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Friday, December 16, 2016

Traveling to Japan

Well… I have visited Japan fourteen times now. Not meant as bragging, but as an indicator of how much I like the country. My Japanese blogger acquaintance who lives in Fukuoka says I should receive a medal from the Japanese Bureau of Tourism. (But wait - my daughter has been to Japan fifteen times!)

Oda Nobunaga.

Friends continue to ask me why I travel to Japan every chance I am given. Perhaps these friends are innocently making conversation, but, in any case, I wonder why. I just like Japan for its own sake. Do I have to have a relative over there or some kind of scheduled business conference? Isn’t it good enough for them that I love the country? Hey, I’m even learning Japanese on Memrise. ("Amanda, isn’t that the kanji for 'cow?'" "That person said 'Watashi wa!'") So if you love Japan too, come on over your own reason.


I am not an expert on any subject, but I have had the experience of 14 round trip flights and this is what I think about the airlines. If you can, try to book a flight on a non-American airline. Singapore and Korean Air are fine. I think ANA is the best, hands down. The service is outstanding and they nearly always run on time. If the schedule is altered by five minutes, they will notify you. I have flown both economy and, for the past three visits, Business Class (I'm getting old and can’t manage 11 hours upright anymore) and the quality of the service holds for both.

Nara deer.

We leave from LAX at the Tom Bradley International Terminal. Say what you will about the domestic terminals, but the international terminal is beautiful. We like to leave at about noon from Los Angeles and then we arrive in Tokyo (usually Narita) the next day around 4:30 p.m. (And just to let you know, the airfare is much lower in the fall- Spring 2016 Business Class was approximately $7500 for two people, compared to $5100 in Fall 2016).


Until our recent trip, we would catch a connecting flight from Narita to, perhaps, Osaka, Sendai, or Fukuoka. This involves waiting for a few hours at Narita. Now, all of a sudden I am just too old for this. The waiting area is very hot and crowded, and people are often using more than one seat. It is pretty uncomfortable. Then, finally when boarding is announced, you have to ride the bus out onto the tarmac to the proper plane. Next comes the hour or so flight, arriving at your destination and all the details, finally a train trip to your hotel while you tote your luggage (Do travel light).

Glico Man.

A lot of people would have no problem with this, but for me it simply has become too exhausting. Think Homer Simpson as "the impressionable zombie dad" and you will get the picture. Therefore we now stay at a hotel near Narita for our first night. If we need to travel a distance the following day, we take the shinkansen (we budget for it). This year we noticed on our tickets a reduced fare on reserved seats due to the time of the year (November?).

Homer Simpson as the impressionable zombie dad.

My daughter and I visit Japan in the spring and the fall. During these times we could not decide which was our favorite season of the year. "Our favorite time of year in Japan is when we are there," we would quip. After a long period of reflection, I am ready to pick the glorious autumn.

Kochi Statues.

Koi carp.

Matsumoto Castle.

Miyajima, Hiroshima.


Japanese food.

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