Tuesday, September 09, 2014

JAL Sakura Lounge, Haneda Airport, Tokyo

As you've been reading on Tuesdays for weeks now, I went on a business trip to Tokyo.  It concluded with what I am sure will go down as history as one of the most memorable experiences of my life: a flight back, via Hong Kong, on Cathay Pacific, First Class.

The start of my epic journey began at the Haneda airport.  I was glad to fly out of Haneda, as it is much closer to Tokyo than Narita, and, much, much smaller.  While there wasn’t much to do once I got through security, I appreciated the fact that there were no lines to check in, no lines for security, and it was all a relatively calm experience.

After quickly poking around the very few shops, I headed to the the JAL Sakura Lounge. Unfortunately, the first class lounge was closed for renovation, and Cathay Pacific shares the JAL lounge.

My only other comparison point for JAL lounges is the one in SF, which is ridiculously unimpressive, so the Haneda one was a welcome surprise.  It still wasn’t really the calibre I’d expect from the lounge of the flagship operator of the airport, but like I said, Haneda is a small airport, and I’m not sure JAL even has First Class flights out of there.

I think there were showers, but I didn’t check them out.  Bathrooms were nice enough, but standard.
Window counter seating, table seating.
I was stuck by how large the lounge was, particularly for the small airport.  It wasn’t even remotely full.  There were many seating options.  Counters along the window with viewing areas of the runways, all with power jacks.  Tables, mostly for 2, with assorted types of seats.
Soft Seating Area.
Softer seating of armchairs and couches took up the rest of the main area, along with space for workstations, and a large section deemed the "quiet area", not that it was loud anywhere.

At the entrance was a bar, but there was an additional bar area with the food station, which I went to explore, even though I wasn't that hungry.

The food station was quite large, particularly compared with the SF one.  It had a rather strange assortment of food.  I was particularly surprised that it didn’t have onigiri, as the SF one did, and this seemed to be the most common snack food all over Tokyo.  I had been looking forward to having one final one!
Rice, toppings, sushi.
Starting at one end were steamers full of rice, with toppings like ume and pickles.  And sushi rolls … but beef sushi only.  Is this normal?  (Sorry for the blurry photo, I was trying to take photos quickly so as not to look like a wierdo ...)
Soups, noodles
There were also a couple soups, noodles, and ... cornflakes.  Odd items to have grouped together!  I guess they all go in bowls?
Hot Dishes.
Then there were strange hot dishes that I couldn’t identify at all.  Honestly, no idea what these were.
Steamed Veggies.
Next, cold steamed vegetables.

I tried the winter squash, since I love squash.  It was well cooked I guess, but just squash.
Salads.
The next station was a bit more familiar to me, with salads and dressings.

Most impressive were the salads.  I had one with hijiki seaweed, beans, and some veggies.  It was fresh, well seasoned, and a great last taste of Japanese cuisine.  A bit fishy from bonito flakes, but in a good way.

I also had the lotus root, pumpkin, and apple salad.  Such a strange combo.  I love lotus, and this was fresh and crisp.  The pumpkin was mushy, a bit like a sauce.  I liked that too.  The apple was crisp, but I’m not really a fan of apple, and I don’t see how it fit in here.

My favorite station of the lineup.
More Hot Dishes.
Next were hot dishes, a beef curry and assorted dim sum.  All had ingredients I didn’t like, and I wasn’t hungry, so I skipped these.
There was also a bread selection, which I’d read about previously, since they feature selections from the Parisian bakery Maison Kayser.  Unfortunately, since it was afternoon, the lounge didn't have any of the pastries I’d read about, and just 3 types of bread instead: ciabatta, le delice blanc, and baguette monge.  Boo.  I skipped these.
Savory Baked Goods.
This area also contained tuna pizza.  What?  Beef in the sushi, tuna on the pizza ....

And a tuna bread thing.  The only thing I tried from this area was a blueberry pastry, but it was dried out, burnt, flavorless, and not good at all.  Presumably left over from breakfast?
Snacks, coffee, tea, soda.
On the final side were little snacks, like generic chocolate covered graham crackers, and snack mix.  I love snack mixes, but this wasn’t very good, mostly fairly plain rice crackers, with a few peanuts, and not particularly flavorful wasabi peas.

Overall, nothing that great here, but a far better selection than the SF lounge.

The drink selection was also better.
Juice, milk, beer.
There was beer on tap (I know this is what my co-workers must have gone for!), with cold beer glasses in the fridge.

Also in the fridge was juices, and pitchers of their famous Sky Time cocktail.  I had to try that, and it was good, not too sweet, refreshing.
Hard Alcohol, Wine, Sake.
 There were also a couple red wines, a small but decent hard alcohol selection, and sake.
Chilled  Sake.
And chilled sake.

I spent about an hour in the lounge, and it was comfortable enough, but not really notable.  An announcement was made that my flight was boarding, so I jumped up, and went to my gate.
Massage Chairs, in a Separate Room.
Right before boarding, I spent the last few minutes in the massage chair room.  Not as nice as other lounges that have real massage services, but a nice touch.  The chair was highly confusing however, even the attached manual didn't help much.  No food or drinks allowed in this area.
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