We devote thousands of hours of research to help you get Big Travel with Small Money. You support us by signing-up for credit cards through partner links which earn us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.
Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.
Ever dreamed of visiting Japan? Credit card rewards can help get you there for a fraction of the price!
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.
Wherever you go, you’re sure to have an amazing time!
In this series, I’ll share an overview of how I got to Japan, where I stayed, what I did, and how you can do it, too! It’s not as difficult as you might think! In future posts, I’ll have in-depth trip reports for each city I visited.
How to Fly to Japan for ~$100 Trip Report Index:
- Part 1 – Introduction & Planning
- Part 2 – These Are My Favorite Japanese Cities
- Part 3 – Airport Lounge Access Isn’t Just for Elite Travelers
- Part 4 – The Secret to Flying Cathay Pacific Business Class
- Part 5 – 3 Weeks of Lodging for Only ~$450!
- Part 6 – Getting Around Japan (Rail System, Metro, Bus, Etc.)
- Part 7 – Shipping and Storing Luggage in Japan
- Part 8 – Japan Airlines Sakura Lounge at Kansai International Airport
- Part 9 – Flights to USA – Japan Airlines Business Class
Introduction and Planning
Ever since I was a little girl I’ve always wanted to go to Japan. Back then, I was in love with Sanrio themed stationery and stickers. My boyfriend is half Japanese, and grew up in Okinawa, Japan, for the first 20 years of his life.
He left Japan when he was 20, and hadn’t been back since — in nearly 20 years! Because I love helping fulfill others’ travel dreams, I jumped at the opportunity to reunite family and see Japan for myself!
|Round-Trip Business Class Ticket From Austin to Tokyo||Room at the Various Hyatt Hotels in Tokyo, Hakone, and Osaka|
|Retail cost||~$4,500 to ~$7,000+||~$200 to ~$400+ per night|
|Our Cash Cost||$100 in taxes||$0|
|Miles & Points Used||95,000 American Airlines Miles||8,000 to 25,000 Hyatt points per night|
|Source of Miles & Points||-Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®|
sign-up bonus of 60,000 miles
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®
Current sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles
- Barclaycard AAdvantage® Aviator™ Red World Elite Mastercard®
Current sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles
|- Chase Hyatt
Current sign-up bonus of 2 free nights at any Hyatt after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account
Chase Ultimate Rewards:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred
Current sign-up bonus of 50,000 points
|Alternatives||- Alaska Airlines - 50,000 miles one-way with certain airlines|
- United Airlines - 65,000 miles one-way
- American Airlines - 35,000 miles one-way (32,000 between October 1 and April 30)
|- Chase Sapphire Reserve
Current sign-up bonus of 50,000 points
- Chase Ink Preferred
Current sign-up bonus of 80,000 points
- Chase Ink Bold & Chase Ink Plus
Not available to new applicants
|Additional Information||- You can transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United Airlines at a ratio of 1:1|
- You can transfer Starwood points to Alaska Airlines at a ratio of 1:1
|- You can transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt at a ratio of 1:1|
Using Miles For Business Class Flights
I redeemed 190,000 American Airlines miles for 2 round-trip Business Class flights to Japan on Cathay Pacific (95,000 American Airlines miles per ticket), that I booked before American Airlines changed their award chart.
It now costs 120,000 American Airlines miles for one round-trip Business Class ticket!
I wanted to fly First Class, but had trouble finding seats, so instead booked Business Class flights.
Our first destination in Japan was Okinawa, which is not in mainland Japan. We flew into Taipei, Taiwan, which was the closest city we could get while still traveling in Business Class. After our stay in Okinawa, we booked a separate one-way ticket to Tokyo. From Tokyo, we stopped in Hakone, Kyoto, and Osaka, before flying back to the US out of Osaka.
I found a route with a few layovers, but it would be a long trip. So I called the American Airlines customer service line to book the less-than-ideal flights I found, and the agent asked where I wanted to go and the dates I wanted to travel.
I let her know I wanted to fly as close to Okinawa, Japan as possible, and then fly out of mainland Japan. She was excellent, and found better seats for me than I found for myself!
3 Weeks of Hotels & Airbnbs for ~$450
On this trip, I used a combination of hotel points and free night certificates, and cash for Airbnbs.
For the majority of my trip, I used Hyatt hotel points and certificates I earned by signing-up for the Chase Hyatt card. And transferred the Chase Ultimate Rewards points I earned from Chase credit cards to Hyatt, at a 1:1 ratio.
My everyday spending credit cards are always Chase cards because their Ultimate Rewards points program is easy and versatile. I LOVE being able to transfer points to Hyatt for swanky hotels and to Southwest for practically free (~$11) domestic round-trip flights!
As you can see, I love staying at Hyatt hotels! Daraius has Globalist elite status that he still shares with me. And it’s very easy to transfer my Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt.
We also stayed in Airbnbs in Kyoto and Okinawa. And in my opinion, Airbnb is the way to go for families and larger groups!
You’ll get more of an authentic feel for the area you’re visiting and more amenities for the price. And if you use my Airbnb referral link, you can get $40 off your next rental!
You Can Do It, Too!
One-way Business Class flights to Japan cost 95,000 American Airlines miles and ~$5 in taxes and fees.
For an even better flight experience, try to find a seat on Cathay Pacific or Japan Air Lines!
If you need more American Airlines miles, consider cards like:
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® – 50,000 American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® – 60,000 American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of opening your account
- Barclaycard AAdvantage® Aviator™ Red World Elite Mastercard® – 50,000 American Airlines bonus miles after your first purchase and payment of annual fee within the first 90 days of account opening
I stayed for free at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo, which usually costs ~$700+ per night! I used my 2 free nights from the Chase Hyatt card sign-up bonus for part of my stay. And I transferred points to Hyatt from my Chase Sapphire Preferred, which is super easy to do.
Japan is a beautiful country filled with lots to see and do. There’s everything from high-rise skyscrapers to old temples and hot springs.
I used 190,000 American Airlines miles for 2 round-trip Business Class flights to Japan on Cathay Pacific, which was before the devaluation. Currently it costs 240,000 American Airlines miles for 2 round-trip Business Class flights.
For 3 weeks of lodging (including some fancy hotels), I spent ~$450! On this trip, I used a combination of hotel points and cash for Airbnbs. For the majority of the hotels, I used Hyatt hotel points. I earned them because I signed-up for the Chase Hyatt card and Chase credit cards. But there are plenty of options once you get to Japan!