TT-689 -- Traveling On and Rating Jetstar Japan

* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E 'S T A K E * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.

General Edition Sunday, Dec 02, 2012, Issue No. 689


- What's New -- Traveling On and Rating Jetstar Japan
- News -- JAXA loses rocket data to "virus"
- Upcoming Events
- Corrections/Feedback -- Sony Off-Balance Sheet Payments
- Travel Picks -- Ancient inns in Aichi, Kites in Shizuoka
- News Credits

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Having heard so much about foreign LCCs changing the face
of air travel in Japan, when the wife recently had to go
take care of some family business in her hometown, we
decided to pack up the whole family and fly via an LCC. Our
destination was Kitakyushu, but you don't get cheap flights
without some inconvenience and for Kyushu the only airport
being served by Jetstar and AirAsia is Fukuoka, about 45
minutes drive to the south. The clincher for us was when
Jetstar coincidentally ran a "20% off" campaign the week
before we wanted to go. They run these on a regular basis
and are worth watching for.

Certainly it is the pricing that is the biggest attraction
of the LCCs. For our trip for a family of four, we'd
normally have taken Star Flyer, Kitakyushu's own local
airline, which was notable six years ago for cutting the
prevailing ANA/JAL fares in half. Star Flyer has done a
pretty good job keeping its pricing at the same level
despite fuel increases and other economic setbacks,
however, it does mean that a return airfare goes for
between JPY25,000 and JPY40,000. The lower end of the price
range comes from whether you are willing to book 28 days
ahead and give them your money for that period.

Now, JPY25,000 for a 2 1/2 hour journey return isn't bad,
but, my, how things have changed now that the foreign LCCs
are here.

How much did we pay for a Jetstar fare for a similar route?
"Nan-to, just JPY8,000 per person return." So doing the
math, for a family of four, we spent JPY32,000 on Jetstar
compared with JPY100,000 for Star Flyer (or JPY240,000 on
ANA's "tokuwari" economy class). OK, there were other costs
as well, since LCCs, as mentioned, are inconvenient.
However, in the current economic environment Jetstar and
other LCCs have suddenly made it possible for a family like
us to simply hop on a plane a few days after booking it and
go see another part of the world cheaply.

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JetStar has a pretty good booking website at It's available in both
English and Japanese and is intuitive and easy-to-use,
although it does have some wrong Japanese
explanations/translations. You can see that they have
learned from their existing overseas operations just how
customers want to use a website and despite the occasional
Japanese mistakes, it's much easier to find flight deals
than, say, on the ANA website.

After the excitement of seeing the savings, probably the
next emotion we experienced was concern about
reliability and punctuality. The Japanese media have done
their best to highlight every minor transgression of the
LCCs as they get going in Japan, and while we don't
believe there is any hidden agenda behind this intense
coverage, other than Japanese conservatism, nonetheless
such reports do give you some anxiety as a consumer.

For example Jetstar was in the news several weeks back,
when the company bumped several flights due to a government
reprimand over maintenance issues. They did the right
thing by providing alternative travel arrangements and
refunds to the affected passengers, but still, you don't
want to hear that your carrier may have basic operations
problems. So we couldn't help wondering just how reliable
they would be for us, particularly as we had to get back to
work on time for an important client meeting.

Other considerations in deciding whether to try Jetstar or
not included having to depart from far-off Narita airport,
and having to either stay out at Narita for the evening in
order to catch the early morning flights, or get up very,
very early and drive yourself out there. In the end,
though, we decided that you just can't beat those prices.

For the Fukuoka route, there are four return flights a day.
The afternoon flights fill up pretty much straight away, so
we were left with a morning departure, being either 06:00am
(I don't think so...) or a slightly more civilized 07:15am.
After some debate and web searching, we decided to drive
out to the airport and stay at a low cost hotel -- to match
our low cost airline. :-) This worked out really well and
we got two rooms at Solare's Narita Mercure hotel for just
JPY8,000. Add this to the airfare, and we were still 50%
ahead of a direct Star Flyer fare.

Although the Mercure was comfortable enough, in retrospect,
next time we will probably forego the hotel and simply
drive out to Narita. Traffic at that time of the morning
isn't so bad and parking for the car worked out to just
over JPY1,000/day at the airport. It's even cheaper
(JPY500/day) if you park at one of the many long-term
parking sites there. Since so many international flights
have now diverted to the more convenient Haneda airport,
the car parking companies are hurting and are cutting some
pretty good park-and-bus options.

At the other end, in Fukuoka, we rented a small compact car
(Nissan) for JPY5,000 a day, to get up to Kitakyushu and to
putt around the city for a week. We could have taken a
train up north for about JPY1,500/person, but even with
this luxury, we still came out financially ahead of the
Star Flyer rate.

After all the concerns and expectations, the flights
themselves went quite well. Yes the outbound plane left 30
minutes late, and Jetstar would do well to have its staff
post notices for restless passengers to let them know when
the expected departure time would be and hopefully why. In
our case the Captain told us on the plane later that it was
snowing in Hokkaido, which was acceptable -- we just wanted
to know why back in the waiting area.

The check in went smoothly and even our truck load of bags
(20kg per person) didn't phase the check-in ladies. The
kiosks and ticket technologies were all the latest
equipment and worked smoothly, and so checking us in was a
simple bar code swipe. Having to bus out to the plane, a
special torture inflicted by Japanese airport operators on
ALL LCCs and small airlines in general, was a pain -- but
this goes with the territory.

Most interesting for us was checking out who our fellow
passengers were on this mid-week, early-morning flight. You
had your green/purple dyed hair college types, grey haired
couples, mothers with little kids with no hair, and pretty
much anyone else looking for low-cost transport. What we
didn't see was many salarymen, although they were abundant
on other regular ANA and JAL flights also leaving from
Narita's domestic terminal. We can only imagine that the HR
departments of major Japanese companies haven't wised up to
the fact that they can reduce travel costs dramatically
with an LCC. What was good for Jetstar, though, is that
about 70% of the seats were full.

Our overall first-time traveler rating for Jetstar is that
they offer great value and despite the occasional teething
problems look to have a good operation -- certainly the
staff were very friendly. We will definitely be traveling
with them again, although for our next trip we might try
out AirAsia to see how they measure up.

As a general note, we think that just as with the mobile
telephone business in the 1990's it is up to the public to
support these new carriers so that they will grow and
thrive. Softbank lowered cell phone costs dramatically
thanks to early adopter support and the LCCs now promise
to do the same for air travel, if given a chance. This is
not only good for us as consumers but also for the regional
areas served by these operators, since money saved on the
flights gets spent there.

Additionally, we hope that the success of the Tokyo-Fukuoka
route, basically a non-tourist commuter route, gets noticed
by other prefectures whose economies are hurting but which
don't seem inclined to make it easy for foreign LCCs to fly
there. For example, the four prefectures in Shikoku, which
right now are unique among Japan's 5 main islands in
having no LCC service whatsoever.

...The information janitors/


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+++ NEWS

- Pension fund earns JPY529bn from foreign stocks
- Kokuyo moves its workers to the cloud
- JAXA loses rocket data to "virus"
- Japanese spend most on Google appstore
- Japanese flocking to Hawaii again

=> Pension fund earns JPY529bn from foreign stocks

The Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF), the world's
largest, has reported that thanks to increased value in its
foreign stock holdings it earned JPY528.7bn of income in Q2
of this fiscal year, significantly better than the
JPY2.06trn loss booked for the first quarter. Unfortunately
the good news wasn't due to any significant action by the
GPIF but rather thanks to the declining value of the yen
causing an increase in the value of its foreign holdings.
Nonetheless, interesting to see that GPIF's holdings of
foreign stocks returned 4.87% while holdings of Japanese
stocks returned -3.43%. (Source: TT commentary from, Dec 01, 2012)

=> Kokuyo moves its workers to the cloud

Office furniture maker Kokuyo has announced that it is
turning its employees into a "mobil-ized" workforce -- but
we sense a little bit of irony here. Kokuyo says that they
are going to switch all 6,000 employees to cloud-based
email (Google) and to give out 1,000 tablets and 3,000
smart phones. ***Ed: Presumably this means that the
workforce can now work without being in the office. But
we wonder if Kokuyo has thought this through? After all,
if the experiment is successful enough that their clients
start to copy them, then the demand for office furniture
(the little irony we mentioned) is going to drop
substantially in the future. Yes, cheaper home office
furniture might be in demand, but that is the domain of the
likes of Ikea and Nitori, rather than Kokuyo. So what
secret plan does this cunning furniture company have up
their sleeve? Should be interesting to watch.** (Source: TT
commentary from, Dec 01, 2012)

=> JAXA loses rocket data to "virus"

Kind of concerning the Japan's space agency, JAXA, has said
that it suspects sensitive information on its
next-generation rocket, the Epsilon, and which could be
used for military purposes, has been "stolen by a computer
virus". Probably they meant to say that it's been stolen by
someone who planted the virus in the first place. But on
the other hand it could have just been an accident. We
guess the situation will become clearer in 3 years time, if
the new Epsilon design shows up on someone else's launch
pad. Also interesting to see that Epsilon can be launched
from a PC connected over the Internet -- why would they be
wanting to do that on a US$100m+ per rocket project? In
case someone gets stuck in traffic or wants to do a launch
from their bedroom? (Source: TT commentary from, Nov 30, 2012)

=> Japanese spend most on Google appstore

Mobile applications intelligence firm App Annie has said
that its latest App Annie Index for Google Play puts the
country with the most apps purchases as being Japan,
overtaking the USA for the first time. The AA Index had
Japanese consumers being responsible for 29% of Google's
appstore revenue, followed by U.S. consumers at 26%.
According to AA, the reason is because 90% of the top
apps sold are games and Japanese games companies are better
at making money from mobile devices than other developers.
(Source: TT commentary from, Nov 30, 2012)

=> Japanese flocking to Hawaii again

Remember back when Hawaii was lamenting the dramatic
fall-off in Japanese tourists? Looks like the new trend is
for them to start traveling back to the magic isles again.
According to statistics from the Hawaii Tourism Authority
this week, Japan was Hawaii's second largest visitor
market, after the U.S. West Coast, and in front of the U.S.
East Coast (which for some reason gets counted separately).
There were 125,742 visitors from Japan, up 15.2% over
October 2011, and they spent US$329 per person per day, up
4% over the same period last year. Apparently charter tours
were one of the big contributors to the growth and will
continue to be for next year. (Source: TT commentary from, Nov 29, 2012)

NOTE: Broken links
Some online news sources remove their articles after just a
few days of posting them, thus breaking our links -- we
apologize for the inconvenience.


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In this section we run comments and corrections submitted
by readers. We encourage you to spot our mistakes and
amplify our points, by email, to

=> In TT688, we discussed the failings of Panasonic and
Sony, with particular focus on Panasonic, and how the
government will eventually have to be brought in to prop
them up. Our reader has an interesting side take on Sony.

*** In my opinion the government's main concern is whether
the outside world will realize at some point that the two
electronics makers have been misrepresenting their
business performances and financial liabilities for a
couple of decades or more... with the direct support from
the government. It would be interesting to hear what SONY
would say were someone to ask the firm directly, "How much,
exactly, have you paid in fines and court ordered
settlements over the past fifteen years - year by year, and
have you reported any of each year's total payments in the
corresponding balance sheet?

For kicks, I did track SONY to the best of my ability from
the mid 1990's to the present. Never once did their balance
sheet reflect the litigation payments. A year that stood
out particularly was 2003, when SONY paid the WALKMAN
inventor for stealing his invention.
It was a rough year because SONY was also obligated to pay
all electronics makers who had paid it licencing fees,
royalties and claims for producing personal stereos of
their own. That I believe was the year that finally broke

It must also be noted that the company failed in virtually
every product it put out after the Laser Disc.

There is very little that SONY can say about the music side
of business either. The George Micheal boycott has never
been overcome by SONY. Madonna took US$60m plus for nothing
in return to SONY. Mirah Carey's first husband [Ed: Tommy
Mottola] sunk them deeper with his Payola scandal...

Mr. Editor, simply said, it's amazing that the company is
still trading on the open market.



=> Okazaki Fujikawa Juku, Aichi
Tokaido stop No. 37

“Sankin Kotai” was a policy initiated by the Tokugawa
Shogun requiring the Daimyo, or nobles to spend alternate
years between their home domains, and residencies in Edo,
(modern Tokyo). In principal, the practice was to provide
military services to the Shogun. A set number of the
daimyo’s samurai would accompany him to Edo, and while
stationed there would also perform guard duties and other
services to the Shogun. In reality, it was a way to
impoverish the daimyo, making them spend twice as much to
maintain two households, as their wives and heir were to
remain in Edo as representatives, and the expense of the
“daimyo gyoretsu”, the lavish processions in and out of the
city would prohibit them from being able to afford weapons,
armor, extra samurai and from staging an insurrection.

During these processions, the daimyo would use one of the
many highways, the main route being that of the Tokaido.
At each of the stops were special inns reserved for the
daimyo and nobility called Honjin. For commoners, the
Hatago inns were to be used. Very few of these inns still
remain, however the Fujikawa Juku along the Tokaido boasts
one of those special few!

=> Hamamatsu Kite Flying Festival, Shizuoka
Fighting with kites?!

One of the most famous festivals held during Golden Week
in Japan (early May) is the Hamamatsu festival. Started
450 years ago, in the 16th Century, this festival is
based on the tradition of flying kites to celebrate the
birth of a baby son to the Lord of Hamamatsu Castle. The
main event of the festival is still kite flying, which
takes place at Nakatajima dune by the sea and is free to
watch. Take a shuttle bus from the bus station near JR
Hamamatsu. There will be a sign for which bus to get (250
yen each way).

Over the three-day festival (Thu, Fri, Sat) kites are flown
by neighborhood or district teams from Hamamatsu. Each
neighborhood designs and builds a kite which is around
3.5m x 3.5m in size. They're decorated with a paper sheet
that has the emblem of the area and are anchored by long
5mm hemp strings. The teams themselves wear happi coats
with their district emblazoned on them. As these are quite
large kites they have a habit of crashing -- so beware when
you're walking around. Teams frequently have to repair the
kites, with the help of sake or other libation, before



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