The author sailed on the N.Y.K. Line's passenger liner Taiyo Maru from San Francisco to Yokohoma via Honolulu, and returned to San Francisco by way of Vancouver. The total travel time to Japan was about 15 days; the return time was probably similar. The round-trip fare, second-class cabin, was about $200 in 1934 dollars, which would be about $3200 in 2009 dollars. (It's possible that this was a combined fare for two people.) I'm sure that cheaper arrangements were possible, such as traveling by cargo ship, but you get the general picture.
As for air travel, flying across the Pacific in the 1930s meant flying on a Pan American Airways flying boat, and while you could fly on Pan American from San Francisco to Hong Kong, you could not fly to Japan, presumably due to political difficulties. In any case, a round trip ticket between San Francisco and Hong Kong cost $1370 in 1939, which would be over $21,000 in 2009 dollars. . . . And even by air, the trip between San Francisco and Hong Kong took almost a week each way.
Per Colin Howell.
The New Era Of Transpacific Transportation
Travel by boat is still very slow and not very cheap. Now, long distance cruises intended primarily to get you from point A to point B basically don't exist on long haul routes like those to Japan. Cruises now sell the trip itself, rather than the transportation incidental to the trip.
The first commercial jet airline to reach production, the de Havilland Comet, made the first flight with paying customers on May 2, 1952 (the first military jet entered German military service in 1943).
Supersonic air travel was available from London to Singapore from 1977-1980 via the Concorde and from Moscow to Alma-ta in Central Asia via a Russian supersonic jet (the Tu-144) from 1977-1978, but there has never been transpacific supersonic commercial passenger travel.
Long distance transpacific air travel wouldn't be widely available, fast and somewhat more affordable until the 1960s with the rise of second generation jetliners using technology not all that different from the technology used today. One can now travel to Tokoyo from San Francisco by air on a commercial flight in as little as eleven hours for as little as about $800.
The War That Followed and Its Aftermath
U.S. involvement in World War II, of course, began with the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941 and ended with Japan's surrender on August 15, 1945, forty-four months later. (Japan invaded Machuria September 13, 1931 and the Second Sino-Japanese War began July 7, 1937; Japan entered into a formal alliance with the other Axis powers in September, 1940; the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact was entered into April, 1941; the surrender of Japan was made formal September 2, 1945 and a formal peace treaty marking a return of Japanese sovereignty from U.S. occupation came in 1951.)
The war in the Pacific between predominantly Japanese and predominantly U.S. forces was characterized by numerous major blue sea naval battles, the use of submarines, widespread use of naval aviation from aircraft carriers, numerous large amphibious attacks on the few otherwise insignificant intermediate islands in the Pacific, widespread use of intense but highly inaccurate aerial bombing, dog fights, and ultimately the only two uses of nuclear bombs in anger.
The Cold War followed World War II almost immediately. With the Axis powers dispatched, the capitalist and communist wings of the Allied nations swiftly asserted regions of influence (dividing Germany and Korea), and set themselves against each other until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.