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Monday, March 28, 2016

2016 JAPAN CHERRY BLOSSOM ADVENTURE: Day 1--Honolulu to Tokyo

Today is Day 1 of my Japan Cherry Blossom Adventure.  I'm flying coach class on United to Narita from Honolulu.  Don't remember when I last flew below business class.  However, a business class ticket costs four times more, and an upgrade takes 60,000 miles, plus $600.  Ridiculous.

The day started poorly in the United Club, with the expresso machine down and the fact that I never got around to downloading the entertainment ap into my iPad and computer:


Also, there are now no newspapers and no magazines in the Lounge.  Then, when I tried to use my computer, I couldn't link to the United system.  On the way out I inquired, and it turns out everything has changed.  You now need a password.

So I expected the worst on my coach economy plus flight to Japan.  I was pleasantly surprised, or, more so, shocked, that United does well on this leg from Honolulu to Narita on a 777.

The entertainment system was excellent, although I used my earphone, and watched three films:  The Intern (Rotten Tomatoes reviewers gave it a 60% rating, while 74% of audiences liked it), Rock the Casbah (8%/32%, but I enjoyed it) and Daddy's Home (30%/54%).  Also available were Star Wars #7, The Revenant, The Martian, Spotlight, which I had all seen, and maybe a hundred more films.

In economy, wines and beer are free.   I ordered a Bloody Mary, which had an exorbitant cost, but it so happened that I brought with me a bunch of certificates for free drinks.  I thought the deadline had passed, as I've had them for years.  But they worked.  The lunch was not only free, but terrific, with a spinach manicotti, salad and bread, with red wine and beer:


They gave me a free White Label Scotch with the dessert.  Service was fabulous, and I thanked the crew for a truly fine job.

The flight took eight hours, with an additional two hours from Narita to Tokyo on the Airport Limousine Bus.  I checked into the Tokyo Westin and went up to the Executive Club Lounge for what turned out to be my free dinner:


An extraordinary pumpkin soup with a marinated hamachi topped salad and salmon.  I drank a glass of champagne and a Johnny Walker Black Label Scotch on ice.  With the nuts and potato chips, I had a filling meal.

While I'm staying at the Westin, I've pretty much given up on Starwood, so, after this year will lose my Platinum Class status.  Why?  Marriott is taking over and they will not be kind to people like me.  However, I still have this year to be pampered.  Thus, on this Adventure, I'll also be using Toyoko Inn because they're all relatively new, close to train stations, provide free internet/breakfast, and cost way less than $100/night...versus $300+ for many Starwood properties.


After this quick Tokyo stop to see if any cherry blossoms have already bloomed,  I will leave my larger suitcase at the Westin, take small roll-on and fly to Kansai Airport to meet the Panda Sakura Tour for a mostly Shikoku Island itinerary.  I then will use Japan Rail Pass for a week of travel back to Tokyo, then on the new shinkansen to Hokkaido, staying in Sapporo, returning via Sendai and Matsumoto.

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