Destination of the Week: Tokyo

Jun 15, 2012

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For this Friday’s Destination of the Week, we’re celebrating TPG’s recent one-year anniversary as a full-time blogger by taking a look back at the first destination he visited after leaving his office job and starting his career as The Points Guy: Tokyo.

Massive intersection in Shibuya…think Herald Square times 10.

Since TPG already wrote a full series on his whirlwind trip to the vast Japanese capital last summer, we won’t retread familiar ground. Instead, have a look at the posts he wrote up last year including the following installments:

-Read about TPG’s experience at Tokyo’s newer international terminal at Haneda Airport and his ride to the Park Hyatt as well as his experience at the Meiji Shrine and shopping the streets of Harajuku: Tokyo Day One Part One – Arrival at Haneda, Meiji Shrine, and Harajuku

-The afternoon of his first day, TPG explored the bustling streets of Shibuya and relaxed at the Park Hyatt Spa with a shiatsu massage: Tokyo Day One Part Two – Shibuya, Park Hyatt Spa and Tokyo Hands

-The morning of his second day in Tokyo, TPG explored the neighborhood around the Park Hyatt and stopped by the picturesque Shinjuku Gyoen gardens and the eight-story Tokyo Hands crafts store: Tokyo Day Two Part One – Walking Around Shinjuku and Tokyo Hands

-TPG gives his inside take on three very different meals during his stay in Tokyo, from a steak lunch to a streetside meat grill to a sushi stop: Tokyo Day Two Part Two – A Tale of Three Very Different Dining Experiences

-A trip to the world-famous Tuskiji Fish Market means a super early wake-up call for TPG on his third day out in the city: Day Three Part One – Inside Access to Tsukiji Fish Market and Tuna Auction

-TPG takes us out for a blow-out sushi lunch and then a night out on the town in Shinjuku (and yes, there’s karaoke involved): Tokyo Day Three Part Two – Sushi at 6:30am, Tempura and a Night Out in Shinjuku

-Finally, it’s time to leave Tokyo, but not before a relaxing last day at the Park Hyatt and a look around the Delta lounge at Narita: Tokyo Day Four – Jetlag Blues, Relaxing at the Park Hyatt and Hanging at the Delta SkyClub at Narita

However, his trip was only a few days long, and just enough to scratch the surface of this fascinating, cosmopolitan world city, so feel free to share your own experiences and recommendations in the comments section below.

It takes three men to carry a quarter of an enormous tuna at the Tsukiji Fish Market – a not-to-miss Tokyo experience.

Destination of the Week pieces are not meant to be comprehensive guides to destinations since we don’t have the time or funds to visit all these places in person and report back to you. Nor are they endorsements of all the hotels we mention. They are simply roundups of top destinations that we have specifically pinpointed for the opportunity they present to use your miles and points to get to and stay there. As always, we welcome your comments to help enrich the content here, provide opinions and first-hand experiences of these destinations.

Tokyo has two main international airports. They are Tokyo-Narita, which located 35 miles outside of the city and can be over an hour’s drive (and much more in rush hour!), as well as Tokyo-Haneda which is more centrally located to the heart Tokyo.

ANA planes at Haneda Airport.

When it comes to US carriers, both Delta and United have a very large presence at Tokyo-Narita. Delta flies to Narita from the following U.S. gateways: Atlanta, Detroit, New York-JFK, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Honolulu and Los Angeles. United flies to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Newark, Chicago, Washington-Dulles, Honolulu, and will begin 787 service to Denver next April. American offers non-stop service to Chicago, Dallas, and Los Angeles.

When booking flights, pay close attention to the departure times. For instance Delta’s LAX-Narita flight leaves at 1pm whereas their LAX-Haneda flight leaves at 1am. Due to the take off and landing slots the US airlines recently acquired at Haneda, some of the flight times may not be ideal. Also, if you are planning on connecting through Tokyo, you’ll most likely be flying through Narita.

JAL is Oneworld partners with both British Airways and American.

When it comes to using miles, British Airways Avios come in handy again. They can be used on JAL, since British Airways and JAL are Oneworld partners. However, since Avios awards are distance-based, you might consider using them for intra-Asia flights once you’re already in Japan rather than for the long hauls from North America. For instance, Narita to New York-JFK would be 35,000 Avios and to Los Angeles would be 25,000 Avios each way.However, Tokyo-Narita to Hong Kong is only 10,000 Avios each way, whereas these tickets usually go for around $600 roundtrip.

You could also redeem American Airlines miles on their own metal or on Oneworld partner JAL. MileSAAver Off-peak start at 25,000 miles each way for coach and 50,000 miles for business class. On United, their low-level awards, from the U.S. to Japan start at 32,500 miles for a one-way saver award or 60,000 miles for a one-way saver business class ticket. You can also use Ultimate Rewards points when your transfer to United on Star Alliance partners ANA and  Singapore Airlines.

As one of the world’s largest cities, Tokyo has hotel choices for members of nearly every hotel loyalty program, so start stocking up on those points for your next free stay in the Japanese capital.

A king guest room at the Hilton Tokyo.

Hilton Tokyo Hotel: This hotel is located in Shinjuku, which is considered one of Tokyo’s main business, shopping and entertainment districts. The hotel features 815  guestrooms with large windows and all the modern amenities expected such as LCD TV’s, iPod docking stations and wireless internet access. There is an executive floor with executive club lounge serving complimentary breakfast, snacks and evening cocktails. This hotel has two rooftop tennis courts and a modern fitness center in addition to the indoor pool, sauna, whirlpool and Japanese bath. Rates in Junes start at JPY 20,000 ($250) per night. This is a Category 6 Hilton property, meaning one free night costs 40,000 Hilton HHonors points.

There is also the 290 guestroom Conrad Tokyo which is a Category 7 Hilton property, meaning one free night costs 50,000 Hilton HHonors points.

The Library area at the Park Hyatt Tokyo.

Park Hyatt Tokyo: This is where Brian kicked off his full-time blogging career. You can read his full review of this property. The lowest rates in Junes are JPY 42,000 ($529) or 22,000 Gold Passport points per night since this is a Category 6 hotel. Just a reminder, the Chase Hyatt Visa now gives two free award nights at any Hyatt in the world after your first purchase and if you’re already a Platinum member when you sign up, you also get two suite upgrade certificates to use on paid stays up to 7 days. Diamond members receive their two free award nights in a confirmed suite.

The Grand Club at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo for guests staying on the club floor as well as Hyatt Diamond members.

Grand Hyatt Tokyo: This Roppongi Hills hotel has 387 guestrooms and suites as well as a Grand Club lounge. Restaurants include The Oak Door and The French Kitchen. There is the Nagomi Spa and Fitness Center with a red-granite stone swimming pool. The lowest rates in Junes are JPY 31,500 ($400) or 18,000 Gold Passport points per night since this is a Category 5 hotel. This hotel is also part of the Fine Hotels and Resorts exclusive for American Express Platinum Card members, where cardholders are eligible for a room upgrade, inclusive continental breakfast, 4pm late check out and a $100 food and beverage credit per stay.

There is also a Hyatt Regency Tokyo which is a Category 3 hotel requiring 12,000 Gold Passport points per night.

The 45th-floor lobby at the Ritz-Carlton Tokyo.

Ritz-Carlton Tokyo: Located in the 53-story Midtown Tower, this hotel has 248 guestrooms and suites and features a sky lobby on the 45h floor. Guest rooms feature amenities such as 40-inch LCD televisions, DVD and CD players, and marble bathrooms with deep soaking tubs and rainfall showers. The Ritz-Carlton Club Level overlooks Mt Fuji on the top floor with five complimentary food and beverage presentations throughout the day. There are six restaurants on the property as well as a Spa by ESPA and a fitness center plus indoor pool. Rates in June start at JPY 46,000 ($580) per night, and this is a Ritz-Carlton Tier 4 property requiring 60,000 points for a free night. This hotel is also part of the Fine Hotels and Resorts exclusive for American Express Platinum Card members, where cardholders are eligible for a room upgrade, inclusive continental breakfast, 4pm late check out and a $100 resort credit per stay.

Marriott also has the 197 room Courtyard Tokyo Ginza Hotel which is located in the Ginza District on Showa-Dori Avenue. This is a Marriott Category 6 property, and requires 30,000 Marriott Rewards Points (25,000 with PointSavers) for a free-night redemption.

A guest room at the Intercontinental ANA in Tokyo.

Priority Club
Intercontinental ANA : Tokyo: Located in Ark Hills near Akasaka, Roppongi and Kasumigaseki, this huge hotel has 844 guestrooms and suites. The hotel’s Club Intercontinental lounge is situated on the 35th floor. There is also the Ka-tsu Health and Fitness Center and outdoor pool. The hotel’s main restaurant is Pierre Gagnaire featuring French cuisine from this world-renowned chef. Rates in June start at JPY 24,000 ($300) per night or 50,000 Priority Club points.,

There is also the Intercontinental: Tokyo Bay which can be booked for 40,000 Priority Club points as well as the Intercontinental ANA: The Strings Tokyo which is 50,000 Priority Club points per night.

The exterior of the 22-story Westin Tokyo.

Westin Tokyo: This 22-story hotel is located near the Yebisu Garden Place’s shops and has 418 guest rooms and 20 suites (so it might be a good idea to use a Suite Night Award if you are a SPG Platinum member and are hoping for an upgrade). Guest rooms have a European feel and feature Westin’s Heavenly Bed, LCD TV’s, wireless internet as well as the Heavenly Bath. The hotel has an Executive Club Lounge where guests can have breakfast instead of at the buffet at The Terrace Restaurant. There are also light refreshments throughout the day including pre-dinner drinks and hors d’oeuvres. The hotel has a Le Spa Parisien and Westin Workout Gym. Rates in June start at JPY 25,000 ($315) per night or 20,000 Starpoints per night since this is a Category 6 hotel.

Other Starwood properties include the Sheraton Miyako Hotel, Tokyo which is located in the center of Tokyo in Shirokanedai. This is a Category 5 hotel requiring 12,000 Starpoints per night. There is also the Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay Hotel which is located at the Tokyo Disney Resort and is a a Category 5 hotel requiring 12,000 Starpoints per night.

A Deluxe Park View Room at the Peninsula Tokyo.

Fine Hotels 
The Peninsula Tokyo: Located by the Imperial Palace, this luxury hotel has 267 rooms and 47 suites. Guestrooms feature modern Japanese design and Peninsula’s signature technology touches like multi-feature phones that guests can use to call anywhere in the world for free, as well as more standard amenities such as plasma TV’s, night lighting, complimentary wireless internet, and marble bathrooms. The hotel has five dining options and The Peninsula Spa by ESPA. There is also the health club with a 20-meter indoor swimming pool. The Peninsula also offers BMW bicycle rentals for guests at a fee. Rates in June start at JPY 45,000 ($560) per night. This hotel is a member of the Fine Hotels and Resorts exclusive for American Express Platinum Card members, where cardholders are eligible for a room upgrade, inclusive continental breakfast, 4pm late check out and a $100 food and beverage credit per stay.

The soaring tower in which the Mandarin Oriental is located.

Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo: This hotel is located in a 38-story tower in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi business district, and has 178 guestrooms and suites all located within the 30th to 36th floors of the building. Rooms offer views of the Sumida River, Tokyo Bay, the Imperial Palace gardens, Ginza, Tokyo Station, and the skyscrapers of Shinjuku. The contemporary guestrooms have flatscreen televisions and marble bathrooms with sunken bathtub. The hotel features The Spa at the Mandarin Oriental with a steam room, sauna, and rain showers. The hotel’s dining outlets include Signature, Sushi SORA, and Sense, all of which offer spectacular city views. Rates in June start at JPY 45,000 ($560) per night. This hotel is also part of the Fine Hotels and Resorts exclusive for American Express Platinum Card members, where cardholders are eligible for a room upgrade, inclusive continental breakfast, 4pm late check out and a $100 resort credit per stay.

Other Fine Hotels and Resorts in Tokyo include Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Chinzan-so, Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Marunouchi and the Hotel Seiyo Ginza. All can be booked through American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts as well or through the hotel websites directly.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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