As I mentioned earlier, since it was absolutely pouring rain and late at night, I really didn’t have much choice but to take a taxi to my hotel in Tokyo. I considered trying to call an Uber, but there wasn’t one anywhere on the map, and I was too tired to wait, so went with it, fully expecting an extremely expensive ride.
I had asked the hotel approximately how much I should expect in an email, and they told me “around 70,000 Yen.” This was around $55 or so, so I didn’t feel like it was too bad. Unfortunately, by the time I got to the hotel, the total bill was 9,370 Yen, or just over $78. Ouch. To the driver’s credit, however, he knew exactly three words of English (compared to my four of Japanese), made exact change, and was as pleasant as could be.
Arrived at my hotel the Sheraton Miyako Hotel Tokyo, and there was a line waiting to check in, and only one agent working. Waited nearly 15 minutes (even as an SPG Platinum) and finally got to the front of the line. The agent was indifferent, displayed absolutely no personality, and when asked about the possibility of a platinum upgrade, perhaps to a suite, said “we do not do that.” So, standard room it was for me. This ranks as some of the poorest platinum treatment I’ve had anywhere in the world.
Got to the room, and it was smaaaaaaal. I’ve stayed at the Westin Tokyo before, and through the rooms were a good size. This hotel was more “traditional” feeling, but at the same time felt old, run-down, and not nearly as nice. After putting my bags down and grabbing a shower (it was about 12:30am at this point) I realized I was pretty starving. Ordered a sandwich from room service along with two beers, which was actually a pretty reasonable (for Japan) around $38.
When it arrived, I had just sat down to my computer to do some work and saw that there would be no internet from 9-5 the next day due to upgrading work. Are you kidding me? How can a hotel of this level not have internet? Regardless, my body clock was off by 4-5 hours at this point, so ended up staying up until around 2am doing work after having what proved to be a reasonably decent sandwich. Then, passed out, and didn’t bother to set an alarm.
…which I probably should have done, because it was nearly 1pm when I woke up! I can’t remember the last time I’d slept nearly 11 hours, and pretty sure it’s been more than a decade. So, despite the room being small, the AC being barely functional (it was 22C in the room), and anything else I didn’t like about this hotel, at least I managed an amazing night of sleep!
Upon seeing the time I leapt out of bed, but when I threw open the curtains I suddenly didn’t feel bad about sleeping in – it was STILL pouring rain! I puttered around for maybe 30 minutes before grabbing a shower and heading to check out. Once again, the front desk was completely indifferent, so I headed to the concierge to find out the best way to Narita. He suggested a taxi to Shinagawa station about 2km away, followed by the Narita Express train to the airport. Given the rain this sounded good, and off I went. The taxi was just under 1,000 Yen (around $8) and the station was absolutely huge.
I was able to buy tickets no problem from the ticket office, and decided to wait 55 minutes instead of rushing for the train in 25. I hadn’t had anything to eat since room service like 12 hours prior, so headed off to, well, you can probably guess…
Yes, apparently the Pumpkin Spice Latte is called the Pumpkin Pie Latte in Japan. It was super packed in Starbucks, but after stalking tables I managed to find somewhere to sit. Coffee and sandwich was good, but after around 15 minutes of people watching it was time to head down to the platform and find my Narita Express. I’d decided to pay a little extra for the “Green Car” aka business/first class and it was definitely well worth it given it was empty while most of the rest of the train seemed pretty full:
It was a reasonable walk from the train station at Narita to the JAL check-in counter, and I waited about 10 minutes to check in since apparently there was also a flight to Taipei leaving around the same time, and the entire business class was filled with people needing to check their golf clubs. Wasn’t too bad of a wait, the agent was very friendly, and soon it was off to immigration and security (which were completely uneventful) and finally the JAL lounge.
I don’t fly a ton of OneWorld, so in all my trips to Narita had never been in this lounge. A few thoughts…it was absolutely packed, to the point it felt like a United Club. I know late afternoon is rush hour in Tokyo, but it was still pretty ridiculous. The food options were also rather poor, basically some little wrapped cheese things, some biscuits, and that was more or less it. The beverage option was decent, and I took the chance to have a bit of plum wine. Internet was also reasonably quick, so overall not a bad stay. Just nothing “special.”
Headed off to the gate about 50 minutes before the flight, and there was already a long queue to board. Didn’t matter, however, since we ended up being a bus gate. Fortunately the rain had turned into a heavy drizzle at this point, so didn’t get TOO wet waiting to board.
Japan Airlines (JAL) flight 959
Tokyo, Narita (NRT) to Seoul, Incheon (ICN)
Depart 18:40, Arrive 21:15, Flight Time: 2:35
Boeing 767-300 Registration JA601J, Manufactured 2002, Seat 3D
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 93,180
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,131,786
Upon boarding, this 767 business class was exactly what I expected. Those who fly United will remember what was not-too-fondly called the “Ghetto Bird” which was a 767 with 2-2-2 seating that was pretty much domestic first. Well, JAL still flies them, and that’s what we were on today. The big difference was the crew was super friendly and helpful and despite the flight being booked full there was one seat empty in business class…and it was next to me!
Plus, how can you complain when you get a menu on a two hour flight:
Sure, it came all on one tray, but the wine came in individual bottles, and the presentation was pretty much excellent:
When I finished it all, I was asked my favourite part, and the flight attendant brought me another lobster salad along with my ice cream dessert…and insisted on bringing me another bottle of wine. So far, this crew was excellent!
After clearing my tray, she came back again…with yet another bottle of wine. “Please, I would like you to have.” I mean, come on, how can you not drink it when the flight attendant pretty much guilts you into it? I have to say, despite the hard product being pretty poor, the soft product was most likely the best I’ve ever had on a two hour flight. I know lots of people say JAL is no ANA, but I have to say after this flight I look forward to trying them on a longer flight.
Immigration was a piece of cake in Seoul, bought my ticket for the KAL Limo bus to my hotel, the W Seoul. After about a 90 minute ride, we finally arrived at the hotel around 11:45 pm. I’d been upgraded to a “studio suite” which wasn’t quite as large as my previous stays there, but was still a pretty good size:
Super large bathroom too:
So, this is where the problem began. I’d unpacked, and after 15 minutes of the AC running it wasn’t getting any cooler. The thermostat read 24.2, up from 24.0 when I’d checked in. So, I called down and asked someone be sent up. Someone came up, but they assured me it ‘just takes time’ and I should wait. So, I waited 15 minutes…before calling back and informing them it was no cooler.
Ok, so now maintenance will look at it. Maintenance assured them the AC was working fine, and sometimes “these just take time.” No, this isn’t acceptable. I asked to change rooms…please…give us 15 more minutes, it will cool down. I waited 15 more (it was now 12:30 am) and I called down and demanded to speak to the manager on duty.
The manager showed up a few minutes later, and agreed to see “if” she could find another room since they were “pretty full.” Well, not according to the website, which had all kinds of rooms to sell me if I wanted. After 15 minutes she managed to find me the exact same room on the floor below….which was also 24C when I walked in, but cooled to 21C in the first 15 minutes. Ugh.
Fortunately, now that I had a cool room, I could tuck into the wine JAL had supplied me with, along with the chocolates the W had left in my sauna…I mean room:
By this point, it was approaching 1:30 am, and I was ready to tuck into the Austin Powers bed:
So, overall, extremely disappointing performance by the W. Eventually I got a good room, and a good night of sleep, but barely six hours thanks to all the mixups on their part. The kicker was the next morning when I asked the manager on duty for some points as compensation for all the problems. She was “not authorized to do that” because only the General Manager can…and he is on vacation for two weeks. Are you serious? Service recovery seems to be a MAJOR weak point for this hotel. When things go right, it’s a great property, but as this stay proved when things go wrong, they really have no idea how to recover for it.
Six hours was plenty of sleep to function on, however, so off to the airport it was for my next new country…Mongolia!