Flying around Japan is expensive. There are no discount airlines offering ridiculously cheap fares. For the most part, there are just two options ANA or JAL, and neither are cheap. You can save some money if you fly around your birthday with the special birthday tickets offers, or by buying tickets more than a month in advance. Another option, which is very popular with Japanese, is to get a hotel flight package from a local travel agent. The cheapest way to fly, however, is to use an airline’s mileage programme and get tickets for free. Both ANA and JAL have a mileage club, and both are affiliated with numerous other airlines to help you build up miles.
Last summer when I flew back to the UK the cheapest flight was with Qatar Airways. The flight was good, and as a bonus the mileage from Qatar Airways could be put onto my ANA Mileage Club card. At the start of December I checked my mileage balance and saw I had 10,400 miles. Unfortunately, I needed 11,000 to get a return flight from Okinawa to Haneda (Tokyo). The problem was compounded by the fact that after February the mileage required to fly from Okinawa to Tokyo will increase to 14,000, 18,000, or even 21,00 miles. However, there was a solution to quickly get the extra miles.
The ANA mileage card can also operate as an Edy prepaid smart card. You charge the card with cash and can then use it at various stores. You get one mile for every 200 yen you spend. So, for the last six weeks, everywhere I go I’ve been paying with Edy: gas stations, convenience stores, the pet store, I even paid with Edy at Capricciosa, the local generic Italian restaurant. The dogs and I now have enough food stashed away to survive a seige, and this morning my mileage balance tipped the scale at 11,048.
Skeptical that the special offer might suddenly disappear I immediately booked flights from Okinawa to Tokyo on February 16th and Tokyo to Okinawa on the 27th.
My plan is to do a mini tour of northern Japan. Tokyo – Hachinohe – Aomori – Niigata – Tokyo. Some good photo opportunities, and hopefully the chance to get back on a snowboard for the first time in 6 years. Exciting stuff.