in the airport or in hotels. But in this day and age, isn’t it more convenient to bring a smartphone while navigating the new area? Apps such as Google maps, Rome2Rio, Japan Rail, Navitime, and many more can be downloaded and accessed on your mobile phones while traveling but to do so you need to be connected to the internet.

If you’re visiting Japan, a portable Wifi is a great idea rather than buying a SIM in the airport or signing up for roaming on your mobile. Sure cafes, restaurants, train stations and other establishments also have free Wifi access but wouldn’t it be more convenient to have be constantly connected to the net while on the go?

Before going to Japan and getting a pocket wifi, you should consider:

When are you traveling to Japan? This is important since you have to reserve your pocket wifi before you arrive at your destination. You can reserve a unit as early as a month or at least 2 days from the day of your arrival in Japan, this is just incase the provider you chose has no available unit to rent you can always try another provider.

How many days are you in Japan? This is because you rent the unit in a per day basis.

Internet usage You can choose which rental plan you want to avail depending on how heavy your internet usage is. Global Advanced Communications offer different kinds of rental plans such as ECO Wifi (21 mbps unlimited data), Standard Wifi (75 mbps unlimited data but after 10GB speed will be slow down to 128kbps), Premium Wifi (75 mbps unlimited data) and the Super Premium Wifi (187.5 mpbs unlimited data). During my last Tokyo trip, I personally, used the Premium Wifi plan from Global Advanced Communications (GAC) and had no problem during the duration of my stay in Tokyo. If you are a heavy user, you might want to bring or rent a power bank in case the battery runs out.

So, you are now ready to place a reservation for your Wifi rental, what steps should you follow?

From personal experience, I can only comment on Global Advanced Communications (GAC). These are the steps I took from reservation, pick-up and return of the item.

After you place your order, they will email you and check if the item you reserved is available.

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You’ll receive an email afterwards confirming your order and payment.

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  • Pick up from airport or hotel/ hostel/ airbnb

For those who opt for hotel/ hostel/ airbnb delivery, just pick up your package in the front desk. Be sure to ask if there is a package delivered to you, because sometimes they aren’t aware. While for those who opt for airport pick up, take note of the office hours of your location. Post offices in Narita close by 2000H while those in Kansai close by 1700H. If your arrival flight happens to be beyond those hours, get the Premium Airport delivery package from GAC. For more information, click here.

  • Setting up your pocket Wifi

 These are what you will receive:

         1 prepaid return envelope, 1 pouch, 1 pocket wifi, 1 cord and adapter

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Setting up your wifi is easy.  Just check the SSID code and key indicated at the back of the device and connect to your smartphone. You now have internet connection! 🙂

  • Returning the item

              When returning the item be sure to insert the pocket Wifi, cord with adapter and manual into the pouch. You can then mail the items using the prepaid envelope provided by GAC. You can drop off the package in any post office within the city or you can drop it in the airport post office. For locations of the post office in Narita Airport, click here.

Renting a pocket Wifi in Japan is really easy and it saves a lot of trouble. So if you haven’t yet, go and rent one before your flight to Japan. Have a safe trip! 🙂

* This review is based on my personal experience. 🙂