Along the way, I flew on some of the world’s best airlines and shared my thoughts on the ground and in the air. The cash cost for the airfare alone would have been well more than $17,000. Using miles and points, however, I knocked the cost down to around $500. Learn how to travel like I do with PointsAway: The Definitive Guide To Free Flights & Nights.
I have a new favorite airport lounge.
While I can’t imagine the Centurion Lounge in Las Vegas being usurped domestically anytime soon, my new favorite is JAL’s Sakura Lounge at Tokyo Narita. That’s despite the fact that I also spent a substantial amount of time in Cathay Pacific’s exceptional lounge, The Wing, in Hong Kong. That’s because there are a few things that set the Sakura Lounge apart.
I had access to the Sakura Lounge thanks to my Business Class ticket for the ride from Tokyo to New York. I arrived well before the flight, probably around 1PM for a 6PM departure, so I could take some time to work on write-ups like this one and edit some of the pictures I’d taken along the way. The lounge is located just a short walk to the right of customs after entering the terminal.
A separate area for First Class passengers is to the left of check-in, but the vast majority of the lounge space can be found to the right.
Food & Drink
The lounge itself has an upper and lower level. Upstairs, a variety of food options are splayed out over a large buffet. These include Asian and Western options, including a few developed exclusively for the lounge.
Tokyo Curry Lab worked with JAL to create the beef curry they serve with a special high-grade rice as one of the main entrees. I enjoyed it despite not often being fond of curries. Even better was their Chinese-style fried rice. The rice was outstanding, helping to set that choice apart. A small salad bar, platter of eel sushi and miso soup were among the other choices available.
The upstairs area has a full-service bar, as well, but the star attraction was a self-serve beer machine that rotates a pilsner glass into position for a perfect pour, with just the right amount of head at the top of the beer.
Work Or Chill
The downstairs portion of the lounge is huge, with an exceptional amount of room to stretch out or get work done.
If you’d like, high tops provide good views of the tarmac and power outlets. Plenty of standard seating is available if you’d like to chat with friends or colleagues. Two separate rooms feature chaise lounges and dimming lights if you’d like to rest for a while.
A third room includes an actual bed for longer naps, though it’s requested you reserve this space with the staff.
Down a separate corridor, you can find plenty of additional seating and a full-fledged business center, with copy/print/fax, computers and partitioned cubes if you’d rather work away than enjoy the lounge’s amenities in full. A children’s playroom is also in this area of the lounge.
In between the business center corridor and general lounge area, there’s an additional snack bar, with a variety of self-service drinks and another of those brilliant beer machines.
Sakura Lounge Spa Services
To its left is a dark room with a half-dozen massage chairs that recline to a cradle position and work from your neck down to your toes. These aren’t the half-baked massage chairs you’ll often see in airport terminals; rather, these rival the multi-thousand dollar models seen in shops like Brookstone.
If the massage chairs aren’t enough, how about a free massage by an actual masseuse? The lounge’s spa will be happy to oblige! All massage treatments last 10 minutes; you can choose from a scalp massage, neck and shoulders rubdown or a foot massage. After two weeks of walking 15-20 miles per day, I was more than happy to take them up on a foot massage. A timeslot was available for about an hour after I made a reservation.
The massage experience was great, clocking in right around ten minutes but definitely a help despite its short length for feet sore from a ton of walking for two weeks straight.
In the spa area, there are also several shower suites available if you’d like to freshen up before your flight, but by the time I checked in on these, the next available timeslot was after my departure window.
Everything about the Sakura Lounge was just right. Perhaps an extra main entree or two in the main dining area would be nice, and I always like when lounges have signature cocktails on offer to try, but I’m really stretching to find a complaint. The exceptional number of choices for places to relax or get work done before a flight would set this lounge apart on its own, but it’s truly vaulted over the top by the massage chair area and spa, complete with freely available masseuse. There’s nowhere else I would have rather spent the hours before my flight home.