***This is the final installment of of my “Fat and Furious” trip report detailing a recent trip to Japan which included stops in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Matsuyama. Check out the previous installments below***
2. Star Alliance First Class Lounge at LAX
3. Singapore Airlines Suites Class Los Angeles to Tokyo
4. Conrad Tokyo
5. Eating Tokyo Part 1 – Department Store Hopping in Ginza
6. Funaya Ryokan In Matsuyama
7. Living The Onsen Life In Matsuyama
8. The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto
9. Eating Kyoto – The Search for Matcha and Geisha
10. Kaiseki Dinner at 3-Michelin Star Kikunoi Honten
11. The Peninsula Tokyo
12. Eating Tokyo Part 2 – Maids, Robots, and Cosplay
13. Eating Tokyo Part 3 – Cherry Blossoms and THE BEST STEAK EVER
14. ANA Business Class Lounge at NRT
15. ANA Business Class Tokyo to San Jose
At the end of a vacation, I’m generally of the mindset that the trip is over and that it’s time to get back to reality. Therefore, I try to stick to two rules of thumb for the journey home:
- Take the most expeditious route home. So if a nonstop is available then I’m booking it, even if God forbid, it’s not the latest and greatest premium cabin product.
- If I have to take a connection, try to connect internationally in order to avoid domestic layovers where there’s more likelihood of a delay, in addition to the hassle of re-checking your bags after clearing customs.
So while we had connected through LAX on the way over to Japan in order to try Singapore Suites and could have done the same in reverse, it was in direct conflict with both rules.
Instead, I restricted my options to the plentiful number of direct flights between the Bay Area and Japan, and in the end landed on the simple 9-hour direct flight from Tokyo Narita (NRT) to San Jose (SJC). And yes, that isn’t a typo. I still find it interesting that you can fly from Japan into San Jose, the oft-neglected and less glamorous sibling of San Francisco International (SFO), located just 45 minutes south along the 101.
I had taken SFO-NRT route before in First Class, and if I’m being honest would have definitely done so again if available, but the only premium cabin availability happened to be on the 2-cabin flight into San Jose. For those in a similar predicament, keep in mind that the San Jose route has very light loads in Business Class and almost always has availability last-minute. As an added bonus, the flight was operated by a Boeing 787 Dreamliner which I’d get to fly for the first time.
I hadn’t been able to confirm my seat assignments until check-in due to a system glitch, and normally that would have given me nightmares just thinking about the prospect of ending up in a terrible seat next to the galley or bathroom. But I kept a close eye on the flight loads and the cabin never really filled up. We ultimately departed at roughly 50% occupancy, leaving plenty of seats to choose from.
The Business Class cabin had a total of 46 flat-bed seats spread across 2 sections, and we ended up toward the back of the 2nd section in row 12.
For someone who’s used to the simplicity of Cathay Pacific’s reverse herringbone Business Class cabin, the staggered layout of ANA’s cabin felt like a maze. There are two flavors of “window” seats, ones that are next to the window like the version shown below, and the one that I was assigned to which is aligned along the aisle.
In the middle, the rows alternate with two different layouts as well. One style is the of the “throne” variety, which is great for those traveling by themselves since you literally have the entire middle section to yourself and plenty of space on both sides. Note that sitting in the throne has been known to get into one’s head ala King Joffrey and apparently my wife as well as evidenced below, so is only recommended for people without huge egos.
The alternate type of middle section seat is more traditional, but the partition cannot be moved.
So for those travailing with a companion, the odd layout of the cabin leaves a couple seating options, neither of which is ideal:
- Sit next to each other in the middle section, but will require that you lean forward to talk to each other.
- Sit diagonally across the aisle from each other with one person in the aisle-version of the window seat and the other in the middle.
And of course, depending on how you are feeling about your travel companion at this point in the trip, there is always option #3 which is to sit at opposite ends of the cabin.
Now that I had navigated the cabin layout, it was time to get settled into my seat. Part of the fun and excitement of trying a new airline product is just exploring everything that you have at your fingertips.
The seat had a lot of personal storage space which is great and something that is often missing. The side tables were also coated with some sort of material that helped keep stuff from sliding around.
It actually took me a while to find the power console, which was just underneath the TV monitor. I still have no idea why the iPod hookup would be needed and have never seen that type of input before, does anyone actually use it?
And all the fancy recline and lumbar support buttons that I never used, since I actually prefer to sit upright rather than recline. I did put the seat in bed mode later on, but gave up on trying to sleep after an hour of tossing and turning.
The flight attendants came by with some swag including noise cancelling headphones, slippers and an amenity kit. I wasn’t sure if there would be pajamas available, and had read conflicting reports online on that topic, and none were offered on this flight.
My seat was actually quite far from the window so it was hard to see outside, but I did lean over to check out the electronic window dimmers.
Shortly after take-off, menus were distributed and it was time to eat again. I was still full from the ridiculous amounts of food consumed in the lounge, but that wasn’t going to stop me from enjoying one final Japanese meal on this trip.
I was excited to try the Japanese meal, since I still remembered how good the food was on my previous ANA flight.
The International meal looked pretty standard, and nothing excited me enough to change my mind.
While reading the menu I got excited at the Ippudo noodles on the snack menu and made a mental note to order them later. But given the short flight duration, you really only have 3-4 hours between the 1st and 2nd meal services and would have to be a huge pig to need to eat again.
And the wine and sake menu.
Dinner service started just as the sun was setting.
Starting with the amuse bouche trio.
Next up, a selection of mushrooms, salmon, and duck.
And finally grilled chicken which was just OK as it was on the dry side.
Then cheese and dessert to finish up.
The grapefruit jelly with strawberry compote was really delicious and as much as I enjoy cake and ice cream, the lighter-style dessert was much appreciated by my waistline.
After the meal service I tried to doze off but given the day-time flight and how hot the cabin was, I just tossed and turned. Luckily, the flight time was so short that before I knew it we were a couple hours out and it was time to eat again.
Once again I opted for the Japanese meal, which included an interesting mix of stuff, including jellyfish, eel, chicken, surf clams salad, and lotus root along with the main entree of grilled salmon. Overall, the food on this flight was pretty good, but a significant step down from the food on my prior flight, which was probably driven by the difference between First Class and Business Class products.
We landed 30 minutes ahead of schedule around 8AM and were literally through customs and out of the airport and in less than 10 minutes. SJC has a couple Global Entry kiosks and given how few international flights come through here, it would be rare to find a back-up at customs.
Overall the flight was great, and ANA has solidified it’s place as one of my favorite airlines. It’s really hard to not like anything Japanese, as both the seat and the food were very good, and the service in particular was fantastic. In fact, comparing the service we received on this flight vs. our outbound flight in Singapore Suites, the ANA girls were hands down the winners over the Singapore girls.