Magic in Japan: Getting There – JAL First Class

a box with a bow and a bowl of sauce and chopsticks on a tray
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Trip Report:

Getting There – JAL First Class
Hotel Review: Ritz-Carlton Tokyo
Guide to Tsukiji Fish Market
Room Service Review: Ritz-Carlton Tokyo
Day in Tokyo
Taking the Shinkansen “Bullet” Train
Hotel Review: Ritz-Carlton Kyoto
Tea at the Ritz-Carlton Kyoto
Day 1 in Kyoto
Day 2 in Kyoto
Room Service Review: Ritz-Carlton Kyoto
Park Hyatt Tokyo Revisited
Getting to Hiroshima
Hotel Review: Sheraton Hiroshima
Day trip to Miyajima
Day in Hiroshima
St. Regis Osaka
Day in Osaka

Soon I’d be in Tokyo, and I was getting there in the most awesome way I could think of – First class on Japan Airlines.

I’d booked a partner award with American Airlines for 62,500 AAdvantage miles on the nonstop JAL flight from Chicago to Tokyo. Oh, and $5.60. So the total cost for my husband and I to fly in first class on a 12-hour Japan Airlines flight to Narita was 125,000 AAdvantage miles, plus $11.20. What a steal!

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I spent a little time in the lounge before the flight so when I got to the gate an Agent saw me by the First sign and quickly came over to open the tape.

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I took my seat in 1A and my husband sat across from me in 1G.

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I noted that the pillow was Tempur-Pedic, very cool. Even though JAL has introduced a new 777 First Class product, the Tempur-Pedic pillow and mattresses are the same. I was thoroughly impressed so I’m not surprised they kept those.

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The fun started almost immediately. Once I’d been given pajamas I went to go change in the lav and saw a helpful sign typical of the Japanese hospitality I’d be experiencing. There was a small shelf that could be pulled down to step on while getting dressed so you didn’t have to stand on the floor. The Japanese really think of everything, it seems.

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Back at my seat I was offered some bubbly to celebrate the start of the trip, and menus were handed out.

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My husband preferred the American options for the meal, but I chose the Japanese cuisine.

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I couldn’t help having the “American” appetizer though, which was Caviar. Yum.

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I then switched back to the Japanese menu.

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Each course was served on a flat, round plate that sat on top of my napkin-covered tray. In addition, everything was presented so beautifully! The small dishes arrived inside trays fit in a specially covered box complete with gold bow that felt like I was unwrapping a present. Japanese cuisine really is a treat. I would really rather have small samplings of several dishes rather than one huge one, and Japanese meals give me exactly that. Just enough to taste and enjoy without getting too full on one course.

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The little dishes were a feast for the eyes as well as the mouth.

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After the meal, the flight attendant offered cheeses and sweets but I declined politely. She tried again with a basket of snacks. I honestly had no clue what anything was at first glance, so I just picked one to try.

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It turned out to be salty squid (I think) and a dried plum (again, I think).

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While the flight attendant was making up the bed, I took a look in the amenity pouch, which contained extra items that I don’t usually find in airline kits – an eye refresher mask and a face moisturizing mask.

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When getting ready for bed, the flight attendants were unable to get my husband’s seat fully flat. They took the thing apart trying desperately to fix it but to no avail.


It wasn’t a big deal for us at all since the 1st cabin only had two other people in there and he just moved over to the window seat on the right side, but the flight attendants took the inconvenience seriously. They were extremely sorry that we weren’t able to sleep next to each other, and gave him Â¥50,000 worth in JAL coupons (close to 410 USD). He originally refused the certificates since it really wasn’t a bother at all but they insisted. What excellent customer service.

I think JAL is the only airline that has Tempur-Pedic mattresses on their beds, and they offer both a soft and a harder option. The mattress is nice and thick too, which I found great for sleep.

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The crew was stellar, the food delicious, bed more than comfortable,… my only disappointment was that the flight seemed to go too quickly. Does anyone else wish their flight was longer? I know I’ll sound crazy to some readers.

After landing in Tokyo the next step was to get to the Ritz-Carlton Tokyo in Roppongi Hills. A Taxi would have been way too expensive. I’d taken Japan Rail before which required changing trains at Tokyo station, but this time decided to take the Limousine Bus. The cost was Â¥3000 one-way (about 24 USD). Even though I generally prefer trains to buses, the nice thing about the Limousine Bus is that it stops directly in front of most of the big hotels in town. No walking required.

As far as I know you can’t buy tickets in advance but it was very easy to buy them at the airport. I bought ours at the ticket counter and had a little bit of time before the bus was arriving. Down on the basement level where the buses leave from there was a small convenience shop, possibly a 7-11. I had fun perusing the aisles and purchased a couple drinks and snack items before going outside to wait for the bus.

DrinksChoices, choices

Bus destinations were clearly marked in English to show which bus left from which area.


I went to go wait in the general area for the Roppongi Limousine bus.


Not long after I had been waiting, I was gently pointed in the direction of a sign on the pillar that I had overlooked. It indicated that the lines on the sidewalk were not just for show, and I had been standing incorrectly with my feet splayed on either side of the lines and my suitcase in the third lane. Those who were waiting for the very next bus were to stand in the lane designated with the number 1, second bus in the lane marked with number 2, and those waiting for future buses were supposed to stand against the wall.


My eyes quickly swept over the pavement and sure enough, people were tidily within one lane or another. Oops. I adjusted my stance so that I’d be in the right lane.


Suitcases weren’t exempt either so when the bus pulled up it was easy for the attendant to know which suitcases to load by taking them only from the pile carefully lined up closest to the bus. It was all very efficient and orderly.


If there was any doubt about whether I was getting on the right bus or not, English was included on the bus sign.


Soon it was our turn and after our suitcases were loaded we got onboard and the bus pulled out onto the road.


Due to Friday night traffic, it took about 2 hours to get from Narita airport to the Ritz-Carlton Tokyo via Limousine bus. At first we were zooming along, but the last couple blocks the bus crawled along at a snail’s pace.


I may have studied the inside of my eyelids for a few minutes, and then suddenly we were there.

Next up – Hotel Review: Ritz-Carlton Tokyo

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  1. Nice report, however, the Ritz Carlton Tokyo is not in Roppongi Hills, it’s in Tokyo Midtown in Akasaka.

    1. Weltall, I typically associate the Ritz with Roppongi since it is the closest subway station. The Ritz’ website says the hotel is located in Roppongi district and Akasaka looks to be a bit further away but thank you for the clarification.

  2. I was curious. I know it sounds stupid but was this trip recent? I was looking at the CP presenting the DOM and her uniform is the old one. I have a few family members who are crew for JL and verified with me thats the old uniform. I am just curious cause if it was a recent trip and the CP had that on as her serving jacket, I wonder if there was a reason for it. I thought it was weird to see a pic of the old uniform but you described the vouchers and the value conversion and that in line with how the yen=dollar has been lately. Not when that uniform was being used. I was trying to channel my encyclopedia brown but broke down and just had to ask! Thanks for the reports.

    1. Sam, the trip and writing was recent but when I don’t have a good pic of something I’m writing about I either include a photo from a previous trip or use a stock photo. When using stock photos I always credit to the source though. Thanks for asking, and for reading along!

  3. Nice post as is the one on the Tokyo Ritz. If you are still at the Ritz, go to “Meat Man” for dinner before you leave. It’s a 5 minute walk and it’s fantastic. Have fun!

  4. Isn’t there any JAL Limo Service for First Class pax to the Ritz Carlton?
    Why are you taking a shuttle bus?

    1. Tony A, Unlike Emirates or Etihad I believe those traveling on award tickets are excluded from using JAL’s complimentary Limo Service.
      I’d love to be wrong, though. 🙂

    1. How cool PointsMD, did the flight attendant give you one? They’re a work of art that’ll bring a smile to your face when you drink from it and remember your trip.

  5. Great review! Thanks for the post.

    May I ask if JL allows you to order your meal in advance? Or was it not necessary? I love small dishes in general. Japanese food is just perfect for me.

    I guess they didn’t mind serving you two appetizers. 🙂

    1. Thanks JW. JAL does allow pre-ordering meals (for the first meal only), but I didn’t find it necessary at all. They didn’t mind at all serving me two appetizers, which I was very appreciative of. 🙂 They do have tons of choices when done in advance though and here’s a handy link, just scroll all the way to the bottom – http://www.jal.co.jp/en/inflight/inter/first/f_meal/

  6. Great review — I’m on JAL F LAX-NRT in a few months and can’t wait (I want to compare it with Cathay’s excellent F). How was the IFE by the way?

    1. Michael, Wifi is usually more important to me than IFE and JAL has wifi, while Cathay does not. I watch the occasional movie though and JAL was more than fine for that. Have a wonderful trip and thanks for reading!

  7. yea! We did this trip 2 years ago – can’t wait to read the next installment. We had a blast and I bet you did too

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