Tokyo Travel Guide
The value of the Japanese Yen to the US Dollar has recently slipped so far that it's nearing its lowest point in four years. Plus, the currency exchange rate has never been easier to do in your head: 100 JPY is just about 1 USD.
All of this means that if you've been planning to head to Tokyo but "Japan is so expensive," now's the time to impulse-buy an airline ticket and head on up the Tokyo Sky Tree, the broadcasting/observation/restaurant tower which only opened at this time last year.
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This hasn’t really caught on here at home, but overseas it seems that airports are seriously considering building airport terminals fully dedicated to budget and low-cost carriers. We already heard about the plan to do so over in Singapore, and, now it sounds like Tokyo-Narita is the latest to jump on the budget terminal bandwagon.
Airport officials see the writing on the wall, as new cheap flights are scheduled to do their thing to and from the metropolis thanks to carriers like Jetstar Japan and AirAsia Japan. All the bulldozers and construction crews will start doing their thing sooner than later at NRT as the plan Is to get things up and running by around 2015 or so.
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It's hard to believe there's a movie that could even have Anthony Bourdain singing it's praises, calling it "thrilling and beautiful."
The movie that has foodies and travelers around the world talking is the documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, from first-time director David Gelb.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi is the story of Jiro Ono, who is considered the world's greatest sushi chef, and his restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro.
There’s a new tourist trap set to debut in Tokyo before too long, as the city’s Sky Tree has recently been completed. It’s a couple months late, but we kind of consider that to be expected as this sucker is the world’s tallest communication tower. There’s all kinds of criteria about tallest this and tallest that, so we’re not going to argue semantics—it’s a pretty big building and the Tokyo Sky Tree is a neat addition to the city’s skyline.
The final bits and pieces were put into place at the end of February, and now the thing rises to like 634 meters—that’s like 2,080 feet—towards the sky. If you’re looking to build something similar in your backyard you can expect to need close to a billion dollars to do so, as the construction costs for this build were just around $800 million bucks.
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Everybody's talking Tokyo, and with good reason. The country is psyched to begin restarting tourism, autumn over there is magical, and the ANA 787 Dreamliner just completed her maiden revenue flight out of the city. So when you do take that dive and head to Japan, you'll likely spend some time in Narita International Airport. If you're flying United and holding a Business Class, ticket or Star Alliance status, then you'll want to know about the United Business Lounge.
We recently spent some time here after bumping ourselves up to Biz, and gave the sizeable lounge a good once-over:
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You've had a long flight, or maybe you're about to have a long flight, or maybehorror of horrorsboth. You've got some sizeable layover time at Tokyo-Narita Airport and you're desperate to have a shower, take a nap or work in peace and comfortor all three things. If you're flying economy you don't have the option to crash in a lounge, but luckily Narita is a large (and awesome) enough airport to offer Shower rooms and Day Rooms, and we just tried them out!
Our story involved a long flight to NRT from Bangkok, an 8-hour layover and another long flight back to the States in economy. Typically we'd enjoy the airport like an amusement park, but we were under the weather and sleepy. Although the day rooms may be reserved online up to one month in advance, we just walked in and plonked down our credit card for five hours in a single room.
Everyone and their moms are talking about Japan's big plan to give away 10,000 roundtrip plane tickets to international tourists willing to visit (and blog and tweet) about Tokyo. It hasn't been approved yet, but that doesn't mean anxious travelers around the world are going to stop daydreaming about cherry blossoms, gadgets, cosplay and, of course, fresh sushi.
We're disappointed that Japan needs to resort to nearly dragging tourists to visit when there's so many reasons to skip a vacay in Mexico or the Caribbean and hightail it instead to the Land of the Rising Sun. Our favorite impetus to up and go? It's got to be the food, specifically the stand-up sushi counters found around the city, but most easily located in Shibuya.
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When we travel, one of our favorite things to do is to pop into a local grocery store and check out the food products and candies we'd never find anywhere else. So we're trying out this new feature, Foreign Grocery Friday, where each week we'll feature some of our (and your) favorite overseas treats. Got a recommendation? Let us know!
You like pancakes, right? Who doesn't like pancakes?! That's what we thought. No one. Everyone likes pancakes, but this love can be tested on a visit to Japan when confronted with a specialty called Okonomiyaki. Not only is it a quirky word that's fun to say, it's also a quirky meal that's fun to make...on a personal tabletop grill.
Okonomiyaki is a seafood pancake, prepared with batter mixed with a variety of seafood, which is then grilled right before you at a traditional okonomiyaki-specializing restaurant. There's a whole street in TokyoMonja-dori in Tsukishimadedicated to both this and the non-egg-based similar pancake called Monjayaki. For our visit, our sights were clearly set on a heaping helping of okonomiyaki with a tall, frosty glass of Kirin beer.
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DRUMROLL PLEASE! The first destination to get regular, scheduled service on the very first Boeing 787 Dreamliner will be...Okayama, Japan! Why Okayama? Well, the airline with the pleasure of introducing the 787 to the traveling public is Japanese airline ANA, and after a few fun flights to show off the shiny new plane, she'll be put into domestic service between Tokyo-Haneda and Okayama.
Okay so this is literally yesterday's news, but we got a little wrapped up in the East Coast Earthquake drama, so chillax.
Finally, some dates: the very first scheduled flight will happen on November 1, to be immediately followed by the start of Tokyo-Haneda to Hiroshima service on the 787. Want to go international? You've got to wait a tad bit longer, but Tokyo-Haneda to Beijing begins as soon as December, with Tokyo-Haneda to Frankfurt kicking off the long-haul routes in January, 2012.
Here's the official schedule, straight from ANA:
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Harajuku. What does that word conjure up in your mind? Chances are it's Gwen Stefani, or girls dressed as Gothic Lolitas, but the correct answer is an area of Tokyo, in which cosplay is smiled upon and the Rockabillies rule the roost.
Make sure your trip to Tokyo includes a wide-open Sunday, and pray the weather is nice. Walk towards the entrance to Tokyo's famous Yoyogi Park and the Meiji Jingu shrine near Harajuku Station, and you'll encounter a plaza dominated by three distinct gangs, each dressed as if they just stepped out of the film Grease. They have 1950s poodle skirt and greaser Americana nailed down to the last detail, from the brands of handkerchief they stick in their Levi's pockets to the way they comb back their hair. It's all so cool.
The Rockabilly gangs don't just stand around and hang out, either. They each have their own stereos and CDs mixed with vintage tunes for dancingsome of it choreographed and much of it polished from countless hours of studying old American films. All in all, this is a scene that goes on for hours (we stayed for nearly three, taking 100s of photos) and which you won't find anywhere else in the world.
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Sometimes an airfare deal so sweet comes along, that it's almost impossible to resist. Andif you think about the current under-$600 deals on Delta in terms of new shoes (4-ish pairs), iPads (1), or Starbucks coffees (100), it really doesn't seem so bad.
You heard us rightDelta has just dropped prices on their routes to Tokyo, to Haneda Airport in particular, which just happens to have a sparkling new international terminal waiting for you. Try searching any US city to airport code HND, and you'll find fares like $582 from San Francisco, $588 from New York or Chicago and $564 from Los Angeles. These prices are roundtrip, total including taxes, and some are direct and some include stopovers.
Now here's the really awesome part:
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Skymark Airlines might not be on your radar, but it’s worth mentioning as it could be your chance to get to Japan for less Yen in the next few years. Right now the budget carrier kind of does its thing all over Japan, but in the future it might just be looking to link Tokyo with spots in Europe and North America.
Currently the airline just flies smaller jets, ones that can’t make the long trip across the Pacific, but that’s about to change. They just signed the final paperwork on a pretty decent order for several Airbus A380s. We don’t know exactly how much they are going to pay for their four super jumbo jets, but the planes list for a cool $1.5 billion each.