This series will cover a quick daytrip on NH using UA miles. The destination this time will be Ehime Prefecture (愛媛県), which is located on the island of Shikoku (四国).
This trip cost 5,000 UA miles (no tax/fees on NH award tickets) and I took advantage of a loophole in the UA MileagePlus search feature to book it as a one-way award ticket. Now this trick is definitely not general since it requires that you fly between two hubs that don’t have a direct flight, but in my case it works out nicely since ITM is only 40 minutes further than NGO. Since there are no direct flights from NGO to ITM, a search of this route forces a connection at a city that is served by both airports. I narrowed the search to do a connection in Matsuyama (MYJ) and filtered the results by longest duration. What you see is that I can get an 8-hour layover in MYJ, which is ample time for a daytrip.
So some of you might not think this is that novel, but if you look at the actual prices of Tabiwari21 fares on NH for this exact same route (which means that you are booking the ticket at least 21 days in advance), it will come up to ¥27,100 ($240). UA will let you buy 5k miles for $175. Obviously, if I booked this as a round-trip it would be doubled at 10k miles ($350) and it's not cheaper. So for me, it is actually cheaper to buy UA award miles and spend them on NH domestic flights than it is to buy NH tickets. Go figure…
This report will cover the trip from NGO to MYJ. I will split the tourist bonus between the two reports. At the end of this report will be a bonus on Uchiko (内子) and at the end of the next report will be a bonus on Matsuyama (松山).
As always, I reached NGO by train in the morning.
Arriving, I headed over to the NH domestic check-in counters where I was quickly helped.
The agent only handed me one boarding pass, which confused me a little bit. I asked about the second boarding pass and was told to get it at check-in at MYJ. This is a little strange considering that the tickets were booked as a one-way flight, but because NH and UA systems get all muddled, NH sees it as two one-way tickets.
With my boarding pass in hand, I stop by the FIDS.
Since it’s still 10 minutes until the observation deck opens at 7am, I take the path less travelled down into the garden area (I have never seen another person down here before so I don’t think many people know it exists).
Enjoying the artwork as I walk through the bowels of NGO.
There are also airplane model displays down in the basement that even have some interesting inclusions like an American Trans Air L-1011 (was TZ before Scoot took it, your IATA trivia of the day).
Dimly lit section near the elevators up to the observation deck.
As soon as I get up to the observation deck, I see my friends are already here camped out.
Our first action is the arrival of the TG B773 from BKK.
9C A320 getting backed up for departure.
In the background of that photo, you can see the An-124 is also here.
A GK A320 is a little bit misplaced on the international side of the airport, but GK has also recently entered the NGO-TPE market.
The 9C A320 lifting off for PVG.
Domestic planes camped out for the mid-morning departures. My Dash8 is one of those lined up.
The arrival of a JL B788, which I thought was arriving from BKK, but then it veered off to the domestic side of the airport to operate the morning NGO-NRT flight.
NH Dash8 taxing out for a departure to AXT.
Lo and behold the arrival of a second JL B788, this time from BKK.
KE B77W in ST special livery, very gorgeous in this lighting.
International tail line-ups.
Domestic tail line-up.
Also up on the observation deck is this information about the DreamLiner and DreamLifter. The display describes the DreamLiner parts sourced in Japan and how they are transported to Boeing.
Goodbye NGO observation deck, one of the best in Japan.
Back inside, I am met with the longest security line I have ever seen at NGO.
The line moved fairly quickly, but that was because agents kept pulling passengers out of line for flights that would be departing in the next 15 minutes. They even had the line split for flights leaving before and after 8am.
15 minutes later I reached the FIDS above the security lines.
Heading to the lounge for an early morning Yebisu.
Entering the lounge, the agent greets me by name before I even hand over my credentials. I guess I have become quite the regular here. Painlessly through and at the drinks offering.
I grab a coffee, a pint of Yebisu, and some sakana. Sitting there, the agent comes over as she’s cleaning and starts talking to me. She asks me where I am headed today and what I’m going to see there. A nice personal touch.
As soon as the boarding announcement is made, the lounge agent comes up and informs me of this information. I thank her and tell her “see you next week.” My plane is leaving from Gate 101, which means it is paxbus. At the top of the escalators, this NH agent asks me my name and marks me off the list of passengers.
Downstairs, I scan my BP and head onto the bus.
The bus ride was great since it provides awesome tarmac level shots of the planes as we head over to our Dash8.
Reaching the plane. The FA in the doorway gives us a bow as we come to a stop.
Our power plant today.
Heading into the plane, the FA in the forward cabin greets me in English.
The Dash8 cabin.
My seat today.
Generous pitch and clean cabin.
Blankets were distributed.
February issue of 翼の王国.
Safety card for this Dash8.
My view today.
The FAs do the safety demonstration in Japanese and English as we taxi out to the runway. View of the cabin during the taxi.
We pull up short of the runway and hold. I don’t have a good vantage point, but this generally means something is about to land. Lo and behold, I can catch the tail of the LH A343 arriving from FRA.
We align onto the runway.
We rise up into Ise Bay (伊勢湾).
As we turn west, we fly directly over Yokkaichi (四日市) giving a glimpse of the Showa Yokkaichi Sekiyu oil tank yards.
Continuing over the Suzuka Mountains (鈴鹿山脈).
Eigenji Dam (永源寺ダム).
Reaching Lake Biwa (琵琶湖), we turn south.
Biwako-Ohashi Toll Bridges (琵琶湖大橋有料道路).
Snow covered ground in western Kyōto Prefecture (京都府).
Drink service is done by cart offering the full NH drink selection. I took just a coffee this morning.
I sip my coffee and take in the views as we continue our run down the coast past Himeji (姫路).
Aioi Bay (相生湾).
Flying over Kurashiki (倉敷), but you can also see the Great Seto Bridge (瀬戸大橋) to Marugame (丸亀) on Shikoku in the distance.
As we started our descent, the FAs came through the cabin offering the NH candies from a basket.
As we turn towards Matsuyama, we cross over Kitagi Island (北木島).
Reaching Shikoku, we cross by Hashihama (波止浜) and the Kurushima-Kaikyō Bridge (来島海峡大橋), which is the world’s longest suspension bridge.
An unidentified lighthouse.
Approaching Nuwa Island (怒和島).
Some farm fishing on Tsuwaji Island (津和島).
The landing gear comes down as we dive into MYJ.
Tsuru Island (釣島).
The seawall is in sight.
We touchdown early and taxi to the terminal building. Picture of the cabin deplaning.
The cheery FAs say goodbye as I exit out onto the tarmac. A look back at our plane.
Heading towards the terminal.
Matsuyama Airport and the observation deck filled with onlookers.
An amusing poster in the jetbridge demonstrating how to properly carry a coat down the aisle of the airplane so you don’t hit people with it.
We turn right for domestic arrivals.
I’ll join this guy and take one last photo of our plane.
ようこそ松山へ (Welcome to Matsuyama).
After clearing the baggage claim I head out to the bus stops.
I buy a ticket at the vending machine and then get on the bus. The bus costs ¥310 to Matsuyama JR Station and takes 15 minutes.
The seats are not as repulsive as most Japanese buses and in the seatback pocket there is a NH advertisement for flights to HND from Shikoku.
Uh oh, poor planning on my part, apparently this morning is the Ehime Marathon! I had to change my itinerary for the day on the fly and immediately head to Uchiko (内子) first to avoid the congestion caused by the marathon.
I’ll leave off this series here as I begin my stay in Ehime Prefecture. Tune into the next report for the return flight to ITM.
———————————- Bonus: After arriving in Matsuyama, I took the train down to Uchiko (内子), which is just 26 minutes to the south by train. Uchiko Station (内子駅).
Arriving, I did the 1km walk towards Yōkaichi (八日市), which is the old merchant area of town.
The streets through the town are nice and quaint and even come with whirligigs!
At the north end of the town is the temple: Kōshō-ji (高昌寺). Not to disappoint Marathon, but this temple is not one of the 88 Temple Pilgrimage of Shikoku ;)
The temple does offer good views over the surroundings.
It also houses a rare example of a Reclining Buddha (涅槃仏) in Japan.
Beneath the temple lie streets filled with Meiji Period merchant shops and houses.
This one in particular is interesting and is the Kamihaga Residence (上芳我邸), which houses a wax museum. Uchiko is famous for its wax and the Kamihaga family was one of the principle producers. Once you cross into their courtyard, the house looks far more impressive than the storefront along the street.
Typical traditional Japanese style house, complete with garden in the middle.
The house is three stories tall and as you reach the top floor, you can start to see the craftsmanship that went into the construction of these old wooden houses.
In the neighboring building is the wax museum, which exhibited how the wax is harvested from the sumac berries before being formed into various products (most obvious product: candles).
The third building on the site showed the process for wax production. I’ve included the description from the museum so I don’t have to explain the process ;)
I ran out of time, but the other thing Uchiko is famous for is its kabuki (歌舞伎) theater: Uchiko-za (内子座). I was in Inuyama (犬山) the previous weekend, which has a lot of workshops for the production of he kabuki dolls, so this was a pass for me, but I took pictures of the outside as I sprinted back to the train station to catch the hourly train back to Matsuyama.
Centrair Global Lounge
Nagoya - NGO
Matsuyama - MYJ
A good flight this morning. A friendly crew, a very comfortable Dash8, and an on-time performance. NH checked all the boxes this morning (not always the case as subsequent reports will show).
Cabin comfort: The Dash8 is no spring chicken, but the cabin is clean. The seat pitch is really generous at around 34”, but the seats are on the thin side with respect to padding.
Crew: A good NH crew. They were regularly up and down the aisles.
Meal and catering: Full drink options. The distribution of the NH candies prior to arrival is a nice touch and this is the only time I have ever seen this done (I fly NH domestically a lot, so that’s not an understatement).
Entertainment: No newspapers offered. Standard seatback literature. No audio or overhead monitors. Just natural IFE, which today was a nice view of coast :)
On-time performance: We left on time and arrived early.
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