Japan Airlines 787-8 business class (Shell Flat Neo) Tokyo (Narita) to San Diego

Japan Airlines 787-8 business class (Shell Flat Neo) Tokyo (Narita) to San Diego

As I sit here trying to think of a clever intro to this Japan Airlines 787-8 business class review, all I can think about is the fact that I absolutely cannot wait to tell you that there was some slimy tongue eating happening during this flight.

And now that I’ve told you that, it’s likely that your brain is working hard to process information that you just weren’t prepared to hear. Would you agree that it’s kind of pointless for me to continue any further with this introductory paragraph? I’m just going to dive right into this so as not to delay things any further…

Tokyo, Japan (NRT) – San Diego, CA (SAN)
Monday, January 29, 2018
Aircraft: 787-8
Registration: JA834J
Duration: 8 hours 58 minutes
Seat: 3A (business class)

JAL 787-8 side profile
Japan Airlines 787-8 (JA834J) side view illustration by norebbo.com.
NRT-SAN flight map
Our route from NRT to SAN this evening.

Do you ever look back on big moments in your life, specifically at the minutes just before something significant happens? I tend to do that a lot, and it’s always amusing to me to think how naïve and unprepared I was at those moments just before that big event. Such was the case as I was walking to the gate to catch this flight home to San Diego. All I could think about was being spoiled rotten all the way home by yet another world class JAL cabin crew, but little did I know that I was about to eat tongue for the first time. Yikes.

Narita airport gate area
Oops, I am way too early again. This is the gate area for my flight to San Diego this evening, and as usual, I am one of the first to arrive.
SANspotter selfie NRT
Being one of the first to arrive gave me this opportunity to pose for a pic with the beautiful JAL 787 that would be taking me home. Unfortunately, my eyes are closed in a way that almost ruined this pic. I say almost because it kind of looks like I am doing a Jedi mind trick on you. “Read all my trip reports, you will!”
Japan Airlines 787–8 Narita airport
JA834J sitting here at the gate getting a bit of rest before the run to San Diego.

The gate area for today’s flight eventually filled up and it seemed a lot more crowded than the outbound segment a few days ago – which was really nice to see considering that this meant (unscientifically of course) that there really is demand for a daily flight between NRT and SAN. I’m not really sure what the deal was with that flight from San Diego to Narita a few days ago, but it was so empty that it made me worry a bit that the demand for a flight between these two cities just wasn’t there.

Boarding began exactly on time, and even though I was seated up in business class today, I somehow had to fight my way into the queue. It was a packed house down here in the gate area, and I ended up being pushed to the third group to board behind all of those JAL and OneWorld platinum elite gold encrusted superstar passengers. There were a lot of them on today’s flight, and I was definitely feeling status envy as I waited patiently for my turn to board.

US passport Narita airport
Somewhere way up ahead is the gate door. I’ll make it up there eventually…
Narita airport jet bridge
Anybody who has ever flown a Japanese or Korean airline in business class knows the kind of excitement I was feeling as I was walking down the jet bridge to the plane.
 Japan airline 787–8 nose
Hold on good buddy! I’ll be there in a sec!
Narita airport boarding airplane
Wow! They even rolled out the red carpet for me! This airline sure does know how to make a guy feel good.
Japan Airlines 787–8 boarding door
This may be the third JAL 787–8 that I’ve been on this weekend, but I was feeling just as excited as the very first one four days ago.
Japan Airlines 787–8 business class
Japan Airlines 787–8 Shell Flat Neo business class cabin. It’s not the seats that makes this so good – it’s the service.
JAL Shell Flat Neo seats
These Shell Flat Neo seats aren’t much to look at, but I’ll take this over economy any day.
JAL Shell Flat Neo seats
Can you guess which seat is mine? I’ll give you a hint: it’s the one by the window! (duh)
Japan airline 787–8 business class interior
Loadin’ up. It’s going to be a full flight tonight!

A relaxed boarding process this was not. Things were happening very quickly once I was on the plane and into my seat, and it looked as if the flight attendants were working hard to get everybody accomdated. It was announced that this was a completely full flight, and they were asking for everybody to quickly find their seats so that we could get out of here on time and on schedule.

The fact that they were boarding the entire plane through the forward boarding door didn’t help to calm the mood any as I sat there waiting – every passenger on the plane got the opportunity to walk through business class on the way back to their seat. Sometimes I think the airlines do this on purpose to give everyone a sense of what the business class experience is like. Guerrilla marketing at its finest!

Japan Airlines 787–8 business class leg room
Guess what? The legroom exactly the same as last time.
Japan Airlines 787–8 business class video screens
Same video screens as well.
Japan Airlines 787–8 business class seat controls
Even the seat controls were unchanged. I thought that every seat every airplane is different? Ha! Wouldn’t that be nice? It would definitely make for more interesting trip reports, that’s for sure.

Amenity kits and noise canceling headphones were on every seat upon boarding, and the flight attendants came by with cold towels and United States entry forms as we sat there waiting to push off gate.

JAL amenity kits and blankets
Business class booty on each and every seat.
Japan Airlines business class amenity kit
Ah ha! Something different! These amenity kits were not the same as the one I got on the San Diego to Narita flight four days ago. Cool!
 Japan AirlinesBusiness class amenity kit contents
Contents of the amenity kit: same ‘ol same ‘ol. How cool would it have been if this was a sushi making kit? Or perhaps a sake sampler? I really should be in charge of this stuff!
Japan Airlines 787–8 engine
Just seconds away from pushing off the gate, and I was working hard trying to get a picture of the engine all lit up by the red beacon underneath the aircraft. Dammit, I missed again…
 787–8 red beacon light
Nailed it! It only took 14 tries.

The sun was nearly gone once we finally got underway, which is precisely the time of day when my iPhone 6S refuses to take nice pictures anymore. Therefore, I’m offering you my sincerest apologies for the poopy sequence of departure shots you are about to see. Low light is the nemesis of my phone for sure!

Narita airport ground staff bow
It’s kind of hard to see, but that’s the ground crew out there giving us a respectul bow as we pull away.
Japan Airlines Narita airport
I was feeling rather bummed right about this point, as I wasn’t quite ready to leave Japan quite yet.
ANA Star Wars plane
Oooh! An opportunity for a second Star Wars comment in the same trip report! Too bad I can’t think of anything…
Japan Airlines 787–8 window
The cabin lights were left on during our departure, so it was kind of pointless for me to try and get pics of it with all the glare on the window. Here we are blasting down the runway on our way out of NRT.
JAL 787–8 window
Sayonara Japan! I hope to be back again soon.
Japan airline 787–8 business class experience
Getting comfortable is a lot more work than most people think. Everything has to be just right!
Japan Airlines in-flight map
You know me. I can’t help but to check the map to make sure the pilots are pointing us in the right direction. It never hurts to be overly cautious!
Japan Airlines business class noise canceling headphones
Now that I was comfortable and satisfied that we were indeed headed in the right direction, it was time to let the in-flight entertainment begin.

Not being able to get the kind of Instagram-worthy departure pics I was hoping for didn’t sour my mood any, because that amazing JAL in-flight service was just about to begin. Menus and drink orders came roughly 30 minutes after departure, and it was at that moment browsing through the menu that I saw something scary enough to paralyze me in fear.

Japan Airlines business class dinner menu
“Japanese Style Stewed Beef Tongue.” Shit just got real.
Japan Airlines business class breakfast menu
As I turned the page to have a look at what was on the breakfast menu, I was bracing myself for the possibility of seeing boiled beef testicles as the primary option. Thankfully there were none to be found.
Centerlines business class drink menu
Normally I skip over the drink menu, but I think I’m going to need a stiff glass of wine with tonight’s meal.

Keep in mind that I am generally a very courageous eater, and I’ll usually try anything once. But there was beef tongue on the menu as part of the Japanese meal option, and I’m not going to lie that it scared me enough to seriously consider the western option instead. I’ve eaten just about every part of the cow I think, except for tongue and a few other unmentionable bits.

I’m not really sure what it is about tongue (and cow junk) that seems more disgusting to me then a slab of leg or ribs, but it is – and it immediately triggers the gag reflex in me just thinking about it.

“Do I or don’t I?” That’s the question I was asking to myself over and over again as I stared blankly ahead at the video screen directly in front of me, and I still hadn’t even made up my mind yet as the flight attendant reached our row and asked me to declare a choice. “The Japanese meal – Kudasai!” escaped my lips even before I was able to mentally approve it, so there was nothing left for me to do at that point but to cowboy up and give it a try. Not without ordering a giant glass of wine as well though…

I started watching Dunkirk as I was waiting for dinner to be served, but it was far too serious of a movie to focus on when all I could really think about was slimy pimpled cow tongue instead.

I needed to watch something stupid and silly if there were any hopes of distracting my mind from what it was that I was about to consume. Going in Style fit the bill nicely.

Japan Airlines business class appetizer
All right, here we go. This is the first course, which meant that I was only two courses away from that tongue.
Japan Airlines business class meal presentation
Course number two, presented beautifully in a tied wooden box. When’s the last time you saw that on United?
Japan Airlines business class dinner
Thank God! There was no beef tongue in this course, which was really nice because I wasn’t quite ready for it yet. Um, can I please have another glass of wine?
Japan Airlines business class beef tongue
Guess which one is the tongue? It was really hard not to stare at while I prepared myself to put that in my mouth.

I had never been as nervous to eat a meal in my life. My fork danced around that tongue until it was nearly the only thing left on my tray, and I think my hands were shaking a bit as I went in for the first bite. To be quite honest it looked just like a regular slab of beef with some sort of heavy sauce all over it, but it didn’t stop me from gagging a bit on that first mouthful.

But you know what? It wasn’t all that bad, and if I didn’t know that it was tongue, I would’ve devoured it in seconds and asked for another serving.

SANspotter selfie JAL
It’s a good thing that I actually liked it, because otherwise this pic would be an image of me barfing into one of those little white bags in the seat pocket (and you wouldn’t want to see that).

After the meal, my brain was still a little bit messed up from all that mental anguish of the tongue, and I inadvertently said “yes” when the flight attendant asked me if I would like a cup of coffee with dessert. Loyal leaders of this blog will know that I am not a coffee guy at all – I love the smell of it, but it’s far too bitter for me and as hard as I’ve tried I just cannot develop a taste for it.

I’m also too much of a nice guy at times, and I felt bad for turning it away after she brought it to me, so I had to cowboy up yet again and drink it all. Hmmm…one might think that having to cowboy up two times during the same flight would mean that things aren’t going so well, but believe me, I was having lots of fun so far!

Japan Airlines business class dessert
Now this is a rare sight here on sanspotter.com! You’ve never seen me drink coffee before, and it’s likely not to happen again anytime soon. My mistake.
Japan Airlines business class experience
Whoa whoa whoa! A quick check of the in-flight map after the meal service revealed that this flight was going by much too fast. We must of been surfing one heck of a powerful jetstream, because we were nearly to Hawaii by now.
Japan Airlines 787–8 business class bathroom
In case you’re wondering, yes, it’s very easy for window seat passengers to step by the person in the aisle seat. It makes trips to the lav stress-free!
Japan Airlines business class self serve snacks
Hmmm… there seems to be a lot less snacks here in the self-service area compared to the San Diego to Narita flight. Maybe they were expecting most people to be sleeping?

A round of hot towels ended the cabin service for the evening, and at that point I decided to call it a night and try to get some sleep. These Shell Flat Neo Seat aren’t completely lie-flat, but they’re close and perfectly comfortable for a few hours of deep sleep. And deep sleep it was – so deep that I had some pretty crazy dreams during the night, brought on no doubt by that beef tongue swimming around in my veins.

It was a pretty bumpy ride across the Pacific this evening, but I managed to sleep well and I woke up only when the flight attendants turned on the main cabin lights with two hours of flying time remaining. Breakfast orders were taken shortly after that, and within 15 minutes I had a delicious hot meal sitting in front of me once again.

Flight to the US from Japan
Ohayo gozaimas! Looks like we are just spitting distance from the west coast of the US now.
SANspotter selfie JAL 787
I’ll let you know when I see Seattle. So far, nothing.
787 wing and engine view
Is that pretty, or what?
Japan Airlines business class breakfast
Breakfast is served. I was so tired that I could have devoured a plate of beef testicles without even noticing.
Flying from Japan to the United States
Less than an hour to go!

These eastbound transpacific flights out of Japan are far too short for my liking, because I always feel like I never get enough sleep and that I would be perfectly content for flying five hours more. But nope. We were beginning our descent into San Diego just as the flight attendants were clearing our breakfast trays, and another great flight was just about over. I’ll let the pics tell the story of our arrival into San Diego this morning:

Flying over Southern California Japan Airlines 787
Making the approach into San Diego from the northwest – that’s Orange County down there.
Flying over Oceanside Japan Airlines 787
Coming up on Oceanside now – that’s the Oceanside pier on the far right hand side of this pic.
Flying over San Diego Japan Airlines 787
Only the most hardcore of AvGeeks will have noticed both Miramar and Montgomery Field in this pic even before reading the caption.
Japan Airlines 787 approach into San Diego
Making that big right-hand turn over Santee on our way into SAN.
Japan Airlines 787 arrival into San Diego
Grr. The tinted windows of the 787 combined with the fact that I was looking straight into the sun for the final moments of the approach made for some less than stellar pics. This was not what I was hoping for, but welcome to San Diego anyway!
Japan airlines 787 in San Diego
I really couldn’t believe how short this flight was. I was almost tempted to ask if we could take off again and fly around for a bit just for kicks.
Japan Airlines 787 gate San Diego
Hey Chester! Long time no see!

My wish of a longer flight was granted as we were sitting at the gate waiting for the main boarding door to be opened. Right outside my window I could see that the SAN ground staff was having a heckuva time fighting with a non-cooperative jet bridge that just didn’t want to be connected to our 787.

It took about 10 minutes before they were able to get the jet bridge into a proper position to offload all passengers, and for a few minutes there was talk amongst the flight attendants that we would have to deplane using stairs. Now that would’ve been cool! It also would have been a bit embarrassing considering that I love San Diego dearly and I didn’t want any first-time visitors on this airplane to get the wrong idea about our nice little airport.

Arrival in San Diego Japan Airlines
Are you sure that we can’t go fly around some more while we wait for them to get the jet bridge working? I’ll chip in for gas!
Japan Airlines 787 boarding door
They got the boarding door open right before I got the courage to ask. Darn it…maybe next time.

Once off the airplane and into the terminal, it was a quick dash downstairs to passport control here in terminal 1. I’ve only been through here one other time (coming off a British Airways 777 from LHR in 2013), and unfortunately I will never pass through here again. All international arrivals will be coming into terminal 2 starting in June of this year, so this US customs facility in terminal 1 will be closing down as soon as that new facility is open.

Japan Airlines 787 terminal one San Diego
One final pic of her as we part ways.
San Diego airport passport control entrance
Nice little welcome message here on the way downstairs to passport control.
International arrivals San Diego airport
Why exactly does exiting out into the arrivals hall always feel like getting out of jail?
San Diego airport international arrivals hall
This is the exit of the current customs facility here at SAN. Take a good look, because it’ll be closing down soon when the new facility is opened up over in terminal 2.

So there you have it. My first ever experience eating beef tongue flying Japan Airlines was an unforgettable one and I cannot wait to fly with them again in and out of San Diego in the near future. Hopefully we will see the Sky Suite here at SAN soon, as well as their amazing first class product – which I hear is downright phenomenal. I’d also like to go on record saying that of all the airlines I’ve flown in and out of San Diego over the years, this was by far the best experience I’ve had. Arigatou gozaimasu JAL!

Thanks for coming along with me on this quick trip to Beijing and back! Stay tuned though, because my next trip report (which involves disco-tastic first class seats and sports cars) starts in just a few days…

Comments (4)

  1. Geoff

    April 5, 2018
    • SANspotter

      April 6, 2018
  2. dave

    February 24, 2019
    • SANspotter

      February 24, 2019

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