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1) I'm flying to Japan from Canada in mid-September. When is the best time to buy?

I always hear different things. Early? Late? Certain time specific to the season?

I found a decent ticket, 12 hours, direct from YVR to NRT, for $1200 CAD. Thinking I should snatch that up.

2) A friend may want to come with me by buying a ticket in 1 month from now. Does it sound like it should be OK?

I figure he probably can't get the seat beside me at that time, or maybe even the same plane

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I found a decent ticket, 12 hours, direct from YVR to NRT, for $1200 CAD. Thinking I should snatch that up.

$1,200 CAD should be considered a reasonable round-trip price from North America to Japan. Sometimes you see lower (though rarely below $1000), and sometimes much much higher. I would say that is around the average price these last few years, based on the flight price research I periodically do for myself or acquaintances making the trans-Pacific hop.

I always hear different things. Early? Late? Certain time specific to the season?

You likely hear different things because there are very few universally applicable rules to flight-pricing, especially for trans-Pacific flights. Sometimes the best price is six months in advance, and sometimes it is a few weeks - it mostly all depends on that particular flight.

I can say for sure that the most expensive time to fly to/from Japan is the New Year's season, the first week of May (Japan's "Golden Week"), and the middle of August (Japan's "Obon" Festival of Lights). Scoring an average-price ticket during these times will be harder than most other times of the year. However, September is not an unusually busy season in Japan.

2) A friend may want to come with me by buying a ticket in 1 month from now. Does it sound like it should be OK? I figure he probably can't get the seat beside me at that time, or maybe even the same plane

One month in advance is pushing it a little bit, but it is not unheard of to find a reasonable ticket only one month in advance. I advise buying sooner if possible, and it is very unlikely that you'll be on the same airplane (or if you are, your friend would have to pay a lot of money).

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    100% agree with all that. $1200(All-in) is pretty reasonable for YVR-NRT if it's direct with Air Canada or JAL. The only way you'll get cheaper is flying via China or Taiwan or Seoul, which will add to the length of time you're in the air and ultimately (in my opinion) isn't worth it unless you want to stopover in one of those locations. – Armstrongest Aug 5 '14 at 17:50
  • You were spot on @Manmaru. I got it for $1200. Went and came back. Everything was smooth and a great time to visit! Thanks again! – Eric Muyser Sep 29 '14 at 22:16
  • Glad to hear you had a good trip! – Manmaru Oct 1 '14 at 3:59
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Travel to Japan from YVR doesn't have much charter and without much fluctuation in price. Your best deals are to call a Japanese travel agency like IACE or HIS in Vancouver which both have English speakers available.

We travel every year and that's about as cheap as you'll get it without booking via China, Taiwan or Seoul. Generally, 3 months ahead of time is best for Japan.

As a side note: If you can fly with ANA from YVR, I'd try to do that as Haneda is a much more convenient airport. It's a later arrival (7PM), though.

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