Category Archives: Trip reports

The Milelion’s RTW Trip 2017: Westin LAX Review

Introduction: It’s the most wonderful time of the year
A Tale of Two Lounges: SATS Premier T2 and the Qantas SIN Lounge
Malaysia Airlines B737 Business Class SIN-KUL
Malaysia Airlines Business Class Golden Lounge KUL
Malaysia Airlines A330  Business Class KUL-NRT
Japan Airlines Business Class Sakura Lounge NRT
Japan Airlines B77W Business Class NRT-LAX
The Westin LAX
The Westin Westminster
Aloft Boston Seaport
The Consolidated AA Domestic First Class Experience
American Airlines Flagship Lounge JFK
American Airlines B772 Business Class JFK-LHR
American Airlines Arrivals Lounge LHR
The Great Northern Hotel, London
Sheraton Grand London Park Lane
Westin Paris Vendome
Courtyard by Marriott Madrid Princesa
Four Points by Sheraton Barcelona Diagonal
The Consolidated Intra-Europe Business Class Experience
Sheraton Casablanca
The Casablanca Lounge CMN
Royal Air Maroc B737 Business Class CMN-ACC
Labadi Beach Hotel, Accra
Ethiopian Airlines B772 Business Class ACC-ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Cloud 9 Business Class Lounge ADD
Ethiopian Airlines B737 Business Class ADD-DAR
Protea Hotel by Marriott Dar Es Salaam Courtyard
Tanzanite Lounge DAR
Qatar Airways A320 Business Class DAR-DOH
Westin Doha
Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways A350 “First” Class DOH-DXB
The Grosvenor House Dubai
W Doha
Qatar Airways B772 Business Class DOH-BLR
The Ritz Carlton Bangalore
Cathay Dragon Lounge Bangalore
Cathay Dragon A330 Business Class BLR-HKG
W Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific’s HKG Lounges
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class HKG-SIN


We had a one night stopover in LAX before heading over to Denver on Sunday afternoon. If you’re flying with Oneworld, Denver is surprisingly inaccessible from Singapore and requires a minimum of two stops (one stop access is possible with Star Alliance via Lufthansa in Frankfurt).

EDIT: It is possible to access Denver through Oneworld (BA in particular) with one stop in LHR

I had previously reviewed the Sheraton Gateway LAX the last time I was in LA, so I decided to give the Westin LAX a go this time round. The Westin LAX is actually slightly further from the airport than the Sheraton, but what that really means is an additional 5 minutes in a cab (or in one of the free shuttle buses)

Let’s be clear that neither property is going to be winning hotel of the year anytime soon. They’re both very old (Westin LAX: 1986, Sheraton LAX: 1981), and although both have received renovations since opening (Westin LAX: 2010, Sheraton LAX: 2006), you’d be hard pressed to tell from the exteriors.

Image result for sheraton gateway lax

Image result for westin lax

Nonetheless, it was just for one night and all I really needed was a place to sleep while we explored a bit of LA. And at US$160 a night all in, it was hard to go wrong.

There’s nothing really exciting about the Westin LAX. It’s best to think of it as a functional, clean airport hotel. As you might expect, it’s frequented by air crews (I counted no fewer than 5 different airlines, proud at my ability to tell cabin crew outfits apart)

The lobby is spacious, I presume to deal with the large inflow of guests that happens during peak check in and out times. I also spotted conference facilities. Nothing says business like a conference at an airport hotel.

The main restaurant in the hotel is in the lobby. I did not partake.

Check in was smooth (I like how most American hotels have turned check ins and outs to non-events. Most of the times when I check out at a US hotel we’re done in less than 10 seconds. Asian properties, however, need to run through a whole checklist of items including radioing someone to go to your room to make sure you’ve not purloined any items) and I was upgraded to a Club Room.

Club Room upgrades are par the course for US-based SPG properties, where suite upgrades are close to unheard of. I find Asian properties a lot more generous with the suite upgrades, on the other hand. Since Club Rooms had breakfast included by virtue of being able to access the club lounge, I opted for the 500 points as the welcome gift.

The room is as standard as any airport hotel room will ever be, so just a quick tour will suffice.

The bed is, thankfully, a Westin Heavenly Bed. I have been debating long and hard about buying one for my own home.

There’s a spacious work desk that has winning features like dedicated USB charging ports. No universal plugs though, which is disappointing for a hotel ostensibly targeted at business travelers. Are universal plug heads that hard to install? Or is it more of a voltage issue, and hotels don’t want to be held accountable for things like that. Hmmm.

Lounge chair by the window, with suspicious stains on upholstery.

Flat screen TV came standard, along with 100+ channels of solid American entertainment. You haven’t lived till you’ve seen Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. Wouldn’t it be crazy if some reality TV star one day ran for president? I’m just being silly now.

The bathroom reminded me of the type where Walt and Jesse dissolve bodies.

Fun fact kids, Mythbusters already took care of this

Westin seems to have a new line of toiletries, or at least updated the packaging of the existing ones. I think that the Westin and Sheraton have major branding issues when it comes to toiletries, it’s such a missed opportunity for some upscale cosmetics brand to step in and get a huge business traveler reach.

The room overlooked the great urban sprawl that was LA.

The soundproofing they had done on the rooms was impressive, and even a light sleeper such as myself didn’t get bothered by any of the passing jets. In fact, I overslept and missed breakfast in the lounge, which ended at 10am. I got in just as they were clearing the food, but from what I saw it was the usual assortment of fruit, cereals and two token hot items, nuked scrambled eggs and bacon.

At the end of the day, the Westin LAX is nothing more than a transit spot where you spend a night. If you get your expectations right heading in, you won’t be too disappointed.

The Milelion’s RTW Trip 2017: JAL Skysuite Business Class NRT-LAX Review

Introduction: It’s the most wonderful time of the year
A Tale of Two Lounges: SATS Premier T2 and the Qantas SIN Lounge
Malaysia Airlines B737 Business Class SIN-KUL
Malaysia Airlines Business Class Golden Lounge KUL
Malaysia Airlines A330  Business Class KUL-NRT
Japan Airlines Business Class Sakura Lounge NRT
Japan Airlines B77W Business Class NRT-LAX
The Westin LAX
The Westin Westminster
Aloft Boston Seaport
The Consolidated AA Domestic First Class Experience
American Airlines Flagship Lounge JFK
American Airlines B772 Business Class JFK-LHR
American Airlines Arrivals Lounge LHR
The Great Northern Hotel, London
Sheraton Grand London Park Lane
Westin Paris Vendome
Courtyard by Marriott Madrid Princesa
Four Points by Sheraton Barcelona Diagonal
The Consolidated Intra-Europe Business Class Experience
Sheraton Casablanca
The Casablanca Lounge CMN
Royal Air Maroc B737 Business Class CMN-ACC
Labadi Beach Hotel, Accra
Ethiopian Airlines B772 Business Class ACC-ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Cloud 9 Business Class Lounge ADD
Ethiopian Airlines B737 Business Class ADD-DAR
Protea Hotel by Marriott Dar Es Salaam Courtyard
Tanzanite Lounge DAR
Qatar Airways A320 Business Class DAR-DOH
Westin Doha
Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways A350 “First” Class DOH-DXB
The Grosvenor House Dubai
W Doha
Qatar Airways B772 Business Class DOH-BLR
The Ritz Carlton Bangalore
Cathay Dragon Lounge Bangalore
Cathay Dragon A330 Business Class BLR-HKG
W Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific’s HKG Lounges
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class HKG-SIN


JAL 62 was running 30 minutes late due to the “late arrival of the aircraft”. This was very unlike Japanese efficiency.

Nonetheless, it gave me time to snap some photos of the 777W taking us to LAX. Most of them turned out horrible. Here’s the only decent one. It was a gloomy day.

Eventually boarding was called, and I got my first look at JAL’s Skysuite product.

First things first- JAL has a 2-3-2 configuration in business class on its 777W aircraft. I know what you’re thinking: 7 abreast in business class? That’s quite a squeeze isn’t it?

Short answer is yes, if you’re a big fat guy. But I’m svelte that way, and if anything the high density layout almost reminded me of capsule hotels in Japan. I know that’s not the most flattering comparison to make, but as you’ll see I really did like the seat.

The 3 seats in the middle are arranged in a staggered format, so at least the guy in the middle doesn’t feel so awkward. You’ll also note that there are high privacy dividers between each seat that go up in flight, so you won’t need to see much of your seatmates if you don’t want to.

The staggered format also means that each seat has direct aisle access (the dude in the middle goes through the narrow passageway infront of each row of 3)

Now that passageway is quite tight, and I wonder whether it gets awkward for…passengers of size.

But never mind them. This is what the 2 seats at the side look like

I normally don’t spring for the window seat because I want direct aisle access, but this is the exception. The window seats in this configuration are the most lucrative because there’s a ridiculous amount of privacy. Once that divider goes up, you’re in a suite all by yourself and the high walls make it very hard for looky loo passerbys to see inside.

To even talk to you, the stewardess has to navigate this narrow passageway.

How much privacy do you get from your seatmate when the barrier is down (as it needs to be during taxi takeoff and landing)? It’s still decent- the staggered config means you won’t see his/her face, but you will see their legs.

To give you another idea of how the staggering looks like, this is what the view is if you sit at the front of your window suite and look back.

This seat definitely can’t compete with the SQ product for width, but thanks to the staggered configuration it’s not as punishingly narrow as other high density business class configurations (ahem BA ahem)

Any further questions about the seat? Read the manual

Each seat had a pair of slippers, blanket, amenity kit and pair of headphones waiting.

The seat controls on the side panel were a little worn but still worked perfectly. There is a massage function in the seat. That up and down symbol you see on the right? That’s to raise and lower the privacy divider. I only realised that after trying to manually force the divider up. D’oh.

The privacy divider, when fully raised, is a majestic thing. It removes the need for social interaction.

There’s in seat power (this plug type is a bit different, it doesn’t accept Singapore plugs without an adapter) and USB charging.

As weird as it sounds, one of my favourite features of the seat was that someone had finally solved the first world problem of “my meal is on my tray so I can’t go to the loo”. JAL’s tray rotates sideways, giving you enough room to squeeze out at the side! Incredible.

The amenities kit is Zero Haliburton branded. It has lip balm, ear plugs, a toothbrush kit, eyeshades, socks and a packet of tissues. I was surprised there wasn’t any hand sanitizer, given how obsessive the Japanese are about hygiene. Nor was there a face mask, for that matter.

The amenity kit was definitely nicer than what rival ANA has to offer in business class

Image result for ana amenities kit business class
photo credit: pointsnews

Slippers are slippers.

This picture below sums up what I thought was one of the strangest contradictions about JAL. The earphones are high quality (if not slightly uncomfortable because of their on-ear rather than around-ear design) noise-cancelling Sony models. The amenities kit is Zero Haliburton, which by all accounts is a great brand. So why is the pre-departure drink served in a plastic cup? That’s just undercutting everything.

A  glance out the window reminded me it was still storming outside. I wondered if that was delaying departure, because by this time we were 1 hour past the original scheduled departure time.

The captain came on the PA to apologise for the delay. He said that we were now set for pushback and they’d try to make up for the time en route.

What’s interesting is that it was gloomy and raining at Narita, but once the engines spooled up and we climbed to cruising altitude-

Just beautiful. This is why we fly.

Now let’s get to the even better stuff: the catering. Menus were distributed after takeoff. I l am digging the all black motif.

All menu photos can be enlarged by clicking on them

There was a choice of Japanese and Western dinners.

The anytime snack menu, which looks amazing in and of itself. I really, really wanted to try the pasta carbonara but unfortunately/fortunately I slept too much. JAL doesn’t have any ramen tie-up the way ANA has with Ippudo.

There was a light meal served before landing, again Japanese/Western.

The chamapgne on offer was Delamotte. Not many people know that this nondescript brand’s sister is the very descript Salon.

Yes, this Salon, which is served in First Class

Image result for salon champagne japan airlines

There was also the usual assortment of everything else. Sake fans, take note.

If I were nitpicky, I’d say the crew took a bit too long to start dinner service. I get that it’s a higher density configuration with more mouths to feed, but there should be a corresponding scaling up of flight crew. Dinner service started about 90 minutes after takeoff, but for me the gold standard on a flight like this would be 60 minutes. At least that’s what I’ve experienced on SQ. It does help maximise rest. But enough of that, because the food was so good I’d have gladly waited longer.

The amuse bouche was sesame tofu with wasabi, and fresh cheese and tomato mousse. I normally don’t like any of these ingredients, but whatever Chef Chikara Yamada did made them work collectively.

And the starter was beautiful to behold. Even on ANA I’ve never seen packaging and presentation like this.

The Spring Haze selection came wrapped in a small wooden box. Unwrapping it unveiled an exquisite selection  of Japanese treats

I like how the menu’s layout intuitively explained what each dish was.

Sidenote: I have never had sashimi on a plane. I always assumed this wouldn’t be possible because of hygiene concerns, but apparently it can be done. And the tuna was amazing.

That set the scene well for the main course of Japanese style beef steak and grilled salmon.

And you’re going to have to let me gush about the rice because I love rice. This was the best rice I have ever had on a plane. As per the menu, this is Yukigura Imazurimai Koshihikari rice, characterized by freshness, stickiness and sweetness. I want more.

Desert was a jetblack kudzu starch cake flavored with black sesame. I poked at it with my spoon and asked the stewardess for the Dean and Deluca “super premium” vanilla ice cream.

It was exquisitely rich. I think I have never had vanilla ice cream this good. Trust me, I know vanilla ice cream. I went to a famous ice cream store in Margaret River, strolled up to the counter and asked for Vanilla. The counter staff felt obliged to give me a free scoop of some more exotic flavor, because in his words “that’s a long way you’ve come for just vanilla”. I thanked him and gave the free scoop to my mum later, scraping off as much as I could so the vanilla didn’t get ruined.

After my meal I had time to fiddle around with the IFE. For me, JAL’s IFE is a thumbs down. The system was buggy, and froze up frequently before having to be reset.

Thales partners Android! Who knew

And then it defaulted to Japanese, and there was no easy way of changing it to English.

I know what you guys are thinking- don’t be noob, just go to settings.  Well, the settings menu didn’t have a language function. And even though everything else was in Japanese, the settings menu defaulted to English, for whatever reason.

The other confusing thing is that apparently you control the IFE system from your handheld controller, and only after you’ve done your selection does the image get thrown to the big screen. At least that was my experience. I couldn’t scroll through the entertainment options on the big screen, I had to do everything from the handheld controller before “transferring” the image to the big screen as the final step.

There were other cool features in the IFE that didn’t seem to be activated- one of which was the ability to order meals and drinks. The window seat is great for privacy, but the upshot of that is it’s harder to flag the stewardesses in the aisle. I mean, you could always press the call button but this system would have been much more efficient.

I watched Moana, one of my to watch films. Did you know that when it was released the PC brigade went nuts about its portrayal of Polynesians as obese? I mean, Maui/Dwayne Johnson isn’t obese, he’s wicked powerful. Seriously, some people are just looking to be offended.

There were several news channels available, but none of them were live. I switched over to the BBC. Watching the news reminded me how much evil, pain and suffering there was in the world.

After a while I decided it was time to wash up for bed. The JAL bathrooms aren’t anything fancy, apart from the almost mandatory bidet you find in Japan.

In fact, their loos are probably less impressive than ANA’s given the lack of any branded soaps or fragrances, the type you’ll usually find in any good airline lav.

No PJs are provided for business class passengers, which I guess I can’t really hold against them as it’s not become the norm (yet). I put the seat into bed mode, which as you’d expect is a 180 degree flat bed.

As it turns out, there is a special sleeping mattress available, which I almost missed out on because it wasn’t in my overhead bin. I got a passing stewardess to help me with this and she was really surprised my overhead bin was lacking one, which suggests some oversight on their part.

I’m glad I got the padding, because it made a world of difference. JAL takes the bed padding seriously, partnering with airweave to deliver a top quality mattress pad. There’s a great article on Runway Girl Network about what airlines are doing with respect to bedding that you might be interested in.

I mean, if it’s good enough for these guys…

I was woken up 90 minutes before landing for the breakfast meal. I have to be honest, after the amazing dinner I had everything else would be a step down.

The beef provided was chewy, and with that as the centerpiece of the dish it never rose above average.

FYI, this was “sauteed wagyu beef fillet and mugwort (what’s that?) flavored fu, citrius flavored sesame sauce and smoked tofu.  Should have had the carbonara…

The crew came around to distribute paper customs forms before landing (which I don’t need, thanks to my newfangled Global Entry) and we landed about an hour late.

Conclusion

So, how does JAL measure up in my mind? The catering (average breakfast aside) is really on a whole different level. I would put that dinner in the top 3 (if not the very top) of all meals I’ve ever had on a plane. I’m not exaggerating when I say it redefined what airline dining could be for me.

Similarly, the quality of the hard product is impressive. The privacy I had in that window seat was excellent, and the bedding they provide is up there with the very best.

I would say that ANA has the edge when it comes to service, as I felt the ANA attendants had a better grasp of English and were generally more friendly. It’s also very difficult to beat a 1-2-1 configuration the likes of which ANA has in business class, and if push came to shove I would still go for ANA’s hard product, albeit narrowly.

I think the main takeaway is that Japan has 2 fantastic airlines and you can’t go too far wrong choosing either of them.

The Milelion’s RTW Trip 2017: JAL Sakura Lounge Narita Review

Introduction: It’s the most wonderful time of the year
A Tale of Two Lounges: SATS Premier T2 and the Qantas SIN Lounge
Malaysia Airlines B737 Business Class SIN-KUL
Malaysia Airlines Business Class Golden Lounge KUL
Malaysia Airlines A330  Business Class KUL-NRT
Japan Airlines Business Class Sakura Lounge NRT
Japan Airlines B77W Business Class NRT-LAX
The Westin LAX
The Westin Westminster
Aloft Boston Seaport
The Consolidated AA Domestic First Class Experience
American Airlines Flagship Lounge JFK
American Airlines B772 Business Class JFK-LHR
American Airlines Arrivals Lounge LHR
The Great Northern Hotel, London
Sheraton Grand London Park Lane
Westin Paris Vendome
Courtyard by Marriott Madrid Princesa
Four Points by Sheraton Barcelona Diagonal
The Consolidated Intra-Europe Business Class Experience
Sheraton Casablanca
The Casablanca Lounge CMN
Royal Air Maroc B737 Business Class CMN-ACC
Labadi Beach Hotel, Accra
Ethiopian Airlines B772 Business Class ACC-ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Cloud 9 Business Class Lounge ADD
Ethiopian Airlines B737 Business Class ADD-DAR
Protea Hotel by Marriott Dar Es Salaam Courtyard
Tanzanite Lounge DAR
Qatar Airways A320 Business Class DAR-DOH
Westin Doha
Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways A350 “First” Class DOH-DXB
The Grosvenor House Dubai
W Doha
Qatar Airways B772 Business Class DOH-BLR
The Ritz Carlton Bangalore
Cathay Dragon Lounge Bangalore
Cathay Dragon A330 Business Class BLR-HKG
W Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific’s HKG Lounges
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class HKG-SIN


After landing in Narita, we had about a 9 hour layover until our JAL flight to Los Angeles.

The first order of business was going to the JAL check-in desks to make sure our luggage was transferred properly from MH88 to JL62. The counter staff checked our documentation, confirmed the transfer would be done and issued new boarding passes for the onwards journey.

With that done, the most logical thing next, of course, was to go Japanese fruit hunting.

There are numerous options to get to downtown Tokyo from Narita, but the most economical still remains the Tokyo Shuttle. Our round trip tickets cost JPY 1,900 each (S$23), about half of what it would have cost to take the Airport Limousine or Narita Express. Travel time is almost identical too at slightly over an hour.

I had read a lot about Sembikiya, which is supposed to be the Louis Vuitton of fruits. They have a flagship store near Tokyo station, about a 5-10 minute walk away.

I have to admit the place was smaller than I expected. For some reason, when I read “fruit emporium”, I sort of expected multiple levels of fruity goodness. But in reality the fruit section itself is a compact corner on the ground floor.

The fruits were beautiful, though, and the prices were eyewatering.

I finally settled on a bunch of $20 grapes. I mean, those who had tasted Japanese grapes told me fantastical things about them: about their texture, how they tasted like jelly in your mouth and carried you like Valkyries to Valhalla.

My mum will attest that I am something of a self-proclaimed grape connoisseur. I can tell by looking at grapes whether they will be crunchy or soft or sweet or sour. And my first impressions of these babies wasn’t great.

Then again, I told myself, I am but a philistine when it comes to Japanese fruits. Surely these transcend some other level such that my existing senses are ill-equipped to render pre-judgement.

So I popped one in my mouth and chewed. My colleague did likewise. We sat there chewing. And staring at the grapes. And chewing. Both of us glanced at each other.

I was the first to admit the emperor had no clothes,

She concurred.

By the time we polished off the batch, I had the feeling that either it wasn’t grape season or I’d just picked the wrong thing. Ah well.

The two of us really wanted to try another Japanese musk melon, but with the starting price at Sembikiya upwards of US$100 decided there was no way we were going to pay that. Fortunately, later on that day we went to a Takashimaya and found much more reasonably priced melons, as low as US$30

For lunch we stopped by Sushi Tsubaki.

You won’t find it on a lot of tourist lists but it’s up there with the best, and the lunch set is only JPY 5,400. Really, there’s no need to seek out “the best” sushi or the top rated things on Tripadvisor. You’re just setting yourself up for a lot of queues and disappointments. The baseline standard of sushi in Tokyo is so high it’s hard to go wrong.

Here’s our lunch. The courses are probably not in order.

 

Don’t feel obliged to “upsize” your set to one of the more pricey options- there was plenty of food and we were very satisfied.

It was just our luck that it started pouring and we didn’t have an umbrella. But the owner at Sushi Tsubaki was incredibly nice, he fished out one that someone else left behind and gave it to us. I shall return one day and give him back an umbrella. It would be more symbolic had I given him back the same umbrella, but as I write this AA has lost said umbrella. Sad.

We took the Tokyo Shuttle bus back to Narita and went directly to immigration.

If you’re looking for the JAL Business Class lounge you might be a bit confused when you see the exterior.

The signage outside says FIRST CLASS LOUNGE / SAKURA LOUNGE. It’s only if you know that JAL calls its business class lounge the Sakura lounge that you’ll know this is the right place. We eventually figured that out with some help from the information desk.

The lounge is divided into two segments. Business Class passengers turn to the right and head down the escalator to access Level 2, where the majority of the Sakura lounge is.

I say majority, because confusingly enough, the lounge has a completely separate dining area on Level 3 with a staircase and lift leading up. I said in my review of the MAS Golden Lounge in KUL that there didn’t seem to be any sort of segmentation within that lounge. Well, JAL had gone to the other extreme- the only food available in the lounge was on Level 3, with big signs asking people not to take food out of the dining area. The rest of the lounge on Level 2 was for seating, and although there were drink bars, there wasn’t any food areas.

Before I explored the dining area, however, I wanted to get a shower first.

The shower rooms are on the 2nd floor with the main lounge in the very minimalist “Relaxation Corner”

This area also had a spa, but the complimentary appointments were fully booked for the next 2 hours and we wouldn’t be able to get one before flying.

As was the case in the EVA Air lounge, the JAL showers work on a card basis. You’re issued a keycard that serves to open the door to a particular shower suite.

The suites are nice enough, nothing fancy but clean and dry. Note that you have to request items like a toothbrush and razor (unlike the ANA showers where everything you could possibly need is already waiting for you in the shower)

The bathroom amenities weren’t anything special, sadly. Or even if they were, they didn’t get any branding justice.

It was at this point I realised my waterproof shoes weren’t that waterproof, and my socks were soaking wet. I managed to dry them out somewhat by leaving them facing the hairdryer blowing full blast. I was quite proud of how domestic I was.

After my shower I went to explore the dining area. As mentioned, the dining enclave is separate from the rest of the lounge on the 3rd level.

This is a large-ish area (maybe 100+ seats) with both individual and communal tables.

All tables have power outlets and USB charging ports.

The ambiance of the dining area is nice enough, with full length windows overlooking the tarmac.

In one corner of the dining area was the buffet section, which had a solid selection of hot and cold items.

Hot items included Japanese hamburger patties

Dumplings of the pork and prawn variety

Simmered beef and onions

And amazing, amazing Japanese rice. I cannot emphasize enough how obsessive Japanese are about rice, and I for one am glad. Rice is at the heart of any dish, and I’m the kind who boycotts restaurants because they can’t get the rice to water ratio right. No worries here, as the rice was fluffy and spot on.

There were a few garnish stations as well

And one Japanese and one Western soup.

There was the usual assortment of European pastries that the Japanese seem to love

And the ubiquitous salad bar

Where drinks are concerned, there were juices, milk, isotonic drinks (for whatever reason), sodas

And a selection of white, red and sparkling wines. No champagne.

I got myself a seat at one of the communal tables.

The food was very high quality. However, the internet was not. It was even slower than the MAS lounge. For a country like Japan, this was totally unacceptable.

I wasn’t sure about what the policy in the States would be towards fresh fruit, so I decided it was better to split the melon we bought from Takashimaya now.

I approached the staff and asked if they could help us cut the melon, only to be politely rebuffed. I was confused at first, then realised that the lounge was probably subject to some sort of food hygiene licensing standard, and couldn’t serve any food they didn’t themselves prepare or source. Or maybe they just didn’t want everyone seeing it and wanting some.

So I got a butter knife from the buffet and did it myself. Sure enough, as soon as I sliced it, a Japanese man approached me and inquired where he could get a melon.

The melon itself, however, was disappointing. I suspect it wasn’t ripe enough, because the flesh wasn’t soft and sweet like the previous few melons I had.

Melon finished, I headed back down to explore the rest of the 2nd floor. It wasn’t unduly exciting- there was a lot of seating, some drinks counters and nothing much else.

If you need to get some work done, there’s a fully-equipped business centre with printing and fax facilities. Apparently faxes are still a thing in Japan. Who knew.

As mentioned, there isn’t any food on the 2nd floor, but there’s a good selection of drinks including everyone’s favourite automatic beer pouring machines.

I think the biggest question for me would be: how does this lounge measure up to the ANA lounge?

ANA has a slight edge over JAL in that it has a counter that does freshly prepared udon and rice bowls (I guess freshly-prepared might not be the right term to use insofar as all the food is probably already cooked, the chefs just portion it out for you), has fully-equipped shower rooms (vs JAL’s arrangement where you have to request for items) and much faster wifi.

However, JAL has complimentary spa treatments (if you can get a slot), and call me crazy, but I think their rice is better than ANA. And as we know, that’s all that matters.

I left the lounge and headed to the boarding gate early, eager to see JAL’s Skysuite product.