Trip Report: Japan 2015 (Part 12) Japan Airlines First Class Tokyo Narita to Chicago O’Hare


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Japan (Part 1) Introduction- A Babymoon…….Sakura Style!?
Japan (Part 2) Japan Airlines First Class Chicago O’Hare to Tokyo Narita
Japan (Part 3) St. Regis Osaka
Japan (Part 4) Around Kyoto
Japan (Part 5) Around Nara
Japan (Part 6) Andaz Tokyo
Japan (Part 7) Around Tokyo
Japan (Part 8) Conrad Tokyo
Japan (Part 9) Fujigoko Sakura viewing (Beautiful full bloom cherry blossoms)
Japan (Part 10) Westin Tokyo
Japan (Part 11) Japan Airlines First Class Lounge
Japan (Part 12) Japan Airlines First Class Tokyo Narita to Chicago O’Hare
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Japan Airlines First Class Tokyo Narita to Chicago O’Hare

We waited just a few moments before they announced boarding for First Class passengers.  We entered through door 2L and turned left to enter the first class cabin (also passing a few business class seats along the way which looked stellar).

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Waiting to board at gate 71

My wife and I had the exact same seats again on this trip as we did on our prior flight. I had 2D and my wife had 2G.  The cabin was full again if I recall correctly.  This flight was a Sunday flight (April 19th) which are typically full or close to full.

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Japan Airlines First Class cabin

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Japan Airlines First Class cabin

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Wife and I in Japan Airlines First Class

I was still sick but went ahead with some champagne for my preflight beverage.  I am not going to go into the details of the cabin and suite/seat in this post for that detail please see part two of this trip report hereContinue reading

Trip Report: Japan 2015 (Part 11) Japan Airlines First Class Lounge


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Japan (Part 1) Introduction- A Babymoon…….Sakura Style!?
Japan (Part 2) Japan Airlines First Class Chicago O’Hare to Tokyo Narita
Japan (Part 3) St. Regis Osaka
Japan (Part 4) Around Kyoto
Japan (Part 5) Around Nara
Japan (Part 6) Andaz Tokyo
Japan (Part 7) Around Tokyo
Japan (Part 8) Conrad Tokyo
Japan (Part 9) Fujigoko Sakura viewing (Beautiful full bloom cherry blossoms)
Japan (Part 10) Westin Tokyo
Japan (Part 11) Japan Airlines First Class Lounge 
Japan (Part 12) Japan Airlines First Class Tokyo Narita to Chicago O’Hare
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Japan Airlines First Class Lounge Narita Airport

Sad to say goodbye to Japan but happy to go home and sleep in my own bed, we made our way to Narita airport which is a long train ride from Tokyo.  It took about 40 minutes to arrive at the terminal.

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Japan Airlines First Class Checkin

We found the JAL checkin desks and made our way over to the first class counter where we received our boarding passes. Checkin was very smooth and professional. The counter person asked if we would like an escort to the first class lounge and we hesitated a bit and decided “why not?”.

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Japan Airlines First Class checkin counter at Narita Airport

We followed our JAL rep to the JAL fast track security lane where our bags were checked and we went through the the checkpoint super easy.  Our JAL rep asked to take our carryon bags while we waited in the immigration line.  After about 15 minutes in immigration we made it through and our lovely JAL rep was waiting on the other side with our bags. I asked to take my bag back as I feel like a real chump having a lady toting my bag for me but she refused and said “its no problem, its OK”. Continue reading

Trip Report: Japan 2015 (Part 10) Westin Tokyo


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Japan (Part 1) Introduction- A Babymoon…….Sakura Style!?
Japan (Part 2) Japan Airlines First Class Chicago O’Hare to Tokyo Narita
Japan (Part 3) St. Regis Osaka
Japan (Part 4) Around Kyoto
Japan (Part 5) Around Nara
Japan (Part 6) Andaz Tokyo
Japan (Part 7) Around Tokyo
Japan (Part 8) Conrad Tokyo
Japan (Part 9) Fujigoko Sakura viewing (Beautiful full bloom cherry blossoms)
Japan (Part 10) Westin Tokyo
Japan (Part 11) Japan Airlines First Class Lounge
Japan (Part 12) Japan Airlines First Class Tokyo Narita to Chicago O’Hare
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Westin Tokyo

Our final night in Tokyo was spent at the Westin Tokyo.  We had a king room and were “upgraded” to a city view room with views of the Tokyo Tower.  The hotel was extremely busy when we arrived.  There was a wedding reception at the hotel and there were quite a bit of guests in the common areas of the property.

After a five minute wait in line to check in we were checked in by a nice front desk agent. He went over our details and assigned us room 1005 on the 10th floor.  I chose points for my SPG gold amenity.

My initial thoughts were the hotel felt like a Vegas hotel.  Tons of people and the restaurant was crowded and right off the lobby. There was a line for the buffet and seemed just like some of the Vegas mega hotels I have seen.

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Lobby and front desk area

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Lobby area

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Lobby area

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Bellhop desk

Anyhow, we made our way up to our room and after a few seconds I thought, “This places needs a refresh!”  It felt outdated and in the bathroom it was really obvious. I thought the size of the room was fair but it was smaller than our rooms at the Andaz and Conrad the nights prior.  I would be OK with this room on a business stay if my employer was paying for it but never would I pay cash for this room.  The room did have a few bottles of complimentary water which is appreciated. The room was clean overall but just not very stylish or visually pleasing. Anytime you have a green carpet you’re already down one strike. Continue reading

Trip Report: Japan 2015 (Part 9) Fujigoko Sakura Viewing


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Japan (Part 1) Introduction- A Babymoon…….Sakura Style!?
Japan (Part 2) Japan Airlines First Class Chicago O’Hare to Tokyo Narita
Japan (Part 3) St. Regis Osaka
Japan (Part 4) Around Kyoto
Japan (Part 5) Around Nara
Japan (Part 6) Andaz Tokyo
Japan (Part 7) Around Tokyo
Japan (Part 8) Conrad Tokyo
Japan (Part 9) Fujigoko Sakura viewing (Beautiful full bloom cherry blossoms)
Japan (Part 10) Westin Tokyo
Japan (Part 11) Japan Airlines First Class Lounge
Japan (Part 12) Japan Airlines First Class Tokyo Narita to Chicago O’Hare
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Fujigoko Sakura viewing

Note: This post went live earlier than planned as WordPress published it without me hitting the publish button. I have updated 5/17 to add content and some captions.

(Please remember any and all pictures on the blog can be clicked on to get a large full resolution image for added detail)

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I woke up early one morning and for the first time in 3-4 days I felt good! I could breathe decent and had some energy. I checked the sakura forecasts and saw that the Fujigoko area was in full bloom.  I really wanted to check this area out prior to our trip and wasn’t sure if it was going to happen.  I plotted the trip on Google Maps on my phone and did a bunch of screen captures so we wouldn’t get lost.  I woke my wife up around 4am and told her that I wanted to catch the first train out to see the cherry blossoms around Mt. Fuji.  The forecasted journey  was to be about 2 hours and 45 minutes via subway and train. We caught the fist train from Shinagawa Station and it was scheduled to leave at  5:33am and the subway system was amazingly empty!!!! Couldn’t imagine it being so empty in Tokyo but it was for the first hour or so then it quickly started to get crowded as normal. Our end destination was Shimoyashida Station and the Arakurayama Sengen Park was a 10 minute walk from there.  I wanted to get here as early as possible as I heard recently they were shooting a TV show a few days prior and that Sakura bus tours were now stopping here. I wanted to try to beat as much of the crowd as possible.

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It turned out to be a glorious Saturday morning in Japan!  Beautiful weather and some nice scenery on the train ride out made the journey enjoyable.  There are signs from the train station directing visitors the the park.  It was also easy just to follow the rest of the people as that was were most people were headed and most people had big DSLR cameras too. Continue reading

Trip Report: Japan 2015 (Part 8) Conrad Tokyo


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Japan (Part 1) Introduction- A Babymoon…….Sakura Style!?
Japan (Part 2) Japan Airlines First Class Chicago O’Hare to Tokyo Narita
Japan (Part 3) St. Regis Osaka
Japan (Part 4) Around Kyoto
Japan (Part 5) Around Nara
Japan (Part 6) Andaz Tokyo
Japan (Part 7) Around Tokyo
Japan (Part 8) Conrad Tokyo
Japan (Part 9) Fujigoko Sakura viewing (Beautiful full bloom cherry blossoms)
Japan (Part 10) Westin Tokyo
Japan (Part 11) Japan Airlines First Class Lounge
Japan (Part 12) Japan Airlines First Class Tokyo Narita to Chicago O’Hare
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Conrad Tokyo

We took a cab from the Andaz to the Conrad Tokyo around 2PM.  We initially walked into a ground floor checkin desk but it turns out that was just the bag check desk or bell hop area.  They took our bags and said our room wasn’t ready.  When I asked when it would be ready he said I would have to go upstairs to the lobby level front desk.

We were helped right away with no waiting at the front desk and they advised they had upgraded us to a king room with a nice view but it wouldn’t be ready until 3pm or so.  The other option is they could put us in a room with two twin beds right away.  I didn’t want to wait as I was feeling like crap and wanted to lay back down as soon as possible thus we took the two beds.

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Conrad front desk

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Bell hop checkin

We were assigned room 3236 which we thought was a nice comfortable room generally.  A fairly large size room for a standard room.  There were two nice beds but not as soft as we generally prefer.  The beds were however much softer than the Andaz Tokyo which we stayed at the night prior.  Aesthetically I thought the room was nice. The bathroom was large and featured all the standard things one would expect at a hotel of this level.  The bathroom amenities were aromatherapy however you can request Shanghai Tang as another option. Continue reading

Trip Report: Japan 2015 (Part 7) Around Tokyo


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Japan (Part 1) Introduction- A Babymoon…….Sakura Style!?
Japan (Part 2) Japan Airlines First Class Chicago O’Hare to Tokyo Narita
Japan (Part 3) St. Regis Osaka
Japan (Part 4) Around Kyoto
Japan (Part 5) Around Nara
Japan (Part 6) Andaz Tokyo
Japan (Part 7) Around Tokyo
Japan (Part 8) Conrad Tokyo
Japan (Part 9) Fujigoko Sakura viewing (Beautiful full bloom cherry blossoms)
Japan (Part 10) Westin Tokyo
Japan (Part 11) Japan Airlines First Class Lounge
Japan (Part 12) Japan Airlines First Class Tokyo Narita to Chicago O’Hare
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Around Tokyo

During our time in Tokyo we ventured out on two nights to see at least a bit of the city.  Remember that I had a very nasty cold and that I really didn’t want to stay out too long sadly.  Whenever we left the hotel I had to take all the kleenex with me as I know I would run through them in just a few hours.  It is very easy to get around in Tokyo by using the subway system!

Ginza

Our first night out was in Ginza which was close to our first nights hotel, the Andaz.  We took the subway only one or two stops over to Ginza.  Ginza is a high fashion area with lots of high end shops.  The streets were really busy as we walked through several blocks and stopped in several stores.

Our first stop was at a toy store.  My wife thought we might find something unique for our new addition to the family.   I was also curious as to what was in store here.

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Uni Qlo store amongst other shops in Ginza

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Toy store exterior

We walked around the multilevel store and wow did they have Continue reading

Trip Report: Japan 2015 (Part 6) Andaz Tokyo


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Japan (Part 1) Introduction- A Babymoon…….Sakura Style!?
Japan (Part 2) Japan Airlines First Class Chicago O’Hare to Tokyo Narita
Japan (Part 3) St. Regis Osaka
Japan (Part 4) Around Kyoto
Japan (Part 5) Around Nara
Japan (Part 6) Andaz Tokyo
Japan (Part 7) Around Tokyo
Japan (Part 8) Conrad Tokyo
Japan (Part 9) Fujigoko Sakura viewing (Beautiful full bloom cherry blossoms)
Japan (Part 10) Westin Tokyo
Japan (Part 11) Japan Airlines First Class Lounge
Japan (Part 12) Japan Airlines First Class Tokyo Narita to Chicago O’Hare
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Andaz Tokyo

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Andaz Tokyo exterior

We walked to the Andaz Tokyo from the Shinbashi Station which took about 20 minutes.  We asked directions at the police outstation directly outside Shinbashi station and they pointed to the very tall Toranomon Hills building and we pretty much didn’t lose sight of the building and found our way fairly easy.  It was a sunny 70 degree (F) day for our first day in Tokyo!

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Andaz Tokyo entrance

The Andaz is housed in a new and Continue reading

Trip Report: Japan 2015 (Part 5) Around Nara


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Japan (Part 1) Introduction- A Babymoon…….Sakura Style!?
Japan (Part 2) Japan Airlines First Class Chicago O’Hare to Tokyo Narita
Japan (Part 3) St. Regis Osaka
Japan (Part 4) Around Kyoto
Japan (Part 5) Around Nara
Japan (Part 6) Andaz Tokyo
Japan (Part 7) Around Tokyo
Japan (Part 8) Conrad Tokyo
Japan (Part 9) Fujigoko Sakura viewing (Beautiful full bloom cherry blossoms)
Japan (Part 10) Westin Tokyo
Japan (Part 11) Japan Airlines First Class Lounge
Japan (Part 12) Japan Airlines First Class Tokyo Narita to Chicago O’Hare
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Around Nara

We decided to spend a day in Nara and booked a 3.5 hour tour through Narawalk.  We met our English speaking guide Rieko at Nara Station.  It was easy to spot her as she was holding a Narawalk flag.  She introduced herself and gave us a small gift (origami).  She let us know that we would be waiting for one other couple from New Zealand and that would be our full group for the day.  We were encouraged to use the bathroom at Nara Station before our tour started.  It was a cool and windy day and at times I wish I had a jacket or coat besides my sports jacket.  She advised we would be doing a lot of walking and if weather got bad we could go by city bus to some locations.  We started by walking through the “main drag” of Nara.

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Our guide spoke good English and pointed out points of interest and different things that we would have otherwise missed.  We went down small streets and narrow alleyways to see some old geisha houses. Continue reading

Trip Report: Japan 2015 (Part 4) Around Kyoto


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Japan (Part 1) Introduction- A Babymoon…….Sakura Style!?
Japan (Part 2) Japan Airlines First Class Chicago O’Hare to Tokyo Narita
Japan (Part 3) St. Regis Osaka
Japan (Part 4) Around Kyoto
Japan (Part 5) Around Nara
Japan (Part 6) Andaz Tokyo
Japan (Part 7) Around Tokyo
Japan (Part 8) Conrad Tokyo
Japan (Part 9) Fujigoko Sakura viewing (Beautiful full bloom cherry blossoms)
Japan (Part 10) Westin Tokyo
Japan (Part 11) Japan Airlines First Class Lounge
Japan (Part 12) Japan Airlines First Class Tokyo Narita to Chicago O’Hare
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Around Kyoto

Our first full day in Japan we decided to visit Kyoto.  We took the Shinkansen from Osaka to Kyoto station.  We were armed with a map of the city and many of the attractions and highlights were circled.  We initially bought a daily bus pass outside Kyoto station and waited at the bus station to grab a ride to Nijo Castle.  The bus ride was so uncomfortably crowded that once we finally got to our destination I told my wife we aren’t going to be doing that anymore today and thus took cabs the rest of the day. The weather forecast called for rain….. all day!  So we grabbed an umbrella from the St. Regis before heading out.  They offered us two but we declined and figured we could share-MAJOR MISTAKE! The umbrella was big enough for two people but just barely and my wife was very demanding that she didn’t get a drop of rain on her LOL!  You can imagine us all day visiting the sights throughout Kyoto with my wife constantly adjusting the umbrella depending on the direction of the rain and whatnot.  🙂

(Please note I am not adding captions to the photos in this post, I am letting the photos do the talking)

Nijo Castle

We got to Nijo Castle perhaps around 10am and it was fairly busy.  There is a small admission fee and a small fee if you want a recorded guided session on headphones which my wife did want.  We walked around the grounds which were interesting.  You could also go inside the property but you had to remove your shoes prior to entering.  We also were not allowed to take pictures while inside which is always a bummer.  One theme that we saw throughout the day not just here but at many of the touristy areas of Kyoto were quite a bit of school field trips. Lots of Japanese children in there school uniforms visiting the attractions.

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The grounds were quite expansive and had a lovely garden area full of ponds and cherry blossoms of varying degrees of bloom.  Meanwhile the palace was large and Continue reading