There was a time when a person getting off an airplane after a long journey would feel depressed just thinking about the destination still ahead. However, anyone familiar with how convenient access from Japanese airports has become in recent years will have no need for such worries. Let us explain, using Tokyo as an example.
Let’s say that your airplane has landed at Tokyo Narita Airport, the main entrance to Japan, and has been lucky enough to arrive at the gate closest to the exit. If you have no checked baggage, you may be able to go through Immigration and Customs to the airport’s exit in as little as five minutes after getting off the airplane in the best-case scenario (*1). Because of improved operations, the lines for the Immigration counters have recently become much shorter. There has also been an increase in the number of times when there is virtually no waiting, all of which has resulted in greatly lightening the burdens of passengers.
Next, although buses go to central Tokyo from Tokyo Narita Airport, let’s use the railway system this time. All you have to do is take the escalator near the exit to the train station. We recommend both the Keisei Skyliner, which prides itself on speed and reasonable price, and the JR East Narita Express, which has an excellent network of connecting stations to major stations within the city. Tickets can easily be purchased at a counter or from a vending machine. You’ll be inside the train car within minutes, and while relaxing in a reclining seat, you will reach central Tokyo (*2) in just 36 minutes (*3), with the Skyliner moving at a speed of 160 km/h (100 mph). If things go really well, you will arrive at the center of Tokyo less than an hour after getting off the airplane. These recent changes must be quite a surprise to people who had an impression in the past of Tokyo Narita Airport as distant and inconvenient.
Recently, the rapid increase in international flights at Haneda Airport, another international airport in the Tokyo region, has received a lot of attention. Because of its compact design, if you have no checked luggage, you may be able to go through Immigration and Customs to reach the airport’s exit in just three minutes after disembarking from the airplane! If you continue to walk straight ahead for another minute, you will reach the Keihin Kyuko (Keikyu) train station on your right and the Tokyo Monorail station on your left. The distinguishing feature here is that after you have left the airplane itself, the route to the train station is completely flat and involves no going up and down. The Keikyu line speeds energetically through the city, whereas the Monorail seems to float through the air. No matter which one you choose, you will reach central Tokyo in about 15 minutes, while enjoying the city sights from the window. Thus, it is possible to reach central Tokyo within 30 minutes after disembarking from the plane. How’s that for convenience?
To say that Tokyo’s airports are distant and inconvenient is now an old tale. After you try one of these airports, you will find that seeing is believing!
(*1) Cases in which there is no waiting in the line for the Immigration counter and nothing to declare at Customs beyond the range of items allowed into Japan tax-free.
(*2) “Central Tokyo” here refers to stations on the JR East Yamanote Line (loop line), which links various terminals in the city center.
(*3) This is the time needed to reach Nippori station, which is served by both the Keisei and JR East lines.