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Keeping Active When Flying 10 or More Hours

Travel tips for long flights between North America and Japan

by Bob Kerstetter

Flying internationally brings with it extended successive hours of lethargic activity, similar to sitting in an office chair all day. Other than jaunts to the restroom, you sit. Right? Maybe…

Flying Times Between Japan and North America

Direct flying between Japan and North America takes from 10 to 15 hours or more, depending on end points and atmospheric conditions. Typical flight times to Tokyo include 11 hours from Los Angeles, 14 hours from Houston, 13 hours from Chicago and 14 hours from New York City.

Befriended by the upper atmospheric jet stream, Japan to North America flights often consume one to two hours less time. For example, flying from Seattle to Tokyo guzzles 10 hours and 30 minutes while the reverse trip gives you back an hour. Direct flights between Tokyo and Dallas, absorb 13 hours to Tokyo and 11 hours to Dallas.

Our business travels in Japan originated at Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) and changed planes in Los Angeles (LAX) for an 11-hour non-stop to Tokyo Narita (NTR). While we like the 13 hour direct flight from DFW to NTR, one-stop pricing worked better for this voyage.

Redeeming the Time

On long flights — especially in economy class — you practice animal camouflage, remaining nearly still, blending in to your somewhat congested environment. While some travelers bemoan the idleness and limited room of long international flights, you can prepare for these restrictions and redeem the time.

Movies and Radio

The built-in information and entertainment centers in each seat help. You can view movies or listen to the radio — the fare ranges from educational to farcical, from juvenal programming, to girl movies, to PG-13 with light weight language, sex, drugs and violence — something for everyone. Although movies help pass the time, we particularly like the in-flight map. The map tracks your relative position above the earth.

Knowing Where You Are

The more or less straight flight from LAX to NTR passes by San Francisco, before crossing the Pacific Ocean. You fly near the Gulf of Alaska, over the Aleutian Islands and near the Bering Sea. You cross the International Date Line, which really confuses your head because you just lost a day, give or take a few hours. You pass by Kamchatka in Russia, the Sea of Okhotsk and the Kuril Islands. Japan sits on the horizon.

Watching the Land and Water Below

Some airliners provide a camera view of the earth below. When flying from airports in the southern and western United States, this gives you 10 hours of watching the waves some 11,580 meters (38,000 feet) below. When flying from Chicago, Detroit, New York or other locations north and east, you see a lot of Canada and Alaska, before descending across the Pacific Ocean to Japan. Now and then you glimpse another jet zip by really fast. You don’t have to blink to miss it.

Exercising Your Brain

We like to read about the things we pass over, such as the Sea of Okhotsk. For example, during the Cold War, submarines from the US Navy regularly entered this area to wiretap the underwater communications lines used by the Soviet Union military. Also, 20,000 people live on the 15,000 square kilometers making up the Kuril Islands, all 56 islands under the control of Russia, with two claimed by Japan. We also learn about great circle navigation, because our pilot and navigator use it during the flight.

Sometimes we sleep.

At other times we read books.

Soon we arrive in Japan.

Un-Swelling Your Ankles

If you are already somewhat sedentary — a couch potato in modern usage — you may notice some swelling in your ankles. This is blood and water settling because of your idle sitting for 10 or more hours. You can attenuate this some by improving your circulation with exercise before flying, wearing compression hose during the trip and walking a lot for a day or two after you arrive. If you wish, you can certainly get exercise in Japan.

Enjoying Japan

Japan is a culturally polite civilization living on a mountainous string of green islands. When traveling for business or fun or both, learn something of Japanese life before you go. Stay in traditional inns. Sleep on futons. Eat udon and raw fish. Buy Ricoh cameras. Travel by public transit. Learn to bow, speak politely and live organized.

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Japan Official Tourist Info

Check back. The lists change often.

Japan National Tourist Info

Japan Regional Tourist Info

Some regions use JNTO for official tourism information. One uses the regional international airport.

Japan City Tourist Info


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