So you’ve got the job and are now preparing for your flight into Japan. Before booking your ticket, you might want to consider one important little detail that many overlook: which airport you’re flying into!
Sure, it might seem like something you don’t have to think about, especially since the Japanese public transportation system is something of a miracle, but your budget and time frame can change drastically given where you fly into.
There are currently 3 airports that you can choose to fly to for the Kanto region of Japan: Narita, Haneda, and Ibaraki. Depending on where you are coming from and what airline you are taking, you may or may not be able to use a specific airport.
Don’t just assume that you are going to wind up at Narita and make the mistake of reserving the wrong train ticket, for example. I’ve made the boo-boo. It’s not fun.
That’s why you need to know the advantages and disadvantages of each airport and how to get through them hassle-free.
Haneda International Airport（羽田空港/HND）
The award for most efficient airport goes to Haneda International, especially for those flying directly into Tokyo or Kanagawa (Yokohama). Personally, I would choose Haneda Airport over Narita International any day. Why? Though Haneda Airport is considerably much smaller than Narita and is also older (built in 1931), it is just a mere 35 minutes away from the heart of Tokyo if you use either the Keikyu line or Tokyo Monorail line. If you choose the Haneda Airport Limousine Bus, you can be in Tokyo in under an hour for about 1030 yen one way.
I also like the layout of Haneda International Airport. Arriving or departing, the medium-sized airport with two terminals is quick to navigate. Getting checked-in and moving through security is a breeze, because the lines are often shorter than what you would anticipate at Narita. Arriving, Immigration is efficient and friendly. You literally never stop moving until you’re either on a train or boarding the bus.
For tourists, the Edo-style souvenir shops carry a decent array of items for you to purchase; but don’t expect a whole lot of shopping to be done. Haneda is a bare bones airport designed for one thing: getting people in and out safely.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that sometimes you might have a layover where one plane lands in HND and you need to get to NRT within 2 hours or vice versa. Is it doable? Yes. But do you REALLY want to risk that crazy kind of commute? No. Be careful about that, especially if one flight is arriving late. Trains and subways do not run overnight in Japan, meaning you could get stuck midway to one airport.
Narita International Airport（成田空港/NRT）
Narita International Airport is located in Chiba Prefecture, not Tokyo, and it is one of the biggest and busiest international airports in the entire world. Built in 1962, the airport sees over 35 million tourists annually in all 3 terminals (domestic and international). That doesn’t mean Narita is chaotic. Rather, nearly everything runs like clockwork; and the check-in and departure process is as timely as a Shinkansen schedule.
What you need to bear in mind is that NRT is 60 km from Tokyo. Getting to your hotel or apartment can become another 2-3 hour journey, especially if your accommodations are in Saitama or Kokubunji (western Kanto). To get into Tokyo, you must either take the Keisei line for about 1500 yen (depending on final destination), the Narita Express (3000 yen one way) that takes about 80 minutes to reach Tokyo, or the Narita Airport Limousine Bus (3100 yen) that takes 2 hours to reach Tokyo Station. Of course, you can hail a cab, but you can anticipate to spend upwards of 20,000 yen.
The main difference between Narita and Haneda is the airlines that fly in and out. A lot of Star Alliance airlines, such as United and ANA, fly into Narita. Japan Airlines and budget airlines like Jetstar usually fly into Haneda.
Another downside to Narita is the lines. Where Haneda feels like a water slide in the way you just glide through the process, Narita is a stop-go kind of airport, where you wait and wait some more. Depending on what time you arrive or depart, you might be waiting for over an hour to get through check-in and security—so always arrive way before your flight.
Ibaraki Airport （茨城空港/IBR）
Finally, we have Ibaraki Airport. I have personally never flown into Ibaraki Airport, and the reason is that all inbound and outgoing flights are coming from China and Taiwan. Low budget airlines also routinely stop at Ibaraki Airport. So, if you have a layover in Beijing, for example, you might be coming into Japan through Ibaraki Airport.
IBR happens to be the farthest from Tokyo at 85 km from city centre. However, because IBR doesn’t see the same number of arrivals as NRT or HND, getting through Immigration is said to be lightning quick.
Most flights come in during the morning and afternoon hours. Night flights do not land in Ibaraki, and therefore the airport shuts down overnight (so no sleeping in the airport).
From Ibaraki Airport, the most convenient way to reach Tokyo would be the Kantetsu bus, which costs only 500 yen one way and takes about 100 minutes. However, Ibaraki Prefecture is a beautiful place, and you will get the chance to see stunning scenery—which might be exactly what you need after a long flight. Though the distance is far, Ibaraki Airport is by far the cheapest and most quiet airport in the Kanto region, so if you’re trying to stick to a budget, you might want to figure out how to use this airport.
Deciding which airport you should fly into for your arrival in Japan is all about your budget, airline, and final destination. If you are staying in eastern Tokyo, such as Koto-ku or Chiyoda-ku, choose Narita. If you are staying in Yokohama or western Tokyo, such as Toshima-ku or Setagaya-ku, choose Haneda. Coming from China or on a tight budget? IBR is perfect for you. Now that you know a little bit about the 3 airports in Kanto region, you should have no problem making the move to Tokyo!
By Valerie Taylor
東京都在住。太陽光発電に関する企業で通訳・翻訳、 国際関係業務を勤めている。 また、ダンスと忍術を訓練している。
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