How to survive your flight to Japan

Because long haul flights just aren't for everyone.

Japan flight out window

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Decided to finally take the plunge and book the cheapest flight to Japan? Let me show you how to prepare for it and survive your long-haul flight!

So, you’re super excited to walk off that airplane and drink a cold bottle of Ramune Soda! (Literally me every time…)

Sometimes though, long-haul flights can be at extremely strange hours of the day, and if you’re not used to extended periods of travel they can really take their toll.

Traveling to Japan is, for a lot of people, a once-in-a-lifetime experience so you obviously want to enjoy as much of it as possible.

Oh, and this is written assuming you’ll be traveling in economy class. Not that the suggestions won’t work for you if you aren’t (because they will) it’s just business or first class is bound the make the experience more tolerable at least!

I know lots of people really aren’t a fan of traveling on planes and it can sour the entire experience for them.

However, as far as I’m concerned (though I might be in the minority) getting on the flight is part of the holiday. In fact, as soon as my bags are thrown on the conveyor belt I’m in holiday mode. 😀


I’m writing this to help people who might struggle with long-haul flights.

So! You’ve probably got lots of questions about what to expect and what to bring, so I’ll do my best to explain it in as much detail as I can.

How long is the flight from the United States to Japan?

Depending on what part of America you live in, your US-Japan flight time will be anywhere from 13 hours if you’re living on the East Coast, and 11 hours if you’re on the West Coast.

This is of course assuming you’ve booked a direct flight… 

And if you can afford it, I highly recommend paying the extra! It’s a lot nicer not to have to worry about getting off the plane and then getting onto another one.

How long is the flight from the United Kingdom to Japan?

If you’re living in the UK, it should take just under 12 hours on a direct flight to Haneda or Narita Airport.

If you’ve booked connecting flights, you could quite easily be adding another 6-8 hours on top. (unless you’ve got a layover which would add a lot more time)

Do you lose a day flying to Japan?

That will more often than not depend on where you’re flying in from.

If you’re flying from the US to Japan, you’re gonna lose a day.

For example; if your flight leaves on a Monday morning, you’ll end up landing in Tokyo at some time on Tuesday Afternoon/Evening.

This does depend on where you live in America so make sure to check this time converter and plan your trip accordingly.

If you’re flying from the UK to Japan, you’re also going to lose part of the day.

It will depend on how long your flights are and what time they’re booked for, but as Japan is 8 hours ahead of England you can expect to lose a good chunk of the day based on the time difference alone.

1. Prevent Jet lag

Jet lag Japan
You when you don’t prepare for jet lag ^

It’s just as important to prepare and prevent Jet lag as it is to survive your flight to Japan when you’re on board the plane. 

No one wants to feel like crap during the beginning of their holiday, especially not from Jet lag!

This is especially true if you have a short holiday, but is important as long as you want to enjoy your first few days.

Let’s discuss two ways in which Jet lag can be prevented and reduced:

Get yourself on Japanese time

The first and most obvious way to do this is by getting yourself on Japanese time as soon as possible.

Once again I want you to use this time converter to see what time it is in Tokyo and ideally put yourself on that time the day before your flight.

If you’ve got a busy schedule then this won’t be possible. But you can still reduce the effects of jet lag by adhering to a schedule on your flight.

Normally you won’t have to think too much about this as the lights will be turned off when they think you should sleep and on when you should be awake.

So no more Japanese dramas!…

…ok maybe just one more? 😉


Another way to fix yourself in Japan’s time zone is through grounding.

When you touch down in Japan, find a patch of grass and walk on it barefoot. (Don’t worry, you can visit this tower to have a view over Tokyo from the clouds again!)

Grounding works by ‘Soaking up the earth’s negative charge’ which in turn should leave you feeling refreshed.

It’s a process that works best if you’re on wet ground like the beach, but it should work even if you aren’t.

Yes, I know it sounds a little bit ‘Out there’ but it does have scientific evidence too.

Some studies have shown that grounding can improve the quality of sleep, help reduce pain and inflammation, and even reduce the primary indicators of osteoporosis.

Whether you think it works or doesn’t, taking your shoes off for the possibility of less jetlag shouldn’t bother you.

Especially in Japan!

2. Wear comfortable clothing

Comfy Clothing jet lag japan

Make sure to wear comfortable clothing!

The flight to Japan isn’t a short one so you’ll want to make sure you give your body room to breathe and relax.

In fact, you could wear a Yukata or casual fit kimono as they tend to be loose and airy. Plus it’s a great way to immerse yourself before you arrive!

In any case, wear something cozy and loose-fitting. 

Your body will thank you for it 13 hours later!

3. Get your Japanese skincare routine on point

japanese skincare routine for flying

DO NOT! I repeat DO NOT get on the plane without moisturizer!

Just have a look at this article by Rebecca Norris. The results speak for themselves!

Here are some things you’ll need to watch out for when you fly:


You’ve likely felt it before if you’ve been on a plane. That cold dry air gets circulated around and probably wasn’t designed to be gentle on your face.

Don’t worry about it!

Just make sure to get some good-quality moisturizer that’s small enough to take on the plane.

I’d also recommend applying it before you board so it has a chance to sink in, and then re-apply when needed. (not that I’m a skincare expert, just from personal experience)


Once you’re above the clouds, you’ll be at the sun’s mercy. 

UV rays will be loving it, but your face will be crying. So grab some suncream and put it on over your moisturizer. 

It might seem excessive but I promise you’ll feel all the better for it when you land.


Holidays are supposed to be a stress-free time where you can reconnect with your family and passions outside of work. 

But let’s be honest, even with the best will in the world they rarely are.

And that’s especially true when you’re trudging through customs at the airport. 

From the stress of getting through the airport, to the many windows you’ll fall asleep on, your face won’t be having fun.

If you’re concerned with breakouts, bring some cleanser, and that way you can quickly clean your face when you need to.

I’ve written an article about Japanese skincare websites, so you’ve got no excuse for having skin that doesn’t love you!

4. Bring your own headphones

wear headphones for your flight to Japan

If you’ve been on any long-haul flight before you’ll know, more often than not, they provide you with headphones. 

Totally great if you’ve forgotten your own, but utter rubbish in every other situation.

They don’t feel great and certainly don’t sound great.

What’s more, a great pair of headphones can maximize your enjoyment of in-flight entertainment and block out any unwanted noises to keep you calm during your journey.

I’d suggest using over-the-ear headphones for their comfort and noise-canceling ability, but of course, this is a personal choice.

5. Download some (loads of) anime

Watch anime on your flight to Japan

For me, anime is really good at setting an atmosphere and rolling with it as far as possible. 

It’s so easy to get lost in the beautiful artwork of studio Ghibli that I sometimes feel like I’m daydreaming. So if you’re looking for a way to take your mind off the fact you’ve still got 7 hours left until you get to Tokyo, this might be a good idea for you.

Sometimes it’s just nice to get caught up in the moment especially if you’re going on holiday there!

My anime Recommendation: Your Name / Kimi no Na wa

6. Download Japanese-themed documentaries

Watch Japanese theme documentaries on your flighht to Japan

If Anime isn’t your thing, that’s no reason you can start watching Japanese TV before you get there. It might be Japanese Dramas, films about Japan (The last Samurai is my recommendation!), or even a Japanese documentary.

Here are a few of my fave documentaries:

7. Pack some Oishii (delicious) Japanese snacks for the flight

Japanese snacks for your flight

If you’ve yet to experience Japanese snacks, you should bring a couple on your flight to help the time pass faster. (And tastier!)

Unsure what to bring?

I’ve written an extensive post on 20 of the best snacks you need to try. ^_^

I’d recommend grabbing yourself a packet of Pocky sticks (I’m partial to the matcha flavor, but whatever floats your boat!)

Ah, and I’d definitely suggest getting a tin of Hotaru no Haka Sweets. 

Especially if you’re an Anime fan!

Anyway, take a look at the article linked above and order a couple before your departure date!

8. Order the Japanese option on the menu

Japan plane food

If you’re flying with an airline that offers more than one meal choice, please chose the Japanese option. Please!

It’ll normally be something plain or simple like Soba or maybe some sushi. If you aren’t normally adventurous with food then this is your perfect entry into the world of Japanese cuisine.

If you end up liking it, then you’ve got a dish you can eat in Japan and a place to springboard off into other food avenues!

If they don’t cater to your diet or for some reason you literally can’t bring yourself to eat the Japanese food option (Booooo!) then it’s just an excuse to bring a few more snacks from the list!

9. Listen to Japanese Lofi

listen to Japanese music on your flight to Japan

There are TONS of Japanese artists you could listen to, but I think Lo-Fi is the best music to survive your flight to Japan. Or at least music without words.

Here’s why:

  1. It forces you to imagine – You’ll be thinking about how many bowls of ramen you can guzzle down until you feel sick!
  2. It’s built to create an atmosphere – It’s great for Japanese hype without giving too much away
  3. There are countless sub-genres – Whilst some lo-fi might be fast-paced and heavy, others will have a softer beat to help you focus or chill out during your flight.

Want to learn more?

Here is an interview I did with a Japanese-inspired lo-fi producer.

Here are the 5 best lo-fi study channels on YouTube. (Great for learning Japanese!)

10. Bring a phrasebook to read

Bring a phrasebook on your flight to Japan

If you’re hoping to learn the basics of Japanese without any time commitments, why not get a phrasebook?

You could try the Lonely Planet Phrasebook and Dictionary which should have you covered for all eventualities you’ll likely encounter during your stay.

I haven’t tried it myself, but it currently has hundreds of reviews at four and a half stars so it’s got to be doing something right!

And it’s just under 5 ounces, so you won’t even notice it in your bag!

11. Bring a Japanese coloring book

Bring a japanese colouring book on your flight to Japan

Even though you should try your best to learn just a few phrases before your trip, I understand it’s not something everyone’s going to do.

Coloring books are a great way to focus your attention and help you live in the present moment.

Yes, they’re pretty heavy when you have limited room. But if it’s something you’re into, you’ll likely be busy for hours!

This is the book I’d recommend. Again, I’m yet to try it myself but it has a load of really positive reviews and pictures so could be worth giving a go!

12. Read some Manga 

read manga on your flight to Japan

If you’ve been learning Japanese for some time, then why not bring something even more immersive? 

Make sure it’s not too mentally heavy though, that means your Genki textbook is out of the question!

I’d recommend Yotsuba!

A cute Japanese manga book about the everyday adventures of a little girl called Yotsuba. 

You’ll have to know a little bit of Japanese to get through it, but it’s fairly accessible even to beginners. 

13. Check your bucket-list

japanese bucket list

By now you’re probably getting really excited about all the cool things you’ve got planned on your trip!

So why not go over your bucket list and see if there’s anything extra you fancy doing? ^_^

I’ve written an extensive bucket list with over 100 different options for Osaka and Kyoto including accommodation, places to relax, places to eat, places to shop… (The list goes on, a lot!)

You can grab it here!

FAQs about surviving your flight to Japan

Should I sleep on a flight to Japan?

This question completely depends on when your flight to Japan is. If it’s nighttime in Japan when you’re on the plane, then absolutely!

If you’re just a bit tired but it’s actually daytime in Japan, then limit the amount of sleep you have. A quick snooze won’t be harmful, but the worst-case scenario is that you arrive in Japan completely refreshed when you should be sleeping, and then your schedule goes all out of whack.

How bad is Jet lag to Japan?

Again, this depends on when your flight is and how much you’re personally affected by the symptoms of jet lag. If you’re prone to feeling those effects, Japan jet lag can be absolutely brutal.

If you’re only visiting Japan for a small amount of time, this can be detrimental to your travel itinerary so it’s vital you prepare accordingly and do your best to negate its effects.

Is Jet lag worse going to Japan or coming back?

As the saying goes ‘West is best, East is a beast’. So if you’re traveling eastwards from your home country to Japan, jet lag will be worse on the way here.

If you’re traveling westward on the way here, and east on the way back, you’ve likely got the better end of the deal if you’re looking to stop jet japan in Japan!

Right, so you might have just planned how to prepare for your flight to Japan, but if you give me a couple of minutes, I want to explain to you why traveling to Japan without a plan is an absolute game changer and something you should 100% consider doing. Don’t knock it until you try it!

Jonny Gleason

Jonny is the founder of A Day of Zen and has an unhealthy obsession with Japan. In 2022 he moved to Japan on a mission to give his audience the best possible information. He's helped over 300,000 plan their trip so far, and is eager to make that number much bigger!

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