Get the Cheapest Flight to Japan with FlightFox

FlightFox is a unique new Web startup that can save you a lot of money on your ticket to Japan.  For $29, you can save $100 or more on your ticket and possibly even get an upgrade.

Biz-classThe site is a marketplace that matches people who fly for fun (you and me) with expert frequent flyers who compete to find you the best, cheapest flight. Those guys know the deepest details of every airline and deliver more consistently than a travel agency can. They're so good that they booked a round-the-world trip on 6 continents for $1,730!

Here's how to use it:

1. Create a new "Contest" at with your destination and dates, like any other flight booking site.
2. Answer 4 simple questions about your flexibility and frequent flyer miles.
3. Set your bid price. International flights start at $29, but the higher you bid, the more attention you'll get from experts.
4. The flight experts all compete to find you the best and cheapest flight using their knowledge of how to avoid taxes, surcharges and fees and how to get you the most frequent flyer miles.
5. Pick the winner and book that flight! Congratulations, you've saved money.

FlightFox is my new favorite way to book a flight. I'm tired of searching on travel sites, and I happily pay $29 to have my own personal travel agency that works at my pace.

Go book your flight!

Can iPhone Be Used in Japan?

People love their iPhones, so I'm not surprised when visitors ask me if their phone will work in Japan.

White-iphone-japanPeople have heard that their cell phones won't work in Japan for a variety of reasons, but it's mostly old news. By now, just about any smartphone you buy can be made to work in Japan.

So yes, your iPhone can be used in Japan. 

Still, there are a few things to worry about if you do decide to bring your phone over, such as:

  • Which models work
  • Roaming fees
  • Data roaming
  • Changing your data usage
  • Why WiFi won't do

There's a lot to cover, so let's get down to it.

Continue reading “Can iPhone Be Used in Japan?”

6 Real Japanese Foods Not Found in America

Japanese%20VennSure, Americans love California rolls and teriyaki, but what do the Japanese make of those foods?

The LA Times put together a handy Venn diagram that shows what Americans (specifically, Los Angeles residents, or 'Angelenos') think to be Japanese food, and it's been compared to what native Japanese include in their own cuisine.

Sushi restaurant mainstays – like California rolls and mochi ice cream – were popular votes among Americans, as was teriyaki chicken, which is often served alongside the sushi at the same place.

Look at what the Japanese include in their own cuisine, though, and you'll find a few surprises. "Hamburg" is basically a hamburger patty served on its own and topped with a sauce. "Curry" is the same in substance to the Indian variety, but the flavor is closer to a beef stew than Chicken Tikka Masala.

Continue reading “6 Real Japanese Foods Not Found in America”

Things to Do: MUJI and Japanese Design

19muji-hodge-tmagArticleIf you're curious about product design, such as the work of Apple or Braun, you need to check out Muji, one of Japan's best-known shops. 

It's a company that carries itself with a very specific purpose, but it's hard to describe succinctly. Muji's mission is maybe best described as a philosophy that shuns lust and focuses on honesty and durability in products.

If you're in Tokyo, you can learn more about that philosophy at Found Muji, a new combination gallery/store that brings in things from around the world that inspire what Muji makes:

Housed in the Aoyama-area retail space where Muji’s first stand-alone store opened in 1983, Found Muji takes the company back to its roots.

Found Muji goes back to the source, showcasing traditional, vernacular and often handmade housewares and decorative objects that have inspired a multitude of Muji products, like metal bowls used for curry in India, Celadon pottery from Thailand, enamelware from France or feather dusters from Germany. Part gallery and part retail space, Found Muji reveals the origins of new Muji products, and highlights simple, useful wares from different cultures around the world. 

Continue reading “Things to Do: MUJI and Japanese Design”

Where to Eat in Japan: Restaurant Week!

Tokyo restaurant week 1Tokyo is a great city for eating with the most Michelin stars in the world. Right now, you can take advantage of the opportunity during Japan Restaurant Week, a promotion for dozens of the best restaurants in Tokyo, Osaka and Kobe. 

The cuisines covered are extensive and include Japanese teppanyaki, sushi, kaiseki, Kobe beef, fugu, Italian, French, Chinese, and even a few more past that.

Even though it's called Restaurant Week, it's actually weeks - three, to be exact. 

Another important number is eight. 7 restaurants featured in the Tokyo Michelin Guide are included in the bunch, and one from Osaka.

Participating restaurants offer lunch and dinners at set prices. Lunch is by far the cheapest, when you can eat at some of Japan's finest places for just 2,100 yen.Dinners are more expensive but still a relative bargain compared to what you'd usually pay at these places.

Prices are:
Lunch: 2,100 yen
Dinner: 5,250 yen or 7,350 (depending on the place)

Japan Restaurant Week runs from now through February 19, 2012.

via Japan Restaurant Week

Find cheap restaurants!

Get $3 beers and $7 dinners for a fulfilling evening under $10. Read the Konnichiwhoa Guide to where to eat in Japan.

Where to find free WiFi in Japan

With the proliferation of smartphones and lightweight laptops, many travelers wonder where to find free WiFi in Japan. We've found a map that can show you all of the WiFi hotspots in Japan, whether you're in the middle of the city or venturing out to a remote island.

Free wifi map in japanThe bad news, however, is that greater Tokyo offers less than 400 free WiFi access points. That's for a metropolis serving over 30 million people

The point is that free WiFi in Japan is very rare, and you should come prepared for that. If you stay in an expensive Western hotel, you may get lucky. But if you plan to stay in cheap hotels, you shouldn't bet on the free Internet access.

So, that leaves you with two options. You can pay for international data roaming and bring your smartphone or iPad 3G to Japan. The cheaper option is to go to an Internet cafe. Cafes are plentiful, convenient, comfortable and serve free drinks.

If you still want to try your luck with WiFi, visit the link below.

via Visit Japan LiveMap

Need a Japanese cell phone?

WiFi in Japan is hard to come across. If you need to communicate with people, you may want to rent a cell phone. Here's how to get a cell phone in Japan.

3 Must-Read iBooks About Japan

Apple announced today an overhaul of its iBooks offerings. While we're still waiting for that Japanese 101 textbook to appear online, here are three great iBooks about Japan that you can buy right now for your iPhone or iPad (or iPod Touch):

Tokyo Vice
Id419968301Editor's note: For adults only.

Publisher's blurb: Jake Adelstein is the only American journalist ever to have been admitted to the insular Tokyo Metropolitan Police Press Club, where for twelve years he covered the dark side of Japan: extortion, murder, human trafficking, fiscal corruption, and of course, the yakuza.

But when his final scoop exposed a scandal that reverberated all the way from the neon soaked streets of Tokyo to the polished Halls of the FBI and resulted in a death threat for him and his family, Adelstein decided to step down. Then, he fought back. In Tokyo Vice he delivers an unprecedented look at Japanese culture and searing memoir about his rise from cub reporter to seasoned journalist with a price on his head.

Blake says: The occasional self-indulgence aside (really? Do we need to know about your sex life, Jake?), the book is the best example of a gritty life intertwined with the yakuza. 

Continue reading “3 Must-Read iBooks About Japan”

Guide: iPad Data Plans for Japan

iPads are great for travel. You can watch movies on the plane, read tour guides, or even check your email from almost anywhere in the world. If you want to take your iPad to Japan, here's how:

15063-620x-ipad-japanYou should have a WiFi + 3G model
Free WiFi isn't very popular in Japan, so if you want to really enjoy your iPad abroad you need a model with 3G included. 

Don't go over your limit
Once you go over your data limit, prices get insanely expensive very quickly.  There are specific guides for both carriers below.

Save data, use sparingly
You don't get very much data for your money. Here are some tips for what you should and should not do:

Continue reading “Guide: iPad Data Plans for Japan”

5 Ways to Save Money in Japan

Congratulations on completing your first Japanese lesson! You deserve a reward for that.

Saving more money on your trip to Japan is always welcome. With that in mind, here are five of my best ways to shave the most money off the cost of a trip:

1. Save on the hotel. 
The hotel costs add up the quickest since your nightly rate is multiplied by however long you stay in Japan. Even in Tokyo, it’s possible to find cheap hotels or student hostels. You’ll feel like a backpacker, but it’s a great way to go cheaply.

Check Konnichiwhoa’s cheap Hotel Deals to see if there’s anything cheap for the time you want to go.

If there isn’t, try our favorite reservation sites. The JNTO is particularly good for hostels and the like.

My personal record is 2,800 yen per night. The room was tiny and the bath was shared, but it was great for a college trip.

2. Save on the flight. 
You can knock off several hundred dollars in one fell swoop if you book your flight cleverly. 

Like we mentioned on the Planning page, Japanese travel agencies will have what are called ‘deep-discount’ tickets that airlines themselves don’t publicize. They’ll acquire fewer frequent flier miles but they’ll be cheaper than the airlines’ own prices and they’ll frequently go on sale.

3. Save on trains with (or without!) a JR Pass.
The JR Pass is an unlimited-use train pass that lasts 1, 2 or 3 weeks. There’s a simple test for whether or not you need one:

If you are traveling out of Tokyo on a bullet train, you should get a JR Pass. It’s a complicated process, so pick one up in your home country before you leave.

4. Eat and shop at low-cost places.
Need sushi? A conveyor belt sushi shop could have you in and out, stuffed full of good sushi, for about $15. 

Need a quick snack? Try Lawson 100, the discount version of the popular convenience store that lowers prices because of deflation

Need a beer? Try a standing bar, where you could pay as little as $3 for a full draft Japanese beer because the bar can save money on space.

Need cheap tourist activities? Skimp on the expensive national museums and do temples instead. They’re much cheaper and very often free. Besides, the museums often have lots of Western art, and you came to Japan to see Japan

Avoid department stores – Japanese full retail price is often much more expensive than the same store overseas. I once saw my own $12 t-shirt on the rack at Tokyo’s only Banana Republic. It was selling for $86. That’s an extreme case, but you get the point. 

If you want Japanese fashion, shop at Uniqlo

5. Extreme saving: the Seishun Ju-hachi Kippu
The Seishun Ju-hachi Kippu, also known as the Seishun 18 Ticket, is a massive student discount that’s only available in July, August and December (to line up with various national holidays). For 11,500 yen (roughly $140) you get five days of unlimited travel that does not allow fast trains, so you travel much slower. That’s the price you pay for the crazy discount.

Here’s a quick comparison for a trip from Tokyo to Kyoto:

Bullet Train
Time: 2 hours
Price: 13,000 yen (one way) 

Seishun 18
Time: 9 hours
Price: 2,300 yen (one day of the pass) 

You can also split up the pass and give five people one day of unlimited travel. There are also regional passes that have similar offers to get around smaller areas of Japan, such as the northern Hokkaido island. 

If you’re seriously considering a Seishun 18, read the Wikitravel page for the ticket for full details.