009: Pilgrimage Recap – Nagasaki, Japan

Since I didn’t have a guest for this episode, I decided to recount some of my experiences going on a pilgrimage to Nagasaki, Japan. I wanted to learn more about St. Paul Miki and his Companions since they were martyred in Nagasaki.

Show highlights:

  • Re-intro to my podcast and what “En Fuego” means
  • Why Nagasaki
  • How I traveled to Nagasaki
  • What I did in Nagasaki
    • 26 Martyr’s Hill (monument, museum, and church)
    • Nakaramachi Church
    • St. Max Kolbe’s friary/Hongochi Church/Marian grotto
    • Atomic Bomb Museum
    • Memorial Peace Park
    • Urakami Cathedral
    • Inasayama
    • Oura Church
    • Glover Garden
  • Reflections on this pilgrimage

Show references:

Twitter: @jrenfuego
Instagram: jrenfuego
Facebook: facebook.com/jrenfuego

-JR

007: It’s All Up in the Air

Brendan and I talk about our ability to fly non-revenue standby, which basically allows us to fly for “free” or “really cheap” by taking available seats on flights. We’ve been able to to enjoy this privilege growing up since our dads work for the airlines.

One day, while I was in-between trips to Japan, Brendan and I decided to combine our non-rev powers and go somewhere together. Since going on such a trip for the first time, we’ve turned these adventures into pilgrimages of sorts getting to experience the Church everywhere we’ve gone. From that, we also talk about important life lessons we’ve learned from traveling in this way.

Show highlights:

  • How we know each other
  • Traveling due to family
  • Non-rev Adventure #1 – San Antonio, TX
  • Non-rev Adventure #2 – Philadelphia, PA
  • Non-rev Adventure #3 – Nashville, TN
  • Non-rev Adventure #4 – Washington, DC AND San Diego, CA in the same weekend
  • Lessons we learned
  • Special shout outs/interruptions:
    • Brody, Brendan’s sisters new dog
    • My hotel maid
    • Brendan’s sister

I apparently blogged about our first adventure. You can read about that here.

-JD

006: Our Longing for the Eternal

Perhaps you follow me on social media or on my blog and know that I occasionally ask for prayer requests whenever I go on a pilgrimage. I’ve been fortunate enough to go on multiple pilgrimages over the past several years, and I have one person to thank for introducing me to the notion of pilgrimaging.

My guest in this podcast is Jason. He led both World Youth Day pilgrimages and several of the March for Life pilgrimages that I have been a part of. We talk about what pilgrimages are, and we share various experiences from those pilgrimages to further talk about the sorts of lessons we can learn from them.

Highlights:

  • Catch up, no coffee, and I’m not two best friend white guys who do Catholic podcasting
  • What is a pilgrimage?
  • Beware of what pilgrimage company you use
  • God desires us to be saints
  • What is the March for Life pilgrimage?
  • Crazy story from a priest ordination pilgrimage in NYC
  • Crazy story from visiting famous staircase in New Mexico
  • What was the World Youth Day 2016 pilgrimage? and highlights?
  • Bishop stayed and a papal drive by happened
  • Holy doors
  • My recent Nagasaki pilgrimage
  • What can we learn from pilgrimages?

Jason and his wife, Becky, run the Three to Get Married podcast, which I also mentioned in Episode 001! Check ’em out!

Jason also chats it up with other youth ministers in the Catholic Youth Ministry podcast. Also check it out!

Lastly, don’t forget to subscribe and rate my podcast on iTunes!

Thanks for listening!

-JD

Flight Review – Japan Airlines #12: Narita, Japan (NRT) to Dallas/Ft. Worth (DFW)

I recently flew home from a business trip to Japan. It just so happened that my administrator selected for me to fly home using Japan Airlines (JAL) on their direct route to and from Narita (NRT) and Dallas/Ft. Worth (DFW). JAL uses one of their 787-8’s to fly this route using the JAL Sky Suite in business class. This is one of my fav seat products out there! It was a nice treat after having spent about three months in Japan.

Booking

So uhh…I have the ridiculous advantage of being able to travel business class paid for by my company. If I were doing such a trip on my own, I would use flights.google.com to check prices, and explore using AAdvantage Miles to book business class award tickets. If I end up purchasing the ticket, I would use a travel credit card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve to maximize points earning for a travel purchase such as airfare.

Anyway, via my company and administrator booking this flight for me, I was able to select seat 8A, which is a window seat in the more aft business class section on the port side. JAL #12 departs at ~11:10AM daily.

Lounge

Ok. So…I’ve been traveling to Japan many times over the past two years. Because of this, I’m currently Executive Platinum for American Airline’s AAdvantage program. This translates to oneworld Emerald status. And it’s because of being oneworld Emerald that I was able to gain access to the First Class Sakura Lounge at Narita International Airport. There are two locations, and I went to the one closer to immigration as it was closer to my gate. The other First Class Sakura Lounge is just to the right in the satellite section of Terminal 2.

To summarize my experience here, I enjoyed a lite breakfast buffet because I had already eaten at my hotel prior to leaving at the airport.

I enjoyed the services of the massage chair, the shower room, and massage with a masseuse.

The most ridiculous thing I did was get in line at the sushi bar to get some egg omelette and tuna sushi and wash it down with Suntory Yamazaki 12 year whiskey. At 9:30AMFor the blog. While waiting for my upper body care massage.

After my massage, food, shower, and lounging around, I felt loosey-goosey enough to head to my gate.

 

Boarding

I don’t like waiting last minute to board, even as an elite, so I usually like heading to the gate a little early. I sat down and waited about 20 minutes before they called for boarding.

The flight didn’t seem so full based on how many people were sitting around at the gate. I think some youth group was also part of the flight based on a group leader’s constant inquiring about the whereabouts of one particular youth. I know the struggle having been a practically professional chaperone for youth events, haha.

Because I’m oneworld Emerald, I got in line in the appropriate late during pre-boarding lineup. Again, I always feel awkward when boarding because I’m usually the youngest and most dressed down (short-sleeve polo and gym shorts).

Seat

As I mentioned before, I sat in seat 8A. Window seats are great on JAL flights with their business class Sky Suites because you can get a lot of privacy.

There are some good amenities to this seat. The screen is fairly large, each seat is powered with normal plugs and USB, privacy divider between adjacent seats, the seat can lie flat, and they even provide an Airweave mattress.

The amenity kit is a Zero Halliburton bag with toothbrush, ear plugs, mask, lip balm, tissue, and moisture mask. I like the amenity kit bags that JAL usually provides, but I’m not often not too impressed with their contents.

In previous trips to Japan, I’ve gotten to ride business class on American’s 777-200 (old, angle-flat), 777-200 retrofit (new “Cirrus” AAL config, and Super Diamond), and 787-8 (new “Cirrus” AAL config). But! I think the JAL Sky Suite is still my favorite.

Entertainment

JAL provides a lot of a content on their in-flight entertainment systems that use Magic Suite. The content varies from Eastern to Western titles. I find that JAL doesn’t usually have a lot of Western TV shows, but they do have a good selection of recent movies and classics as well.

I didn’t peruse their music, but in the past I know it’s pretty varied.  I also didn’t check if there was an e-reader function, but I know from a past trip that manga is available to read, if offered.

Flight

After takeoff, we were given a choice of either champagne, orange juice, or water. The flight attendant working my side as well as the head purser both personally introduced themselves, which is very nice touch.

I opted to go with the Wagyu Beef on the Western set menu for lunch. I paired this with a red pinot from South Africa.

The thing about business class meals is that they are multi-course style.

For amuse-bouche, I had sesame tofu with wasabi and a tuna confit. The tofu was squishy and spicy, and the confit was a weird combo of fishy taste with pesto, but still petty good.

The hors-d’oeuvre was grilled spear squid. Seafood, especially of cephalopod nature, are usually not my first choice of things to eat. The squid had a weird chewy texture and was kind of tasteless, but I still finished it all.

And then of course my main course: wagyu steak with eggplant caviar. It was delicious! The flight attendant also asked if I wanted a side of steamed rice, which being the Asian that I am, I obliged. The wagyu was juicy and easy to cut into, which is pretty impressive for airplane food, haha.

To finish it out, I had pomelo pudding. Bitter and sweet.

My only struggle with JAL flights in business class is that the main food service takes a long time. We weren’t given menus until 25 minutes after takeoff. And the entire meal service lasted a little over 2 hours. But! The flight attendants were attentive and really strived to do their best.

During the meal service, I had watched The Great Wall, but it finished before I received dessert, lol. I then started Star Wars: Rogue One, and I also decided to bust out my Nintendo Switch to make a little progress on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I did this for a little while until I felt tired.

I knew I needed to get as much sleep as I could on this flight knowing that I’d be arriving at 8:30AM in DFW and still have to go to work. Bummer.

In preparation, I got into the overhead compartment bin and unpackaged the Airweave mattress to lay it across my now-flat seat.

I kept tossing and turning because the cabin was too bright at the time. I was too lazy to grab my face mask, but I eventually did after while. I think I was able to fall asleep after a while, and I was probably “in bed” for about 4 hours.

At 6 hours into the flight, I used the lav. It looked pretty clean so I’m guessing the flight attendants had been attending to it.

You know you’re on a Japanese carrier when even the toilets in the lavs have spray functions.

Feeling a little hungry, I perused the snacks available at the galley. Honestly, I think American Airlines does this part better with a selection of savory snacks and plated foods. I grabbed a macaroon.

Still feeling hungry, I used my handset to order ramen. On JAL 777 and 787 business classes that have it, you can order food on demand with their “Anytime You Wish” menu.

The ramen was okay. It felt too pre-packaged, and the hardboiled egg were still a little cold. I washed it down with JAL’s specialty Skytime kiwi drink.

After this mid-flight meal, I played my Nintendo Switch some more and decided to take a short nap.

Upon waking, I turned on the new Beauty and the Beast. Halfway through the movie, the pre-landing meal service started. Again, I ordered the Western set, which was roasted lamb with bread. Delicious! Oishi! Not what I’d consider “breakfast” per se but then again, I did eat sushi and drink whiskey in the lounge the day before, haha.

Overall, it was a good flight. The flight attendants offer great service as to be expected from a Japanese carrier, but they’re always slow with the main meal service. I had good options to be entertained, and good opportunities to be comfortable in order to get some sleep (even if I was too lazy to actually make it more comfortable).

Here’s a cool timelapse I filmed of the landing at DFW:

I look forward to my next opportunities to fly JAL!

-JD