Short blog posts, journal entries, and random thoughts. Topics include a mix of personal and the world at large. 

Booking a room and renting a car in Japan

My friend and I are planning for a trip to Japan (finally!) in the third week of July, so periodically I’m going to talk about some of the process on here (trust the process).

A few weeks back I ranted about how it was cheaper to fly to Japan from LAX than our local airport SFO. The savings from flying out further south is quite significant, which is just as well because the next item on the list after plane tickets is accommodations, and it’s expectedly expensive in Tokyo.

It’s also astonishingly small. I’ve dealt with land scarce cities before, namely Hong Kong, but even the tiny hotels rooms there are generally larger than the ones I’ve browsed around Tokyo. Japan’s idea of a hotel room with two twin beds is an area that’s just big enough to fit two beds nearly stuck together, and not much else. Sure hope you didn’t pack a lot of luggage!

Obviously, the western branded hotels are slightly more hospitable to our American sensibilities of personal space, but those are prohibitively out of our price range. The space situation on Airbnb is better than hotels if you choose to rent an entire home, but even there you should plan to be somewhat cozy with your chosen roommate. The place we reserved is nevertheless appropriately tiny, but at least the two beds aren’t directly adjacent to each other.

Small living spaces is indeed how Tokyo manages to cram over 13 million people within its city limits.

After we sorted our living situation, the focus turned to renting a car. Now it must be said that we fully realize the public transportation system in Tokyo is robust and envy of the world, and we will be utilizing to the maximum. However, there will be a few days where we plan to leave the capital for the countryside, and the original plan was to rent a car because I’ve always wanted to drive on the wrong side of the road in a foreign country.

And as a car enthusiast, I really wanted to visit and drive on the famed Hakone turnpike, a toll road that absolutely requires a car.

Upon further research, it turns out it’s highly not recommended to drive anywhere within or near Tokyo. The grid structure is practically a maze, and the signage isn’t the greatest if you don’t know Japanese. Getting lost is almost guaranteed. Yikes.

So a change of plans then: we are going to rent a car closer to the turnpike, and instead will travel to Hakone via the reliable and fast bullet train.

Much more to come!

I think more people should buy cars in colors that isn’t a shade of white, silver, gray, or black.


I am in the midst of planning for my usual summer holiday, and this year the destination is the isle of Japan. My friends and I are targeting the third week of July for this trip, and the obvious first order of business is to secure our flights. So on to Google Flights I went and executed a search for nonstop flights from San Francisco to Tokyo.

Sadly, the results were shockingly expensive.

For sure it was never going to be cheap flying to the other side of the planet, but nearly $1,800 for a roundtrip fare in economy is incredibly high – I can fly to Singapore for not much more. That fare is simply too rich for our group, especially considering Tokyo’s cost of living is world-famous for not being cheap in the slightest. We can’t blow a massive part of our budget on airfare alone.

An alternative plan, then: we dared to look at one-stop flights. As a general rule I’m wholly against routes with layovers, principally because it’s an enormous waste of time to be hanging out for hours at a transfer airport waiting for the connecting flight. Vacation time from work is already precious as is (thanks, America), so if I can pay a bit more to save time, I almost always do.

Unless of course the nonstop flight is untenably expensive. For the trip to Japan we found a one-stop flight for significantly less at $1,200 that involved a layover in Incheon, which honestly for me isn’t the worst thing in the world. I still hold fond memories the South Korea trip two years ago, so the opportunity to spend a bit time in that country again draws no protest from me.

My friends and I were all set on that itinerary, except I remembered that we are heading for Los Angeles only two days before the departure date, so what if we flew out of LAX instead? Once again to Google Flights I went, and to my utter surprise and indignity (at SFO), a direct flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo is even cheaper than our one-stop flight out of San Francisco.

What the heck!?

I understand there’s a larger Japanese population down south, but Japan is a popular travel destination for persons of all ethnic backgrounds, so I’m really quite miffed at why a direct flight out of San Francisco is some $600 dearer. In a childish protest sort of way, that’s not fair!

It’s an easy choice then for us to fly out of LAX. We’re still very ahead of the SFO-HND route in cost after accounting for the additional rental car down to Los Angeles and the flight back to San Francisco on the return. More importantly, we get a nonstop route over the Pacific, which is just the ultimate.

I can and will go back to South Korea at another date.  

Rolling clouds over San Francisco.