My wife and I didn’t have to wait long after our fabulous vacation to Prague and Bucharest to hit the airways again. Less than a month later, we were headed to DFW Airport again, this time to head to Japan. Like our trip to Europe, this trip wasn’t originally in the cards. But then American rolled out sale fares to Japan for ~$650 over the Thanksgiving holidays. Heck, it can cost more than that just to fly to New York City over Thanksgiving. That was too good a deal to pass up. Even better, I could work in a 5-day trip with only one day of missed work.
About a month after booking the tickets, another stroke of genius (or maybe it’s insanity) hit me. It occurred to me that my birthday would fall during our time in Japan. Having a birthday in Tokyo would be cool and all, but one thing I’ve really wanted to try for a long time is a good Kobe steak. You can get imitation Kobe steak right here in Dallas, but the beef is the Texas Wagyu variety. Kobe is only a few hours by train, or an hour and 15 minutes by air, from Tokyo. And that was that. I was going to enjoy a genuine Kobe steak for my birthday, in Kobe. For those counting at home, that’s roughly 6,730 miles for a piece of beef.
I’m currently planning on the following posts in this series, subject to change as I get down to writing:
- About That Time I Traveled 6,700 Miles for a Birthday Steak… (this post)
- Flight Review: American Airlines B777-200 Economy Class, DFW-Tokyo Narita-DFW
- A Guide to A Day and a Half in Bustling Tokyo
- Trip Report: Tokyo to Kobe on the Shinkansen High Speed Train
- A Day Trip to Kobe in Search of the World’s Best Steak
- Flight Review: Skymark Airlines B737 Economy Class, Kobe to Tokyo Haneda
- Sampling Japanese Cuisine in its Native Habitat
- Hotel Review: Hilton Tokyo Odaiba
- Airport Lounge Review: American Airlines Admirals Club, Tokyo Narita
Unlike our somewhat convoluted path to get to Prague and Bucharest, this flight plan would be simple – a round trip from DFW to Narita and back, with an add-on from Kobe to Haneda.
- Depart DFW: Wednesday, 25 November, American
- Tokyo-Kobe: Saturday, 28 November, Shinkansen JR East Train
- UKB-HND: Saturday, 28 November, Skymark
- Depart NRT: Sunday, 29 November, American
I would have much preferred to fly JAL’s new nonstop from DFW on the 787 to Narita. Unfortunately, that flight was not scheduled to operate until November 30th. I also toyed with a more exotic routing via LAX or SFO for a better on-board product, but at the end of the day, with only a very limited window to cram in this trip (couldn’t afford to take more than one day off, had to be back by Monday), there just wasn’t a way to make it work. Of course, as a status-less peon, buying coach tickets meant we’d really be sitting in coach. For 13 hours. In the 2-5-2 configuation on the 772. Urk…
The most difficult decision concerned how to get to Kobe and back. It is possible to fly direct to Kobe on Japanese low-cost carrier Skymark Airlines. Or, you can fly to nearby Osaka on ANA or JAL. The Shinkansen high-speed rail is also an option, and the transportation geek in me really wanted to try it. In the end, my geekitude won out all the way around; we’d take the train one way, and Skymark the other. After all, it’s not every day that you get to experience a bullet train and a bankrupt LCC all in the same day. We took a morning train to Kobe, getting there a little after noon, returning on a 9 P.M. flight back to Haneda.
As far as a place to stay, we didn’t really have a firm plan of what we wanted to see in Tokyo, but wanted something convenient to the Metro to cut down on travel time and taxis. I chose the Hilton Tokyo Odaiba; though the hotel is located across Tokyo Bay from the city center, it is located directly on the Yurikamome light rail line, thus providing easy access, and rates were considerably cheaper. Of course, “cheap” is a relative term in Tokyo, as the Hilton Odaiba ran either 31,000 yen (~$260 at the time) or 50,000 HHonors points per night (that was still better than the Conrad Tokyo, which wanted north of 40,000 yen or 70,000 HHonors points). I really didn’t want to spend that much on a hotel room we wouldn’t be in all that much, so I decided to cash in my pile of HHonors points.
I will, of course, have many more photos in the posts themselves, but here’s a sneak peak of what we saw, both in Tokyo and in Kobe.
Our hotel itself was located directly adjacent to Tokyo Bay, providing a spectcular view of downtown Tokyo and the Rainbow Bridge, especially at night.
I don’t eat sushi, ever, but I made a one-time exception on this sashimi bowl. Because it would have been kind of stupid to go all the way to Japan and not try sushi…
My cousin recommended we visit the Zōjō-ji shrine, which was beautiful, especially the juxtaposition with the ultra-modern Tokyo Tower in the background.
Speaking of Tokyo Tower, we took the elevator to the top to take in the view of the sprawling metropolis in the shadow of Mount Fuji.
But despite all the hustle and bustle, there are a surprising number of quiet green spaces in Tokyo, like this park not far from Tokyo Station.
And of course, being a cat freak, I just had to visit a cat cafe while we were in town.
Meanwhile on the way to Kobe aboard the Shinkansen, the rural Japanese countryside is beautiful in the fall.
After my Kobe steak, we took the aerial tram to enjoy the view of the city as sunset approached.
Since Christmas wasn’t too far away, Kobe had a very modern Christmas tree up in its main shopping area.
And finally, more Tokyo skyline views as we enjoy a brisk morning walk before heading to the airport later in the afternoon.
I’ll kick off this series next week with a review of my flights to and from Japan. Hope you enjoy this quick virtual tour of Japan!
Photo at top: our Kobe steak getting ready to be cooked and served, teppanyaki style.