Flight Deal: Air Canada from West Coast, $454

Air Canada 747. Image courtesy diplomatinvestissement.comThe flights keep getting cheaper!  The deal-seekers at SlickDeals.net (which I usually use for electronic gadgets and such) are starting to take advantage of cheap flights. (Maybe Akihabara's starting to look like a cheap place to shop again?)

Writes SlickDeals user musicabrutal:

$454 all-in, flight from SFO/LAX/SEA > NRT (Tokyo, Japan)
Want to head to Tokyo for a fun trip across the Pacific? Want to do it for less than $500 for the flight? Here's your opportunity:

Default routing is sfo-yvr-nrt [Editor's note: San Francisco – Vancouver – Tokyo] on Air Canada (Founding UA/Star Alliance Member, so miles are 100% transferable to/from UA)

Use the flexible date search on Orbitz… Departure Mon-Thur until June 30 – return Tue-Fri before July 29.

musicabrutal was even nice enough to include an example link to give would-be travelers an idea of what to search for.  Good catch!

Read more at the SlickDeals forums.

Hotel Deal: The Four Seasons!

Four Seasons Tokyo It's Friday, so why not let loose a little?  Sure, the Four Seasons hotel might not be the cheapest hotel around – you could do three nights in a hostel for the price of one night here – but a slack in demand has made rooms cheaper even at one of the fanciest spots in Tokyo.

The asking price for a twin is 18,480 yen.  Split that with a friend or loved one and you're talking $92 a night in a rare luxury hotel with a decidedly European theme. 

If I have cash left over, I like to splurge on my last night's hotel as a way of getting some rest after the exhaustion of a long vacation.  Thankfully, prices are falling on luxury hotels quicker than the cheap spots, even in Tokyo. 

Check out the Four Seasons Tokyo website, and if you decide to bite, make your reservation online at Japanican.

Things to Do: Shibuya

Shibuya Crossing Shibuya's the place that most quickly comes to mind when people think of Tokyo.  Shibuya Crossing is often considered Tokyo's Times Square, with its throngs of pedestrians and stacks of large advertisement screens.  It's also home to a lot of Tokyo's youth culture, with tons of entertainment and fashion crammed into a pretty small space.  

 

With that in mind, here are the five essential activities for Shibuya, which could easily take care of an entire day of your vacation:

 

1. Hachiko
When you arrive at Shibuya Station, make sure you take the Hachiko exit.  This will put you in the famous spot pictured here.  The Hachiko area is a popular meeting spot, so you'll see lots of people standing around waiting.  By the way, Hachiko's a dog with a fantastic story – make sure you find his statue!

Continue reading “Things to Do: Shibuya”

Hotel Deal: Single in Tsukiji, $63

Ginza Capital Hotel in Tsukiji Don't be mistaken by the name Ginza Capital Hotel – it's a bit away from the haute couture shops of the Ginza district.  It's actually in Tsukiji, home of the famous fish market.

Which makes it all the cooler that solo travelers can stay in such a great location for just $63 a night.  That's a steal in central Tokyo for a full-service hotel. 

There's one downside – no in-room Internet access – but that's all the more reason why you should spend your time out exploring Tokyo and just hitting up an Internet cafe when you need to unwind.

The hotel has an English website with info, but for the cheap price you'll want to make your reservation on Japanican.

Flight Deal: From Atlanta, $704 + tax

Atlanta skyline If you're a Konnichiwhoa reader and you're from Atlanta, I haven't had you covered very well – until now.  How about a cheap flight to Tokyo this summer for a mere $704 (probably just under 800 after tax)?

Like yesterday's flight deal, if you're able to book your ticket this week, you can take advantage of that price all the way through the end of August, letting you take advantage of a cheap summer vacation overseas. 

The deal comes from travel agency Sankei, and their website is all in Japanese.  But if you email or call them, they'll answer you in English.

The email address is on the website, and their phone number is 1-800-225-7479.

Flight Deal: United from D.C., $872

Cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C. Image courtesy dckaleidoscope.wordpress.com/2009/03/05/ Here's a good one: a nonstop flight to Tokyo on United from Washington, D.C. for $872 after taxes and fees.

It's advertised as a fare of $714, but they estimate another $158 in taxes, fees and the fuel surcharge.  That price is good for flights all summer long, and after August 31 prices go up higher. 

The summer's shaping up to be a cheap one for vacations to Japan, and cheap nonstop flights are a bonus.  As the Konnichiwhoa Guide says:

The fewer layovers you have, the fewer times you have to have your
luggage inspected, take off your shoes, show people your tickets and
passport, stop to eat expensive airport food, and turn your iPod off
then on again.  Plus, it's a shorter trip, and who doesn't love that?

If you're a more experienced traveler, there are also deals for flights to Osaka and Nagoya, too.  But be quick – the deal expires this Friday, May 15.  Get the details and make reservations at H.I.S. Travel.

Swine Flu Hits Japan

Quarantine officials at Narita Airport. Image (c) The Associated Press It's arrived!  Swine Flu is officially Big in Japan. 

The first cases were confirmed on Friday when three Americans arrived in Japan shortly after a trip to Canada.  

Flights arriving from afflicted countries are being quarantined and health inspectors are stepping on board to examine everyone on board.  Those exposed to the virus are being quarantined in "a facility near the airport" for 10 days, reports the AP.

If you're going to Japan soon, expect to be held on board your airplane for a short while, and be able to list a contact person or hotel for where you'll be staying.  Without this info the health officials at immigration may be hesitant to let you into the country. 

It's probably a good idea to pack a pocket-size notebook with phone numbers and addresses for the places you'll be staying.

By the way, the Keyword English for hand sanitizer gel is "alcohol gel," and it's normally sold at pharmacies, but supplies might be short right now.  Highly recommended.

Read the full story at the New York Times.

Happy Golden Week!

Okinawa beach This week is Golden Week, a string of national holidays in Japan.  It began this last weekend and continues through Wednesday.  Many Japanese get to take additional days off around Golden Week, so some people may not go in to work at all this week. 

Major tourist spots are full of native Japanese visitors, which makes it fun to check out big landmarks like Senso-ji Temple or the Mori Tower.  And it's crowded!  When a metropolis of 35 million people goes on vacation, things get a little crazy.

Lots of people take their big vacations now, like to the beaches of Okinawa (pictured) or to Korea, Taiwan or Hong Kong. 

Still, there are plenty of people left in the city, and thankfully there are tons of local festivals and events to accomodate fun-seekers in every neighborhood.

I, for one, found a deal on an airline flight I couldn't refuse.  So, hello from Tokyo!  The weather's beautiful and the food is delicious.

Things to Do: A Night Out in Naka-meguro

Naka-meguro, Tokyo. Image by Ko Sasaki for The New York Times. If you need a break from the complete chaos of a night in Shibuya, Shinjuku or Roppongi but still want to see an active part of Tokyo, try Naka-meguro.  A town split by the Meguro River, it's emerged as a hotspot for "see and be seen" types.  Writes The New York Times:

“It’s a hub of celebrities, musicians, designers and comedians,” said Fraser Cooke, who moved to Nakameguro from London
three years ago to work as Nike’s global-brand energy leader. “It’s
tipped as a major hot spot in the design community, more foreigners
live here than ever before, and there’s new restaurants popping up
everywhere.”

The Times' travel guides usually have pretty expensive tastes, but the paper's look at Naka-meguro highlights some pretty affordable restaurants and shops.  And it also conveys the neighborhood's unique take on everything, like a coffee shop that turned the back half of an old Citroen into a cafe counter. 

“It’s gotten so that the locals don’t even leave anymore,” said Hideaki Ishii, who runs a clothing shop in the area.  Ishii's quote may be the best sign of all that Naka-meguro is worth the visit, even more than the countless celebs who mention the place when asked where they like to hang out. 

The best travel is about integrating with local people instead of going point-to-point, taking pictures of famous places and seeing nothing else.  Japan offers a really unique opportunity to be amongst the locals – so when in Tokyo, do as the Tokyoites do. 

Read Still Hip After the Blossoms Fade in Tokyo at The New York Times.

Flight Deal: Delta from Salt Lake City, discounted

Delta Airlines Boeing 777. Image courtesy Delta Airlines. Delta Airlines is starting up a new non-stop flight from Salt Lake City to Tokyo, and to celebrate lots of travel agencies are discounting tickets on the first flights.

IACE, for example, is taking $50 off.  The trip should normally cost around $700 after taxes and fees, so that brings it to about $650 for a roundtrip. 

The deal applies for flights in June, because the route starts flying on June 3.

Expats haven't had much to say about Delta's flights to Asia (because the flights haven't started yet), so it's best to study up on Airplane Yoga just in case.

People who want to give the new Delta flight a spin should book by April 30 (that's today!) to get the discount.  Use discount code SLC016.  Check IACE Travel for the details.