a city with a mountain in the background

When was the last time your airline bowed to you? Thought so. While flying in the US has become something bordering a reality game show, it’s still a treat elsewhere. Of all the unique experiences one may find around the world, there’s just nothing quite like flying in Japan. Here’s why.

a red building with a tall tower with Sensō-ji in the backgroundThe Bow

The bow is a beautiful part of Japanese culture. Before boarding any flight, all gate agents line up in a row and offer a simultaneous bow. If you happen to arrive for check in before counters are officially open, you may just get two bows. They do it too.

The Clean

If you ever want a treat – you need to see a Japanese cleaning crew turn an airplane around. What feels like 3x the staff elsewhere quite literally jogs onto the plane, doing an immense cleaning job in record breaking time. Of all the planes you’ll fly – a flight out of Japan will be the cleanest. They even usually jog down the stairs when they’re done too!

The Boarding

Love the hoards of unorganized chaos around the boarding gate? If you do, you’ll hate flying in Japan. Extremely organized lines are created and roped off, boarding passes checked – and boarding takes rarely more than 20 minutes. Because of this brilliant feat, planes board later, giving you more time to relax beforehand.

a red bridge over a streamThe Wave

If you’re on a Japanese Airline, there’s an extremely high likelihood that the ground crew which helped your plane get underway will stand in line beside your plane and wave you off. Yep, you’ll see polite ground crew workers smiling and waving until your plane is on it’s way, at which point they’ll bow.

The Lines

Frequent travelers despise immigration lines. Most countries do a terrible job with immigration, leaving just two lanes open for hundreds of travelers. Not in Japan. Like some sort of clockwork, even when there are tons of passengers, immigration in Japan never takes too long thanks to constantly opening lanes and fast processing.

Have you flown in Japan? What’s your favorite part?

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. the entire country is awesome to visit. Everything functions so well. Cant wait to get back. I would love to stay there for a longer period of time and maybe will do so as part of a RTW ticket in the near future. I have flown ANA business when I visited the first time. I shall fly JAL 1st/business next time round.

  2. My favorite thing, which you mentioned, was watching the ticket counter for JAL at LAX open with all of the desk agents lining up first and bowing to a nearly empty airport, and then taking their positions. Going to Japan changes you perspective upon the world.

  3. We took bullet trains in Japan our first time there, but I would definitely like to try flying when next we visit. I’ve heard nothing but great things, and I really want to experience it.

  4. Yep.. pretty much my experience in a nutshell every time I visit. It still amazes me that (at least on smaller planes like the 737) boarding *starts* about 20 min before departure rather than *ends* 20 min before departure like in the US.

    I’d also add in security is generally easy to get through with small lines and they actually have PET bottle/can scanners that will allow you to bring drinks you bought landside into the airside of the airport. Do any other countries have these, or is it just the US that doesn’t let you take drinks through?

    1. Even on 777! We flew first recently on ANA and our 520 flight started boarding at 5. We pushed back promptly at 5:20!

  5. So this makes me wonder what Chinese tourist do when they travel in Japan. Their culture doesn’t seem to understand lines or organization. They just push and shove. It’s a stark contrast between two Asian countries I would think.

  6. I am frequent flyer of Croatia Airlines. It usually takes 30 minutes to complete boarding for full A319. People are blocking the isle, cutting queues, shouting and screaming such a chaos. And the worst of all, my flight never leaves the gate on time. I flew between HND and OKA on ANA last month. The gate was opened 15 minutes before departure. B777 domestic configuration, almost 500 pax. No chaos, nice and quiet boarding process. The civilized passengers taking their assigned seat immediately. And push back 2 minutes before the schedule. Amazing, just so stress free to fly in Japan.

  7. Japan is great country, but this article is full of fiction.. the kind of fiction that people love to share on social media and generates ads revenue

    1. Not at all, and feedback on the article (yours aside) confirms. I fly in and out of Japan all the time and it’s based on my experiences therefore it’s not fiction.

      1. Livning in Japan and flying frequently domestic and international and I also can confirm it’s NOT fiction!

    2. Yep, I live here and fly around often. Nothing is fiction on here. Admittedly, some airports are overwhelmed by passengers at immigration at times, but they open *all* manned desks for foreigners as soon as they can and prepare you in the queue so you don’t struggle with paperwork at the front.

      There are other reasons why it’s great to fly in Japan, but you need to experience them yourself. 😉

  8. All this stuff (the bows and waving) also happens in South Korea.

    The domestic JAL J service in Japan leaves a lot to be desired for (just a non-alcoholic beverage and no food) and even the economy pax get the same service, so it really is just a different seat and a blanket that you get if you sit in J.

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