#MyJALTrip: 10 travel tips for your next trip to Japan!
Japan—a seasonal wonder and Asia’s great holiday escape. Serving as cabin attendants on board Japan Airlines (JAL), we have equipped ourselves with some tips and tricks that will make travelling to Japan an even better experience than it already is. Whether you’re flying with us to Haneda Airport (羽田空港 Haneda Kūkō), also known as Tokyo International Airport (東京国際空港 Tōkyō Kokusai Kūkō) or Narita International Airport (成田国際空港 Narita Kokusai Kūkō), here are 10 tips and tricks you might find useful during your travels.
1. Select your seats
Japan Airlines Business Class. Experience 360º panorama views here. (Image credit: JAL)
If you’ve flown on Japan Airlines Business Class, you might have realised that all the seats within this class offer unimpeded aisle access to minimise disturbances. But if you’re like us, and are still accumulating your miles and flying on Economy or Premium Class, it’s important to plan your seating location in advance.
While the length of the flight is a factor, you must first ask yourself if you are the type of traveller that needs to visit the restroom frequently or if you’re the type that rarely leaves your seat during the flight. For example, if you usually sleep throughout the flight, you might have an irritable experience if you choose an aisle seat as you might need to constantly get up for your neighbours to use the restrooms. Personally, we like the view and the option of leaning on the fuselage—the main body of the plane—so we usually choose seats closest to the windows. If you choose a seat near the back of the cabin, you will be allowed to board earlier and likely have ample space in the overhead compartments for your carry-on luggage, however, you will be the last to dine as most airlines serve inflight meals from front to back.
Experience Japan Airlines’ 360º panorama view here. (Image credit: JAL)
Enjoy extra legroom? Book a bulkhead seat. A bulkhead is the divider which separates sections of a plane, while a bulkhead seat is the very first seat behind that divider which usually has more legroom than a regular seat. There’s no extra charge for requesting such seats and therefore they get snapped up really quickly. However, these seats might not be suitable for everyone. As there are no seats in front of you, there will be no extra room to stow your belongings under and the in-flight entertainment monitor is usually smaller than regular seats. The chances of you sitting next to a family with a crying infant might also be higher since most baby bassinets are located there as well. If these are deal breakers for you, then it’s probably best to steer clear of the bulkhead seats.
If you’re flying on Japan Airlines, note that not all seats are available for advance selection because some seats are reserved for passengers who may need additional care while boarding, or for adjusting the weight balance of the plane. However, more seat options become available 48 hours prior to your departure time, making it the most ideal time to select your seats. Evaluate your priorities and choose your seat wisely to ensure both you and your fellow passengers have a smooth and pleasant flight.
2. Pre-order special in-flight meals
Child meal served onboard Japan Airlines' flights. (Image credit: JAL)
If you have any health or dietary restrictions, it’s important to make reservations in advance because most airlines do not prepare extra, and more often than not, cabin attendants will have to give up their meals or get creative with what they have in order to meet the passenger’s health or dietary requirements.
The in-flight meal selection at Japan Airlines is quite extensive, from adorable character bento boxes for children to a selection of meals with minimum allergen. Anyone can make reservations for our special in-flight meals. We’ve once encountered an adult passenger who made reservations for the Child Meal because she loved the presentation. As an added bonus, special in-flight meals are served first!
3. Stay connected
(Image credit: Canva)
We can’t deny that we live in a connected world, and as embarrassing or ironic as it might be to admit, we all need the internet to stay connected. For us, it’d be impossible to navigate the streets of Tokyo without Google Maps.
If you’re travelling in a group, we’d recommend renting a portable pocket WiFi with daily rental rates. These provide unlimited data and allow you to connect multiple devices at the same time. This makes it really affordable and convenient. Did you know that in recent years, many hotels in Japan offer pocket WiFi as an added service? Remember to check with your hotel before renting one.
You can also choose to purchase a local SIM card for a flexible option that might better suit your needs.
Both the portable pocket WiFi and local SIM card can be purchased at JAL ABC airport counters located in Narita International Airport, Haneda Airport (Terminal 3), and Kansai International Airport. Find out more here.
Refreshments served in-cabin. (Image credit: JAL)
The humidity level at such high altitudes are very low, therefore you might notice that your skin gets drier and you get thirsty quicker. Especially for long haul flights, the lack of hydration results in jet lag and lethargy so it is important to drink sufficient water or bring travel-sized moisturisers or facial mist to help you cope with the dry air.
Have you noticed that the Japanese wear masks on board flights? While a big part is hygiene-related, pre-pandemic, Japanese women do this as a method to keep their skin and lips moisturised.
5. Fly into Haneda Airport when you visit Tokyo
Haneda Airport. (Image credit: JNTO)
If you’re visiting Tokyo, consider flying into Haneda Airport instead of Narita Airport. Haneda Airport is considerably closer, and you’ll be able to reach Downtown Tokyo (東京) in around 20 to 30 minutes. Travelling from Narita Airport would take around 1.5 hours. The former can save you a lot of travelling time.
While Japan Airlines flies to both Haneda and Narita Airport, flights to Narita Airport are generally cheaper, so if it suits your budget and you have time to spare, consider flying into Narita Airport.
6. Use a luggage-forwarding service
(Image credit: Canva)
Navigating to your hotel on a crowded train or bus with your bulky luggage after a long flight can be very exhausting. In Japan, not every train station is conveniently equipped with escalators and elevators so you might end up lugging your heavy belongings up and down uncountable flights of stairs.
Using a luggage forwarding service like JAL ABC allows you to drop off your luggage and have it sent to your hotel. This allows you to start your holiday immediately after you land without the hassle of making a trip to your hotel to deposit your stuff first. Prices start from an affordable S$30, making it a practical and considerate service that allows for a carefree journey.
JAL ABC luggage forwarding service is conveniently located at arrivals at both Haneda and Narita Airport. Find out more here.
7. Japan is a great country for solo travellers
Traveling alone in Japan. (Image credit: Canva / bee32)
Due to the language barrier, Japan might not be a first choice if you’re travelling alone, but it is a phenomenally safe country. The convenient and extensive rail system makes solo travelling a breeze. If you’re ever lost, just head to the nearest train station and ask the friendly staff for directions. Google Translate works wonders.
Indication on the train platform for women-only section. (Image credit: Canva / AsianDream)
Did you know that there are women-only sections of a train? These sections are marked with pink stickers on the floor. If you’re a female travelling alone, look out for similar pink markers.
8. Go crazy in 100-yen stores
Singaporeans love Daiso (ダイソー) for their affordable S$2 price-point and extensive range of convenient quality products. In Japan, Daiso is well known for being one of the biggest 100-yen chain stores (100円ショップ hyaku-en shoppu). If you thought it couldn’t get any cheaper, at ¥100 it’s approximately S$1.30 making it significantly cheaper compared to its Singapore counterpart.
If you love wandering the aisles of Daiso and chancing upon knick-knacks, you should also check out other 100-yen-concept chain stores like Seria (セリア) and CanDo (キャンドゥ). The merchandise varies by store so there’s always something unique which makes for a different shopping experience each time.
9. Have a meal at a konbini
Shelf stocked full of snacks in a convenient store. (Image credit: JAL / Apple)
Konbini (コンビニ) is an abbreviation of the Japanese word konbiniensu sutoa (コンビニエンスストア), which directly translates to “convenience store” in English. Convenience stores in Japan are available along almost every street and open 24/7. When we mention convenience stores in Singapore, we probably can only think of 7-11 or Cheers. However, Japan’s convenience stores are rather extensive and include numerous leading chain-stores like 7-11, Lawson, Family Mart and Daily Yamazaki.
The cost of living in Japan is quite high and having constant meals at restaurants can really burn a hole in your pocket. There are some food courts in Japan, but these are not common or easy to find. Unlike Singapore where food courts and hawker centres are abundant, many locals in Japan who seek an affordable, quick and tasty meal turn to convenience stores. Most convenience stores have eat-in areas with seats and tables where you can take a short rest while you enjoy your food.
Selection of heart-warming oden. (Image credit: Canva / gyro)
The range of ready-to-eat food at a Japanese convenience store is extensive. You can find everything from heartwarming oden (おでん) to adorable matcha parfait and delicious katsu (カツ) sandwiches to beautifully prepared bento boxes. Remember to stop by a convenience store and savour its delicacies for yourself!
10. Enjoy the journey
Discovering Japan. (Image credit: JAL / Melissa)
As they say, “It’s not the destination, but the journey that matters.” Japan is a country that brings people of vastly different lifestyles together and it’s important to experience it wholeheartedly. Whether you’re combing second hand shops for the best vintage finds along Harajuku or wandering through torii gates in Kyoto (京都), approach your experiences slowly because it’s the journey that makes all the difference. Learn to appreciate the small things in life while embracing the similarities and differences in culture.
Header image credit: Canva / Kasto
Japan Airlines' Cabin Attendant Jennifer
Jennifer believes that travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer. She wishes to continue to Rome the world and hopes to have lots of pun while she’s at it.
Japan Airlines' Cabin Attendant Melissa
Melissa is passionate about photography because it turns beautiful moments into unforgettable memories.