Flying time to Japan is 13¾ hours from New York, 12¾ hours from Chicago, and 9½ hours from Los Angeles. The trip east, because of tailwinds, can be about 45 minutes shorter, and the trip west that much longer because of headwinds.
You can fly nonstop to Tokyo from Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Portland (OR), San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC.
You can also fly nonstop to Osaka from Dallas, Detroit, New York, Pittsburgh, San Diego, and San Francisco. Because of the distance, fares to Japan tend to be expensive, usually around $1,200 for a seat in coach.
Both of Japan's major carriers offer reduced prices for flights within the country. JAL offers the Oneworld Yokoso Visit Japan Fare; ANA has the Visit Japan Fare. These are real cost-savers if your trip includes destinations such as Kyushu or Hokkaido, though tickets must be booked outside Japan, and there are restrictions on use in peak times.
All domestic flights in Japan are no-smoking.
Airline Security Issues
Transportation Security Administration. The U.S. agency has answers for almost every travel-related security question that might come up. www.tsa.gov.
Air Pass Information
Oneworld Yokoso Visit Japan Fare (800/525–3663 Japan Airlines. www.jal.co.jp/yokosojapan.)
Visit Japan Fare (800/235–9262 All Nippon Airways in U.S. www.ana.co.jp.)
Ask the local tourist board about hotel and local transportation packages that include tickets to major museum exhibits or other special events.
The major gateway to Japan is Tokyo's Narita Airport (NRT), 80 km (50 miles) northeast of the city. The Haneda Airport International Terminal offers flights to major international cities and is only 20 km (12 miles) south of central Tokyo. International flights also use Kansai International Airport (KIX) outside Osaka to serve the Kansai region, which includes Kobe, Kyoto, Nara, and Osaka. Centrair Airport (NGO) near Nagoya takes even more of the strain off Narita. Fares are generally cheapest into Narita, however. A few international flights use Fukuoka Airport, on the island of Kyushu; these include United flights from Guam, Hawaiian Airlines from Honolulu, and flights from other Asian destinations. New Chitose Airport, outside Sapporo on the northern island of Hokkaido, handles some international flights, mostly to Asian destinations such as Seoul and Shanghai. Most domestic flights to and from Tokyo are out of Haneda Airport.
There are two terminals at Narita Airport. Terminal 1 has two adjoining wings, north and south. When you arrive, your first task should be to convert your money into yen; you need it for transportation into Tokyo. In both wings ATMs and money-exchange counters are in the wall between the customs inspection area and the arrival lobby. Both terminals have a Japan National Tourism Organization information center, where you can get free maps, brochures, and other visitor information. Directly across from the customs-area exits at both terminals are the ticket counters for airport limousine buses to Tokyo.
If you have time to kill at Narita, take a local Keisei Line train into Narita town 15 minutes away, where a traditional shopping street and the beautiful Narita-san Shinsho Temple are a peaceful escape from airport noise.
Flying into Haneda provides visitors with quicker access to downtown Tokyo, which is a short monorail ride away. Stop by the currency exchange and Tourist Information Desk in the second-floor arrival lobby before taking a train into the city. There are also numerous jade-uniformed concierge staff on hand to help passengers with any questions.
If you plan to skip Tokyo and center your trip on Kyoto or central or western Honshu, Kansai International Airport (KIX) is the airport to use. Built on reclaimed land in Osaka Bay, it's laid out vertically. The first floor is for international arrivals; the second floor is for domestic departures and arrivals; the third floor has shops and restaurants; and the fourth floor is for international departures. A small tourist information center on the first floor of the passenger terminal building is open daily 9–5. Major carriers are Air Canada, Japan Airlines, and Northwest Airlines. The trip from KIX to Kyoto takes 75 minutes by JR train; to Osaka it takes 45–70 minutes.
Haneda Airport (HND) (03/6428–0888 International; 03/5757–8111 Domestic[. www.tokyo-airport-bldg.co.jp/en.)
Narita Airport (NRT) (0476/34–8000. www.narita-airport.jp.)
Tourist Information Center Narita Terminal 2 (Arrival Floor, Passenger Terminal 2 Bldg. 0476/34–5877.)
Known as "The Gateway to Japan," Narita is about 90 minutes—dependent on city traffic—by taxi or bus from central Tokyo. The Keisei Skyliner and Japan Railways NEX are the easiest ways to get into the city.
Directly across from the customs-area exits at both terminals are the ticket counters for buses to Tokyo. Buses leave from platforms just outside terminal exits, exactly on schedule; the departure time is on the ticket. The Friendly Airport Limousine offers shuttle-bus service from Narita to Tokyo starting at ¥2,400. Cheaper options include The Access Narita (¥1,000) and Tokyo Shuttle (¥900).
Japan Railways trains stop at both Narita Airport terminals. The fastest and most comfortable is the Narita Limited Express (NEX). Trains from the airport go directly to the central Tokyo Station in just about an hour, then continue to Yokohama and Ofuna. Daily departures begin at 7:30 am; the last train is at 9:44 pm. In addition to regular seats, there is a first-class Green Car and private four-person compartments. All seats are reserved, and you'll need to reserve one for yourself in advance, as this train fills quickly.
The Keisei Skyliner train runs every 20–30 minutes between the airport terminals and Keisei-Ueno Station. The trip takes around 40 minutes. The first Skyliner leaves Narita for Ueno at 8:17 am, the last at 10:18 pm. From Ueno to Narita the first Skyliner is at 5:58 am, the last at 5:45 pm. Keisei’s slightly slower Access Express service also runs between Narita and Keisei-Ueno. If you are arriving with a Japan Rail Pass and staying in Tokyo for a few days, it is best to pay for the transfer into the city and wait to activate the Rail Pass for travel beyond Tokyo.
The Access Narita (heiwakotsu.com/na_top.htm.)
Friendly Airport Limousine (03/3665–7232. www.limousinebus.co.jp.)
Keisei Railway (03/3831–0131 for Ueno information counter; 0476/32–8505 at Narita Airport.)
Tokyo Shuttle (www.keiseibus.co.jp.)
Transfers Between Airports
Transfer between Narita and Haneda, the international and domestic airports, is easiest by the Friendly Limousine Bus, which should take 75 minutes and costs ¥3,000. Train transfers involve two changes.
Friendly Airport Limousine (03/3665–7232. www.limousinebus.co.jp.)
Japan Airlines (JAL) and United Airlines are the major carriers between North America and Narita Airport in Tokyo; American Airlines, Delta Airlines, and All Nippon Airways (ANA) also link North American cities with Tokyo’s Haneda and Narita aAirports. Most of these airlines also fly into and out of Japan's two other international airports, Kansai International Airport, located south of Osaka and Centrair, near Nagoya.
All Nippon Airways (800/235–9262 in U.S.; 03/6741–1120 in Japan for domestic flights; 03/3239–0298 in Japan for international flights. www.anaskyweb.com.)
American Airlines (800/433–7300 in U.S.; 03/3298–7677 in Japan. www.aa.com.)
Delta Airlines (800/241–4141 in U.S.; 0570/077–733 in Japan. www.delta.com.)
Japan Airlines (800/525–3663 in U.S.; 0120/25–5931 in Japan;. www.jal.co.jp.)
United Airlines (800/864–8331 in U.S.; 0120/11–4466 in Japan. www.united.com.)
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