The airline with the best average rating is Japan Airlines with 8.1/10.
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There is always an end to the best trips, and this looong FR is the grand finale of this routing to Hachijōjima and Aogashima, two islands way out of the beaten track which will identify you as keen specialists of Japan when you mention them in your next social events, especially if you read the corresponding reports and their bonuses, and comment them to have more details about them.
For the grand finale of this trip to Japan, I decided to splurge for better comfort on board. Not as much as AF expected though: my wife agreed that 512 EUR each to have coffee in a china cup rather than a paper one (plus a few minor other goodies) was outrageously expensive.
Actually, at reservation time, I invested 27 EUR to book a twin set of seats because:
- I still had then FB-Platinum status, which made my seat free of charge. (My wife is registered on FB, which gives her a 10% rebate off the full 30 EUR fee)
- betting on the neutralization of the middle seat was less interesting on a day flight, because we were not going to sleep
- there was space on the right side, the one which would have correct lighting conditions during most of the flight.
JI was right to buy them when I booked our tickets because there were no twin seats available at OLCI time. Note also that I would have had the choice between travelling away from my wife or away from any window if I had accepted AF’s offer to upgrade to J. (Having to pay first before knowing if there is an acceptable seat is reason enough to have never done it.)
A significant advantage of HND over NRT is that it is much closer to the center of Tōkyō and also that the trip from downtown is much cheaper : 660 JPY, i.e. less than 6 EUR in our case ! Trains keep coming at short intervals on the Yamanote circle line.
Connection in Hamamatsuchō, where the signage could not be more explicit, both on the stairs up from the platform
… on the short walk to the other platform,
…and on the fine art of waiting for a train, Japanese style : the blue signage is for the passengers who are going to board the coming train ; when that line is full (which was the case behind us), passengers wait on the red line for the next train.
The train is a monorail, shot here when departing back to town from HND
There is of course space on board for the luggage, and the limitation of the number of passengers boarding at the first station avoids overloading.
No doubt that we are reaching an airport
The first stop of the monorail in HND is the international terminal
There are regularly ticket checks at the CDG-2 to fine the passengers who with good or bad faith do not have a valid ticket (foreign passengers regularly forget that they can take this line with a standard subway ticket inside Paris, but that you must buy a special one to go all the way to Paris). In HND, like in any station in Japan, there is a machine or a clerk at a counter where you can pay the fare difference without any penalty. I used this facility to top up our travel cards with the minimum amount needed, so that they would have next to zero leftover credit until our next trip to Japan. (Note that it actually has no cash flow impact for me: I have no use either for my leftover Japanese cash until our next trip to Japan).
This is the international departures hall
A decoration linked to the incoming Children’s Day, know before WWII as Boys’ Day (5 May)
Checking in for the AF flight is here
The line is of moderate length for non-status passengers but I still have Skypriority rights
How do you recognize a good design ? Maybe with a detail such as these sunken checked luggage belts and scales : passengers can effortlessly roll in their suitcases, whereas in all other countries, you need to haul your luggage up on the belt. .
It’s all the more welcome that our suitcase took some more extra weight during this past week in Tōkyō. I check our cabin luggage too, because we are heading home and it would not be a major problem if it was not there in CDG.
Anyway, checking in is quick, and we leave the counter with printed BPs and an access map to the lounges airside.
Departure is this way, under the carp streamers (another traditional decoration for Children’s Day)
The Skypriority status provides access to a dedicated security check where the waiting time is nil (but there was a curiously inefficient staff after the X-ray machine). Immigration control is very fast too.
There is a lot of natural light in HND airside, with quite plane spotter friendly windows despite double windows due to the presence of a deplaning corridor.
This is a first sample, but we have a more urgent task : go to the lounge because my FB-Gold is may not be renewed next year and this may be a last opportunity for us..
Go to the lounge, or rather go to the lounges, because Skypriority passengers have access to two different lounges : the Sakura Sky View Lounge (below) and the Sakura Lounge: I was decided to make the most of my ephemeral status and visit both of them.
We needed to not waste time, though, because you may have noticed that the Sakura Sky View Lounge is closed from 12:30 to 21:00.
This is the entrance to the Sakura Sky View Lounge where we are heading first. It is 11:40 am : the friendly staff at the welcome counter warns us that we are not going to be able to stay for a long time .
"Sakura Sky View Lounge" and "Sakura Lounge" ? The two names are misnomers, since both have windows providing a view on the sky, but only the former provides a view on the tarmac. Only aviation geeks would find it attractive to call it “Sakura Tarmac View Lounge”.
Of all the planes the gates, only the first one is fully visible
This KE 777-300 registered HL7534 has bad memories of HND
On 25 May 2016, the left engine suffered an uncontained failure and subsequent fire on the left engine at take-off which was aborted. There were 12 light injuries among the 17 crew and 302 passengers on board during evacuation.
The view on the other aircraft is poor (ANA 787-9, Asiana, Lufthansa)
The least bad view is on this Eva Air A330-300
You need to wait until the planes push back or arrive, but I can’t afford to do that since the lounge is going to close soon.
ANA 777-300ER, in front of an ANA Cargo 767-300ER
How about the planes parked in the distance. The problem is with hot air, due to the reactors, not the current weather.
JAL 767-300 JAL, in a special livery supporting the Japanese rugby team for the World Cup which is to be held in Japan in Fall 2019.
737-800 Skymark airlines, in special livery Taka Girl (the cheerleading squad of the Fukuoka baseball team)
E-190 of J-Air, JAL’s regional subsidiary
It’s easier when they taxi alongside the terminal, like this 777-300ER Garuda
Let’s go back to the entrance of the lounge : it is possible to store your hand luggage securely after the welcome counter
Discretion when placing phone calls is possible, for oneself and for others
Fax machines were developed in Japan and spread everywhere including homes, due to the complexity of their writing system, before the time of personal computers and e-mail. I do not know if they are still being used much, in the era of automatic handwriting recognition on touchscreens.
There are restrooms and a smoking room that I did not visit
You can take a shower ; it appears they could last up to half an hour, since they close half an hour before the lounge itself closes.
First Class passengers have a dedicated area with more bulky seats
For passengers with a lesser status or travel class, this lounge is very far from being crowded at this time of the day.
There is actually a lot of visual space
The lounge is at a corner of the building (in the background), which increases the amount of daylight
There is a tidy flowery table runner on each table
Shelves with decorative objects
It masks without hiding the accessories (trays, silverware, etc.) and the first hot meal containers – shame on me, I did not take a picture of their contents, due to the lack of time!.
Let’s have a more detailed look at what this sign promises
Vegetables that I do not remember well
Sausages, onions, vegetables
Ingredients and seasonings for salads
Salad Wrap – Kale and Caesar Chicken
Not need to show you the contents of this cooker : rice, of course, which is often as much as you can eat in Japanese restaurants
Teas and various infusions
Soft drink dispensing and coffee machines in the rear
Cold milk, tea, water, coffee and Schweppes
I tried the green "Sky time” drink on the left and did not like it. There is water and tomato juice too.
I did not consider tasting these.
Either I missed a shelf, or the offering of newspapers and magazines is meager.
We left this lounge before being ushered towards the exit at closing time
Going through the public airside area
Obviously Chinese travelers fill their thermal flasks with hot water for tea, a vital need for them.
I had us head towards the Sakura Sky View Lounge first due to the limited amount of time before it would close, but I cannot defer any more paying the very costly departure tax from Japan. In the olden times, like that of this vintage AF schedule dated November 1988, you had to be careful to keep 2,000 yen in cash to pay for it, and French citizens needed a visa to visit Japan.
Credit cards can now be used to pay the present departure tax, whose fees skyrocketed.
My wife tried to explain me again that "it is cheaper than in Paris" or that "it is nowhere to be found in Paris"
It’s all the difference with the kokeshi こけし (traditional wood dolls) that I bought as usual for a few hundred yen each in flea markets and account for most of the extra weight of our suitcase.
After this step which was painful for our bank account, this is the list of the airlines using the Sakura Lounge
Friendly welcome at the counter
This lounge is not called Sky view, but you do get a view of the sky, and therefore natural lighting
Many facilities are identical in both lounges, like for instance the lockers for hand luggage
Or the fax at passengers’ disposal
The baby care room is actually a nursing room
The toilets are "obviously" clean. Once you tried the Japanese toilets with integrated washlets once, you forever regret not having one at home.
A small sign in the toilets mentions that you can ask for a toiletry kit at the welcome counter, which is good news because I forgot leaving a toothbrush in my hand luggage. The staff there spontaneously asked me if I wanted one or two kits, obviously remembering that I had arrived with my wife.
On the other hand, I did not use the showers there either
There is ample space to move around in the lounge. There are “bar-like” configurations (side-by-side seating, which is very common in Japan).
We preferred seating in front of each other at one of these tables, admittedly far from the windows, but they do not provide any view outside anyway.
Power ports on the wall, of Type A only
Overall view of the buffet
This rice cooker is the same as that of the other lounge.
Bowls containing some pre-cooked noodles : you only need to add hot water
… and miscellaneous small ingredients as desired
Some pork dim sums
Shrimp Cream Macaroni Gratin
In both lounges, all food is labeled with the number of calories per 100 grams. If you worry about gaining weight, better choose the macaroni (163 kcal/100g) rather than the chicken (290 kcal / 100 g). All what is missing a small scale to weigh each portion.
Madeleines and other cookies
Shrimp spring rolls, recommended for their low 27 kcal / 100 g
Miso soup, of course
Coffee machine and various teas
… but the cups have been poorly selected, because they cannot fit horizontally under the spout, to you must be very careful to incline it slightly when it is very full if you want to take it without spilling some coffee
Wines and spirits
The refrigerated drinks are the same as in the Sky Lounge
My first helping
And the refill
The choice of newspapers and magazines is really limited in these lounges
It’s time to leave this lounge and do quite a lot of walking in the terminal :
… logically as much as when we deplaned, at the Arrivals level
Seen on the way : a JAL 787-8 parked in the distance…
And a set of aircraft at their gates: Lufthansa 747, Shanghai Airlines 787-9, China Eastern A330-300in Disney Shanghai livery, which I had already seen two weeks earlier at the same place .
An electric cart brings a passenger to her gate. A sign says behind that it is free and accessible to all (and not only PRM, according to the pictograms), but I do not know where and how you can get one.
Going down to the boarding gate where there is a lot of seating space left
The AF 772 is of course already there
We still have some time before boarding : I leave as usual my wife with our hand luggage to wander around for some plane spotting, heading first to the end of the terminal.
A crowd of passengers waiting for boarding for HKG
… for two extra hours
JAL and Skymark Airlines aircraft in the distance, including a 737-800 in B.League special livery
Skymark Airlines did not try to use the coincidence of the registration of this 737-800: JA737X
Arrival of a Delta Air Lines 777-200ER
Gulfstream G550, with deployed thrust inverters
The same, after retracting them
The Shanghai Airlines 787-9 seen at her gate heads home
United Airlines 787-9
Another special Disney livery on this JAL 767-300ER ; this one celebrates the 90th anniversary of the creation of Mickey Mouse
Boarding of the CX flight is announced at last, two hours behind schedule, and it is time for me to head back to my gate where boarding is going to be on time
Boarding of the AF flight has indeed just started at Gate 142, with the families with children.
Water is available at this fountain
The priorities are respected : going down the jetbridge
The CX 777 is not ready to go
PlayStation and plane door
Going through the Premium Economy cabin whose quality-cost ratio I find very poor
Arrival in the rear of a cabin. As soon as I have taken a few pictures, a male FA comes up and sternly tells me that there shall be no pictures of the crew. I do not give him time to elaborate and tell him that I pointedly try to avoid them: his tone becomes immediately congenial, shifting into his “friendly & welcoming FA” mode. In retrospect, this short (and initially somewhat unfriendly) exchange was better than suspicion during the whole flight, especially when I wait with my camera in hand until a FA leaves the frame.
So, with nobody in sight, neither FA nor passenger since I was among the first to board but seated in the rear, this is the cabin from one of the last ranks
The narrowing of the fuselage in the rear mandates the presence of the four twin seat sets on each side already seen in the cabin layout map.
Cheap headphones, a rather comfortable eye mask and a cushion are on each seat.
The seat width between armrest is standard
With a larger than usual bonus space between the armrest and the wall for the window seat, though.
The pleasant surprise is in the seat pitch which is 5 cm longer than that measured in an ordinary row. It may not look like much, but it is not negligible at all. In particular, it remains possible to keep using my laptop when the passenger of the previous row reclines his seat, which for me is a significant plus, since I always spend most of my flying time doing that.
The difference between these twin seats (on this flight, left) and a standard three-seat set (on the way in, right) is evident.
Multistandard power port
The narrowing of the cabin in the rear mandates a 2-4-2 seat layout there : this seat without an IFE screen in the back is the first 3-4-3 row from the rear.
A clean carpet ? My initial impression did not last
Because in front of my seat, the contents of an aperitif bag have not been cleaned.
Safety card, both sides
Seen through the window : the tails of the planes at their gates : CX, CI, DL, UA, AA
The departure of the CX 777-300ER unveils a China Airlines A330-300.
It’s our turn to push back
The exhaust of the CX APU, for fans of this item
This is as usual the time for the safety demonstration, and in this report the time to say again how much I dislike it.
No, a non-smoking flight is not "simply chic", according to that safety demonstration, it is simply a legal obligation, and it has been one for two decades!
Some more plane-spotting during taxiing:
777-200 JAL in OneWorld livery
The elegant all black livery of an A320 of Star Flyer, a Japanese LCC
Firemen play firemen games
The quite ugly control towers behind
Imminent take off Runway 16L
We are in flight at the level of the taxiways connecting Runways 16L/34R and 16R/34L
There is no terminal on this side
The double bridge supporting the taxiways to/from Runway 05/23
Crossing Runway 05/23
The ventilation infrastructure of the tunnel of the Aqualine (the bridge-tunnel crossing the Bay of Tōkyō).
A glimpse of the harbor facilities in Anegasaki 姉ヶ崎 ("Elder Sister Cape"), in Chiba Prefecture, on the other side of the Bay of Tōkyō
Tega dam lake (slightly to the right) and the Tone River. NRT is some forty kilometers beyond the lake, under the clouds top right in this picture
The stadiums in Kashiwa-no-ha柏の葉Park, next to the campus in Kashiwa 柏 of the prestigious Tōkyō University.
The air map provided by Air France was no help for localizing : it is much too imprecise by design, which I find especially frustrating.
On the other hand, AF finds it relevant to provide me the precise location of the Eiffel Tower, without asking me if I’m interested, by shifting the air map into a cyclic display mode as soon as you stop touching the screen. It is especially annoying.
Wrapped oshibori and printed menu
The menu in French, English and Japanese
And the drinks on a single trilingual page
Apple juice for my wife and I.
This is ten times what I ate, since this bag only contains 10 grams.
The IFE begins with an ad for a hotel chain which is possible, but not very easy to halt. My wife’s IEF got stuck when she tried to start a game : the only remaining operational control was that of the individual light. The meal service has just started, with FAs going up and down the aisle bringing all kinds of special meals: the crew is evidently too busy to bother about a passenger’s FA call button. My wife eventually stops a FA on the way, stressing that she is in no hurry: he quickly rebooted her IFE back to operation from the galley.
I triggered the FA call by mistake well before, and found no way to cancel it. Not a problem : the FAs did not react whatsoever. This FA call on the IFE was no more than a placebo button, as far as I was concerned.
I actually find it rather inconvenient to have to use the IFE screen in order to adjust the individual light (or to have to “wake up” the IFE if you want to call a FA, even in the dead of the night), but they call it a progress.
What more can be said about this seat, once in flight ? I keep sliding forward, and have to tighten my seat belt to stay in place. Maybe this was designed on purpose, to make it easier to leave your seat and to have passengers fasten their seat belts, but I find it uncomfortable. The cabin fittings vibrate and the noise level of the reactors is somewhat high.
The first meal, as served
My wife and I chose as usual a different hot meal and neither was satisfactory. I chose salmon and it is very disappointing, due to its soggy breading.
My wife is curter in her assessment of chicken : “it’s not good”.
The bread has a pleasant texture but a stranger after-taste, confirmed by my wife. The butter is provided by a New Zealander brand which seems to have captured most of the Far-Eastern market and is OK.
All the wrappings are easy to compress together
… and store them in the seat pocket before the FAs gather them, so that I can sue again my laptop.
We start with flying above Siberia
Localization does not matter much there since there is no trace of human activity – I won’t see Khabarovsk.
Most of the Siberian landscape is unfortunately going to be hidden
Some classical music to kill time
An advantage of being two passengers on twin seats is to be able to move around easily. We see here the change of seat layout from 2-4-2 in the rear to 3-4-3 beyond.
The toilets are always very narrow in Economy class ; those at the rear of a 777 are no exception.
Do not smoke in the toilets, but in the unlikely case that you forgot it, there is an ashtray. It is also possible to dispose safely of used syringes.
This warning and the adhesive tape sealing cavities which could be opened out of sight are mandatory in any aircraft serving the USA, which this 777 is obviously doing at times.
Door and emergency slide shot.
The cloud cover dissipates partly, unveiling snowy summits,
… and frozen rivers
Distribution of a small (retrospectively vanilla) ice cream.
After careful measurement of the dimensions of this ice-cream, including the lost volume of the wooden stick, I come to the conclusion that its volume is exactly 50 cm3, which translates into a probable 25 grams of ice cream : you can’t get sick with that little. (My wife wondered about my own mental sickness, watching this millimetric measuring sequence. ^^)
Unequal sharing of four central seats by two passengers : the woman remained seated on a single seat fat left and her companion lied down on the other three seats.
A good point, or rather no demerit for AF : nearly all passengers have lowered their window blinds, but no FA has asked me to do the same. My readers may remember that this issue is the reason why I do the utmost to avoid Korean Air: their non-negotiable policy is to maintain the whole aircraft in the dark on long distance flights, even if it is a day flight.
The passenger in the previous row progressively lowers his window blind. What a shame (for him) to not look at this landscape!
We are now there into the flight
Breaks in the ice shelf
And a break for us to walk around a little
Set of self-serve soft drinks in the rear galley
As well as small sandwiches
"Small" means a 6 cm diameter for this one
Unanimous evaluation by the Marathons : it’s not very good.
Instant soup for Japanese reading passengers : pour 150 ml of hot water and wait 10 seconds.
We are approaching the north cost of Norway
The inaccuracy of the airmap and the scattered cloud cover conspire to dissuade me from localizing these fjords.
I have to shut the window blind to take a picture of the IFE screen, otherwise the reflections are unmanageable.
Norway under snow
How can you determine where you are with better than 100 km precision with such an air map ?!
Ice crystals came into the party to hamper my recording of the landscape
The coast is a hopeless maze of islands and fjords
I wrote down that 20 minutes before the second meal arrived, at 13:40 Paris time, therefore 00:40 Tōkyō time, I start being seriously hungry, which means that despite a plentiful lunch in the lounge, the quantities of the first meal on board were not enough.
Let’s say charitably that it made it possible to survive until arrival
Compacting the wrappings is easy
I keep this cheap milk chocolate (more cost cutting) to eat with coffee after the meal
The schedule of this flight is such that you can’t avoid adverse lighting, either in the Far East and above Siberia, or during the last third of the flight above Europe. There is no way I can locate the grass runway of Texel International Airport (EHTX) which contrary to what its name hints has no scheduled flights, but does have customs officers for private flights.
Den Helder harbour, facing the south end of the Dutch Frisian islands.
The mouth of the canal joining Amsterdam with the North Sea
The last docks of the harbor, between and the sea
AMS, easy to spot even in adverse lighting conditions.
The Meuse River downstream from Rotterdam
The Beerenplaat drinking water processing plant, in the lower third of the picture, and the harbor of Rotterdam in the background.
Zoom on Rotterdam’s harbour
Since the lighting is too unfavorable, I take pictures again in Compiègne.
The ponds in the meanders of the Oise River at Verberie
Railway geeks know Verberie for its viaduct with which the high speed train line towards London and Amsterdam crosses the Oise River.
Apremont and its golf course
The city of Creil
Air Base #110 in Creil (CSF). There are no military flights any more since 2016, only a private aviation club.
Another view of Creil
Distribution of a very small sweet during the descent
The Seine river at Les Mureaux, downstream from Paris
Zoom on the grass runway of Les Mureaux (LFXU). I very seldom see it when landing in CDG
The Peugeot works in Poissy, lower left in this picture
The forest of St Germain en Laye
Center right, the castle of St Germain en Laye which houses the remarkable National Archeological Museum, with in particular the exceptional Venus of Brassempouy.
The very long terrace of the castle of St Germain en Laye
The plane lines up on CDG from very far west, which provides a beautiful panorama of Paris and its northern suburbs. The dark area in the center is the Bois de Boulogne
The skyscrapers of the La Défense business area, in front of the Bois de Boulogne park
Zoom on La Défense, with in particular the Grande Arche
The Arc de Triomphe, in the center of the picture
The unusual shapes of the Louis Vuitton Foundation’s building emerge from the trees of the Bois de Boulogne
The Tour Maine-Montparnasse Tower (center) is widely considered as the most beautiful place in Paris, because it is the only place where you are sure to not see it
It was far from generating unanimous acclaim when it was being built, but has nevertheless become the quintessential symbol of Paris : the Eiffel Tower
In the distance beyond the, the Meudon forest, south-west of Paris
The docks of Gennevilliers, much closer to the air route
Between Expressway A86 at the lower edge of the picture and the Seine River in the middle, the housing projects of Gennevilliers, compressed by the perspective
Very far from Gennevilliers, from the social class point of view only, the posh suburb of Neuilly sur Seine, the Bois de Boulogne and the skyscrapers of La Défense business area.
Nearly all of Paris with Montmartre Cemetery (the green space lower right) and the Sacré Coeur Basilica surrounded with small parks on the left .
In the background of the above picture, and below, the tall housing buildings of the southern suburbs around the (former) Fort of Vanves, and part of Orly Airport (ORY) at the top edge of the picture below.
The turn of the Seine River at Gennevilliers, easy to identify with its long, narrow and curved island in the middle. Immediately to the left, the railway tracks leading to Gare du Nord station.
The Grand Stade and the Canal St Denis on the left
La Courneuve park, under the wing
La Courneuve park
Le Bourget Airport (LBG)
The branches of the expressway toward CDG
The Carole Circuit, created in 1979, named after 18-year old Carole Le Fol, one of the last victims of the wild motorcycle night races at that time in the southern suburbs of Paris.
The white triangle is a tiny park for the travelling community, similar to that located north of CDG, in the least desirable place with regards to air movement noise.
Landing under the gaze of plane spotters whose cars are parked alongside the road skirting the airport’s limits.
E-170 Hop ! and WDL Aviation BAE-146 in the vicinity of Terminal 2G
Funny, a wandering fire truck!
And another on another taxiway
Korean Air A380
Two fire trucks and a light fire brigade car on the taxiway behind us
One more on the parallel taxiway
And yet another car. There must be something going on somewhere.
We meanwhile approach Terminal 2E, with three AF A319 surrounding a Tarom 737-800 in Skyteam livery.
The fire trucks keep trailing us
There is no other aircraft taxiing in the vicinity : could it be that they are here for us, and why then ?
They are certainly there for this Air India787, anyway
An AF 777 AF takes off in the background
These fire trucks are really for us. What is going on?
A yellow Robocop approaches
Only now does the captain goes on the PA : "You may have noticed the fire trucks next to our planes. There has been a suspicious smell in the rear of the aircraft in the past two minutes ; they are going to check the holds. You have nothing to worry about ; deplaning will start as soon as we receive the OK.”
Going through the Y+ cabin
And then the J cabin
We have reached our gate 5 minutes ahead of schedule : no qualms about punctuality
The fire trucks are still there, and I won’t know anything about their possible findings.
Arrival in the luggage delivery room
The first pieces of luggage appearing on the delivery belt are labelled B (standard passenger checked luggage: no respect of priorities ?
No, this very long belt is actually fed by two separate luggage arrivals: the priority bags including our own promptly appear at the second one.
A long walk alongside all these luggage delivery belts to reach the exit
And a long walk in the reverse direction on the other side of the glass partition, once landside
The access to the RER train station is nearly at the Departures level
A380 of an airline whose external growth was badly misguided.
Zero waiting time at the train ticket machines because this is Easter Sunday and Monday is off in France : the foreigners arrived the day before, the French will come back the next day.
We now only need to board the RER train, from the platform which is raised to train floor level at the ends only, like they tried to minimize PRM accessibility to the legal minimum.
We have reached our destination, and if you still have some time and patience, I propose a bonus on Tōkyō
Tokyo is a megalopolis which defies the writer of a bonus because of its multiple facets which surprise the visitor who wanders a couple blocks away from the main attractions. From the free terrace of Asakusa’s tourist office creatively shaped building,
… you have a spectacular view of famous Sensō-ji浅草寺 Temple
… and of its unending alley of shops selling souvenirs of all kinds (including some of excellent quality)
But in the immediate vicinity of the rail transport hub of Ueno Station and of the homonymous park, you can find this shop adorned with a comb
A craftsman makes combs the way they have been made for countless centuries
Expect to spend around 16,000 yen for a comb like this one.
Let’s gain height, from the free observation platforms of the twin towers of the commanding Tōkyō City Hall
There are skyscrapers in Tōkyō, of course, like this remembrance of London’s Gherkin, among more ordinary buildings
With stacked expressway ramps
But Tōkyō is essentially a both very dense and very horizontal city, made of low height buildings tightly packed along the narrow lanes of each neighborhood…
All the way to the horizon, like above, or when focusing on a neighborhood, like below
It is possible to see HND, 18 km due south and therefore in the most unfavorable lighting conditions at noon. Slightly to the right, it is barely possible to identify the ventilation structures of the Aqualine’s tunnel, 26 km away.
You owe these pictures of the waiting line for take-off from Runway 34R to my wife
On the other hand, I did not even try to identify these aircraft. We’ll have to come back in the early morning or late afternoon.
All buildings in Tokyo have not met with success. The Nakagin Capsule Tower, built with prefabricated units providing a 2.5 x 4 m space to its residents, aged poorly since it was built in record time in 1972.
Most of the apartments are abandoned, or are used for storage only, but the project of demolition to build a modern building got mired in the Asian economic crisis, despite the value of this location in the posh Ginza neighborhood.
Don’t use the lifts in case of fire, take to the stairs… or the emergency slide, like in this primary school; I saw a similar one in Shikoku.
An evacuation can be a complex task when there are many aged residents with limited mobility. This elderly home uses the same solution: a slide with rollers which serves three levels, including the terrace.
There were elections coming up, and as always in such circumstances, it was difficult to ignore it, due to the number of cars of supporters cruising in the neighborhoods with loudspeakers repeating continuously the same message : “Hello, I am (from left to right) Mr. Sawada / Mr. Ishizawa / Mr. Hosaka, vote for me !”
Why hammer the name of the candidates this way? The reason is that unlike anywhere else in the world, the Japanese do not use pre-printed ballots or voting machines: the electors must write themselves the name of their favorite candidate on a blank ballot, and must therefore have memorized it. This is especially crucial in a constituency where two candidates with the same last name are running: Kazuhiro Takayama (left) and Taizō Takayama (right).
Japan is famous for the quality of its electronics, and amplifiers are no exception in this matter. In this quiet street worth seeing due to the presence of a multi-secular camphor tree, a sound meter (for both noise – top – and vibrations – bottom) has been installed outside a construction area, nearly in front of the tree.
A car with supporters of Kesako Sekigawa approaches: like all the candidates of the Japanese Communist Party, she loudly repeats her opposition to the revision of Article 9 of the Constitution which officially “renounces war and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes”.
The sound level jumps from 46 dB up to 83 dB!
I seldom if ever saw it, but campaigning can also be done on foot, like here Ms. Yukiko Ueda, followed by her campaign staff.
The candidate spares no effort to run left and right in order to shake hands with the maximum of passers-by. (Note her white gloves : you would not shake hands with strangers bare-handed !)
I won’t show you an abstract of the dozens of temples, shrines and churches that we visited, but three of them were somewhat out of the ordinary.
Tokyo’s catholic cathedral had been destroyed by the American bombings in 1944; the present building has been designed by world famous architect Kenzo Tange.
The continuous space separating the eight hyperbolic paraboloids which make up the raw concrete vaults are enough to provide light inside.
The Gyōkurin-ji玉林寺, an ordinary neighborhood Buddhist temple like we saw so many others?
Not quite, because there is here a statue of Chiyonofuji千代の富 (1955 – 2016), with a stele recapitulating his impressive career.
(For my younger readers - and possibly some less young ones too - I remind that Chiyonofuji has been one of the most titled sumo wrestlers in history, dominated all his rivals during the 1980s decade).
In which Western place of worship would you find such a statue of a sports champion, especially one associated to another religion? There is indeed a very strong link between sumo and shintō, but shintō is unrelated to Buddhism, even if both religions coexist peacefully in Japan.
Talking about shintō, and therefore of shrines, this is Nezu Shrine 根津神社
…which is famous at that season for its azaleas festival.
Last not least, I could not fail to mention the cherry trees in bloom!
Thanks for reading me!
The fee for travelling on twin seats has a good quality-price ratio thanks to the increased seat pitch which allows using a laptop even when the passenger in the previous row reclines his seatback. Being among the last to deplane could of course be a problem if you have a tight connection, which was not our case.
The crew did his job ; the initial warning about pictures on board could have been made with a softer undertone.
Once you’ve played with the 3D simulation of the aircraft, the air map is both disappointing and frustrating, because it is much too inaccurate and goes into a cyclic mode alternating between views of zero interest for me as soon as you stop touching the screen.
You don’t travel by plane for a dining experience, at least not in Economy, but AF sets the attractivity of the food served on board at an unacceptably low level.
Fluidity was optimum in HND thanks to the Skypriority access, but it seemed OK at the regular security control; immigration was the same for all passengers, and it was fast.
No matter your status and class of travel, the accessibility of HND is excellent for all passengers.
Fluidity is OK in CDG, but the walking distance is excessive; the access is hampered by the inadequacy of the RER train for serving a major airport.
There is no significant difference between Sakura Sky View Lounge and Sakura Lounge, apart from the very significant view on the tarmac. It’s too bad that the former is closed in the afternoon. There is ample moving and visual space in both; the crowd was moderate in the Sakura Lounge (this criterion does not apply to the other lounge which was soon to close).
The catering is not overwhelming, but it is satisfactory for a Japanese lounge.
Entertaining in a lounge is for me the view on the tarmac which is good in the former and absent in the latter.