Tokyo has two international airports. Narita International Airport (NRT; www.narita-airport.jp; tel. 0476/34-8000), located in Narita about 66km (41 miles) east of Tokyo, is by far the largest and serves the most flights. Closer at just 14km (8.6 miles) is Haneda Airport (HND; www.haneda-airport.jp/inter/en/; tel. 03/5757-8111), which operates as Tokyo’s domestic airport but also has an international terminal.
Because the flight to Tokyo is such a long one (about 12 hr. from Los Angeles or London and 13 1/2 hr. from Chicago or New York), you may wish to splurge for a roomier seat and upgraded service, including special counters for check-in, private lounges at the airport, and better meals, though these come with a price. You should also consider a mileage program, because you'll earn lots of miles on this round-trip.
Japan's major carriers, flagship Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways, offer more international flights to Tokyo than any other carriers. Other airlines flying between North America and Tokyo include American Airlines, Asiana Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Korean Air, Northwest Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways International, and United Airlines.
From the United Kingdom, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways also offer daily nonstop service from London to Tokyo. Air New Zealand, Jetstar, and Qantas fly from Australia to Tokyo.
Narita International Airport — There are three terminals (1, 2 and, used mostly by regional low-cost airlines, 3), all with ATMs and counters for money exchange. Change enough money here to last several days—the exchange rate is about the same as in town and the process is speedy. Tourist Information Centers (TIC) located in the arrival lobbies of terminals 1 and 2 are open daily 8am to 8pm and offer free maps and pamphlets; staff here can make budget hotel reservations until 7:30pm. If you’ve purchased a Japan Rail Pass, you can turn in your voucher at the Japan Railways (JR) Travel Service Center, located in all terminals and open daily 6:30am to 9:45pm. Other facilities and services at terminals 1 and 2 include post offices, medical clinics, shower rooms, day rooms for napping, beauty salons, children’s playrooms, luggage storage and lockers, cellphone rentals, free Wi-Fi, and, in Terminal 2, a capsule hotel (useful if you have a very early flight). You can also have your suitcase delivered to your place of lodging no matter where you’re staying in Japan; it costs about ¥1,909 to ¥2,362 per bag in the Tokyo area depending on the weight and size.
A Tourist Information Center (TIC), managed by the Japan National Tourism Organization, is located in the arrival lobbies of both Terminal 1 (tel. 0476/30-3383) and Terminal 2 (tel. 0476/34-5877). The TIC offers free maps and pamphlets and can direct you to your hotel or inn. Both TICs are open daily 8am to 8pm; if you don't yet have a hotel room and want one at a modest price, you can make reservations here for free until 7:30pm.
Other facilities and services at both terminals include post offices, medical clinics, cellular phone rentals, luggage storage and lockers, shower rooms, day rooms for napping, children's playrooms, observation decks, and coin-operated computers with Internet connection (¥100 for 10 min.).
Getting into Town from Narita Airport
Everyone grumbles about Narita Airport because it's so far away from Tokyo. In fact, Narita is a different town altogether, with miles of paddies, bamboo groves, pine forests, and urban sprawl between it and Tokyo.
By Taxi -- Jumping into a taxi is the easiest way to get to Tokyo, but it’s also prohibitively expensive—and may not even be the quickest if you happen to hit rush-hour traffic. Taxis have both metered and—probably better—fixed-fare rates, but expect to spend around ¥19,000 to ¥25,000 for a 11/2- to 2-hour taxi ride to areas in central Tokyo. Note that highway toll charges and a surcharge applied from 10pm to 5am will cost extra.
By Airport Bus -- The most popular and stress-free way to get from Narita to Tokyo is via the Airport Limousine Bus (www.limousinebus.co.jp; tel. 03/3665-7220), which picks up passengers and their luggage from just outside the arrival lobbies of Terminals 1 and 2 and delivers them to downtown hotels. This is the best mode of transportation if you have heavy baggage or are staying at one of the 40 or so major hotels served by the bus. Buses depart for the various hotels generally once an hour, but note it can take almost 2 hours to reach a hotel in Shinjuku. Buses also travel to both Tokyo and Shinjuku stations, Haneda Airport, and the Tokyo City Air Terminal (TCAT) in downtown Tokyo, with more frequent departures (up to four times an hour in peak times); all are served by public transportation. Even if your hotel is not served by limousine bus, you can still take it to the hotel or station nearest your destination. Check with the staff at the Airport Limousine Bus counter in the arrival lobbies to ask which bus stops nearest your hotel and its departure time. The fare to most destinations is ¥3,100. Children 6 to 12 are charged half-fare; those 5 and under ride free.
Cheaper buses, the Access Narita (www.accessnarita.jp) and the Tokyo Shuttle (www.keiseibus.co.jp/inbound/tokyoshuttle/en/), travel from all three terminals at Narita to Tokyo and Ginza for only ¥1,000 one-way (children pay half-fare). Travel time is 95 to 105 minutes, with departures up to three times an hour during peak times. You pay upon boarding with cash for Access Narita, while Tokyo Shuttle tickets are purchased at a Keisei Bus ticket counter.
By Train -- The quickest way to reach Tokyo is by train, with several options available. Trains depart directly from the airport’s two underground stations, Narita Airport Terminal 1 and Airport Terminal 2-3. The JR Narita Express (N’EX; www.jreast.co.jp; tel. 050/2016-1603) is the fastest way to reach Tokyo Station, Shinagawa, Shibuya, Shinjuku, or Ikebukuro, with departures approximately twice an hour. The 56-minute trip to Tokyo Station costs ¥3,020 one-way or ¥6,040 round-trip. At Tokyo Station, the train splits, with some cars going to Shibuya, Shinjuku, and, less frequently, Ikebukuro, and other cars going to Shinagawa (cost to these stations: ¥3,190, ¥6,380 round-trip). As this book was going to press, a special N’EX Tokyo Round Trip Ticket was being offered to foreign visitors for only ¥4,000. Sold only at Narita Airport, it even allows you to transfer to another JR train line to reach your Tokyo destination; check the website for more information. Otherwise, if you’ve validated your JR Rail Pass as mentioned above, you can ride the N’EX free.
Another train option, especially if your destination is Ueno, is the privately owned Keisei Skyliner (www.keisei.co.jp; tel. 0570-081-160), which departs directly from terminals 1 and 2 and travels to Ueno Station in Tokyo in as little as 41 minutes. Trains depart Narita approximately one to three times an hour from about 7:30am to 10:30pm. The fare between Narita Airport and Ueno Station is ¥2,470 one-way. Travelers on a budget can take one of Keisei’s slower limited express trains to Ueno Station, with fares starting at ¥1,030 for the 80-minute trip. If your destination is Asakusa, Nihombashi, Higashi-Ginza, Shimbashi, or Shinagawa, you can also travel on the Narita Sky Access Line or Keisei Main Line. For details, check the Keisei website or drop by the Keisei ticket counters in the arrival lobbies of terminals 1 and 2.
If the N'EX is sold out, take the slower JR Airport Liner rapid train, which will get you to Tokyo Station in 80 minutes and costs ¥1,280.
An alternative is the privately owned Keisei Skyliner train (tel. 03/3831-0131; www.keisei.co.jp), which departs directly from both Narita Airport Station (Terminal 1) and Airport Terminal 2 and travels to Ueno Station in Tokyo in about an hour, with a stop at Nippori Station on the way. You'll find Keisei Skyliner counters in the arrival lobbies of both terminals. Trains depart Narita approximately every 40 minutes between 7:52am and 10pm. The fare from Narita Airport to Ueno Station in Tokyo is ¥1,920 one-way. Travelers on a budget can take one of Keisei's slower limited express trains to Ueno Station; fares start at ¥1,000 for the 71-minute trip. Note: In late 2010, the faster New Skyliner will open for business, cutting the connection between the airport and Ueno station down to 40 minutes or less. At Keisei Ueno Station, where you'll find a Tokyo Tourist Information Center (daily 9:30am-6:30pm), you can take either the subway or the JR Yamanote Line to other parts of Tokyo. There are also plenty of taxis.
Saving on Airport Transportation -- If you plan to travel around Tokyo by public transportation (and who doesn’t?), you can save money by purchasing a combination Keisei Skyliner and Tokyo subway ticket, available only at Narita Airport. One-, 2-, and 3-day tickets offering unlimited subway rides are ¥2,800, ¥3,200, and ¥3,500, respectively, for a one-way Skyliner ticket and ¥4,700, ¥5,100, and ¥5,400 with a round-trip Skyliner ticket. Likewise, there are Airport Limousine & Subway Pass combination tickets that include a one-way or round-trip Airport Limousine Bus plus 24-, 48-, or 72-hour unlimited rides on all subways (it doesn’t have to be the same day of arrival), with a one-way bus and 24-hour combination ticket costing ¥3,400. This ticket, which I consider very good value, is available at Airport Limousine counters at the airport, TCAT, and Shinjuku Station West Exit in front of Keio Department Store. There are also combination tickets for visitors arriving at Haneda airport. Check websites for more information.
Getting from Haneda Airport to Central Tokyo
Haneda Airport has both domestic and international terminals (it’s officially named Tokyo International Airport, but everyone calls it Haneda). The international terminal has a Tokyo Tourist Information Center (on the second floor of the arrival lobby, open daily 24 hr.), currency exchange, free Wi-Fi, luggage storage and delivery, and cellphone rental. But the overriding benefit of Haneda is its central location compared to Narita. Taxi fares from Haneda are more reasonable than from Narita, but you can still expect to pay about ¥7,000 to reach downtown Tokyo.
Like Narita, Haneda Airport is served by the Airport Limousine Bus, with service to Shinjuku Station, Tokyo Station, the Tokyo City Air Terminal (TCAT) in downtown Tokyo, and selected hotels in Ginza, Hibiya, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, Shibuya, Roppongi, and Akasaka. Fares run ¥930 to ¥1,230 for most destinations.
Locals, however, are more likely to take the monorail from Haneda 16 minutes to Hamamatsucho Station (fare: ¥490), or the Keikyu Line 11 minutes to Shinagawa (fare: ¥410). Both Hamamatsucho and Shinagawa connect to the very useful Yamanote Line, which travels to major stations like Tokyo and Shinjuku.
If you're arriving from elsewhere in Japan, you'll most likely arrive via Shinkansen bullet train at Tokyo, Ueno, or Shinagawa station. All are well served by trains (including the useful JR Yamanote Line), subways, and taxis.
There are no international ferry services to Tokyo, but domestic long-distance ferries arrive at Ariake Ferry Terminal, located on an artificial island adjacent to Odaiba in Tokyo Bay; the nearest station is Kokusai-Tenjijo-Seimon. Cruise lines usually dock at Harumi Terminal.