Narita, Haneda, and More? Which Airport You Should Choose
Before buying your ticket to Tokyo, Japan, there is a very important detail to consider, and it is one that only a handful of people take into account. I am talking about which airport you will end up going to. It may seem like a given, considering the efficacy of the Japanese transport system which makes almost any distance feel like a pleasant and failure-proof experience. Nevertheless, time constraints, flight times or your own budget to travel could become a decisive factor when choosing an airport, and it is best to be conscious about your options and situations in order to be prepared.
Currently, there are three airports to choose from, Narita airport, Haneda airport and Ibaraki airport. It is important to consider where you are coming from since not all airlines fly to those three destinations. Hence I recommend you to verify which options are available with your travel agent or on the Internet so you don’t end up with false expectations. Each one of these airports has its ups and downs, and I will tell you about them.
Narita International Airport (NRT)
Narita international airport receives both international and local flights from Japan, and it is the biggest and most renowned of the three. Construction work began in the year 1962, and it moves more than 35 million tourists (locals and foreigners) per year through its three terminals, making it one of the top 10 busiest airports worldwide. With that in mind, you can imagine the organization and efficiency levels required to make it work. It is 60 km from the city of Tokyo. The trip is usually made by the Narita Express costing 3000 yen approximately (one-way) taking over 80 minutes, or by the Narita Airport Limousine Bus for around 3100 yen, taking 120 minutes per trip. You can also take a cab which will set you back around 23,000 yen, a very expensive fee, but the quickest option outside of rush hour. The time it takes to arrive to Tokyo isn’t that long in comparison with other cities. Besides, train fanatics will have the chance to travel in the magnificent Narita Express, where its “locomotive” is sometimes designed based on a specific anime or manga style.
Haneda Airport (HND)
Next, we have the Haneda airport, the oldest of the three (1931), which does not mean it has not gone through a lot of renovation, and to my knowledge, is the most efficient when traveling to Tokyo. For only about 500 yen (one-way) via Keikyu line or Tokyo monorail line respectively, you will be in the heart of the city in just 35 minutes (including the connection of those two lines aforementioned). Despite taking twice as long and costing twice as much, you could also use the Haneda Airport Limousine Bus service, and for only 1030 yen, you will be in downtown Tokyo in 60 minutes. Haneda Airport is a medium-sized compound with an easy transit and clear organization, which will not create you any problems when moving through its two terminals. With an interesting decor of their stores (influenced by the Edo era, which is the old name for the city of Tokyo), it offers an interesting first view of the old and new Japan to the tourist who has just arrived for the first time to Japan.
Ibaraki Airport (IBR)
Finally, and receiving just a few flights in comparison, all of them coming from China and soon from Taiwan, is Ibaraki airport. Located at 85 km (the farthest of all three), it is a small but interesting building since it doesn’t receive many passengers, making immigration lines considerably faster. The most efficient way to get to Tokyo is by getting a bus from the Kantetsu company (which costs 500 yen and takes over 100 minutes). The whole trip around the Ibaraki prefecture has beautiful landscapes and you will see the gradual changes from the most rural zones, passing by the intricate highways with bridges and interesting curves, just to get to the heart of the Japanese capital. So, if you have the time, perhaps this could be the most picturesque way to get to Tokyo (as well as the cheapest, since low budgets airlines fly to this destination).
Stay Overnight at the Airports?
If somehow, your flights arrive after midnight to Haneda or Narita (there are no available flights at that time in Ibaraki), let me tell you that the trains and subways do not operate in the middle of the night, so you have four options. In both airports, there are hotels inside the building, of course, with prices more expensive than the average hotel in Tokyo. The second option is to stay in a hotel outside of the airport but around the area, so taking a cab will not cost that much. But take into account the fact that some hotels do not receive new guests at certain hours, so time restrictions can hinder you (check this information before booking any hotel). There are night buses that can take you to the city for a more expensive fee (almost twice as much) than day schedules. The last option is to be very patient, walk around the building, eat some midnight snack, take some night pictures and wait until dawn when transportation modes start operating again, or sleep in the airport terminal (Narita: Terminal 3, Haneda: International terminal) If you opt for this last option, both airports offer shower facilities for a fee, so you can start the day feeling refreshed.
I hope you have a clearer idea of which airport in Tokyo is the right one for you in Japan, without surprises or constraints. Have a great trip!