After an enjoyable stay in Tokyo for a few days, it was time to return back to SFO. I have originally used award miles for a HND-SFO tkt on JL, but upon finding a USD 378.66 (EUR 357.11) one way from PEK, I decided to cancel the award and just purchase the ticket to get more miles in my TK acct. I needed to meet the 15,000 miles within the first year of being matched into their program in order to get a second year extension and this fare was just handy.
I stayed at the Tokyu Stay in Shinjuku - a new business hotel that was centrally and conveniently located to the places that I wanted to visit. It is a few steps from an exit to the Shinjuku-chome metro station. Getting there and back to HND required 2 station transfers and going from the train to the metro - a somewhat challenging and complicated task.
Nicely appointed room w/Japanese touches like clothing spray, pant presser, bidet. warm toilet seat and yukata (loungewear).
View from my room behind the bed.
JAL F check-in
As a Oneworld Emerald, I can check in at the F counter. I did not have any problem finding it and walked towards the agent that was standing at the entrance of the line. Upon seeing me she bowed and escorted me to the front of the counter. She then went around and proceeded to check me in. The personal touch by the staff provided a great impression and really made you feel like a valuable F pax.
I cleared security and passport control quickly and it's now time to explore the lounges. I started with the CX and JL ones near gate 114. Unfortunately the JL Sakura Sky View lounge was closed so I went to the CX lounge above.
Cathay Pacific Lounge
I was welcomed into the lounge and made a left turn to the noodles bar after reception. The dining area was pretty spacious and featured tables with individual stools and benches.
Noodles bar and dining room.
I ordered a bowl of wonton noodles. I already ate the stalk of veggie before I realized that I had to take a pic.
Right after reception there is a small counter where you could order the displayed snacks from an attendant. It seems that with this new set up CX is trying to eliminate the "help yourself" buffet concept. In a way this could be more hygienic and might translate into less waste.
Only the desserts were self serve.
The bar area.
if you take a right after you enter, you will pass by the computers and finally end up in the bar - an elegant and comfy area.
The rest of the lounge is a very inviting space with a mixed of open and private seating.
The views to the tarmac are fantastic. I grabbed myself a front row seat with some snacks.
[align=center]JAL First Class Lounge
After an enjoyable stay at the CX lounge, it was time to walk towards gate 112 and check the JL F lounge. I was welcomed by the attentive staff and invited to turn to my right and enter the F lounge. The Sakura lounge for J pax was on the same level to the left.
There is a business center with individual seats offering privacy before entering into the main lounge.
Supposedly there is a teppan station staffed with chefs at certain times but I did not encounter this feature when I visited. The buffet display had a variety of foods that one would find in a good J class lounge like salad bar, soup, hot dishes, sandwiches, small plates and desserts. The catering was satisfying but it didn't strike me as being associated with a F lounge, especially since there was no sit down facility where you could order "a la carte".
This separate room inside the lounge is considered an attraction by itself. It is quite an unique place that combines elements of a library, museum, playroom and gentleman's club. Its sober and elegant ambiance allows adult pax to relax and escape from the airport environment. There was a shoe shine station but it was not staffed and a drink station with champagne, sake and other alcoholic drinks.
I wanted to take a shower before my flight and went directly to the shower reception desk. It appeared that these facilities were shared with the Sakura lounge and once I rang the bell a staff member appeared within seconds. I surrendered my boarding pass in exchange for a shower room key.
The shower room was functional but did not have a toilet. It was just a sink and the shower.
JAL 787 HND-PEK
I proceeded to the gate and placed myself on the priority line. There were 4-5 agents getting ready for the flight and once the wheelchair passengers boarded they started general boarding. The agents were very strict in enforcing priority boarding.
Upon boarding there were 2-3 FA's welcoming passengers aboard. I quickly took my seat and my neighbor showed up minutes later. The cabin was configured with the old angle lie flat seats and a blanket along with headphones were placed on the seat.
The menu was inside the magazine pocket and it had a minimalist and simple cover.
Pre-dept. drinks were offered but I declined. Afterwards packaged amenities were offered from a basket.
Taxiing out on a rainy night.
Soon after we leveled off, FA's started the service by offering oshiboris followed by placing the linen on the table.
Beverages were served with packaged snacks. I ordered Skytime which was kiwi flavored. For those who have tried real natto, the dried version is milder and tastes slightly sour.
The meal presented all at once.
I love the presentation of these appetizers.
Simmered prawn with minced chicken cake.
Marlin sashimi with steamed anglefish liver served with citrus soy jelly.
Braised pork belly.
The fish was delicious and not overcooked at all.
Another round of oshibori to finish the meal.
FA's were attentive throughout the flight. I requested an extra blanket and the FA unwrapped it before handing it to me. Also when I requested a pen, she made sure that it was clicked down and ready to use before giving it to me. That kind of attention to detail is what makes JAL such a preferred carrier.
Eventually we started our descent into PEK.
Landing in PEK.
We parked at T3 and after clearing Immigration & Customs i took the shuttle to the Langham hotel.
Dinner at the famous Tsunahachi restaurant in Shinjuku, which specializes in tempura. Frying the food in freshly pressed sesame oil results in a more "aromatic" crunch. it's forbidden to take pictures inside, so I quickly snapped this shot of my meal. My dinner set included anago eel, shrimps and vegetables.
Shinjuku at night.
JAL First Class Lounge
Tokyo - HND
Beijing - PEK
I was glad that I arrived at the airport early and had the time to explore the CX and JL F lounges. Personally I love the ambiance of the CX lounge and the staff was on top of things. The JL F lounge was spacious and the Red Suite is a great addition that sets it apart. I gave me the feeling of being a kid in a candy store and the JAL memorabilia on display is not to be missed. Catering was solid, but for being a F lounge I was expecting more in that league like a personalized meal service in a sit down restaurant or dedicated rooms to rest.
My first ride on the 787 proved to be an enjoyable one. Comfort was fine for a flight of this length, but the angled lie flat seats are not my favorites and it is a challenge to get out if you have a window and your neighbor's seat is fully extended. The plane felt quiet and the service from the crew aboard was great. I love their attention to details and appreciate the professional and smiling demeanor. The meal was well presented and delicious. I really enjoyed my dinner with a fish that was moist and perfectly cooked. I think serving ice cream as dessert in a premium cabin is a bit of a shortcut and I personally I would prefer a less "industrial" dessert.
Overall JL is a great carrier and I was happy with my choice.
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