Flying time to Japan is 13¾ hours from New York, 12¾ hours from Chicago, and 9½ hours from Los Angeles. Japan Airlines' GPS systems allow a more direct routing, which reduces its flight times by about 30 minutes. Your trip east, because of tailwinds, can be about 45 minutes shorter.
You can fly nonstop to Tokyo from Chicago, Detroit, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Portland (OR), Seattle, Minneapolis, and Washington, DC.
You can also fly nonstop to Osaka from Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Seattle. Because of the distance, fares to Japan tend to be expensive, usually around $1,400 for a seat in coach. Expect to pay closer to $2,000 during peak season.
Both of Japan's major carriers offer reduced prices for flights within the country, which are real cost- and time-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. JAL offers the Yokoso Japan Airpass; ANA has the Visit Japan Fare. Cathay Pacific offers a pass that includes 18 cities throughout Asia.
All domestic flights in Japan are no-smoking.
Transportation Security Administration. Transportation Security Administration has answers for almost every question that might come up. www.tsa.gov.
All Asia Pass (800/233–2742. www.cathay-usa.com.)
Visit Japan Fare (800/235–9262. www.anaskyweb.com.)
Yokoso Japan Airpass (877/875–2526. www.jal.co.jp/yokosojapan.)
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, which opened in 2010, offers flights to major international cities and is only 20 km (12 miles) south of central Tokyo. The newer Centrair Airport (NGO) near Nagoya opened to take the strain off Narita. International flights also use Kansai International Airport (KIX) outside Osaka to serve the Kansai region, which includes Kobe, Kyoto, Nara, and Osaka. Fares are generally cheapest into Narita, however. A few international flights use Fukuoka Airport, on the island of Kyushu; these include Continental flights from Guam, JAL 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.
Tokyo Narita's Terminal 2 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 Tourist Organization tourist 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 a flight delay 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-ji 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 Delta Airlines. The trip from KIX to Kyoto takes 75 minutes by JR train; to Osaka it takes 45–70 minutes.
Centrair Airport (NGO) (0569/38–1195. www.centrair.jp.)
Fukuoka Airport (FUK) (092/621–0303. www.fuk-ab.co.jp.)
Haneda Airport (HND) (03/6428–0888. www.haneda-airport.jp/en.)
Kansai International Airport (KIX) (072/455–2500. www.kansai-airport.or.jp.)
Narita Airport (NRT) (0476/34–8000. www.narita-airport.jp.)
New Chitose Airport (CTS) (0123/23–0111. www.new-chitose-airport.jp.)
Known as "The Gateway to Japan," Narita is the easiest airport to use if you are traveling to Tokyo. It takes about 90 minutes—a time very dependent on city traffic—by taxi or bus. The Keisei Skyliner and Japan Railways NEX are the easiest ways to get into the city. 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 activate the Rail Pass for travel beyond Tokyo.
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 the only shuttle-bus service from Narita to Tokyo.
Japan Railways trains stop at both Narita Airport terminals. The fastest and most comfortable is the Narita Limited Express (NEX), which makes 23 runs a day in each direction. Trains from the airport go directly to the central Tokyo Station in just under an hour, then continue to Yokohama and Ofuna. Daily departures begin at 7:43 am; the last train is at 9:43 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 6:30 am, the last at 5:45 pm. There's also an early train from the airport, called the Morning Liner, which leaves at 7:49 am and costs ¥1,400.
Airport Transfer Narita (03/6805–9180 or.)
Japan Railways (050/2016–1603. Weekdays 10–6.)
Keisei Railway (03/3831–0131.)
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 (03/3665–7220. 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 airports. 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 (0570/029–709 or. www.anaskyweb.com.)
American (800/433–7300. www.aa.com.)
Delta Airlines (800/221–1212 for U.S. reservations; 800/241–4141 for international reservations. www.delta.com.)
Japan Airlines (800/525–3663. www.jal.co.jp.)
United (800/864–8331. www.united.com.)