Friday, March 29, 2013

Japan 2013 - the Preview

It's about that time again - in two weeks, I'll be heading back to Japan for my yearly trip to the country that's become like an adopted second home for me. Steel yourselves for another trip report!

I complained a little about this last time but after 13 years, it's becoming increasingly difficult to find new things to do in Tokyo. So this year's plans will also take my wife and I somewhere I've never been before.

Also, this will be my first time flying modern business class:

That's ANA's staggered business class (on a 787, but the 777 seats look the same). The only other time I've flown business class was on my second ever trip to Japan way back in 2000, when United upgraded me because I'm tall and I asked. Back then, though, business class was basically just a wider seat and more legroom, so it wasn't that great - I was seated in an exit row by the flight attendants, and it really wasn't much different than the exit rows I usually get in economy. On a side note, this was also the most turbulent flight of my life - I'm an experienced flier, but I nearly found religion on that flight. So it was hard to enjoy the business class benefits.

But this is different - just look at the menu, for one thing! And everyone gets their own little pod now, in 4 abreast seating. And of course, a flat bed. We booked this entirely on AMEX points and miles, so we just needed to pay the tax (which admittedly was still a lot - but less than half what an economy ticket costs). For once, I'm actually excited about my flight.

We still don't have a lot of concrete plans but some things we (well, I) am hoping to do:

I tried unsuccessfully to get tickets to see AKB48 last year, but Maeda Atsuko (one of the most popular members, kneeling right in front above) quit right in the middle of our trip - this was literally the top story on the news for the entire last week we were there. So I'm hoping their popularity has waned enough without her that we can get in. From what I've read, this is a uniquely Japanese experience, so I'm actually really hoping we win tickets.

There is literally no other music-related event that I'm interested in happening in the ten days I'll be in Japan, so it's AKB48 or bust.

Completely switching gears, although it still fits in with my otakudom:

Just like St. Maarten is one of the only places on Earth where you can actually be blown into the water by jet blast from departing commercial aircraft, Tokyo is one of the only places where you can actually tour a commercial airplane maintenance facility. Apparently you can get right up to the planes and almost touch them as they're being worked on. Just imagine this in the ultra-paranoid post-9/11 United States - you'd probably be arrested and thrown in a gulag just for suggesting it.

This is already booked. One of the few things we've gotten confirmed so far.

And since we've never been, we figured we may as well finally see this:

That's the Tsukiji fish market, probably the most famous fish market in the world. Restaurants in New York now even ship stuff from there and brag about it right on the menu - it's almost gotten to be like Kobe beef was in the early days (before the whole "Kobe style" thing started, and it became impossible again to find real Kobe beef here).  

Other than that, I have a feeling Tokyo's going to be a lot of shopping - music, musical instruments and maybe some things my wife wants too :)

But then! We're going to Okinawa.

We're staying at the Kafuu Resort Fuchaku Condo Hotel, which has pretty excellent reviews everywhere and was really reasonably priced all things considered (I think we are paying about $160 per night, which is much less than most resorts there). It also has absolutely enormous rooms, because they're not really hotel rooms, they are one-bedroom condos:

That's just the living room. To the right is apparently the bedroom, to the left is the kitchen.

I hope this place is really as good as it looks, but I've developed a reputation (among... my wife) as a highly skilled hotel picker, and there always seems to be one place that jumps off the page whenever I'm searching - one hotel that not only has some of the best amenities, but is also cheaper than even budget motels.  If I don't see that the first time I look, I just keep trying - eventually, some otherwise expensive hotel has some crazy rate that feels like winning the lottery.

I don't know much about Okinawa other than that there was a pretty terrible battle there and the weather's supposed to be nice most of the time. Oh, and the locals really don't like the federal government much. It sounds kinda like if Hawaii and Texas had a love child in the Pacific.

By the way, we are flying Japan Airlines "Class J" there:

Also all on miles - no cost at all! We're becoming quite the seasoned travelers, knowing all the little tricks.

Anyway, watch for my trip report next month! I'm sure we'll find more stuff to do.

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About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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