Business Aviation Trip Planning Tips: Operations to Japan – Hotels, Local Area, and Culture
This is a post by author Hiroshi Higashiyama. Hiroshi is representative director for Universal Aviation Japan, which has aircraft ground handling facilities in Haneda, Narita, Sapporo, and Osaka. Hiroshi is an expert on business aircraft operations in Japan and can be contacted at email@example.com.
This aviation blog post is part of a series on operating to Japan and continues from our last article entitled "Business Aviation Trip Planning Tips: Operations to Japan – Flight Planning, Weather, and NOTAMs ."
Japan is a safe and secure country with a wide selection of accommodations and local transport options. Your ground handler will recommend preferred hotels and local transport to suit your individual needs. Caution is advised when booking 3-star or lower hotels in smaller regional locations as accommodations may, in some cases, not be what you expect or are accustomed to.
If you are planning on operating to Japan, the following is an overview of what you need to know about hotels, local area, and culture:
1. A wide selection of crew rooms is available
There’s a good selection of 4- and 5-star international and local chain hotels at major centers in Japan. When operating to smaller regional destinations or staying at airport hotels, such as the one in the Narita (RJAA) area, you may be limited to 3-star hotel options. While 3-star properties are generally adequate, rooms may be very small, English-language support may be present, and – in some smaller cities – you may be dealing with Japanese-style bathrooms.
2. Hotel rates are generally high in Japan
Expect to pay 300 USD per night for 4-star hotels and around 500 USD per night for 5-star properties. Some 6-star hotels have recently become available in Japan at accommodation rates of 600 USD+ per night. Room rates for 3-star properties usually range from 200 to 250 USD per night.
3. Choose hotel locations carefully
It’s best to consult with your local ground handler or 3rd-party provider on your preferred hotel options and locations. If it’s just a quick one- or two-night stop at RJAA, crew members may opt for an airport hotel and should expect to find primarily 3-star properties. Keep in mind that many hotels in Japan are located in residential areas and may be somewhat isolated. City center hotels in prime tourist areas are generally preferred options for crew members in Japan.
4. Hotels tend to sell out during holiday and major event periods
High season in Japan is typically July-September. Preferred hotels are more difficult to book, and room rates are higher during these periods. It’s often difficult finding hotel availability in Tokyo during August and from late December to mid-January. In the Kyoto area, hotel accommodations are often difficult to source year-round. Major national holidays/events impact availability of accommodations – particularly cherry blossom season, the first week of April, and Golden Week at the beginning of May.
5. Your ground handler is a valuable resource in securing best hotel rates and terms
Ground handlers in Japan may be well-connected and will provide you with the best options in terms of short-notice accommodation requests, special rates, and most flexible check-in/check-out options. Ground handlers may be able to negotiate such extras as Internet and breakfast. Larger hotels in Japan often serve attractive international-style breakfast buffets with wide ranges of U.S., Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and other cuisine styles.
6. Be aware of traffic congestion when overnighting in Japan
It’s always best to have your ground handler organize local transportation between the airport and hotel. Be sure to verify the drive time between your hotel and the airport. Normal business hours are 0900-1700 local, and most people in Japan live outside the city limits. High traffic periods are usually 0700-1000 and 1700-1900 local, and the one-way commute from central Tokyo to RJAA can be two and three hours, or longer, in some cases.
7. Take-out food may not be available from your hotel
For food safety reasons, many hotels and hotel chains in Japan do not provide take-out food. This will limit some options in terms of aircraft self-catering. Certain hotels do provide cuisine for off-site consumption, but it’s best to work with your ground handler if such services are desired.
8. Rental cars are preferred by some crew members
Standard rental cars in Japan are either compact or mid-sized and have automatic transmissions. These vehicles are typically outfitted with GPS in both Japanese and English, and many of these GPS devices offer 3D projections on the windshield (somewhat like an aircraft head-up display). Keep in mind, however, that the Japanese drive on the left side of the road, and many road signs are in Japanese only. This may be confusing to drivers who are not accustomed to this area. It’s often difficult finding parking in larger Japanese cities, and parking rates can be expensive.
9. Be aware of required documentation
Non-Japanese citizens must carry passports with them at all times. Failure to do so can put you at risk of arrest. "Shore passes" are issued to crew members on arrival, and crew members must carry these with their passports. Passengers need to confirm any visa requirements prior to arrival in Japan, as standard visas can’t be obtained on arrival. No vaccinations, or vaccination records, are necessary for Japan. In the case of an overnight transit stop in Japan for crew rest, passengers will be issued shore passes valid for 24 hours.
10. Know agricultural restrictions and duty-free allowances
Due to agricultural and meat product restrictions in Japan, it’s always best to check with your ground handler prior to arrival regarding any restricted items. When arriving in Japan, duty-free allowances for liquor, cigarettes, and perfume are typically smaller for crew members on shore passes. Passengers, for example, may bring in up to 200 cigarettes, while crew traveling on shore passes will be limited to duty-free allowances of just 60 cigarettes. Best practice is to double-check agricultural restrictions and duty-free allowances with your ground handler.
11. Take time to enjoy and experience unique Japanese culture
Your ground handler will be able to suggest a range of cultural sites, including temples, shrines, and museums that are well worth visiting while in regional areas of Japan. Japanese cuisine is also a must.
Crew and passengers report positive and trouble-free experiences when operating to Japan. Still, it’s best to coordinate all local hotel and transport arrangements with your ground handler, in advance, to secure the best available options.
If you have any questions about this article or operating to Japan, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.