Japan travel planning questions

Old Apr 22nd, 2024, 02:17 PM
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Japan travel planning questions

Hi all
planning a trip for Mar/Apr 2025 - and have a few basic questions
- we will be 68 and 65 at time of travel
- we did travel to china and hong kong pre-covid - using BA miles went thru heathrow with a UK layovers and sitting in coach for 2 9 hour flights was a not something i want to do again.
- we want to fly direct this time from newark NJ
we are thinking of flying United but wondering if any has any airline comments - is it worth it to pay for united premium plus (premium economy) its about $3200 pp vs economy which is about $2000 pp.
- we were thinking of tokyo - Osaka - Kyoto - traveling by train but am open to any suggestions - i am just getting started so haven't read the forum threads yet.
- would the above 3 cities say 3 or 4 nights in each be too much? too little?
thanks in advance for any comments.
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Old Apr 23rd, 2024, 06:15 AM
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Hello!

-Going in March / April? Maybe hoping to see the cherry blossoms? So is everyone else, so be prepared for the crowds. You aren't the only one with that bucket list item!

-United international is as unexceptional as United domestic. Either go with the upgrade, or better still, get on a code-share flight operated by their partner ANA (All Nippon Airways, a Japanese flag carrier which has vastly superior service)

A route of Tokyo - Osaka - Kyoto would be like a Japanese person visiting the US for their first time and going only to NYC - Philly - DC and imagining they will get a good sense of what the US is all about from just those 3 spots, without ever seeing the Grand Canyon, or wandering through Bourbon Street, or gazing at redwood forests, or eating some lobster bisque in Bar Harbor, or watching a rodeo in Big Sky Montana, or learning how to two-step at a country-western dive bar in Nashville.

So rather than mull around in a few dull grey cities where every relatively tiny park will be packed to the gills with cherry blossom seekers, maybe instead check out the vastness and variety the rest of the country has to offer. (and perhaps consider going in May, after Golden Week, when the weather is warmer, the days are longer, the crowds are fewer, and all the trees of every species are vibrantly full of fresh green leaves).

Or, just ignore me.

Last edited by Wilk67; Apr 23rd, 2024 at 06:20 AM.
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Old Apr 23rd, 2024, 09:42 AM
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Newark means United. I liked United PP a lot (787). You get a lot more leg room and wider sieat. There are two seats between the window and aislr vs three seats on the side in economy. Is it worth an extra $600 each way on 14-hour flights? I suppose so. They fly to Tokyo Narita Airport.

Flying from JFK means you could fly ANA or JAL (oneworld partner with American and BA). Typically better service. Maybe lower price and they fly to Haneda Airport which you would prefer over Narita.

>> - would the above 3 cities say 3 or 4 nights in each be too much? too little?
Let's just say that you are planning a 10-12 day trip. That is long enough to make it worthwhile, more would be better. Thinking 4 nights in each is ok for now, at this point in your planning. While I don't find those three cities to be "dull" or "grey", they are big cities and there is a lot of natural beauty in Japan outside of the cities. You could skp Osaka.

Last edited by mrwunrfl; Apr 23rd, 2024 at 09:44 AM.
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Old Apr 23rd, 2024, 10:51 AM
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we are going for the first time in a few weeks. I'd suggest you read a bunch of trip reports and see what interests you and then ask questions. this forum has been a huge help to me.
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Old Apr 24th, 2024, 01:31 PM
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All comments are welcome so thanks for yours....we are not lovers of crowds so you make very good points.
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Old Apr 24th, 2024, 01:36 PM
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is it difficult to purchase economy tix and then upgrade to PP using miles? i didn't enjoy playing the 'log on every day and see if they release flights for miles game' that airlines play (i was doing this on BA since i had tons of miles from business travel)
does newark to tokyo for $2000 per person economy and $3200 per person premium+ seem too expensive? I noticed premium+ as high as $4000 per person varying dates only by a few days.
any recommendations are welcome...thx
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Old Apr 24th, 2024, 07:51 PM
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I often fly through EWR on the way to Europe but fly out of SFO to Japan. Flights to Japan out of San Francisco have gotten much more expensive over the last 5-10 years. I always used to pay about $800 RT but now they are much more. I think itís in part due to the increase in tourism to Japan and the change from larger planes to smaller planes. No more 747s and fewer 777s and more 787s. LAX tends to significantly less expensive. Zip Air is a new budget airline flying out of California to Japan but that wonít help you. Flew premium economy on ANA last year and it was a nice upgrade and similar but slightly better than United domestic business. Premium economy on United is not as nice as the ANA version. Upgrading on United depends on the route, the time of year and the load. We were able to upgrade to Polaris SFO- KIX last year but not TYO- SFO. Flyertalk comments were that it was easier to upgrade to KIX than TYO. I donít know anything about upgrading from United Economy as I start with Economy plus due to status. I do know that itís easier to upgrade from United premium economy to Polaris than from Economy plus. We just upgraded ATH-IAD yesterday for 20K miles plus $550 to Polaris. Upgrade to Premium Economy was 20K. Upgrade to Osaka was 30K miles and $550 if memory serves me. Cash cost to upgrade to KIX Polaris was $6000.
I find it always cheaper to use miles plus cash to upgrade on United.
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Old Apr 24th, 2024, 10:35 PM
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If you fly premium economy on ANA from JFK you will be ruined forever lol. Seriously, you have lounge access and comfortable seats with attentive service helps pass those 15 hours. And landing at Haneda is a nice bonus. Well worth it if you can swing it.
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Old Apr 25th, 2024, 02:29 PM
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>> I don’t know anything about upgrading from United Economy as I start with Economy plus due to status.

But you do, mjs. You bought an economy class ticket and were able to choose E+ seating. Then you upgraded to business class seating.
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Old Apr 26th, 2024, 05:32 AM
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For direct flights from Newark NJ to Japan, United Airlines offers a convenient option. Upgrading to United Premium Plus (premium economy) can provide added comfort for long-haul flights, but the decision depends on your budget and preferences. Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto offer diverse experiences; spending 3-4 nights in each city allows for a balanced exploration of culture, history, and cuisine.
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Old May 14th, 2024, 05:55 AM
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thanks to all for the feedback - i will probably book flights 6 months out so looking at Nov/Dec bookings for an early May trip and will post again when ready to book..
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Old May 14th, 2024, 09:14 AM
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Cherry blossom time is a very touristy time in Japan and prices for hotels are more expensive and are heavily booked. Itís generally about early April but as you know weather is changing around the world. Starts to get warm in May.
i now go mid March as Iíve seen the Cherry blossoms many many times and prefer lower prices and crowds. I think you can skip Osaka although it is a very different city with different people and much cheaper than Tokyo. Do some day trips outside of Tokyo to places like Hakone or Nara.
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Old May 14th, 2024, 08:21 PM
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Hello! If money is not an issue I'd recommend traveling in comfort. So go for the premium plus and enjoy the comfy seats and service on the long plane ride. I'm excited for your trip next year! It will be prime time for Cherry Blossom season so it will be busy. Just know that it's also hit or miss on the weather. Some days it can be cold and raining and some days it might be sunny. Spring time in Japan is random. Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto are great places. I would recommend using the train system, specifically the Shinkansen also known as the bullet train. It's nice, and relaxing with a view.

Traveling from hotel to hotel - Ask your concierge for their baggage shipping service. You can ship big baggage between the hotels and travel with a lightweight rolly bag. I've always used this service and it was so cheap and quick. I shipped my heavy rolly bags from Osaka to Yokohama and they arrived there sooner than I did. I believe it was less than $40 for 2 heavy bags. It was worth it.

Depending on how you and your partner like to travel, 3-4 days per city sounds like a safe bet. You're doing great researching before your trip! Youtube videos help out a lot.



Last edited by jznsn2u; May 14th, 2024 at 08:23 PM.
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Old May 16th, 2024, 07:43 AM
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I wouldn't dedicate 4 nights to Osaka. At most 1 so you can enjoy walking around Dotonburi of an evening but even that you could do as a day trip from Kyoto.
Kyoto has a tonne to see and if you can give it more than 4 nights you won't regret it. There's a lot to see and a good variety of the kinds of sights too.
4 nights is reasonable for Tokyo, though think about whether you want to top and tail (a couple of nights at the start and end of your trip) or put all the Tokyo nights together at the start or end.
I adore Kyoto in particular and don't find the cities remotely grey or dull but ignoring the hyperbole I do understand Wilk67's suggestion to include something beyond the cities if you can, to enjoy some of the beautiful nature and villages of Japan.
Perhaps you might like to visit one of the smaller towns specialising in onsen, for a couple of nights, or you could go to Miyajima for a couple of nights or I'd recommend a night or two up on Koya-san to stay in a temple and visit the cemetary there..
Or lots of other options to give you a counter to the three big cities.
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