How to Fly Round-Trip to Japan for ~$100 in Business Class: Part 2 – These Are My Favorite Japanese Cities

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Using miles & points, I recently flew round-trip from Austin, Texas, to Japan for ~$110 in Business Class.  The retail cost was ~$11,000!  And for 3 weeks of lodging (including some fancy hotels), I spent ~$450!

Japan is a beautiful country, filled with a lot to see and do.  You’ll find everything from high-rise skyscrapers to old temples and hot springs.  I loved Tokyo’s energetic neighborhoods, shopping, and delicious restaurants.  And Kyoto is a fantastic place to ride bicycles, and to explore the bamboo forest and monkey park.

Participating in a cooking class and meeting new friends was the highlight of Osaka.  And a day trip to feed the deer in Nara was unforgettable!  Plus, Okinawa is known for its beautiful beaches and scuba diving.

Japan Trip Report
Macaque Monkeys at the Iwatayama Monkey Park Near Kyoto

Wherever you go, you’re sure to have an amazing time!

In this part of the series, I’ll share more about each city I visited.  And in future posts, I’ll tell you about where I stayed, what I did, and how you can do it, too!

How to Fly to Japan for ~$100 Trip Report Index:

Cities Visited

I visited a total of 6 cities in Japan and spread my trip out over 3 weeks.  This was my itinerary:

  • Okinawa (5 nights)
  • Tokyo (5 nights)
  • Hakone (2 nights)
  • Kyoto (5 nights)
  • Osaka (3 nights)
  • Nara (1/2 day)

I feel like you need at least 7 to 10 days in Japan.  My favorite city was Kyoto, so that’s a must, along with Tokyo.  But do some research and read about what excites you most!

Later on in the series, I will go into the details for each city, including recommended sights, accommodations, and restaurants.

First Stop, Okinawa

Okinawa is known for its beautiful beaches and superb scuba diving.  My boyfriend is half Okinawan, so we wanted to stop there first to see his family and friends.

He lived there until he was 20, and then moved to the US.  He hadn’t been back to Okinawa since he left (in 20 years!), so I jumped at the opportunity to reunite him and his family!

Japan Trip Report
A 20 Year Overdue Family Reunion–I Love Seeing Families Reunite!

We stayed in an Airbnb minutes from the coast.  There were also lots of restaurants and bars within walking distance.

Our host was super friendly, and even drove us around to see my friend’s old house and the neighborhoods he lived in!

Japan Trip Report
Looking Out Over the East China Sea Was Mesmerizing!

I was struck at how welcoming and caring the Okinawan people were.  They give without expecting anything in return.  And I felt like part of community, even though I was a tourist.

If you do go to Okinawa, make scuba diving there a priority.  It’s one of the best places to go!  Alfy’s school friend is a photographer and takes some amazing pictures while scuba diving.  Check out his Flickr album to see more of Okinawa’s natural beauty!

Note:   Because of the many high quality photos, the page may take a moment to load.
Japan Trip Report
Harmony – Anemone Fish by Shawn Miller, Okinawa Nature Photography

After our 5-night stay in Okinawa, we took a one-way flight to Tokyo.  Flights from Okinawa to Tokyo are cheap and fast!

Tokyo

Tokyo feels like the New York City of the East!  And I think it’s best experienced with friends and family.

Japan Trip Report
A View From the Grand Hyatt Tokyo, a $700 per Night Room Free with Points!

We had a fantastic time exploring neighborhoods and checking out several delicious restaurants and inventive bars.

Japan Trip Report
My Friend Christine and I Enjoying Japanese Beverages from the Convenience Store in Tokyo

There are tons of Michelin star restaurants (some more affordable than others), cooking classes, and shopping.  You will never get bored in Tokyo!

Japan Trip Report
Choose From One of Tokyo’s Many New Airbnb “Experiences”!

If you want to get to know some locals, consider trying out an Airbnb “Experience.”  It’s a new service from Airbnb that connects locals to tourists to do fun things!  So far, Experiences seem to be found in most major cities, including Paris and Tokyo.  I have not tried the service yet, but plan to do my first Experience next month in Paris!

Hakone

After our stay in Tokyo, we took a short ~1.5 hour ride to Hakone.  Hakone is a small town known for its mountains and onsen (hot springs).

Japan Trip Report
A View of Mt. Hakone from the Cable Car

We stayed in Hakone for 2 nights.  It was the perfect retreat after the over-stimulation of Tokyo!

Japan Trip Report
I Enjoyed Visiting Mt. Hakone and Seeing the Geothermal Activity In the Area

Kyoto

My favorite city (so far!) in Japan, is Kyoto.  I LOVED renting bicycles and riding around the city.  Riding bikes is common there, and I loved the break from public transportation.

Japan Trip Report
Being Able to Hop on a Bike and Explore the City Is Much More Exciting Than Public Transportation!

My favorite place to visit was the Bamboo Forest and the Monkey Park on the edge of Kyoto, in Arashiyama.

Japan Trip Report
Did You Know Bamboo Can Grow to Be Nearly 100 Feet Tall? The Earth Is So Amazing!

Nara

If you do decide to visit Kyoto, consider adding on a day trip to Nara, because it’s only about an hour away via train.

There are thousands of tame sika deer that roam the sidewalks and parks.  They are so tame that they will even eat from your hand!

Japan Trip Report
The Sika Deer in Nara Will Actually Eat Right out of Your Hand!

We also rented bikes in Nara, and it was the perfect way to get around.  Bike riding in these small towns in Japan is the best ever!

Osaka

Our last stop was Osaka, which is a smaller Tokyo.

My favorite activity was going for a cooking class, where we learned how to make Osakan street food, including homemade udon soup, yakitori (grilled chicken skewers), and okonamiyaki (a savory pancake).  The class was so much fun and the food was delicious!  Since we returned to the States, okonamiyaki and yakitori have become one of our favorite healthy, easy to make meals at home!

We befriended the other couple taking the class, and went out for drinks and to explore Osaka’s neighborhoods.

Japan Trip Report
Taking a Cooking Class Is a Great Way to Immerse Yourself in a New Culture and to Learn How to Make Unique Dishes!

In Osaka, we stayed at the Hyatt Regency Osaka.

Although it was a ~25-minute train ride from the city center, it was very cheap at 8,000 Hyatt points a night.  And we got a beautiful, very spacious corner room.

If you plan to stay there, it’s nice to know there’s a decent shopping mall and a supermarket about a 10-minute walk away.  But it is far from the rest of the city center.

Bottom Line

I loved visiting Japan and experiencing the different personalities of each city!  There is everything from high rise-skyscrapers to old temples and hot springs.

I loved going to Tokyo for its energetic neighborhoods, shopping, and delicious restaurants.  And Kyoto is a fantastic place to ride bicycles, and explore the bamboo forest and monkey park.

Participating in a cooking class and meeting new friends was the highlight of Osaka.  And a day trip to feed the deer in Nara was unforgettable!  Okinawa is known for its beautiful beaches and scuba diving.

Wherever you go, you’re sure to have an amazing time!

 Try to spend at least 7 to 10 days in Japan.  And don’t miss a trip to Kyoto!

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