Where Diego settles into a comfy seat, enjoys a great view, and gulps down a glass of one of his favourite beverages for the first time in more than four years.
(Yes, four long years. I’ll tell you the whole story shortly.)
Date of visit : 16 April 2013
Location : Tōkyō International Airport / Haneda Airport (HND)
Related flight : CX 549 (HND-HKG)
Travel class : Business
I was flying on Cathay Pacific from HND to MNL (with a transfer in HKG). My business class ticket entitled me to lounge access, but since CX didn’t have its own facility in HND, I was directed to use the Sakura Lounge operated by fellow oneworld member Japan Airlines.
The lounge entrance is tucked away in a quiet corner of the international terminal, on the 4th floor (although it appears that access is only possible from the 3rd floor).
Let’s head inside and find ourselves a seat.
Airport lounges might not be the best of places to relax in during peak hours, but I arrived well before my flight and had the place almost to myself.
There’s a mix of tables and seating arrangements available so most people’s needs – whether it’s for relaxation, dining, or working – will likely be catered for. However, if you’re a solo traveller who’s after a nice little corner of protected personal space, only the seats right up against the windows near the far end of the lounge will do.
While I didn’t care much for the design of the seat itself – reminded me too much of old boardroom office furniture – I was perfectly satisfied with the overall arrangement of these little cubicles. The high walls offered loads of privacy without causing claustrophobia, the small table offered adequate parking space for dishes from the buffet spread, the footstool offered support for relaxing one’s tired legs, and best of all . . .
. . . the massive windows right in front of the seat offered splendid views of the airport complex. All things considered, even the impressive Solus chairs in CX’s flagship HKG lounge (which I wrote about here) seem awfully cramped and uncomfortable against these nicely designed cubbyholes.
The Sakura Lounge’s buffet consisted of the expected mix of Western and Asian (mostly Japanese) options. If I remember correctly, I neglected to have lunch earlier in the day so I raided the buffet at least three times (not that I carried away very much on each sortie, mind you), carting off small samplers of everything from French pastries and pink lemonade to sushi rolls and sukiyaki. All pretty good, though nothing really stood out for me . . . that is, not until I poured myself a very special beverage to accompany my pastry run.
The pale yellow liquid in the tall glass next to my plate may not look very impressive at first glance, but it’s something that I’d waited four years to have another taste of.
That, my friends, is a glass of Sky Time: a wonderfully delicious drink made especially for Japan Airlines, with a small amount of fruit extract adding a hint (only a mild hint) of sweetness and desalinated seawater lending it a special character. It’s an incredibly light beverage – lighter on the palate than even plain water, I’d say – and a quick Google search will reveal just how many travellers have been smitten by this simple yet absolutely refreshing drink.
I first tasted it back in 2009, when I flew with JL on my very first trip to Japan. I fell in love with it at the first glass, and quickly asked for a second. Since then I’ve always flown with other airlines (whether to Japan or elsewhere in the world) and never had the opportunity to try the drink again.
But today, thanks to CX and JL’s joint lounge arrangement at HND, I’ve got access to a fridge loaded with litres of the stuff.
Sweet sweet bliss.
I was about to embark on a regional flight at a very reasonable hour, so I felt no special urge to seek out shower rooms or enclosed washroom facilities. I’ve read elsewhere that the Sakura Lounge does have showers for those requiring that service, though I didn’t see them myself and certainly didn’t use them.
I did note with appreciation the rows of lockers near the entrance, with a security camera positioned just overhead for one’s peace of mind.
Didn’t have to spend much time in the gents’, but if I did, at least I would have had clean and impeccably maintained surroundings.
While not quite as large or well-equipped as CX’s flagship Wing lounge in HKG, the Sakura Lounge was a great place to relax before my flight. I especially loved the private window-side cubicles and would be very happy to see more seats like those in my travels.
That Sky Time drink sounds wonderful. I need to fly JAL some time so I can try it. Unfortunately, for this trip we’re on Delta because we had enough miles to pretty much get the flight for free. The Delta Sky Lounge in Narita wasn’t bad but the Sakura one looks nicer.
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