By Bonson Lam
For about a year we had been planning on going to our dream destination Okinawa and thanks to JapanTourist's lucky draw, that dream came true this month. Having won two 'one night stay for two' vouchers, the staying part was taken good care of, so all we had to do was plan for the travel to and from Okinawa.
Tokyo and Okinawa are best connected through air, though one may opt for the ferries too which are less popular given the long travel time of 44 hrs, steep fares (¥23,000- ¥45,000) and the infamous typhoons in the peak months. Though JAL, ANA, Skymark and JetStar Japan all operate many flights for Naha everyday, Skymark Airlines is known to offer the best discounted fares and our Sapporo trip this February had already confirmed that for us. There are a host of fare deals on the airlines' easily navigable English website. Since our vouchers were valid for 3 months so this time too we could avail the benefits of Skymark's Web Bargain.
As per this scheme, the bookings usually open (sharp at 9:30) exactly 2 months before the departure date and run up to 28 days before the travel date but as is mostly seen the prime-time slots fill up first and pretty fast on the first day itself. So I had a couple of anxious May mornings hooked onto the Skymark website till I found us the best deal and booked the 6:25 flight from Haneda to Okinawa and the 9:05 return flight with an average cost of about ¥12,000. Booking online through Skymark gave us the option of blocking the seats for a good 24 hr and within that time the payment had to be done in order to confirm the reservation. Once the booking was confirmed we could then select our choice of seats too.
On the day of our travel we reached the nearby Haneda airport in good time for our flight. Since we had already booked our tickets online, the staff guided us to use the Skymark Airlines' automated check-in machines, the SUKIT kiosks. All we had to do was provide our credit card number and it printed us a receipt which when produced at the check-in counter fetched us our boarding passes.
Next at the security-check, our C.C.Lemon bottle underwent the customary liquid-explosive test and blinked a happy green. We were still about an hour early by the time we reached the departure gate. All the shops and stalls were closed. The first to open were around 6:10, just in time for us to grab a few sandwiches before the boarding procedure started. The flight was on time and the passengers with seats in the back rows were called in first followed by the rest.
The take-off was smooth and all the customary announcements were also repeated back in English. Passengers were given wet face towels and later on provided with blankets too. Soon the snacks and drinks cart was rolled by but most passengers had already dozed off by then. There were no audio video or any such fancy facilities other than the strategically placed charging points by the seats. Rest all was same as any other regular flight. Most parts of the flight were over the ocean with astounding views. The whole two and half hours journey was quite smooth without any significant turbulence and we reached Naha on time at around 8:30 and as we soon found out, that was actually too early for this beautiful, laid back island.
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