Given that award availability on Japan-bound flights in Business Class can be tight—especially with the Olympics in Tokyo coming up next year—getting a good deal in Economy Class is key.
I think paying under $850 return for a nonstop flight to Japan on a full-service carrier, i.e. not Jetstar, is a good benchmark.
Right now, the three full-service carriers operating nonstop flights between Australia and Japan—Qantas, Japan Airlines and ANA—are pretty close in price. (Virgin Australia’s flight from Brisbane to Tokyo starting in March is not yet on sale.)
Dates are between May and October next year. However, they tend to exclude the school holidays and the Olympics (late-July to mid-August). I think May and June are the best months to visit Japan.
Sydney has cheap flights to Tokyo—on all three carriers—starting at $689 return. (Qantas’ service to Osaka starts at $934, which isn’t a great deal.)
Japan Airlines and Qantas’ services from Melbourne actually have the best range of dates of any of the routes. Prices are slightly higher at $699 return.
ANA’s nonstop service to Tokyo starts at $732 return.
Finally, Brisbanites can fly Qantas for $801 return. However, they can drop down to $669 if they fly Jetstar out of the Gold Coast.
Those in Cairns have the cheapest prices of all, at $572 on Jetstar. Factor in checked baggage fees and food, though.
Of all the airlines flying nonstop between Australia and Japan, ANA’s Sydney service offers the most legroom (34 inches). Japan Airlines follows (33), then ANA’s Perth service (32) and Qantas (31).
Depart: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Gold Coast or Cairns
Dates: May to October 2020 (excluding school holidays; excluding Olympics for the most part)
Airlines: Qantas, Japan Airlines, ANA and Jetstar
Cost: from $572 return
Where to credit points: Depending on where your existing points balances lie, you may choose to credit your Qantas or Japan Airlines flights to Qantas Frequent Flyer, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, British Airways Executive Club, American Airlines AAdvantage or Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan.
Lounge access: If you are flying Qantas or Japan Airlines and hold Qantas Gold or above status, are a Qantas Club member or have Qantas lounge passes with one of these credit cards, you will get access to Qantas and associated partner lounges.
Regardless of the airline flown, American Express Card Members get access to the Sydney and Melbourne Amex lounges; and Priority Pass members can gain access to lounges/eateries in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Tokyo Narita and Osaka Kansai.
Best credit card to use for purchase: Credit cards that offer bonus points for booking travel
Booking link: My suggestion is to start your search on Google Flights and then click through to the airline to book.
Airfare deals are typically only available on limited dates. Fares may disappear quickly, so we suggest booking as soon as you are confident in your travel dates.