Land of the Sinking Yen (Take Two): Japan Trip Planning

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My reworked itinerary for visiting Japan, after the first trip didn't exactly go according to plan...

Does the title of this trip report sound familiar? It should.

A month ago I was all set to visit Japan, before a last-minute bout of illness forced a postponement. Cancelling the bookings and dealing with travel insurance was all very messy, but now that I’ve recovered, I’m ready to take a second bite at the cherry.

Shibuya Crossing

Don’t worry- there won’t be need for a third take. I’ve already completed the trip, and am writing this post in retrospect (although I might use forward-looking language for the sake of style). Maybe that’s how I should do all my trip planning posts from now on, in order to avoid jinxing it!

So apologies if you’ve seen some of this before, but I thought I’d do an updated article to reflect the latest Japan entry procedures (they’ve switched from MySOS to Visit Japan Web in the time since I published the initial post) as well as the revised flight, hotel and lounge reviews. 

Some fun reports coming your way!

🇯🇵  Land of the Sinking Yen

Travel to Japan: Pre-Departure Checklist

🇯🇵 Summary: Travel to Japan
  • Complete Visit Japan Web registration
    • Register at least six hours before entry
  • No pre-departure test required unless unvaccinated
    • Unvaccinated travellers must take PCR test within 72 hours of departure
    • Unvaccinated children aged below 18 travelling with fully vaccinated parents will be treated as fully vaccinated
    • Unvaccinated children aged below 6 with unvaccinated parents will be treated as fully vaccinated
  • Japan recognises all WHO EUL vaccines including Sinovac and Sinopharm. Three doses are required to be considered fully vaccinated (two doses for single-dose primary series)
  • On-arrival testing not required
  • No mandatory travel insurance requirement
  • Visa-waiver scheme fully restored for Singaporeans and other nationals
Japan Border Measures

Visas

Japan has restored visa-free access for Singaporeans and nationals of 67 other countries, effective 11 October 2022. Singaporeans may stay in Japan for up to 90 days without applying for a visa.

APEC cardholders continue to enjoy expedited immigration queues at Japanese airports and a waiver of any visa requirements. 

Vaccinations

Japan has expanded its list of recognised vaccinations to include the full WHO Emergency Use List, which is good news for those who have taken Sinopharm or Sinovac.

Three doses of any of the following vaccinations, in any combination, will satisfy the fully vaccinated criteria (Janssen and CanSino only requires two doses).

💉Vaccinations recognised by Japan
  • AstraZeneca
  • CanSino 
  • Covaxin
  • Covishield
  • COVOVAX
  • Janssen 
  • Moderna 
  • Novavax
  • Pfizer-BioNTech
  • Sinopharm 
  • Sinovac

Unvaccinated children under the age of 18 who travel with fully vaccinated parents/guardians will be treated as fully vaccinated. 

Testing

Fully vaccinated travellers will not need to do any pre-departure or on-arrival testing. 

Unvaccinated travellers must present a negative pre-departure COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure. Prices in Singapore start from S$50 per person.

Cheapest pre-departure COVID-19 ART and PCR tests in Singapore

Unvaccinated children under the age of 18 who travel with fully vaccinated parents/guardians will be treated as fully vaccinated, and exempt from testing. 

Visit Japan Web

Visit Japan Web
FAQs

In order to expedite your arrivals process, Visit Japan Web registration should be done at least six hours prior to your scheduled arrival time. There are three sections to complete:

  • Quarantine (Fast-track)
  • Immigration
  • Customs

Completion of each section will generate a QR code, which travellers will show at the arrival airport. 

For a full guide to the registration procedure, refer to the post below.

Visit Japan Web: How to register

Flights

✈ Land of the Sinking Yen: Flights
SIN-HNDNRT-SIN
JL36
Depart
: 2225

Arrive: 0555 (+1)
Cabin: Business Class
Cost: 25,000 Alaska miles + US$49
ZG53
Depart:
1605
Arrive:
2240
Cabin: Business Class
Cost: S$778

My original plan called for a red-eye Economy flight to Tokyo-Narita on Singapore Airlines.  I  can’t say I was looking forward to that, so maybe it’s for the best the trip didn’t happen!

I really wasn’t expecting to find award space to Japan on short notice, but lo and behold there were Business Class seats on Japan Airlines via Alaska Mileage Plan– not to Tokyo, but to Nagasaki via Tokyo (it’s due to married segment logic; sometimes airlines make award space available on connecting flights but not direct ones).

I had no intention of going to Nagasaki, but here’s the thing: all passengers with domestic connections are required to claim their bags at the first port of entry, clear Japanese customs, and recheck it for their domestic flight. No one’s going to stop you if you leave the airport at Tokyo. 

Notice given to passengers with domestic connections
Domestic connection tags- the bag is tagged to NGS, but will come out on the carousel at HND

⚠️ Important note
While you can do this on the way to Japan, you can’t do it on the way back. If you book an X-Y-SIN itinerary and miss the first leg, your entire itinerary will be cancelled. This also implies you can’t do it with a round-trip itinerary.

On the return leg to Singapore, I decided to fly ZIPAIR, Japan Airlines’ wholly-owned low cost carrier with a unique Business Class product. 

ZIPAIR has installed JAMCO reverse herringbone seats on its B787s, in a 1-2-1 configuration with all-aisle access. These full-flat seats are 20 inches wide with 42 inches of pitch, upholstered in leather, and equipped with individual reading lights and chargers. 

ZIPAIR B787-8 Business Class | Photo: ZIPAIR
ZIPAIR B787-8 Business Class | Photo: ZIPAIR

Can you believe this only costs 78,660 JPY (S$777)? Yes, I had to top-up an additional 8,400 JPY (S$83) for a seat assignment, inflight meal, amenity kit and a 23kg check-in allowance, but it’s still one heck of a deal, if you ask me. 

✈️ ZIPAIR Add-on Packages
 BizValuePremium
Seat Selection
Inflight meal 
Check-in Baggage 
23kg

23kg
Carry-on Baggage
+5kg
 
+5kg
Amenity Kit  

Unbundled Business Class isn’t a new thing (Emirates and Qatar have dipped their toes in the concept), but ZIPAIR is taking it to the extreme by offering just a Business Class seat, and nothing more. What will the experience be like? Stay tuned.

Hotels

🏨 Land of the Sinking Yen: Hotels
NightHotelPer Night Cost (Nett)
1-3Prince Gallery Tokyo KioichoS$525

The original plan was to stay at the Tokyo EDITION Toranomon, Japan’s first-ever EDITION hotel. However, the hotel was no longer available for the dates I was looking at, so I decided to switch to The Prince Gallery Tokyo Kioicho, a Luxury Collection Hotel under the Marriott Bonvoy umbrella. 

Full disclosure: the stay is covered by HoteLux, a luxury privileges booking platform. I had a free choice of hotels, however, and the hotel is not involved in the review process. By booking through HoteLux, I received the 3rd night free, as well as complimentary breakfast, a room upgrade, a US$100 hotel credit, welcome amenity and late check-out. 

The Prince Gallery Tokyo opened in 2016, and is located on the 30-36th floors of a mixed use development. There’s 250 guestrooms, four restaurants and bars, and a fully-equipped spa and fitness centre. Shibuya and Tokyo stations are just a few stops away. 

The Prince Gallery Tokyo Kioicho
The Prince Gallery Tokyo Kioicho

Getting a free HoteLux membership is simple if you have a World or World Elite Mastercard (and you most certainly do). Once registered, you can browse and book rates instantly through the HoteLux app.

Lounge

🍸 Land of the Sinking Yen: Lounges
AirportLounge
SINQatar Premium Lounge
NRTKorean Airlines Lounge

The original plan was to check out the newly reopened SilverKris Lounges at Changi Terminal 2 and revisit The Private Room (I’d have access by virtue of the fact I was arriving on a same-day Suites flight from New York). 

I can’t do that with my revised flights, but I can visit the excellent Qatar Premium Lounge. I was there just before Singapore instituted its SHN for travellers returning from ASEAN, and while the details of that night are a blur, I do remember the excellent food, drink and service. 

Qatar Premium Lounge Singapore
Qatar Premium Lounge Singapore
Qatar Premium Lounge Singapore

ZIPAIR doesn’t offer lounge access (unless you’re willing to pay), but my Priority Pass Card will give me access to the following lounges in Tokyo Narita: 

  • IASS Executive Lounge
  • KAL Business Class Lounge

Neither sounds overly exciting, and I’ll probably skip this review.

Conclusion

Japan has now reopened for a full month, and is bound to be one of the most visited destinations for the upcoming holiday season. Having completed my trip, I can tell you the entry process is fairly painless, although lengthy immigration queues mean you shouldn’t make restaurant or activity bookings immediately after arrival.

And yes, it took a very long time, but Japan is every bit worth the wait. 

Standby for the reviews!

Aaron Wong
Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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J P

“I had no intention of going to Nagasaki, but here’s the thing: all passengers with domestic connections are required to claim their bags at the first port of entry, clear Japanese customs, and recheck it for their domestic flight. ”

@Aaron – is this a JAL only policy or does it apply broadly to all domestic connections at Narita/Japan for all airlines?

Last edited 26 days ago by J P
Shin

Is there any ways we can do the same for return leg? i.e. miss domestic flight but board at haneda/narita?

Tai

Were masks enforced on board/ anywhere in Japan?

Jeremy

I took the ZIPAIR flight and yes it was reinforced to wear a mask onboard. In Japan, I occasionally see but I think in general it’s not reinforced. However, Japanese love their masks so there is definitely some peer pressure if you don’t wear one..

Tai

thank you Jeremy!

Tai

thanks Aaron!

Zezima

ANA Lounge also included in the Priority Pass programme.

Source: https://www.prioritypass.com/en/lounges/japan/tokyo-narita-international/nrt10-ana-lounge

Zezima

Thanks for the info.

It’s a shame that ANA lounge doesn’t accept Priority Pass, even though the lounge is listed in the Priority Pass website! 🙁

Last edited 26 days ago by Zezima
Jamie

I think I read somewhere that priority pass is not available from 0500 to 1100 or something

Raymond

Sorry, but on consistency of writing, I cannot help but wonder why was JL36’s cabin stated as “Business” while ZG53’s cabin was noted as “Business Class” with the extra “Class” word?

Dickson

Hi, just want to check- I’m APEC pass holder. If I use the APEC lane to clear immigration, can I bring my wife along to do so? She’s not an APEC pass holder. Anyone else has experience on this?? Thx!!

Bruno

You’d in theory still have access to the SQ private room by virtue of showing your same day inbound F or suites boarding pass. They don’t care about an onward boarding pass in that case.

They may just question why you only enter in the evening with a flight that already arrived in the morning.

Personally I find the food in the QR lounge even better than the SQ private room though. Just no Taittinger CDC.

Zezima

Lucky me! I have successfully redeemed a round trip SQ business class to NRT for my upcoming Japan trip in April next year! Both of my outbound and return flights are on B787 regional aircraft! The award availability for next year April departure suddenly opened up in October last month while I was constantly checking for the award availability! Luckily the points transfer to Krisflyer only took me two days. Hence I have successfully managed to secure the redemption for the April departure! Now I just checked – Almost all the departure dates to Japan for next year April are… Read more »

R C

Hi,

I make a flight redemption booking thru alsaka mileage, Fukuoka – Haneda – Sin (long connection time > 20 hr)
I would like to ask do i still need to collect my luggage at haneda airport then recheck-in at the haneda international terminal? Thank you

Alex

Yes you will need to pick up ur luggage at Terminal 1 (Domestic Terminal) and bring them to Terminal 3 (International Terminal) to do the check in. Cannot check through from Fukuoka to Singapore.

Joe

Hello, can I ask how is your return experience in airport? Is it crowded.
Let’s say my flight is at 10am and I arrived check in at the counter at 8:30am. Will it be enough time to clear the immigration and board?

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