Category Archives: Japan

Japan Trip Recap: Days 8 & 9- Tokyo

a red circle on a white background

We wrapped up our trip to Japan by spending the last two days in Tokyo.

While we got to see and do lots of great things there was also a bunch of things that we didn’t have time for. I was hoping to wander around more areas, visit the Japanese version of a $1 store and also planned to check out the Yomiuri Giants stadium (and possibly find tickets to a game). Our plans changed a bit when Kim got sick after lunch during the last day of our trip.

It was really awful that she got sick but in some ways we were lucky. If Kim had caught something in the middle of the trip it could’ve cost us a few days and not just a half day.
It really made me think about how easily plans could get ruined in an instant by stomach bug or multiple other illnesses.

Even with this problem we still had a nice (more or less) 2 days in Tokyo.

Here are some of the things we did:

  • Pizzeria Da Isa
  • Meiji Shrine- Large torii
  • Meguro Parasitological Museum
  • Shibuya Crossing- Tokyo Times Square at night
  • Tsukiji Fish Market
  • Sushi restaurant at market

Some Tasty Local Finds At McDonald’s In Japan

a restaurant with a sign on the front
At home I rarely eat at McDonald’s. However, when traveling to a foreign country, McDonald’s is a must visit on my list. I like going for a few reasons.
  1. Sample the local menu items
  2. Free WiFi (usually)
  3. Sometimes you just want to eat something familiar when traveling

On our trip to Japan I was curious to see if McDonald’s sold a McSushi, McBentoBox or McTempura. They didn’t sell any of those items but did have a couple of locally- inspired items that I had to try.

a close up of a burger
Shrimp Burger
a close up of food

The Local Menu Items:

  • I had noticed the Ebi Filet-O right away when looking over the menu during out first McDonald’s visit. The ebi is a breaded, ground-up shrimp burger. It is available after breakfast hours. Shrimps seem to be available everywhere you go in Japan so a shrimp burger on the menu was a great idea.
  • I was surprised to not see any other interesting, local menu items until we stopped into McD’s one morning for a quick breakfast in Kyoto. While looking over the menu, I came across the Bacon Potato Pie. I ordered it as a side. I wasn’t sure what this item had to do with Japan but I still had to give it a try.
Thoughts About the Local Items:
a close-up of a fast food restaurant
a chicken burger with a bite taken out of it
Shrimp Burger

I’ve had shrimps in McDonald’s in the past. The first time was in Estonia but they were fried shrimp not made into a ground up burger. I was excited to see what this Japanese Ebi tasted like. The ebi had a mild yet tasty shrimp flavor and the breading was very good too. The shrimps weren’t ground up like a burger would be. You can actually see the little pieces of shrimp that make up the patty. The sandwich is served on a seeded bun with lettuce and a cream sauce. The sauce was very good but a little more sauce would’ve made the ebi taste even better.

Overall I really enjoyed this item. I had it two times and would’ve liked to have had it once more before heading home. If this was on the menu at home I’d be sure to visit McDonald’s for an ebi sandwich at times.

a food on a book
a food on a paper
Bacon Potato Pie

On one of our train rides we saw someone eating McDonald’s pancakes. They looked and smelled really good. At our first few hotels breakfast was included but when we got to Kyoto it wasn’t so we headed over to McD’s and I knew what I planned to get.

After placing my order for pancakes I skimmed over the breakfast menu a little more. To my surprise there was an item that I’ve never seen before. I went ahead and ordered a Bacon Potato Pie not knowing what to expect. The pie came out in a package just like the McDonald’s fruit pies. I was really impressed with this item. The outside of the pie was crispy and the potato inside was really creamy and flavorful. The bacon was mild and added a bit of a smokey taste.

I’d definitely recommend trying the Bacon Potato Pie if you are in Japan. If this was sold at home I don’t think that I would go out of my way to eat it but I’d recommend it if you end up in Japan.

If you’ve ever came across an interesting McDonald’s item while traveling, feel free to share what it was below.

Check out a couple of other McDonald’s posts:

Check out post about the first half of our trip to Japan:
Keep checking back for posts about the rest of our trip to Japan.

How I Upgraded To First Class for 7500 Miles

a close-up of a logoYesterday I shared some details about our upcoming trip to Japan. I mentioned that we were flying from NYC to Japan on American Airlines. We booked using some of our miles.

However, I didn’t mention how many miles it cost us because it’s a bit of a long story.

Our flight was originally booked back in December. The flight from JFK- Tokyo in business class cost us 100,000 AAdvantage miles per person. We each received a Citi 10% award redemption bonus for having Citi AA credit cards. This came out to 10,000 miles being returned to each of us so now our flight was costing only 90,000 miles.

In February I called the AAdvantage Awards Desk looking for a flight with a later return date. If seats were available we would have two extra days in Japan. After some searching I was told that seats were available for the date I had requested in First Class for 7,500 miles more than the business class seats.
Continue reading How I Upgraded To First Class for 7500 Miles

Progress In Planning: We’re Heading To Japan

a red circle on a white background
We’ll be leaving on our next international trip a week from today and we’re almost finished planning all of the details. The funny thing is that we first booked our flight back in December and then made some (free) changes to our itinerary in February. Since then, we hadn’t done anything towards planning this trip up until two weeks ago.
Our destination is Japan, a country that we’ve considered visiting for years now. We’ve been to Tokyo’s Narita Airport two times but never got to step outside. Some might consider this a visit but we definitely don’t.
We were very close to booking a trip to Japan in 2011. Our options for Spring Break came down to Chile or Japan. Japan always seemed to be a distant second choice though. The possibilities of visiting Easter Island and Patagonia were too hard to pass up so Chile won.
The main reason we were considering Japan was the very fair mileage redemption option to book the flight to get us there..

The Travel Ninja Sweepstakes

a red background with white text

The Japan National Tourism Organization is sponsoring a fun sweepstakes.

The Travel Ninja $100/ Day Challenge is being run through Facebook.To play you get to create and share your own $100 day in Japan. For playing along, you could win a trip for two.

The Prize: A trip for the winner and a guest to Tokyo

  • Coach airfare from the U.S. to Tokyo
  • Four night hotel stay, double occupancy
  • Airport transfers to/ from hotel
  • Some meals are also included

Trip must be booked by March 25, 2013 with departure from U.S. by June 30, 2013
To Enter:

  • “Like” the Visit Japan Facebook page
  • Follow instructions to complete the entry form
  • Additional entries can be earned based on number of Facebook comments, likes and shares

Open to legal residents of the 50 United States and D.C.
Must be at least 13 years of age at time of entry

Enter by December 30, 2012 at 8:59AM PT

Create your $100 day in Japan and enter for a chance to win a trip to Tokyo HERE

ANA Dream Match Campaign- Win A Flight to Japan

a poster of a plane and a couple of containers

ANA is running a sweepstakes called the Dream Match Campaign

The campaign was created to

  1. Introduce the Boeing 787 on the Seattle route
  2. Announce that ANA is flying twice daily from New York
  3. The launching of a new route from San Jose

In the campaign 22 prizes will be given out. The top prize is a round trip ticket to Japan.

To Enter

You play a card matching game. If you clear the cards within 60 seconds you qualify for the prizes. You can play the game as many times as you like until you clear the cards.
Only the first entry will count towards the drawing.
(The game was pretty easy and I cleared the cards on my first try)

a screenshot of a game

The Prizes: 

  • Two winner will receive a round trip ticket to Tokyo
  • Ten winners will win a Boeing 787 model plane
  • Ten winners will receive a Inspiration of Japan logo tumbler cup

Open to legal resident of the U.S., Canada and Mexico
Must be 18 years of age or older to enter
Contest ends December 31, 2012

Enter the ANA Dream Match Campaign HERE

Japan Earthquake/ Tsunami Anniversary & EYE SEE Photo Project

a green plant growing out of the ground

March 11 marked the one year anniversary of the horrible and destructive earthquake that led to a tsunami in Japan last year. Over 16,000 people lost their lives and over 3,000 are missing.
The disaster wrecked the Fukushima Power Plant where reactor meltdowns led to the the worst nuclear crisis since Chrenobyl. This caused 326,000 people to become homeless in the affected region. They may never be able to go back to their homes again. The Japaneses government have also created a 20 mile no-go zone around power plant.

Last year while figuring out where to go over spring vacation, my wife and I narrowed our choices down to Japan and Chile.
They both had really good flight availability for award bookings with our airline miles. We went back and forth with deciding on which country to choose. On March 10 we made our decision. We booked our tickets to Chile in late afternoon. I guess we chose the right place to go as the next morning I woke up to hear the news of the disaster in Japan.

a wrecked car in a field

While watching the news last week, I came across a really interesting segment about a joint project between UNICEF and Sony. The project is called EYE SEE UNICEF Digital Photography Project For Children. It took places in 3 towns within the affected area of the Japan earthquake & tsunami- Iwate, Miyagi & Fukushima.

The project includes 27 children from elementary to junior high school. Through workshops, the children learn about photography from an Italian professional photographer. The children learned to express their feelings through the pictures. “Through their photos, you can directly feel what they felt and thought of in their daily life. There are many things we can find out through children’s “EYE SEE””.

a close-up of a plant
There will be a special exhibition at UNICEF House in NYC of the children’s photos until the end of May. UNICEF House is located at 44th Street between 1st & 2nd Avenue.

To find out more about the EYE SEE UNICEF photo project, click here

***Photos in this post are from the EYE SEE project.

Japan Centennial Celebration Getaway Sweepstakes

I am sure many of us were hoping to be one of the 10,000 picked for a free trip to Japan. That deal did not go as planned and was not approved by the governmet. You can read about it in a post I wrote in December, here.

Here is another chance to win a trip to Japan. In this sweepstakes you get to read through six itineraries and pick your favorite to enter for a chance to win.

Spring 2012 will be a special season as it marks the centennial anniversary of Japan’s Gift of Trees to the U.S. To celebrate this anniversary, we’re giving you and a guest the chance to explore Japan inside and out. Read through all 6 itineraries, pick your favorite, and enter for your chance to win your dream vacation!

Here are the trip options:

  1. Heritage: Tea ceremonies, ancient shrines, majestic castles. Discover the ancient customs and traditions of Japanese culture
  2. Indulgence: Submerge yourself in a natural bubbling hot spring as you sip some of Japan’s finest, locally brewed sake. This is just the beginning of Japanese luxury.
  3. Gourmet: From the street food to the Michelin-rated, excite your palette with some of Japan’s finest culinary masterpieces.
  4. Adventure: A trip worthy for any thrillseeker. Japan challenges you to find better powder snow on the globe. Ski or snowboard your way to an adrenaline-filled getaway.
  5. Modern Art: The Japanese aesthetic influences some of the finest art and architecture. For the true tastemakers and cool-hunters, this trip is for you.
  6. Pop Culture/ Anime: You know exactly what it means to be an “otaku”. Gadgets, video games, anime and more await you on the colorful streets of Akihabara and beyond.

For me the choice was easy. I would love to do the Heritage trip. How can you go wrong visiting castles, shrines, temples and palaces- visiting five World Heritage Sites along the way. I really love site-seeing and exploring a country so this trip is perfect for me. My second choice would most likely be the Gourmet trip.

Here are some rules for the sweepstakes:

  • The award trip must be booked by March 31, 2012 and completed by June 31, 2012
  • The Japan Centennial Celebration Sweepstakes is open to legal residents of the 50 states of the US and DC.
  • Entry closes on February 29, 2012
  • Approximate retail value of trip is $5,000

For a chance to win a trip to Japan, Click Here

Star Alliance: ANA Dreamliner Photos Added To Facebook

a plane taking off from a runway

Star Alliance added some great pictures of the ANA Dreamliner from Saturday January 21 2012 as it saw the first passenger long haul flight from Tokyo to Frankfurt. Some photos are from a ceremony held at Frankfurt Airport celebrating the Dreamliner’s first departure back to Japan.

Here are a few of the photos:

a plane flying in the sky
a model airplane with a bow
I’d love one of these models
a cake with a sign on it
a jet plane on a runway

To check out the full album, click here

***All  photos in this post are from the Star Alliance Facebook Album***

Japan: 10,000 Free Flights For Foreigners- Not Approved

I post this with great disappointment… When it was announced that Japan would try to help the economy and jump start it’s tourism industry by possibly offering 10,000 free flights to foreigners, I got pretty excited. I started thinking where I would want to go and what itinerary I would propose on my application…

I read a short while ago that this program was not approved as part of  the government draft budget of 2012.

I haven’t made it out of the airport in Japan but do plan to visit someday. A free flight would’ve been great motivation to go!
While looking into trip ideas for spring break this past year, we had narrowed our options to Japan and Chile. Both were available for really great deals using miles. After going back and forth with our options, my wife and I decided to go with Chile. We booked our flights to Chile on March 10 and I woke up to news of the devastating earthquake that had just hit Japan. It looked like our choice would’ve been made for us by mother nature had we not decided the day before!

Here is the press release from the Japan Tourism Agency:

”Fly to Japan! Project”(10,000 FREE FLIGHTS TO FOREIGNERS)

The project titled Fly to Japan! (to offer flight tickets to 10,000 foreigners with high potential to communicate Japan’s attractions), which had been covered in a number of media in autumn this year, was not approved as a governmental draft budget of FY 2012.

We express our hearty gratitude to a multitude of people for offering inquiries and messages to support Japan after its coverage.

As the recovery from the earthquake is an ongoing urgent task, Japan has been vigorously working towards its restoration with the support from the world. Almost all of Japan has been back to normal and ready to welcome visitors. We are sincerely looking forward to having you to see Japan with your own eyes.

Japan Tourism Agency and Japan National Tourism Organization would like to inform you of the events and promotions in 2012. If you are interested, please register as a Visit Japan fan from the site below:

I do wonder if the Fly To Japan program was just a publicity stunt to get people interested and talking about Japan again. Then again, I am sure the money that would’ve been used to fund this program will go to use in rebuilding and helping the people of Japan.