Back in 2017, I headed back to Japan for a vacation! While I had been there a couple of times, mostly in Tokyo and Disneyland, I hadn’t really gone to other cities and experienced the culture as much.
Now, before we get to all the cool pictures and descriptions, I’d like to say we booked our tickets for $11.20 for two people on business class on lie-flat seats from the US to Tokyo. That’s ELEVEN dollars. No typo. God, I love travel hacking.
Accommodations were paid for by checking account bonuses + points/miles from credit cards. We did pay for food and entertainment though! But to be quite honest, our checking account bonuses probably covered the food cost as well. Have I convinced you of travel hacking yet?! Yes? I’ll write up a post about how to do it soon. This is more for the food + travel pics that haven’t ever seen the light of day. I took so many pictures, I wanted it to be of use somewhere.
We started off the trip with visits to the Priority Pass Lounges. We get free lounge passes via the CSR (Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card). The Priority pass visits are normally $25+ each full price. Considering we travel multiple times a year and basically galavant around the airport visiting lounges for fun (hey, I know we’re weird, but we’re fine with that), it’s an awesome perk. These lounges were in Dulles Airport (DC). If you’re ever there with Priority pass, I’d recommend visiting the Air France lounge for some delicious food to fill up, then moving over to the Turkish Airlines lounge to curl up with some Miso Soup and cozy decor before your flight.
Air France Lounge
Keep in mind we visited all these lounges during breakfast, so we have no clue what “real food” they have for lunch and dinner!
There were tons of charcuterie options. Well, it’s Air France! They should have a ton of charcuterie options, along with refreshing drinks, and healthy assorted dessert.
The nicest lounge here aesthetically. Gorgeous interior design, with mirrors and supremely comforting chairs. Since Turkish Airlines is a part of Star Alliance, they allow some business classes of Japanese airlines as well. Thus the miso soup and wasabi peas, as well as the normal American/European snacks. Yum!
The decor was a bit like a cafeteria, but the cold cuts were good!
United Business Flight
Ever flown across the world? We have limited vacation days each year and wanted to be well rested for our vacation. A 16 hour flight is no joke. The ability to sleep in a lie flat seat made all the difference in minimizing our jet lag. The seats were super comfortable, with the blankets feeling like puffy clouds. The pillow was memory foam so it provided structure for your neck. If you’d like, you can also ask for a mattress topper and pajamas. You get to keep the pajamas. I don’t have a picture of the amenity kit opened up, but Cowshed was the sponsor, and they did an amazing job. Side note: They used to offer Polaris teddy bears, and I was sad that they wouldn’t ever have them again. They had them for a while after the launch of the Polaris service, but not anymore.
When we boarded, there were two chocolates waiting for us. Soon the flight attendants came over to offer a wine tasting. Some people tried all 6. Hey, if it gets you asleep! Dinner started soon after and I chose the braised ribs with rice and veggies. There were a few other Asian options, but I didn’t take a picture of the menu this time :(. I marathoned a few good movies before falling asleep. I woke up and they were serving snacks, so of course I went and tried them all. My favorite was the tomato soup and grilled cheese — the perfect combo for sitting in your fluffy bed for. I went and read some good books, then went back to sleep. By the time morning came around I had watched 3 movies and read 2 books on my reading list. Productivity!
Day 1 of the Japan Trip: Tokyo
We landed in Tokyo in the mid-afternoon refreshed and excited for the day. Upon passing by a 7-11, I immediately turned to FireBear and said that we needed to go in and get Onigiri. I had been dreaming of Onigiri since I was last in Japan. Mentaiko (cod roe) onigiri is the stuff of gods. We also got delicious drinks — the peach drink is my favorite. Don’t worry, in Japan there’s vending machines full of weird drinks everywhere (even beer!).
We walked onwards for some sushi and soon realized most of the good places only accepted cash. Not to worry, 7-11 has a bunch of ATMs and if you have Fidelity or Charles Schwab accounts, they have fee free ATM withdrawals for certain debit cards. We ventured into a restaurant where you had to stand while eating. Here’s the link, and it’s super close to Shibuya Station. Most items were $1-$4 for TWO pieces. Ikura and Toro (fatty bluefin tuna )was only $4 for 2. In any HCOL city that would be close to $6 PER PIECE and it wouldn’t even be fresh.
An amusing older Japanese gentleman tried to engage us in banter at dinner while we were standing up, but we didn’t speak any Japanese. He spent most of the dinner miming at us, and us guessing what he was trying to say and miming back, before a Japanese businessman stepped in to try and translate — the businessman’s face later turned to “Please don’t ask me to translate anymore.” Here are some of the pieces we got. I might’ve scarfed down some pieces before we took a picture… Oops. It was just so fresh and tasty.
Fresh fish in Japan for $10 a meal beats $80 omakase in the US sometimes.
We ventured back towards Shinjuku and noted that everyone was wearing the same thing. Even in the business districts in the US, people tend to wear different clothing. We walked around the busy streets of Shinjuku before we realized the Robot Restaurant was right there. Anthony Bourdain had featured the Robot Restaurant when he was in Japan and we thought it looked amazing. Possibly not ok for kids to watch, so watch it yourself first.
You can watch his show, Parts Unknown, on Netflix. Great show for cultural and food experiences.
On the way back at about 2AM we passed this scary Godzilla monster. Don’t worry! Things are still super lit up at that time and Japan has a notoriously low crime rate. We made it home safely and knocked out, with me eating a snack Onigiri before bed.
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