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The Best Ways To Travel To Japan Using Points & Miles

To the point Here’s everything you need to know about award programs for a memorable holiday in Japan without breaking the bank.

This post is also available in: FR

The pandemic hit Japan’s tourism industry hard, but things are finally back to normal. This means you’re now able to travel as you wish whether it’s for hiking Mount Fuji or visiting Tokyo Disneyland in your quest to hit all the Disney theme parks around the world!

Japan was already a very popular tourist destination as the country is an excellent way to get out of your comfort zone but the standard of service is similar above western level. The popularity keeps increasing, so you should expect award availability to be limited.

Shibuya

How to get to Japan with award flights ?

Fly to Japan with Aeroplan

From Canada, it’s quite affordable to use Aeroplan points to get to Japan. In fact, as long as you can find availability on partner airlines, you’re looking at 50,000 points for a one-way fare in economy class from most places in the country. People on the West Coast will be favoured here since the cost drops down to 35,000 points as the distance flown is lower.

Aeroplan Reward Chart To Japan

On Air Canada metal, you can also find very good deals with points from all over Canada and get great valuations for your Aeroplan points.

In addition, you’ll fly direct from major hubs and you can use your eUpgrade credits to fly in premium economy or in business class.

But don’t expect these prices to last or to see a lot of R space, especially if you wish to go during sakura season.

Sakura

Since partner airlines don’t fly directly from all major airports in Canada, you’ll have to use a positioning flight or a connecting flight on Air Canada. By doing the latter, you will be subject to dynamic pricing, but that’s not always a bad thing.

For example, this round-trip economy class ticket to Tokyo from Montreal is under 90,000 points (while the expected fare is 100,000 points).

Aeroplan Yul Nrt
Affordable Aeroplan Fare From Yul

And this routing from Vancouver is at 68,500 points (while the expected fare is 70,000 points).

Aeroplan Yvr Nrt
Aeroplan Yvr Nrt
Affordable Aeroplan Fare From Yvr
Affordable Aeroplan Fare From Yvr

You can quickly and easily rack up those points with just one or two credit card sign up bonuses such as the The Platinum Card®. The $599 fees to unlock all those points (after the $200 Amex travel credit) don’t look too shabby when you look at the $1,600 airfare on Google Flights!

Google Flights Airfare To Japan
Google Flights Airfare To Japan

Because of the hype of this reopening of Japan amid Revenge Travel, you should not expect to find anything reasonable in business class with Air Canada’s dynamic pricing and those premium seats on partner airlines are highly coveted.

Should you see any availability on All Nippon Airways (ANA) for example, you should be aware that they will sell faster than hot cakes; snag them as soon as you see them.

Otherwise, ExpertFlyer can do the work for you if you set up alerts. That is pretty much the only way you can hope to fly to Japan in a premium cabin (or at all, as seats are released in a limited number with partner airlines).

Fly to Japan with Alaska Mileage Plan

Since Japan Airlines (JAL) is a member of Oneworld, you can use Avios to get to Japan although I would not recommend it because of the very high surcharge you may have to pay (over $400).

Instead, you can use Alaska Mileage Plan to fly on Japan Airlines for as little as 35,000 miles from Chicago or New York in economy.

Alaska Mileage Plan From Jfk To Japan

You can even snag business class for 60,000 miles or First Class for 70,000 miles. The latter usually have availability within two weeks of departure.

Alaska Mileage Plan From Ord Avail

JAL is one of my favourite airlines and their economy class (especially the soft product) is actually quite stellar compared to North American airlines.

Alaska Mileage Plan From Ord To Japan

If you are from Vancouver, you’re in a pretty sweet spot as it’s the only city Japan Airlines flies to in Canada!

Alaska Mileage Plan From Yvr To Japan

For folks living elsewhere in Canada, you have to position yourself in order to fly to Japan using Alaska Mileage Plan miles. That is very easy to do with Aeroplan points and why not make the most of it to explore a city such as New York on the way?

Again, like with Aeroplan, secure your airfare tickets as soon as possible, especially if you want to get to Japan in a premium cabin.

To accumulate enough miles, you can buy them; wait for a promotional bonus!

Japan

Where to stay in Japan with award points?

Stay in Japan at Marriott Bonvoy hotels

Regarding Hotel Reward Points, Marriott Bonvoy hotels are widely available throughout Japan from Hokkaido to Sendai to Miyazaki along with all the major cities such as Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka.

Remember that you get the 5th night free when you book with points so you can stretch them out all the way! This is a great feature of the program since you can use Tokyo and Kyoto (or Osaka) as bases to travel around their respective regions.

Furthermore, a Free Night Award Certificate can go a long way in few places here; since you’re getting them at either $120 or $150 with the renewal of the Marriott Bonvoy® American Express®* Card and the Marriott Bonvoy™ Business American Express® Card, you’re getting tremendous value when they are used to stay at properties like these:

Japan Marriott
Japan Marriott 2

You can check our reviews of the Moxy Osaka Honmachi, Moxy Osaka Shin Umeda and Aloft Tokyo Ginza (where you can use an Annual Free Night Award Certificate).

And below, you’ll find the current offers for Marriott Bonvoy Credit Cards:

Stay in Japan at Independent hotels

There’s no shortage of places to stay in Japan ranging from very tidy hostels to fancy hotels.

Hostel dorms are a good way to budget travel in Japan. While they are more expensive than South-East Asia, they are super clean and often in prime locations.

On the other hand, for a party of 2 or more, it often makes more sense to book a private room, an independent hotel on Booking.com or an Airbnb.

Japan Airbnb

In terms of reward points, those costs can easily be offsets with rewards points such as the ones offered by the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite* Card. The Scene+ points can be used to cover any travel purchases so you’re free to book whatever you see fit and deal with the statement credit when you get home.

In addition, you will be able to avoid the 2.5% Foreign Exchange fees through your trip to Japan.

Ryokan Experience

Ryokan are Japanese-style inns that you can find about everywhere in the country and especially around hot springs. In terms of accommodation in Japan, you will get much more than just a place to sleep. Indeed, it’s actually the whole experience of traditional Japanese hospitality and atmosphere.

Ryokan
Ryokan

The cost can vary a lot depending on the amount of luxury you’re looking for and its location but you can expect tatami rooms, futon beds, onsen baths and a kaiseki-like dinner brought to your room. The average rate is JPY 20,000 per person per night which is roughly $200.

While that is expensive, keep in mind that the kaiseki dinner alone, which is a fine dining experience, can be worth that price since it’s a standard price you can find in restaurants.

Kaiseki
Kaiseki

The best way to make this bucket list experience more affordable is to use rewards points you can apply on travel purchases again. In fact, the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite* Card gives you more than enough Scene+ points with its sign-up bonus for this special night in Japan.

Bottom line

Personally, I couldn’t be more thrilled that tourism in Japan is back to normal. On the other hand, it also means the prices will soar and award availability will be harder to find.

That is why you should start planning right away and lock in your flight and accommodation as soon as you can as that’s will eat up the most in your budget. Then, you can start digging into how to save on local transport in Japan; with that covered, the remaining expenses such as food is quite reasonable.

Read more to help plan your trip in Japan :

Current formalities in place in Japan

Do I need a visa to visit Japan ?

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FR

Visa waivers are in place for most countries including Canada, for trips up to 90 days. Therefore, only a valid passport is required.

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FR

Do I need health insurance to visit Japan ?

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FR

It is recommended to get health insurance that will cover most medical expenses including hospitalization for severe forms of COVID-19. Check with your credit card for your situation specifically because you may already have great insurance.

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FR

Are masks mandatory in Japan ?

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FR

While the country is abolishing most COVID-19 measures, wearing a mask was an established habit well before the pandemic; it is part of Japanese culture and manners to wear one as soon as you had any kind of symptoms. Right now, it is still recommended in public transportation and crowded places.

This post is also available in:
FR

Japan 2

This post is also available in: FR

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Aline
I'm Aline, an experienced traveller, a foodie at heart, an Avgeek, a photography enthusiast and an expert on credit card programs. I use Reward Points to travel on a budget and to save money on everyday life; writing about these topics allows me to share my passion and help you. ~ 7 continents and 75 countries ~

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