Lets say you paid attention to the first parts of this series and have established a clear reason for going to Japan and maybe your small sacrifices of the little luxuries in life have yielded you some decent savings. Well now its time to put that money to work.
Fly me to the moon
Unless you can teleport yourself instantly over international borders or enjoy riding a boat for a few months you’re most likely going to have to take a plane if you want to get to Japan quickly. When you are ready to book your flights I would advise that you do so at least 3 months ahead of time.
That timeline will depend on whether your plans for Japan are rock solid. For example, if you have secured tickets to an event or have specific dates that you know you must be there. Generally the longer you wait to book, the more expensive it will be to fly. There are of course, exceptions.
If you are a cheap bastard you can always wait for seat sales or last minute deals but that may backfire. Whether the risk is worth it is up to you.
Who do you buy your tickets from? Well that’s going to be kind of subjective since we all live in different parts of the world. For North Americans, the bigger self-serve travel sites such as the ones below are good places to start:
I believe most of these sites can serve customers from different countries or have local equivalents so check where you live to see what’s available.
If you are a frequent customer of a certain airline you can go to their sites and see if you can cash in your (or your relatives) frequent flier miles to lower the cost of your flight. It’s not guaranteed but it’s worth a shot.
The other alternative is to get to working local travel agencies and see if they have some deals that you can’t get online. Yes it requires you to talk to people over the phone or heaven forbid, see people face to face but if you do the legwork you may end up with a package that is more to the liking of your wallet.
The big question is, “How much will my flight cost?” I can’t say since each airline has their own pricing schemes and sales. The best I can give you are ballpark figures. What you should expect to pay is anywhere from $1000 to $3000 for a round trip
Why the extreme range? It depends on just how baller you want to be. What class of seating do you prefer? Do you want a direct flight or a few stopovers? And who do you want to fly with?
For example, if you take JAL or Korean Air you’re going to pay a small premium but you’ll probably have a better experience service wise and there will be plenty of lovely eye candy to drool over. Especially on Korean Air. You’ll be gagging to try and join the mile high club on those flights.
Sorry for going off topic… Anyway, If you look hard enough you can catch some good round trip packages to Narita or one of the other major cities in Japan on JAL for around $500 – $700. Korean Air? Not really sure if they offer their seats that low but it doesn’t hurt to look.
Going domestic might be the most affordable option for the majority of you out there. Sure you might have to put up with some craptacular service and be squeezed into your seat like a sardine; but you’re willing to take the hit for the good of using the rest of your money elsewhere right?
The other way to get a cheaper flight is to go outside of peak season periods. This might not be avoidable depending on why you’re going but if you’re flexible, those are the better times to shoot for.
Another thing you might want to know is how long is the average flight? Well since I’m on the west coast it’s about 13 hours from my point of departure. (Vancouver or Los Angeles) If I include my flight time to those places from my home city then it’s about 17 hours flying time and maybe 6 hours of sitting around in various airports.
Direct flight is the same as the accumulated time as above (for me) and that is probably another option if you like sitting down and have some sort of super powered, long lasting nuclear battery on your electronic devices.
If you are on the east coast you might have a shorter go or not. I’ve never flown to Japan from the east so maybe those of you who have done it can chime in on this.
I just need a bed
As for your accommodations? Well you can go to the same sites mentioned earlier and get yourself a package deal with your flights or you can book separately and hope you can get your room cheaper. It’s up to you.
Besides the previously mentioned you can also use these sites as well for your hotel hunting:
This is assuming that you are only staying for a couple of weeks. If you’re going to be in Japan longer you may want to consider renting an apartment. That I know nothing about other than that it’s difficult for foreigners, so I’ll continue with the hotels and such.
Remember how I said you should have an idea of why you are going? Well it was to help pick where you are going to stay. For example, on my recent trip I stayed at a hotel that was within close proximity to the Tokyo Dome because that’s where I was for the majority of the time. Come next year I will be staying somewhere within or near Akihabara because of what the tentative plans are.
So while it may be cool to pick a hotel arbitrarily it’s better to find one that is centrally located around all the stuff you want to see or do. Unless you can somehow manage to get your room comped for part or all of your stay in Japan it’s best to use some strategic thinking when it comes to your accommodations.
I am not one to say where you should stay. This again, depends on your own personal needs and budget. It may also depend on your ability to communicate in Japanese. If you can’t form basic Japanese sentences or lack the will to use sign language and other non-verbal forms of communication perhaps a business type hotel may be for you.
Many of the larger hotel chains you know have locations in Japan with fluent, English speaking staff. They cost about the same or more than what they would in your home country but the extra expense may be worth it for your own comfort and perhaps anger management and stress issues if you have a hot temper.
What if you don’t speak English or Japanese? Well you’re kind of SOL aren’t you?
If you are the more adventurous type you can always go with a hostel and not even bother with any of this. That will give you way more money to spend but the downside is you might have to be that crazy guy who will cut a bitch if anyone touches your stuff.
So what will your accommodations cost you? Realistically you just need a bed and a place to drop off all your shit right? There’s no need to get all fancy and opulent unless you’re made of money or really want to impress the Japanese escort you picked up from Kabuki-cho.
You can get away with a $70 – $90 a night (not including taxes) hotel room. That won’t get you much but the basics and the rooms are really small (averaging around 10 – 15 square meters), but you’re safe from the elements and maybe you can convince your high class escort that she’ll get a higher payment if she can make your dynamite go boom in tight quarters.
As I stated before a business hotel will cost you a bit more. Anywhere from $120 upwards to $1000/night. Trust me, I’ve looked this stuff up and if you want to be super baller it is possible, but you’re gonna spend your entire trip in your hotel room due to lack of funds.
A normal business hotel room in Japan is slightly smaller than your typical North American room but at least you won’t feel like you’re in a closet and won’t have to play tetris with your luggage to make them fit in whatever corners you can find.
I have stayed in both types of rooms in Japan and while I definitely prefer the roominess of the more popular hotel franchises the truth is I never spent a lot of time in my hotel room other than to shower or sleep. So unless you’re made of a pile money or can get a wicked discount its better to go for the cheaper alternative.
Of course you can always share a room with your travel mates and see if you don’t kill each other by the 3rd or 4th day. I guess it depends if you’re the type who likes their own private space or if you don’t mind being around the same people all the time.
All of this is up to you.
Where you end up staying is totally in your hands. Use the Internet for something other than free music and porn and do some research on the hotels that interest you. Talk to people you know who might have stayed there.
If you’re part of one of the larger J-Pop oriented forums hit up your peeps there and pray for a response that doesn’t amount to “Google is your friend.” A great site that I have used for reference is Japan Guide.
There’s a plethora information about hotels in the various areas of Japan that you may be interested in and of course other things like flights and trains and all that information that I’ll be covering as this series goes on.
I think the hardest part of this process for most will be flights. After all, things change frequently and maybe you’ll find out you could have gotten a better deal if you waited just a bit longer. It’s a gamble so don’t cry about it, just suck it up and think that you’re one step closer to Japan
And once you get these two things sorted out and paid in advance you’re set. All you need to worry about are spending money and packing.