Jet lag after arriving in Japan can be brutal, especially if you’re coming from Western Europe. Japan is 7 hours ahead of Western Europe in the summer and 8 hours ahead in the winter. When it is 2 p.m. in London and 9 a.m. in New York, it is 11 p.m. the same day in Tokyo. Don’t forget to add the minimum 12 hours of traveling time via plane from Paris for example. To avoid arriving exhausted, here are some recommendations to prepare for the jet lag, to have a great experience when flying and to feel fresh and energized when you arrive in Japan.
Getting ready a few days before departure
First, choice of departure time matters the most. Leaving under your time slot and counting local time, traveling to Japan lasts about the entire day. This means if you take off in the evening, you will arrive in Japan probably in the afternoon, or at the same hour (locally) with layovers.
We advise thinking about whether you prefer to land in the morning in Japan and therefore enjoy a first full day, or to arrive in the evening to go directly to your hotel, sleep and feel fresh and ready the next day.
It will also depend on your ability to sleep in a plane. Some people’s biological sleeping rhythm can be so powerful, they may find it impossible to sleep on a plane departing in the morning. Arriving in Japan the next morning (local hour) means arriving at your departing airport location at night. This choice will allow your body to naturally fall asleep.
Obviously, we cannot choose the exact desired hour, but by researching carefully on several companies’ offers, and depending on the day of the week or on the period of the year (holiday period or not), it is possible to have several options.
In this way, it is advisable, the days before the departure, to advance your sleeping time of a few hours little by little to begin to approach the rhythm that you will have during your stay in Japan.
If possible, avoid having a sleepless night before departure day. Tried and confirmed—we may think that we will be able to sleep in the plane, but, on the contrary, sleep might not come and therefore time will go by even more slowly… and the jet lag will be even harder to fight upon your arrival in Japan.
In the same trend, avoid the idea of a huge meal before a traveling day. Instead, take some healthy snacks with you to snack on in the plane and avoid the company’s sugary options once up in the air.
Managing your time while flying
Unfortunately, we are not all equal during a 12-hour flight. Some will sleep during the whole flight (how lucky!), and some might read hundreds of pages of a good book.
Some will have a hard time focusing on a whole movie. Even when the plane is not full and we can lay down to rest, the sleep is episodic and not rejuvenating. We wake up with the feeling that 5 hours have passed… when in reality, we’ve only been asleep for one!
No miraculous solution exists against this. You may want to consider sleeping pills, but these can alter your natural sleeping cycle and we don’t advise taking medication without a prescription.
To prepare to be as comfortable as possible, here are some things you can do during your flight.
First of all, wear loose clothing that makes you feel totally relaxed. Economy class can feel closer to battery farming than a trendy catwalk, so do not hesitate to bring clothing to change into. You might feel discomfort in your skinny jeans and tight shirt after more than 12 hours.
Moreover, in the airplane’s cabin, the air is pressurized and undergoes numerous varying temperatures. We might feel a bit hot and suddenly be shivering just minutes after. Plan for some socks if you are in open-toe shoes, as well as a warm sweater and scarf if you only took a t-shirt.
Do not hesitate to use the company’s eye mask and invest some money into a travel pillow to protect your cervical vertebrae and to help you get some sleep.
Another problem to think about during a long flight: phlebitis. Although the risk is small, try to walk around every few hours. We recommend to walk more or less every 3 hours and then stretch about 2/3 into the flight.
If you have bad blood circulation, think also of wearing support stockings (you can ask the crew for some). Also remember to hydrate your body. Drink a lot of water and use a moisturizing cream, as the atmosphere is very dry in the airplane.
Finally, to accompany your flying comfort, fill up your iPhone or computer (fully charged in advance) with your favorite music, movies and TV episodes. Otherwise, take your PSP and your 3DS and purchase the latest released game.
Canceling the jet lag’s effects once you arrive
Once again, it will depend on your landing hour in Japan, but there are some behaviors you can do to lessen the feeling of fatigue from the jet lag.
First of all, indulge in a healthy and light meal. Try to eat vegetables, fruits and a little bit of meat with some carbs. Do not fill yourself up, but little by little so your stomach adapts to the new rhythm. A small ramen bowl looks ideal (and delicious!).
Then take 10 minutes to enjoy a good shower, or at least freshen up a little.
Next, look for the sun! At least walk around in the fresh air. You just spent many long hours inside with artificial lighting, so your body will benefit greatly with natural light to start regulating itself.
Finally, try not to sleep too late and enjoy a good first night. Even if the jet lag is easier to cope with the first day because of the excitement, you may have a hard time getting up early the first few mornings (as Japan is 7 to 8 hours ahead of Europe!