Tokyo has two airports. International flights land at Narita International Airport (NRT) in Narita about 66km (41 miles) outside Tokyo. If you're arriving in Tokyo from elsewhere in Japan, your flight will probably land at Haneda Airport (HND), used primarily for domestic flights.
With dozens of airlines serving Tokyo from around the world, it's certainly not difficult to get here. Below are some pointers to get you headed in the right direction.
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.
Arriving at Narita Airport -- Narita International Airport (tel. 0476/34-8000; www.narita-airport.jp) consists of two terminals (1 and 2). Arrival lobbies in both terminals have ATMs and counters for money exchange, open daily 6:30am to 11pm (change enough money here to last several days, since the exchange rate is the same as in town, the process is speedy, and facilities in town are somewhat limited). Both are connected to all ground transportation into Tokyo.
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 -- Obviously, 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 method during rush hours. Fares are fixed but average around ¥19,000 to ¥21,000 for a 1 1/2- to 2-hour taxi ride from Narita to central Tokyo.
By Airport Bus -- The most popular and stress-free way to get from Narita to Tokyo is via the Airport Limousine Bus (tel. 03/3665-7220; www.limousinebus.co.jp), which picks up passengers and 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, and it can take almost 2 hours to reach a hotel in Shinjuku. Buses also travel to both Tokyo and Shinjuku Station and the Tokyo City Air Terminal (TCAT) in downtown Tokyo, with more frequent departures (up to four times an hour).
If your hotel is not served by Airport Limousine Bus, take it to the hotel or station nearest your destination. TCAT, Shinjuku Station, and Tokyo Station are served by public transportation as well as taxis. TCAT is connected to the Hanzomon subway line via moving walkways and escalators; Shinjuku and Tokyo stations are hubs for subway lines and commuter trains, but if it's your first trip to Japan, you might want to avoid these big, crowded stations.
Check with the staff at the Airport Limousine Bus counter in the arrival lobbies to inquire which bus stops nearest your hotel and the time of departure. The fare to most destinations is ¥3,000. Children 6 to 12 are charged half-fare; those under 6 ride free.
By Train -- The quickest way to reach Tokyo is by train. Trains depart directly from the airport's two underground stations, called Narita Airport Station (in Terminal 1) and Airport Terminal 2 Station. The JR Narita Express (N'EX; tel. 050/2016-1603; www.jreast.co.jp) is the fastest way to reach Tokyo Station, Shinagawa, Shibuya, and Shinjuku, with departures approximately once an hour, or twice an hour during peak hours. The hour-long trip to Tokyo Station costs ¥2,940 one-way. At Tokyo Station, the train splits, with the front cars going to Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Ikebukuro, and rear cars going to Shinagawa (cost to these stations: ¥3,110). Note: Because seats are sometimes sold out in advance, especially during peak travel times, you might consider purchasing your return ticket to Narita Airport here at the airport, at major JR stations in Tokyo, or at a travel agency or online; time your arrival to the airport at least 2 hours before your plane's departure.
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're going to be traveling around Tokyo by public transportation (and who doesn't?), you can save money by purchasing a N'EX and Suica card for ¥3,500, which includes the Narita Express into Tokyo plus ¥2,000 worth of travel in Tokyo. The discount ticket, available only at Narita Airport to foreign visitors, can be purchased at JR East Travel Service Centers in the basement of both terminals. Likewise, there's an Airport Limousine & Metro Pass combination ticket that includes one Airport Limousine trip to or from the airport plus 1 day of unlimited rides on Metro subways (it doesn't have to be the same day of arrival) for ¥3,100. This ticket is available at Airport Limousine counters at the airport, TCAT, Shinjuku Station West Exit, and Tokyo Metro Pass offices around town. A round-trip from and to the airport plus 2 days traveling on Metro subways costs ¥6,000; it's available only at Narita Airport. Finally, there are also 1- and 2-day Metro passes available only in the arrival lobbies of both terminals at Narita for ¥600 and ¥980, respectively (these do not include transportation from the airport).
Getting from Haneda Airport to Central Tokyo
If you're arriving at Haneda Airport, also called Tokyo International Airport (tel. 03/5757-8111; www.tokyo-airport-bldg.co.jp), located near the center of Tokyo and used mainly for domestic flights, you can take the Airport Limousine Bus to Shinjuku Station, Tokyo Station, the Tokyo City Air Terminal (TCAT) in downtown Tokyo, and hotels in Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, Shibuya, and Akasaka. Fares run ¥900 to ¥1,200. Locals, however, are more likely to take the monorail from Haneda Airport 15 minutes to Hamamatsucho Station (fare: ¥470), or the Keikyu Line 19 minutes to Shinagawa (fare: ¥400). Both Hamamatsucho and Shinagawa connect to the very useful Yamanote Line, which travels to major stations, including Tokyo and Shinjuku stations. Be sure to stop by the Tokyo Tourist Information Center (tel. 03/5757-9345) in Haneda Airport, open daily 9am to 10pm.
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.