Points and Miles to Tokyo


I previously wrote about booking an ANA flight to Australia with a free stopover in Tokyo. I used Hyatt hotels for my stays there. My trip report of points and miles to Tokyo, Hyatt hotel reviews, and our activities is here. And you can learn more by listening to this episode of our PODCAST!


Preparations to Travel

Japan took a long time to reopen d/t Covid. They are still pretty strict. My first problem occurred when I went to print my husband’s vaccination record and found out that they consider a valid certificate to include 3 vaccines (must have a booster). My husband only had the original vaccines. It was too late to have him get a booster, so he had to get the negative COVID test. Luckily, he was negative – that is always a little nerve-wracking.

You must go (at least at the time of this writing) to Japan Web on an app or computer and complete several steps, register your travel, and get a QR code to fast-track through customs.


Arrival to Tokyo

We arrived at about 3:00 pm to the Narita airport. There are two airports near Tokyo, Narita, and Haneda, and often you fly in one and out of the other or vice versa. That was our case.

On arrival to Narita, many airport workers ensured we had the right info from Japan Web on our phones and where to go. If you haven’t completed the info on Japan Web, the airline gives you paperwork, and the workers put you in the right lane. We quickly went through the first area, scanned our QR code, gave index fingerprints, and went on to the next checkpoint. Here we scanned our second QR code and our passports and went onto the final area. It was all really quick, really easy. The key was having the Japan Web information done, and kudos to the helpful airport workers!

There are two main options to get into Tokyo itself. You can ride the express train or take the Keisei Narita Skyaccess train, which a reader suggested we do. To do this, after arriving at the North terminal, we took the escalator downstairs to the airport. There were a ticket station and helpful information desks where you could get tickets. Everyone was very helpful.


Woman standing in front of train area

Thanks to helpful airport workers, we quickly found our way to the train into Tokyo.


We found the area to wait for the train. On our ticket, we were in car 7 and seated at 11a and b.  The train ride was about 45 minutes to Ueno station. There we followed the taxi signs and were at the Hyatt Centric Ginza in about 10 minutes. I had taken out Japanese Yen from the ATM before we left the airport. (It is always helpful to have the country’s currency for transportation if you can’t use a credit card). Our driver knew no English, but I showed him the picture and address of the hotel and wrote the name in Google Translate. It must have worked because we made it there safely, so our points and miles trip to Tokyo was off to a good start!


Hyatt Centric Ginza

The Hyatt Centric Ginza was pretty unimpressive from the street. However, it was so, so cute – we loved it! We used 21K points/night to stay here for 2 nights. The cash price would have been about $650/night. The lobby area is upstairs and very cute and modern. Unfortunately, no suite upgrades were available, but we were given a deluxe room upgrade. There was a lot of room, and it was well-decorated and quite large.

We were informed that the Globalist breakfast was a buffet. They also showed us an area for WOH members to grab snacks and beverages 24/7.  On arrival in Tokyo, we noticed that almost everyone wore a mask. Our hotel encouraged it but didn’t say anything when we didn’t have one on at first. We did start wearing them to make people more comfortable, though.


Hotel breakfast buffet

Hyatt Centric Ginza breakfast buffet – so many choices!

Hotel lobby in Tokyo

I loved the lobby of the Hyatt Centric Ginza!


The room, though not a suite, was huge! Heated toilet seats – heaven!! (I’m missing them, to be honest). We loved the decor and thoroughly enjoyed the service at the hotel.

The breakfast buffet was excellent – so many choices! They could have cooked the eggs a little more, though. 😬


Hotel room in Japan.

The Hyatt Centric Ginza was 21k points a night and was really a cute destination.

Day One


After a sumptuous buffet breakfast at the Hyatt Centric Ginza, we took walk to explore the area. We reached the old Tokyo Fish Market, which was crowded but very interesting. This is called the Tsukiji Outer Market.


Outdoor market in Japan with fish.

The Tsukiji Outdoor Market was a surprising find on our first-morning walk.


The main event for the day was Sumo Wrestling. I booked this with the goal of Mr. Relunctant Traveler enjoying his stay. The surprise was that I LOVED it! It had so much ritual, drama, and excitement that I wished I could go again. There are three 14-day tournaments each year in Tokyo, and we were lucky to be there during one. We booked this as a group tour on Viator, and I was glad we did because we got so much background information. Even when there are no tournaments, one can take a tour to watch training. After our three week trip, which also included Australia and New Zealand, we both said that this was our favorite excursion!


Large men wrestling in ring.

I am a lover of Sumo wrestling – who knew?


Day Two

Initially, I had planned to tour the city ourselves via Visit a City.  I’ve used it before for self-guided tours. I changed to a private tour due to the size of the city and the language barrier. I was so glad I did. Our guide, Michi, filled us in on the history of the shoguns leading to the Emperors. He taught us how to use the subway and took us to a great lunch place,  the Shibuya Tokyo Food Show, where we had many options. We saw the following sites with him:


  • Meiji Shrine – a Shinto shrine. We were lucky to run into a wedding that day. We performed a ritual under the couple’s tree. You put a 5 yen coin into the Offering Box. You should use a 5 yen coin because 5 yen in Japanese is goen, which means good luck. Bow twice. Clap twice. Make a wish. Bow one last time.


Two people at shrine bowing.

We made our wishes at the Shinto shrine in Tokyo.


  • Shibuya Scramble – An area in Shibuya where everyone crosses the street from many different areas. It is very busy. Surrounding the crossing are buildings adorned with neon lights and large video screens – it reminded me of New York City’s Time Square.


People at crosswalk in Tokyo, Japan.

Hordes of people cross at the same time at the Shibuya Scramble.


  • Tokyo Tower – Great views of the city and an iconic part of Tokyo.


Large orange and white tower.

The Tokyo Tower used to be the highest building in Tokyo.


  • Kaminarimon Gate and Sensoji Temple – This is a very photographed area of Tokyo. Before reaching the temple, there are many shops and eating areas. It is a bustling section of the city.


Red gate leading to temple in Tokyo.

The Kaminarimon Gate is one of the most photographic areas of Tokyo. It leads to the Sensoji Temple.


Cute shops on each side of a road.

There are many shops for souvenirs and food on the way to the temple.


  • Imperial Palace – You don’t get close to the Emperor’s residence, but you do get to learn more about the history of shoguns and samurai. The botanical garden is also located there.


Gates into a palace in Japan.

Entrance to the Imperial Palace.


An excellent guide to Tokyo can be found here. It is perfect if you want to see the city on your own. I was really happy with our guide, though. You can also get a free guide to tour Tokyo here. I would have done that if I hadn’t already booked a guide. Let me know if you use that free service.

It was cold, and we were tired after this day, so we headed to our next hotel, the Andaz Hyatt (loved it!), and ordered delicious room service. Here is my review of the Andaz Hyatt. If the Hyatt Centric was cute, the Andaz was the WOW! factor. Using points and miles to Tokyo is a dream when you stay in such nice accommodations. Having Globalist status makes it even more excellent!


View of large city with tower

View from our room at the Hyatt Andaz Tokyo! Points and miles to Japan made this a free stay!

Day Three

Again we chose a private tour via Viator for a day trip to Kamakura. We wanted to get outside of the city and see something different. Here are a few different day trip options.

Our guide was harder to understand that day, making it a more challenging learning experience. He was very sweet and accommodating, though.

We spent about 10,000 Yen in transportation expenses and admissions on this trip, including the best burgers because we were craving them. Kamakura is a cute beachside town where we saw some kitesurfing and sailing despite the colder temperatures. It would be especially fun to visit during warmer months. In Kamakura, we visited:

  • The Great Buddha – the main attraction of Kamakura.


Large green statue

The Great Buddha is the primary draw to visit Kamakaru – it was very impressive!


  • The Flower Temple – the Hase Temple. This was a very beautiful temple. Temples are Buddhist temples, and the shrines are all Shinto. We were told that the shrines are used for happy occasions like births, marriages, etc., and the temples are for death and passing on.


Black and white buddhist temple

The Flower Temple was especially beautiful.


Gold Buddha

At every temple and shrine, there were multiple places to offer donations and prayers.

  • Komachi Street – This cute area of Kamakura had dining and shopping options.


Crowded Komachi Street in Kamakura.


  • Tsurugaoka Gacgunabgy Shrine – This is a Shinto shrine. We thought the crowds were large, but our guide said they weren’t because many people come to worship right after the New Year.


Red building with stairs in front of it.

This Shinto Shrine had many visitors the day we were there.


Man and woman standing in front of shrine.

Our last stop in Kamakura was the shrine.

Day Four

We saw that our last day would have some rain, and we had walked 8 miles plus on each of our last two days. It was time for rest and get massages! Luckily, we had a huge room to hang out in and late checkout (5:00 pm), so we could shower and relax after our massages. The last day of our points and miles trip to Tokyo was a time to recharge before heading to Australia.


Additional Thoughts

  • The heated toilet seats were terrific! Did I already mention that?😜
  • The subway system was not as challenging as I thought it would be.
  • Be sure and have yen as we had to have it in areas where a credit card was not accepted. I got 40,000 Yen initially at the airport ATM.
  • The taxis were less expensive than I thought they would cost. From our hotel, the Andaz Hyatt, to Haneda Airport, it costs 8,000 yen -about $61, and it takes about 45 minutes, so it is comparable to the US. We could have taken a train for much cheaper, but I preferred a taxi with our luggage. You can afford the luxuries when you book a points and miles trip to Tokyo! 😜
  • There are no paper towels in public restrooms; usually, the Japanese carry a washcloth to dry their hands with.
  • Tipping is not expected in Japan, although our guides were happy to accept them. At the hotel restaurants, they told us that they were included in the charges.
  • Two sites we didn’t see that are supposed to be outstanding are the Tokyo Fish Market and the teamLab Planets exhibit (an immersive experience that children LOVE).


Bottom Line

Our primary trip was to Australia and New Zealand. Getting a free stopover to Tokyo, Japan, on points and miles was the cherry on top of an already fantastic points and miles trip. We enjoyed the people’s hospitality and the city’s beauty and vastness (even without cherry blossoms in bloom), and we would heartily recommend it to others.

Man and woman in front of Japanese building

Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. American Express is a Travel Mom Squad advertiser, but we always show the best public offer even when we don’t earn a commission. Terms Apply. 

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