ANA to announce two more Star Wars planes

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ANA, Japan’s largest airline, has just announced that two new Star Wars planes will soon take to the skies, decorated with BB-8, a brand new character from Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the beloved, R2-D2.  As part of an agreement with The Walt Disney Company (Japan) Ltd. and the ANA Star Wars Project, the planes will join the previously announced R2-D2 ANA Jet, which is scheduled to go into service on October 18, 2015.

I was very excited when I first heard about the news back in April. I’ve emailed one of my ANA contacts and asked where the plane would be flying, but at the time I was told they weren’t sure yet. ANA caters to 11 North American destinations.

BB8-05

BB-8, a brand new character from Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Scheduled for theatrical release in December 2015), will be displayed on the livery of the BB-8™ ANA Jet, a Boeing 777-300ER. ANA also announced the Star Wars™ ANA Jet, which will showcase both BB-8 and R2-D2 on the outside of a Boeing 767-300. These Star Wars themed planes will join the previously announcedR2-D2™ ANA Jet, a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

bb8

I have flown on Dreamliner from Haneda to Okayama back in 2012 and you can read about it here. It is my favourite plane!

ANA launched the Star Wars Project in April 2015 after signing a five year promotion license contract for the Star Wars brand with The Walt Disney Company (Japan) Ltd. As part of the agreement, the ANA Star Wars planes will also display in-flight decorations, such as headrest covers, paper napkins and cups featuring Star Wars characters – more details will be announced at a later date. How fun is this? The partnership also means ANA will be the only airline in the world(!) to offer all six of the currently released Star Wars films as part of its extensive in-flight entertainment options on international routes. This will be the first time that any of the Star Wars movies have been included as part of an in-flight entertainment system.

The three Star Wars™Jets will fly international and domestic routes. On October 18, the R2-D2™ ANA Jet is scheduled to go into service on international routes, initially as flight NH116 between Tokyo and Vancouver, and then fly between Japan and other cities in ANA’s international network including the US (Seattle and San Jose), Europe (Munich, Paris and Brussels), Australia (Sydney), China (Beijing), and Indonesia (Jakarta).

Rest of the route are scheduled as follows (Note: Dates are tentative and subject to change without notice):
Mid October to Late-November: Principal destination Narita=San Jose
Early December: Principal Destination Narita =Seattle

Mid-December and beyond: Haneda=Sidney, Haneda=Jakarta, Haneda=Beijing, Haneda=Munich Haneda=Paris and other destinations.

You can check out the planes’ schedules at www.ana-sw.com.

“We at Lucasfilm are absolutely delighted to have found in Japan such a wonderful partner in ANA and to able to provide you with a wonderful opportunity like this one.” said Kathleen Kennedy, president, Lucasfilm Ltd. “I, too, certainly look forward to flying aboard one of ANA’s Star Wars jets on my next trip to Japan.”

There is also an R2-D2 ANA Jet Fan Appreciation Event in October at Haneda.

Will you fly on Star Wars ANA Jet? Let me know when you do!

Day at Tokyo Haneda airport (#ANAYVR Part 2)

HND view This is part 2 of our whirlwind trip from Vancouver to Tokyo. Read part 1 here.

Our accommodation on this trip was Haneda Excel Hotel Tokyu right on the Haneda airport, so it was very convenient. So-called Japanese “Business Hotel” rooms are so tiny you often don’t have the room to open up your suitcase…but this was a pretty decent room. Haneda excel hotel tokyu Because of the jet lag, I was up around 4am. After an early breakfast I explored the airport terminal a bit. This terminal was built in 2010, and it’s still new. There are many souvenir shops here – boxed souvenirs (either sweets or savoury food) are big part of Japanese culture.

New recruits entrance ceremony

After meeting up with the rest of the team, we headed to ANA Maintenance Center near the airport. It was April first, and this was a big day in Japan, as this is the first day of the new fiscal year and many corporations hold entrance ceremonies for new recruits.

Giant wheels we saw on our way to the ceremony
Giant wheels we saw on our way to the ceremony

I was expecting to be taken to some big room, but turned out the ceremony is to be held at the hangar. Because, you know, they have over 1,000 young recruits entering the whole of ANA Group (consists of 26 companies)! 747 First thing we saw was Boeing 747 parked right in front of the recruits. Apparently it’s ANA’s tradition to hold the ceremony this way. How cool is that? 747

This year is extra special, as some of you may know but ANA has retired all the B747 Jumbo jets.

After the speech by ANA Group CEO Mr. Shinichiro Ito, each names of the new staff were called out. Until I actually saw this I wasn’t sure what to expect – after all, it is VERY Japanese, 1000 men and women in almost identical suits (these are not their uniform!) with each very similar conservative hairstyles. But I was impressed with the organization of the ceremony and just how proud they were to be a part of this company. They even had the ANA orchestra playing the company’s theme song. The orchestra consists of volunteers musicians in ANA companies. I thought it was really cool.

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Photo op with blue ANA towels

After the ceremony, each new recruit wrote a message on the body of 747. What fun!

Haneda Airport and ANA Suite Lounge

After the ceremony, we headed back to Haneda airport for a tour. As I mentioned earlier, the terminal was upgraded back in 2010. I like their shopping area that looks like Edo era:

edo komachi

We also got to visit the brand new ANA Suite Lounge, which is available to First Class passengers. We got to have lunch here and here’s a quick video.

At Suite Lounge, in addition to the existing buffet service you can enjoy many hot meals made to order with full waiting staff, just like regular restaurant.

To be continued to part 3.

ANA launches Vancouver to Haneda direct flight

With Mr. Kaz from ANA

I’ve just come back from Tokyo! Some of you might remember that I’ve flown to Japan with All Nippon Airways(ANA) last two years as one of their brand ambassadors along with Neal Schaffer, Cali Lewis and John P. They were both amazing trips and we got to fly to Okayama on Boeing 787 and also fly to beautiful Okinawa.

However, those two flights were made from LA and Seattle respectively, and this year I am even more excited because for the first time ever, ANA started servicing to Canada! As a Japanese living in Canada, when I wanted to fly home I only had two options, JAL or Air Canada. Now we have ANA in the mix and they are the only airline flying to Haneda, which is located way central compared to Narita which JAL and AC are flying.

The aircraft serving the route is B767-300ER, a mid size carrier and this is the same as what JAL is using on their Vancouver- Narita route. Mr. Ryosei Nomura, Senior Manager of Public Relations whom we had the pleasure of meeting told us that ANA is introducing B787s into the YVR-HND routes soon. I can’t wait!(Read about my trip to Okayama on B787 in 2012 here.)

Me in safety vest at YVR

On March 30th, 2014, we were all gathered at Vancouver Airport (YVR) to celebrate the inaugural flight to Haneda. Our media tour consisted of media in Vancouver area including Vancouver Sun, Philippine Journal, Vancouver Shinpo and Sing Tao Daily just to name a few.

767 arriving from Tokyo

It was a great privilege for me to witness the actual arrival of the plane from Haneda and “Water Salute” on the runway. YVR staff told me that it’s a customary to do water salute to welcome new airline into the airport, or sometimes to honour the retiring pilot. Here’s a short video.

After the water salute, there was a ribbon cutting ceremony at the gate and YVR CEO Craig Richmond, who had just literally arrived from Haneda along with ANA officials made speech. Then there was “Kagami wari” -breaking of a sake barrel to celebrate something new. Sake, Sushi and Vancouver’s own Japadog were served to guests. It was great to see Kaz whom I’ve traveled to Okinawa with there.

ribbon cutting

Sushi and Japadog

ANA has recently been awarded SKYTRAX’s 5-star rating, making them the only airline in Japan to receive this honour and one of the four in the world – with Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, and Qatar Airways.

Business Class

Once on board B767-300ER we were showered with small gifts such as a sticker, chocolate and get this…a hand-written note. It was the first day ANA flew from Vancouver and they even had a hand-written welcome poster on board.

All the goodies

Japanese meal on ANA business class

767 is a little older plane, but my flight to Tokyo was pretty comfortable. I had some great meals and our cabin attendant was so attentive I ended up having few glasses of great plum wine and sake. Flight time to Tokyo was approximately 10 hours.  We arrived in Tokyo at 7pm. We had mixed opinion on arriving in the evening. It’s great as you won’t feel like you’re wasting a day and you can go straight to bed upon arrival compared to arriving in the afternoon. But if you are hoping to connect to a different city, arriving at 7pm might make it hard. Mr. Nomura told us that they would work on having different time slot for Haneda in the future. Of course, to make it happen there has to be a need for it.

To be continued to part 2.

 

TelTell Tohoku Tour – Visiting Tsunami aftermath – Kesennuma

TELTELL東北ツアー

After a week in sub-tropical Okinawa, we headed back to Tokyo. It was as if winter has come back. Cherry blossoms were half way in bloom but the cold and rain have almost washed the flowers away. We were freezing in Tokyo; and we were supposed to visit an even colder climate.

Last half of our trip in Japan will be spent with R Systems, a startup from Kobe, and Tasukeai Japan, an nonprofit to support those who affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake from March 11, 2011. Just like Okinawa, I was with Cali and John. Journalist Taro Matsumura joined us too.

R Systems developed a translation app named TelTell Concierge.  It uses Apple’s Facetime to connect user with an operator, who is fluent in the language you need help with.

One of the services I offer in my line of work is Japanese – English translation.  I KNOW machine translation like Google Translate has its limit and I am a firm believer of human/contextual translation. So I am very picky when it comes to translation, and I was curious to check out this app.

TelTell Demo

After the product demo,  I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Since the testers were John and Cali – from Dallas – we only used English/Japanese translation, but Chinese, Korean and Sign Language are also available. (Spanish and Portuguese are coming soon.) All the operators we saw spoke in nearly perfect Japanese and English. I was particularly impressed with the operators’ use of Keigo (polite form of Japanese.) They really are at our service. Like the name implies, TelTell Concierge has a lot of potential to serve not only as a translator, but also as a tour guide, information provider, and more.

Along with TelTell app, with help from Tasukeai Japan, we headed to Tohoku(Notrheast) area of Japan, also known as Hisaichi(Disaster affected area). We headed to Ichinoseki by Shinkansen (Bullet Train) and drove down south through Miyagi prefecture.

You can learn more about the app and how it worked on John and Cali’s Geekbeat. TV (they will be uploading bunch of videos), but let me write more about Tohoku.

It’s been two years since the disaster, yet as of March 15, 2013, still the number of evacuees (people who moved to a different area, or people who is living in temporary housing) is over 313,000. Total casualties amounts to 15,882.

I met Yuuki Noda of Tasukeai Japan few months after 311 on Twitter. I saw his tweet looking for an English speaking volunteer. Tasukeai means “Helping Each Other” in Japanese. Coincidentally, Yuuki and I are both from same town (Sasebo, Nagasaki). We’ve kept in touch ever since. When I was in Japan last year for ANA brand ambassador tour, he came to see me for breakfast. I got to introduce him to Cali and John, and although we didn’t have time to make a spontaneous trip up to Tohoku at that time, this year, it finally came true.

I woke up to snow in Ichinoseki. Just the couple nights before, I was sweating in Okianawa heat. What a difference.

Here’s a quick clip from the morning.

Our first stop was Kesennuma. You might have seen this giant fishing vessel, Dai 18 Kyotoku Maru that got swept up one kilometer ashore.

Kesennuma

 It’s one thing to see it on TV, another to see it yourself. The bus took us where the ship is, and all of us were just silent. I was speechless in front of the tremendous power of mother nature that pushed this ship ashore.

car under the shipIf you look closely, you can see this is a car crushed under the ship.

shrineThere were still a lot of flowers and paper cranes at this memorial by the ship. There is a movement to keep this ship as a memorial/museum of the tsunami, however for some people, this ship is a sad reminder of the disaster.

Yataimura

Kesennuma is a well known fishing port. The port was pretty much destroyed, but there are people recovering from damage. We visited Fukko Yatai Village Kesennuma Yokocho – temporary market.

Tairyomaru

Here, John and Cali interviewed Sachie-san, owner of restaurant Tairyomaru, using the TelTell app. She told us that she had just stepped outside an elevator at her work when the earthquake hit, and after the tsunami, she couldn’t find her family for 3 days. Despite all the hardship, she is now running a small restaurant in the temporary market – “Because people got to eat!” She was such a lovely person. One thing she said that made a big impression for me is that she was “Just grateful to be alive.” She encourages everyone to come visit her at her restaurant!!

Sachie san

After the interview I bought some stickers for my son. This is the character of Kesennuma, Hoya Boya. (You know Japanese people LOVE cute characters and nearly every city and products have a character made for them.) Hoya is a sea creature and Boya is a Japanese word for “little boy”. He wears a scallop on his belt and his sword is a saury. Isn’t he adorable?!

Hoya boya

We left the temporary market with a little lighter mood that people are positive here. Our next stop is Minami Sanriku.

…To be continued.