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A Ramen Run to Tokyo - JAL First Class and ANA "The Room"

A Ramen Run to Tokyo - JAL First Class and ANA "The Room"

Old Jan 12, 2023, 3:51 pm
  #1  
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A Ramen Run to Tokyo - JAL First Class and ANA "The Room"

With mini-ChongL #1 in school, it's not as easy to just get away on a whim as before. This trip wasn't something that was even under consideration until Mrs. ChongL made things more difficult than it needed to be by suggesting we go somewhere over the holiday break. Given roughly one month notice to scramble things together was not my idea of fun, especially in December, but challenge accepted! I wasn't sure if we would go back to Europe for the Christmas markets, or head to Asia for the first time in years, but decided flight availability would make the decision for us regardless of our preferences. As a few days passed, I decided Europe was the less attractive option since I didn't want to position, then take a flight to what would most likely be FRA, and connect onto Budapest, Vienna, or Zurich, or Prague. Japan bubbled to the top of the list and Osaka was the front runner until I decided that I didn't even want to connect in Japan. Now, there are direct flights from LAX to KIX, but I wanted to get back into JL F, so Tokyo was on the cards already. Given we had been there countless times before, it seemed like a good idea so we wouldn't feel pressured to explore and maximize every minute of our time there. On top of that, Japan made sense as both mini-ChongLs have developed an affinity for ramen, and the older one has finished an entire bowl on his own before. It took me a few weeks to piece together enough nights at the Conrad, and I was even holding on to extra nights to give me flight booking flexibility on the way back. Given the chance to try ANA's The Room, albeit to ORD, I took that option and kept a lookout for any direct options home. In the end, I canned the extra 2 nights, and we used that limited time to explore Chicago instead.

Itinerary
Itinerary
LAX-HND on JL F (777)
Conrad Tokyo
HND-ORD on NH J "The Room" (777)
Park Hyatt Chicago
ORD-LAX on UA Y+ (777)




A shot when we were departing HND that I'll be printing





If you enjoy this report, here are some of my previous trips that I've posted:

Making Portuguese Egg Tarts a Reality - SQ J and Virgin Upper Class
Always Recycle - New York, Zagreb, and Frankfurt in SQ F
The COVID Contingency - Seychelles, Maldives, and DXB in EK First and QR QSuites
Chasing Cheap Michelin Stars in Tokyo - JAL Business and First Class
Good Things Come in 3s - Emirates, Qatar, and Singapore First Class
Czeching In and Jetting Out - LH F/J, FR Y, and BA F
Spring, Fall, and Hopefully Sakura in CX F, SQ NEW and Old Suites, CZ J, and OZ J/F
3 for the price of 2? RTW Babymoon to Japan, Maldives, UK (JL/EY/LH J/F/Apartment)
Slummin' it to Spain - BCN, PMI for some Park Hyatt, and MAD
Christmas in Vienna with a Splash of Porsche and FCT - LX/OS Y, OS J, LH F
The Journey is Half the Fun; RTW in SQ Suites/CX F/JL J/EK F/EY Apartment/AA F
Escaping to the Southern Hemisphere: A Bora Bora Getaway
Honeymoon In Europe (UK, France, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, etc.) - AA/LH/EK F
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Last edited by chongl; Jan 12, 2023 at 5:42 pm
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Old Jan 12, 2023, 5:41 pm
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We got dropped off at LAX on Christmas morning. Although the traffic was light, there was quite a line formed for check-in for JAL. Seemingly lots of people have the same idea and want to visit Japan since it has re-opened recently





A look back at the snaking line for economy check-in



I was very much looking forward to visiting the Qantas F lounge for the fried calamari. Upon arrival, we discovered the menu didn’t switch over to lunch until noon. I was hoping it would be 11 or 11:30 which might have given me a chance to have lunch prior to boarding













Menu



Penfolds



Hearty breakfast platter



Pancakes to keep the kids full



15 minutes prior to boarding, we made the trek over to gate 152



As I was getting prepared to do a few minutes of plane spotting, preboarding was called so I turned around and head back to the family. We had our boarding passes scanned and were asked to hold short of the jet bridge. I managed to get a more obstructed view of this TN bird



Once we were onboard, I made my way to my assigned seat, put my carry on in the bin, and proceeded to not use the seat again for the remainder of the flight. Mini-ChongL #2 still prefers to sit with mommy, so while mini-ChongL #1 was preoccupied with whatever he was watching on the IFE system, I took the starboard window in row 1











Seat controls







And a deep cubby which I love. I’m only half joking when I tell my wife that the cubbies in J don’t give me enough room to stow my lenses and camera body



Amenity kit



SQ neighbor



And a QR A350



EK in the background



And a nice clear day for flying out of LAX





The younger one fell asleep right after takeoff so we had the bed made and buckled him in while the wife, mini-ChongL #1, and I were able to dine together for lunch



Menu



















Champagne…sadly no Salon on ex-US flights



I opted for the Japanese menu while the Mrs. went for the sea bass. They suggested that she also have the filet, so she had 2 entrees

Mamezara



The burrata was soooooooo good and creamy



Kozara



Wife’s caviar and filet for the kiddo





Delicious sea bass



Clear soup



Sashimi



Sea bream with citrus soy jelly



At this point, mini-ChongL #1 had finished eating and was ready to take a nap. We got him all set up and continued dining for a little bit until the younger one decided he was done sleeping and wanted to eat as well. In the interim, the wife opted for some sake and I had some of the Queen of Blue tea



Rice, braised beef, and some miso soup



Followed by my wife’s second entre



Ice cream for dessert



Afterwards, we tried to get some rest but I never managed to fall asleep. The Mrs. was able to get a little bit of shuteye, but most of us were awake for the remainder of the flight. As mini-ChongL #1 decided he wanted a bowl of ramen, we ordered from the snack menu. Upon seeing the noodles, his younger brother immediately decided he wanted some as well, so queue up a second bowl for him while I opted for the vegetable curry and more tea

Snack





Crossing the date line



Chocolate as we are nearing Tokyo





We arrived an hour ahead of schedule thanks to some strong tail winds. It was another lovely flight with JAL. No surprise, I thought the catering ex-Japan that I had last time was better, but the western menu surprised us with how well the food turned out. Service was excellent and attentive as expected.

Upon disembarking the aircraft, there were multiple people lined up on the jet bridge asking all the passengers if they had a QR code from filling out the pre-arrival forms online. It seemed like it would be a big bottle neck with just a handful of people servicing hundreds of passengers, but we just answered "yes", grabbed our laminated yellow “Y” card, and trudged towards immigration. As we entered Japan again after 3 long years, we pulled out our Suica cards and hopped on the Keikyu line, just grateful to be back



Next up: Conrad Tokyo and some ramen
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Old Jan 12, 2023, 7:53 pm
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Look forward to the ramen adventure.
Moving Chicane likes this.
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Old Jan 12, 2023, 11:43 pm
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Enjoyable start to the report as always. Looking forward to the rest!
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Old Jan 13, 2023, 4:49 am
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Great start, very much looking forward to this...
Happy New Year chongl!
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Old Jan 13, 2023, 5:09 am
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Originally Posted by wakesetter93
Enjoyable start to the report as always. Looking forward to the rest!
Me too! I've subscribed to the thread so I don't miss the next instalment
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Old Jan 13, 2023, 8:32 am
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JL's catering looks solid!
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Old Jan 13, 2023, 11:30 am
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Great report! I'm glad to see JAL have finally swapped out their F amenity kits - I feel like I've received the same one over the past ~3 years.
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Old Jan 13, 2023, 12:22 pm
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Excellent report chongl. Looking forward to my JFK-HND flight next week.
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Old Jan 13, 2023, 3:41 pm
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Great TR! Getting Japanese food withdrawal symptoms
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Old Jan 13, 2023, 7:25 pm
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Very nice. You snagged 4 F award seats?!
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Old Jan 13, 2023, 7:38 pm
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Fantastic! Super fun
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Old Jan 13, 2023, 9:34 pm
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Originally Posted by grandgourmand
Look forward to the ramen adventure.
Thanks for reading, grandgourmand. It's nothing too crazy...the kiddos had their share of McDonald's too. Tsuta was closed due to the passing of their founder so once again I didn't get a chance to try them

Originally Posted by wakesetter93
Enjoyable start to the report as always. Looking forward to the rest!
Thank you, wakesetter93. Glad to have you following as always!

Originally Posted by JohnRain
Great start, very much looking forward to this...
Happy New Year chongl!
Happy New Year JohnRain! I'm hoping you're back for some new trip reporting? I must say with just SFO777 carrying the load, I've been missing you and Madone59's excursions

Originally Posted by fluffymitten
Me too! I've subscribed to the thread so I don't miss the next instalment
Thank you, fluffymitten

Originally Posted by hkskyline
JL's catering looks solid!
For sure, hkskyline Believe it or not, the western menu was actually the highlight! I actually just started reading your RTW report as well

Originally Posted by bj27
Great report! I'm glad to see JAL have finally swapped out their F amenity kits - I feel like I've received the same one over the past ~3 years.
Thank you, bj27. Are you talking about the gray rectangular ones that came with the Porsche Design stuff?

Originally Posted by SFO777
Excellent report chongl. Looking forward to my JFK-HND flight next week.
It's a pleasure to get the legend, SFO777's praise. What gastronomic experiences await you next week? Enjoy your flight!

Originally Posted by zip10001
Great TR! Getting Japanese food withdrawal symptoms
You and me both, zip10001...and I just got back

Originally Posted by NYC1
Very nice. You snagged 4 F award seats?!
Yes, I was just as surprised, NYC1. It was a close in booking, but flying during the holidays helped I'm sure. There were 6 seats available for redemption that particular day

Originally Posted by gaobest
Fantastic! Super fun
Agreed gaobest.Japan is always a blast!
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Old Jan 13, 2023, 10:10 pm
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Excellent pictures and so hungry now ......looking forward to the rest
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Old Jan 14, 2023, 3:07 pm
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It felt like a relatively long train ride, mostly because we didn’t get much rest on the plane. And although Google told us to get off at Shimbashi Station, we decided to transfer to the Toei Oedo line at Daimon so that we could get off at Shiodome instead, which is almost directly underneath the Conrad Tokyo. Being a less busy station also meant we could take our time without feeling like we were holding people up.

Arriving at the Conrad always seems to elicit feelings of comfort for me. I’m not sure whether it’s the familiarity I have with the hotel, or a natural affinity towards the place, but as soon as I step into the lobby, there is a sense of relief



We were suggested to check in at the executive lounge and were quickly given our keys and 2 bottles of water in Shinkansen shaped bottles. Due to the time of year and occupancy rate, no upgrades were had. Even so, the base room is plenty spacious for our needs









Being jet lagged, nobody wanted to leave the room for food. The executive lounge wasn’t an option since the kids were exhausted, so I went to the FamilyMart to grab a few sandwiches for the night. A refreshing shower later, we went to bed but still woke up around 2 or 3 in the morning. We had to keep the boys entertained to keep the noise levels down until we could get ready for breakfast at Cerise







The a la carte menu



The extensive buffet offering that I was looking forward to. It seems like the Japanese breakfast is no longer an option. Years ago, it was free; by 2019 there was a 3 dollar up charge; and now it is nowhere to be seen. The good news is that you can more or less make your own from the buffet offerings

























A la carte dishes over the few days we were there











With stomachs full, our first order of business was to stop by the Rimowa store to get our bag fixed. On our previous trip, we had it repaired in London, but it had broken again by the time we reached Amsterdam. Luckily there was a flagship store nearby in Ginza that was just a few minutes’ walk away



In true Japanese efficiency, it was fixed immediately. I wasn’t prepared to roll the trunk around for the rest of the morning and afternoon so I opted to store it there and grab it on the way back. We strolled through the shops of Ginza, passing by a Nissan dealership where I spotted the new Nissan Z. After crossing the street and a few blocks further was our lunch stop

Architecture



We got to Ippudo just in time to beat the lunch rush





Afterwards, we went to the Police Museum for the kids, where we learned about Kobans, or police boxes





There was a vintage looking one just across the street that we saw afterwards



Afterwards, we head back to the hotel for some rest

The beautiful skyline in the evening



Since the wife wanted steak for dinner, we chose a quick and non-glamorous option, Ikinari Steak. Meaning “sudden steak” it was a quick and satisfying meal









Volk TE37



The next day, we took the trek to Nakiryu, a 1-Michelin starred ramen restaurant that I visited in 2019. Since that last trip, I’ve been thinking about this particular bowl and was keen to come back. Knowing that the line forms rather early, we showed up an hour before opening and had a better spot in line than last time. However, the service seems to have slowed down as we ended up eating later than previously. The kitchen and dining area has also undergone a remodel so there are actual tables rather than just seating at the counter











Shio ramen



Shoyu ramen



And their specialty, the delectable tantanmen



Heading back to the station to reload our Suica cards and give the boys some nap time





Some cheap toys



This particular day was our wedding anniversary, with an appropriate meal in the executive lounge :P. The small bites weren’t enough, so I even ventured out to get McDonald’s for the kids. I pulled out all the stops for the Mrs. with a chirashi bowl to go from this spot



After breakfast the following morning, we went to the local Donki to buy some small snacks and gifts for people. I haven’t been actively hunting Japanese whisky as in past years, but it seems not much has changed in regards to stock and price gouging. Best bet is still duty free nowadays if you get lucky. Some cell phone shots...









We also had the chance to stock up on some Boss coffee that we’ve sorely missed



In the afternoon, we decided to head towards Shinjuku





The mini-ChongL #2 loves dinosaurs, so a Godzilla on a building would pique his interest



[

Walking around a little bit





Stopping by McDonald’s for some soft serve and noticed a regional offering



That night, we head towards Shibuya







We ended up grabbing a doner kebab and I tried the Samurai Mac, for science (no picture though)! We just sat in a small alleyway and had a quick meal before enjoying the crossing a few more times before calling it a night





We were hoping to eat at Tsuta, another Michelin-starred ramen establishment, the next day. However, due to the recent passing of their founder, they have been closed until further notice. Back in 2019, we couldn’t catch them either as they were in the middle of their move to the new location. Here’s hoping for next time! Instead, we went to the Ichiran nearby, which coincidentally, had also moved



Now taking credit cards. The pandemic did some good for once





We let the kids nap and play in the room for most of the afternoon while the wife did some packing. We waited until the evening time before venturing out again to Ginza



With a 6:30 dinner reservation, we hopped onto the metro to Nihombashi for some yakiniku



Across the way, not exactly what I would name a restaurant in English…



Back to the meats...





Some super marbled A5







And just like that, it was a wrap in Tokyo

Next up: ANA “The Room” and some time in Chicago

Last edited by chongl; Jan 14, 2023 at 3:35 pm
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