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    Lifestyle Curators for Thailand + Southeast Asia

    72 Hours in Japan

      /  DESTINATIONS   /  72 Hours in Japan

    Hop on a plane on Saturday after midnight, wake up in Japan, visit Mount Fuji and Tokyo, and come back to Bangkok full of gifts and with the wish of going back soon.

    By Coco Lavender

    One of the privileges of living in Thailand is its great connectivity to other countries in the region. In most cases, it just takes a piece of cabin luggage and a few hours’ flight to experience a totally different country and culture.

    I couldn’t resist booking a flight and jumping on the plane when I found out that Jet Asia Airways was offering round-trip promotional tickets from Bangkok to Tokyo for THB 7,555. On any other airline, a ticket would normally cost double that price, or more. I didn’t have many days off to spend there, but I had never been to Japan and I love sushi, so why not?

    Sunday 12:45 a.m.
    Suvarnabhumi Airport. I’m about to board Jet Asia Airways’ first JF988 flight from Bangkok to Tokyo. There was quite a big fuzz at the airport because of three girls who were also traveling on that flight: models Tiing Tiing, Burnfire Baifern, and Papang, from Thailand’s reality show, “Academy Fantasia.”

    I had dinner before going to the airport, as I was planning on sleeping the whole way there and getting the energy to do some serious sightseeing the following day. I woke up while refreshments were being served and, later on, during the breakfast service. Overall I got five hours of sleep, which was pretty good for the efficient use of time I made by flying overnight. I arrived at Narita International Airport at 9:15 a.m. local time. Yay! I was in Japan.

    Sunday 1 p.m.
    _MG_2237One of the reasons I wanted to go to Japan was because of the food. The sushi is of course world-famous, but there is so much more to Japanese cuisine. So, after taking a bus directly from the airport to Lake Kawaguchiko—one of the Fuji Five Lakes and the most easily accessible from Tokyo—I went directly to a local restaurant.

    Located close to Mount Fuji, the areas around the lakes are known for their outdoor sports and their hot springs. The most typical food around is that grilled on lava rock—yes, coming directly from the volcano. Choose seafood, fish, pork, boar, tongue, or beef sirloin, which you will get raw, along with some vegetables, to grill yourself on a gas-heated rock table. The minerals present in the lava rock are supposed to compensate the lack of them in the food. I bought a small lava rock as souvenir as well, as it’s supposed to clean the water; I’ll try it on my next trip to India and let you know how that went. The food was delicious, it tasted healthy, and it was also fun to grill.

    If you’d like to try this concept for yourself, give these instructions to your driver next time you are around:
    河口湖富士登山口 旅館 熔岩温泉
    〒401-0301 山梨県南都留郡富士河口湖町船津5219
    More info: 0555 72 2260,

    Sunday 9 p.m.
    _MG_2110After visiting Oshino Hakkai, a touristy area in Oshino village that has eight ponds formed by snowmelt from Mount Fuji, I had dinner at the hotel and decided to go and try onsen.

    Most of the hotels in the area provide the opportunity to try these hot spring baths. How does it work? Men and women have separate onsens. Leave all your clothes in the locker and head to the shower area, where you will sit on a low stool, shampoo and soap yourself until you get enough foam, and rinse off by pouring a bucket of water on yourself. Only small towels are allowed in this area, so you need to leave embarrassment back in your hotel room. Everyone walks around naked in these places, although nobody looks. Then you will head to the hot spring, sometimes indoors, sometimes outdoors, and luxuriate in the 42° Celsius water when it’s 10° Celsius outside. Again, no big towels are allowed in this area, and the small one you are supposed to carry to dry yourself with has to be out on top of your head while in the bath. Stay in the water as much as you like or, if you want, take a cold shower and then go back in. The water’s therapeutic properties are supposed to heal you and, when using the baths frequently, probably also give you nice skin like so many Japanese people have.

    Monday 9 a.m.
    After having had a laid-back Sunday, I decided to go full-on tourism this day at Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. I took the Hakone Sightseeing Cruise, which takes you around the lake for half an hour. The multicolor trees, the stillness of the water, and a subtle mist far from the boat but close to the fishermen far away, all make this tour a really good way to understand what a peaceful life—and in such clean air—takes place on this side of the world.

    I then took the Hakone Roadpway to Owakudani station to try the Kuro-tamago black eggs. These are regular eggs boiled in piping hot mineral water, which makes the shells turns black. Eating one of these eggs is supposed to give you seven more years of life. I had two, just in case.

    Tuesday 1 p.m.
    japan2The way from Lake Yamanakako—the largest of the Fuji Five Lake region—back to Tokyo is breathtaking. Passing through large areas of pampas grass while watching the trees that around November start turning yellow, orange, red, and brown, you feel as though landscape has come out of a fairy tale. Surprisingly, the small roads of Yamanakako reminded me of the small towns in California and, notwithstanding the houses with Japanese architecture and the mostly Asian faces in the streets, at times I felt as though I could be in San Rafael, Halifax, or Boulder Creek. It does make sense that Japanese like California: they probably feel “at home” there.

    I decided to spend the rest of the afternoon doing something I learned from Thais and that I also love: shopping. I took the train to Shinjuku Station, which is one of the busiest in the world, and walked for hours around the skyscrapers, department stores, electronics shops, and hundreds of independent stores selling everything from stationery to second-hand luxury handbags.

    Wednesday 9 a.m.
    _MG_2497I used my last day in town to visit Senso-ji Temple, also known as Asakusa Kannon Temple, while I could see the Imperial Palace and the Tokyo Tower along on the way.

    All sorts of rites are commonly practiced at the temple after worshipers pass through the huge red paper lanterns hanging from the Furai jin-mon, the Gate of Wind God and Thunder God. Rites such as drinking water from a fountain, lighting up incense sticks and standing in front of them while the smoke gets in one’s face for purification. Or throwing in a coin at the entrance to the main building of the temple, hoping it doesn’t touch the metallic bars of the container so that your wishes come true.

    Famous for several festivals that are celebrated throughout the year, Senso-ji is always extremely busy and super touristy. There are, however, still some quiet spots to be found in the temple area and you might encounter, as I did, an old Japanese woman praying in front of a pagoda, or a couple just sitting on a bench under a tree.

    Wednesday 2 p.m.
    Narita International Airport. I took Jet Asia Airways’ JF989 flight from Tokyo back to Bangkok, with an additional seven kilos of food products and gifts in my suitcase and the wish to go back again soon. And I will do it: I just need my cabin luggage and, after 6.5 hours, I am there.
    Jet Asia Airways New Bangkok–Tokyo Service
    Jet Asia Airways (JAA) has launched a twice-weekly scheduled charter service from Bangkok to Tokyo’s Narita International Airport starting November 3, 2013.

    “The recent visa waiver for Thais traveling to Japan has sparked an influx of [travelers] and is the driving force of our service to Narita,” said Veerawat Singhamany, Marketing Manager at JAA. The frequency of flights will increase in January 2014, when tickets will be available for Japanese travelers as well.

    Founded in 2009, JAA specializes in block charter, full charter, ad-hoc, and wet lease (ACMI) operations. Its new focus on outbound travelers has showed positive results, and all seats were sold out for November even before the first Bangkok–Tokyo flight started operating.

    The service operates twice weekly, with flight JF988 departing Suvarnabhumi Airport every Sunday and Tuesday at 00:45 a.m., arriving at Narita International at 9:15 a.m. (local time). The return service, flight JF989, departs Tokyo every Wednesday and Friday at 2:00 p.m. and arrives in Bangkok at 6:30 p.m. on the same day.

    More info: