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Monday, January 17, 2011

Japan - Part 1

Konichiwa! Err, hello! As long promised since my return to the states, I'm posting my Japan trip in 3 parts to accommodate all the pictures and things that happened on the trip. I'm still grinning from the terrific experience, in no small part for my Dad making this happen pretty much on a whim. Big thanks, Dad!

I've always been fascinated with Japanese culture, language, mannerisms, geography, and history. I think it stems from a couple of things - in my lifetime, the Japanese have been considered leaders in technology and innovation - things that interest me greatly both professionally and personally - their history is pretty well documented yet heavily influenced by Western culture lately - especially notable was the arrival of the US "Great White Fleet" in 1908 where the Japanese went to great lengths to welcome Americans - and my Dad has made annual trips there for work, but tended to take my older brother to other locations, such as Hawaii or Europe. So Japan was kind of a special place that I really wanted to visit and make my own.

A couple of months ago, I jokingly asked my Dad if he was planning another "mileage run" to Japan. You see, even though he travels somewhat often to international locations, he has been cutting back on work travel during the year, to the point where he ends up close to but not quite having the required number of qualifying miles for "Elite" status on American Airlines, which has been his preferred airline for many many years. The point of keeping that prestigious frequent flyer level are the numerous benefits: free class upgrades; mileage bonuses; priority upgrades to business or first class when available (with platinum or gold, you have to wait for the elites to get their upgrades first, then whatever is leftover becomes available); waived charges for changing travel plans; even an expanded seating selection at no extra charge. All you have to do is keep flying 100,000 miles a year on the airline.

Isn't that an easy thing to do? well, to give you some perspective - flying from Los Angeles to New York City is 2,462 miles as the crow flies, and takes about 5-6 hours. 100,000 miles means you need 40 flights or 20 round trips - each flight is 5-6 hours long, so that'd be some 200-240 hours in the air. That's a LOT. I can barely take the 13 hours from L.A. to Tokyo, and I LIKE flying!

So, back to the story. Mileage runs - since my Dad needs 100,000 miles a year to stay "Elite," he needed to take one more big trip to put him over the mark. It takes about 4 international trips to make it easy to get Elite, and for the past couple of years he's had to take one flight at the end of the year as far as possible as fast as possible to reach 100K. Tokyo's easy - go from LAX to DFW (Dallas, TX) to NRT (Tokyo/Narita Airport, Japan) and back is a cool 1,230 + 5,500 + 5,500 + 1,230 = 13,500 miles. So, if you're 10-15K miles away from Elite status, there's how you get over the hump - take a day to fly to Tokyo, spend a night there, and then fly back. My Dad sleeps on planes - in fact, it's a game to him to try to be asleep before the flight takes off. He'll wake for the first meal, watch a movie, then be back under for the rest of the way.

I bugged him this year to join him - it'd be an adventure for me and maybe make the trip less boring for him. So we planned to fly out on the 27th from LAX and be back in KC in time for the new year.

I'll stop here for the night and resume tomorrow!

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