Level Up! myjapantips.com layout change

I have been debating about a change to this layout for quite some time, and I’m happy to announce that the change is now official!

I hope you enjoy the new layout of the website. I made this change for two reasons: First, it’s been many years, probably since starting the blog, that I’ve left the layout the same. It was starting to look tired. Second and more importantly though, I wanted to find a new layout that was easier to read… the previous layout was small and compressed. I think this one works out much better!

Now that my Japan travel videos are more or less finished, I would like to work on this blog a little more and introduce a new travel series! I’m sure I’ve touched on it a little bit here and there, but I’d like to do a series documenting all of the various ways that you can get around once you land at four of Japan’s major airports – Tokyo Narita, Tokyo Haneda, Chubu Centrair (Nagoya) and Kansai (Osaka). As the number of tourists increase in Japan, more and more options to get into the major cities are becoming available. I’d like to do my best to provide all of the options in a method that is easy to understand.

I’ll also work on updating some of the old blog posts, as I do from time to time, to make them more current.

Thanks and enjoy the new blog layout!

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Airfare Alert: Los Angeles to Tokyo on Singapore Airlines for $550 round-trip

It’s not too often that I pass along some nice airfare deals that I find while roaming the wonderful Internet, but this offer appears too good to pass up on.

As reported by the travel blog God Save the Points, Singapore Airlines has launched a sale on economy and premium economy seats on their daily flights from Los Angeles to Tokyo Narita airport. Economy tickets are are as low as $550 round-trip, while Premium Economy tickets are a good price as well – the blog reports fares starting at $1100 round-trip, though my recent Google Flights search comes up with flights in the range of $1300.

These are for round-trip flights in the beginning of 2019: January 10 through the end of May to be exact. Your return flight to Los Angeles must be no more than 30 days after your flight to Tokyo. Fares are available through July 9, or, as the sales lingo goes, “while supplies last.” So you might not want to wait too long to book a flight.

LA to Tokyo flights are usually priced competitively, but what makes this sale unique is that you are flying on one of the “fifth-freedom” routes of Singapore Airlines, widely heralded as one of the best airlines in the world. Indeed, it is one of ten airlines in the world to receive a 5-Star Airline ranking from SKYTRAX. (One of the others is Japan-based ANA). In fact, Singapore’s economy class cabin itself also received a 5-Star rating.

I’ve yet to see if other airlines have tried to match Singapore’s fare sale, but if you do a search on Google Flights the sale prices should be bookable on Singapore’s website and most of the major online travel sites.

Tax-Free Shopping in Japan Just Got Better

Greetings everyone! It’s been a while since I last posted here… so before I go into the topic at hand, I just wanted to quickly say thanks to everyone for their continued support. I have been sharing my Japan travel videos on my Facebook page primarily, and I am finally down to the last one! Yes, it’s only been… just about nine months since I went? The last video will be a very long one, documenting my trip on Japan Airlines in International First Class. I expect that video to be released sometime in July.

Now that I’ve almost finished my travel video series, I can go back to the task at hand: giving you tips and suggestions on how to make the most of your next trip to Japan, based on my experience of four visits as a tourist, and based on my research.

Here’s some exciting news in case you want to visit Japan and do some tax-free shopping! You can now get a refund of the 8% consumption tax (like a sales tax) if purchasing a combination of general and consumable items totaling at least 5,000 yen at a tax-free shop.

Within the last few years Japan added a number of eligible products that can be purchased tax-free in the country by foreign tourists. Products were classified in two categories: General products like clothes, jewelry, shoes and appliances, and Consumable products like food, cosmetics, alcohol and tobacco. The previous rule was that if you spent at least 5,000 yen in one of these categories, you would receive the tax rebate. Until now, you could not combine the total for both general products and consumable products…. for example, if you spent 3,000 yen in each category, you would not be eligible for the tax rebate. Under the new rules, you CAN get the rebate.

When you combine general and consumable items in a single transaction, then you cannot use the items while in Japan and must take them out of the country within 30 days.

Hopefully this makes it easier to purchase great items in Japan without the tax. As a general rule, when you make these purchases you will be required to show your passport, and a receipt will be stapled into your passport for each shop. You will then be required to turn all of the receipts in to Japanese customs when you leave the country. At an airport, the customs desks are usually located between security and outbound immigration.

For more information, please see this handy guide from the JNTO.

Watch me on NHK WORLD J-Trip Plan!

I’ve been keeping a secret about my recent trip to Japan, and now I can officially share the news: This Monday I am scheduled to appear on Japanese television, on the international English-language channel of Japan public broadcaster NHK.

The NHK WORLD channel has many public interest shows aside from news updates, and one such program is called J-Trip Plan. I’ve been a follower of this program since its inception. The show offers tourists handy info and regional advice on where to go, what to see, and how to experience Japan like an expert. 

Two of the days on my recent trip were spent with producers and writers from the show who interviewed me and recorded me with television cameras.

My short segment will discuss how to navigate Japan’s often-confusing train system. The show is scheduled to air on NHK WORLD on Monday, January 22 at 9:30 AM, 3:30 PM and 9:30 PM Eastern Time (UTC -5). NHK WORLD can be viewed on some cable/satellite outlets in major US cities, and it can also be streamed online through the NHK WORLD Website and the NHK WORLD mobile app.

On January 23, the show moves to the NHK WORLD Video-On-Demand service, where it will be available for one year. 

I’m really excited and thankful to the NHK and Genki Project for this opportunity, and for the chance to meet new friends!

NHK WORLD J-Trip Plan
Official Website
Official Facebook Page

Japan Trip 2017 Video #4

Hello again! I’ve posted a few new videos from my Japan trip on YouTube already, but WordPress has been having some issues linking the videos on this blog. It’s been fixed it appears, so I’ll go ahead and start catching up here. If you don’t want to wait, please visit my YouTube playlist directly.

After spending the morning at the start of the old Tokaido, I head out by train to Shinagawa, Kawasaki and Ofuna. Attractions visited include the Tokaido Kawasaki-shuku Koryukan, a museum dedicated to teaching the history of the Old Tokaido in Kawasaki, and Ofuna Kannon-ji, a Buddhist temple whose feature is a 25-meter statue depicting the Bodhisattva Kannon.

Japan Trip 2017 Video #2

Presenting my next Japan travel video! This covers the activity on October 11.

I’ve landed at Narita, and am making my way towards Tokyo as the weather gets worse. I’ve planned to visit Tokyo SkyTree tonight, and I read that the clouds will eventually break up later in the evening. Will the reports hold true? Watch the video to find out! I’ll also stroll a bit around the SkyTree, finding one of my favorite drinks in a vending machine along the way.