Tokyo On My Mind


Ever since our son and family’s visit this past Christmas I’ve had Japan on my brain. Like, how soon can we get back there again? Brett and I still plan to go in 2019 to begin our annual three-month’s stay, but neither of us thinks we can, or wants to, go that long without seeing our grandson. And, we just flat-out love being in Tokyo.

There’s no way we can go this year though – we just have too many other things on deck. But in 2017? When YaYu has spring break? We’re thinking this may be doable.

This time we could stay at the New Sanno Hotel, just a 10-minute walk from our son’s condo (without Brett I was ineligible to book a room there, which is why we didn’t stay there last spring). The New Sanno is a 5-star hotel run by the U.S. Navy, and for exclusive use by active duty military and retirees. Staying there would be less than $100/night, taxes and fees included, or around $750 for our entire stay. Even if our son moves before then (they are thinking about relocating this year to another nearby neighborhood) we would still only be a short train or subway ride away from them.

I can most likely find substantial savings on airfare too. I always set a limit for what I am willing to pay, and then search for something lower. If I find it, and I usually do, I grab it without hesitation.

We would plan to stay in the Tokyo area this time, and not buy rail passes, or other more expensive travel items, so our daily expenses would not be as high as they were for the girls and I on last spring’s trip. If there’s one thing Brett and I are very good at, it’s eating cheaply, but well, in Tokyo. We’re not big souvenir shoppers either (nor is YaYu) so won’t have to bake in a lot of extra for that. A budget of $175 – $200 per day for the three of us would be more than adequate to cover daily meals and snacks, transportation expenses and other needs while we’re there.

The first hurdle though will be whether we can get a room at the New Sanno. Reservations open up a year in advance but can sell out quickly, sometimes in just one day. There’s no online booking either; you have to call Japan and speak directly to someone at the hotel. We’ll be on the Mystery Vacation™ when the first day of our possible Japan stay opens up, so we’ll have to call from our mystery location, in the middle of that vacation. IF we can get a room, then we’ll keep going; otherwise we’re either going to have to come up with Plan B or give up going at all (And no, we won’t stay at our son’s even though they always invite us. If it were for a couple of days, maybe, but for nine days the three of us would be too much strain on their household).

So, our fingers are crossed once again. Japan is calling us, and if the stars align we may be able to do a nine-day visit for around $5000. We’ll have to pull together and use all of our savings skills once we get WenYu off to college to make it happen, but I think we can do it.

11 thoughts on “Tokyo On My Mind

      1. I always stay in Roppongi Hills, which is near my office. I’ve heard we’re going out for a super fun dinner, so that should be fun. The other days, I need to be in the office at 6:30 am JST, to make time for meetings here in the US. Least favorite part of traveling. 😉


      2. Our son lives very close to Roppongi Hills, about a 10 minute walk away! The Airbnb place we stayed in last spring was just across the street from the Mori Tower, so I have a very good idea about where you are staying! The New Sanno Hotel is about a 5 minute taxi ride from Roppongi Hills.


  1. Yay!! A few weeks ago when you said you weren’t going to go until 2019 even I thought that was way too long! I am sure you will make it work, one way or another. (I wonder if you would even be able to manage some sort of house-swap with your new place? Just a thought.)


    1. I think we can do this too, so we are keeping our fingers crossed and thinking good thoughts that we can get in at the Sanno. I think they do a special “Taste of Japan” event around the same time which is very popular, so hopefully we can get in before they announce that because those events typically sell out the hotel very quickly. I know our spring break is well ahead of the DODEA schools, so at least we won’t have to compete with other families there that will be on break.

      We are seriously hoping we can do a house swap when we do our three-month stay. We’re going to talk with our landlord about it next year. His wife is Japanese, so think he might go for it (and there would be someone for the people staying here to communicate with if needed).


  2. That hotel looks very nice! I hope you are able to snag the reservation. I remember when you listed proximity to family in Japan as one of the pros of moving to Hawaii … so it’s great to see that you might be able to squeeze in another trip. 🙂

    I really enjoy your blog and reading about how things are falling into place during your retirement. I am such a pessimist by nature and find your outlook so refreshing and inspiring.


    1. Thank you for your kind words!

      It’s actually no faster to fly from here to Japan than it was from Portland! It just seems closer for some reason though. We were too busy back in Portland taking care of debt and the move to afford any trips to Japan (Brett and I did get to go when our grandson was born, thanks to our son’s generosity), but now that we’re here it’s become more of a priority for us.


  3. I’m excited for you to go in 2017! Your grandson is adorable and growing up fast.

    How do you search for airfares? How do you decide on the max rate you will pay? Asking since I want to go to France this year and the airfares seem expensive to me. Would love to learn some of your tricks 🙂


    1. The best times to buy airline tickets in my experience is either way early or last minute. I typically go for early, once I know my dates because I’m too afraid I won’t find a good deal if I wait too long (and sometimes I’ve been proved right on this). I always start my search for airfares with Kayak, and look for prices at different times of the year to get an idea of what it costs to fly somewhere (if I am flying at a peak time, I look at other peak times; if I am flying at a non-peak time, I look at fares during other non-peak times). Anyway, this gives me an idea of what I should be able to find and then I decide on the top price I’m going to pay. I am pretty particular about flights too – sometimes you see a great price, but the flying time is 18 to 24 hours or more! NO WAY. I can always find a decent flying time with limited layovers for the price I am willing to pay if I am patient.

      Once I decide on what I’m willing to pay I start looking, usually around nine months out (or more) from when I want to travel. I check every day, sometimes several times a day because prices can actually change within a day! If I see a good price on Kayak, then I go to the airlines website because sometimes the price is less there (for example, yesterday Kayak showed $207 RT to Honolulu from Kaua’i on Hawaiian; on the Hawaiian website the price was $177). Kayak also has a forecaster which shows if prices are going to be climbing or dropping in the next couple of weeks and whether it’s worth it to wait or not. Anyway, by checking frequently I sometimes hit on a one-day price drop and will snap up those tickets. I have never paid more than my top price.

      And, once I buy my tickets I never go back and look to see if I could have done better.

      Airlines are currently negotiating their fuel buys for next year because oil/gas prices are so low. It will be interesting to see if there’s a corresponding drop in ticket prices coming up.


      1. Thank you for such detailed information. I’m going to start playing with Kayak.

        This might make a good blog post as I’m sure there are others who would love this info.


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