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.

Tips before going to Japan

Japan has a distinct culture just like any other, and it is one of the main reasons why it is such a fascinating place. It is a modern country that has not forgotten its traditions. Here are a few of the things you should know to make the most out of your travel.

Keep quiet in trains

Train rides in Japan can range from relaxing to rush hour madness, but you will quickly realize that even during rush hour everyone, most of the time, are really quiet. Majority are quietly on their mobile phones watching videos using their earphones or just surfing the net. But this doesn’t mean you are not allowed to talk, just keep your voice to a minimum, be polite and don’t shout or talk on your phone.

Trains and the station get really crowded

The best way to enjoy traveling from one landmark to another is by train or subway, but stations can get confusing especially if it is your first time. Be familiar with the route you are taking, which train lines you are getting on, which platform and where are your stops. People walk really fast in the station and this just adds to your confusion. If in doubt, or lost, ask any train attendant for directions they will be glad to help.

Brace yourself, during rush hour the trains can get really packed. It is best to stow your bulky luggage on the overhead racks or transfer your backpacks or bags in your front to avoid occupying more space. And when the time comes to disembark the train, just say, ‘excuse me’ and head towards the door, most of the time they will make way for you.

Tickets vs IC cards

Now you know which train lines you are going to take, what’s next is knowing how to buy the ticket. Ticket machines are found in the sides near the ticket gate. Above the machines is a train map showing you the different stations with the corresponding amount. Beside the regular ticket machines are machines selling IC cards, some selling PASMO, some selling SUICA, while most sell both. Getting an IC card is more convenient than buying a ticket every time you want to ride the subway or train, plus you can use your IC card in buses and paying vending machine or in convenience stores.

No smoking or littering

There are designated smoking areas public places and even in buildings, so please don’t just light up anywhere.

Trash bins are hard to find in Japan. In most food stalls and convenience stores they provide bins nearby, but while walking the streets I had a hard time finding a bin. So keep your trash in your bag until you find a bin or until you get to your hotel.

On a side note, segregate your trash properly, most trash bins have signs on them for segregation.

Restaurants have a smoking section and a non-smoking section

All the restaurants I have been to offer both a non-smoking section and a enclosed smoking section.

Clean up your mess

Most fast food restaurants I ate at didn’t have employees cleaning the tables so we had to clean up after ourselves after eating.

Tipping is not necessary

There is no tipping custom in Japan. If you leave money on your table you will just find an employee running after you to return you change. So remember, no tipping necessary, just a Thank You is enough.

Stand on the Left side

You will notice that people always walk on the left side of the street. They also stand on the left side of the escalator, because the right side of the escalator are for those walking or in a hurry.

Bring Cash

A few places do accept credit cards, but Japan is still mainly a cash based country. So it is better to change you money before traveling to Japan. Or if you are strapped for cash, you can change your money in the airport, in convenience stores with international ATMs or in the bank or post office.

Automatic toilets

Every public toilet I have been to, and the hotel rooms, are equipped with automated toilets that have heated seats, play music while doing your business, built-in bidet, flushers for water conservation, and etc. It may all seem new to you but don’t fret, there are english translations posted as a guide on how to use the toilet.