Which airport?

You’ve decided to go to Japan and now you’re looking at buying flights to Japan. The next decision you’ll need to make is where to arrive.

Tokyo is often where people assume they will be arriving. There are two airports in Tokyo, Narita and Haneda, and you may be able to choose either option depending on the flights available from your country. Many international airlines also fly to Kansai airport which serves Kyoto and Osaka. Other international airports include Nagoya, Fukuoka, Hiroshima and Sapporo which have flights mainly from other Asian countries. You might want to think about using one of these other airports, depending on your itinerary in Japan.

One useful option is arriving at one of the Tokyo airports and departing from Kansai. This works well for those people doing the popular Tokyo-Kyoto-Hiroshima itinerary, and saves a train journey back to Tokyo. Booking an “open jaw” ticket like this may cost more than a straight return ticket to Tokyo or Kansai but, if it’s a modest extra amount, it can be worth it in terms of internal travel time and costs.

For Tokyo itself, the advice often given is to fly into Haneda airport because it is closer to central Tokyo than Narita airport. This means travel from the airport is quicker and possibly cheaper. If all other factors are equal, then Haneda certainly is preferable, however you should take into account:

  • arrival time in Japan – most public transport stops around midnight, so flights arriving in the early hours of the morning mean limited transport options to get to your accommodation. Depending on arrival time and where you are staying, an expensive taxi may be necessary.
  • departure time from Japan – if the flight departs very early in the morning, there may be limited public transport options to the airport. You may need to move hotels to stay close to the airport on your final night.
  • price – if the flight to Haneda is much more expensive, then it’s not worthwhile to save maybe half an hour to an hour in travel time. Although Narita is further from the centre of Tokyo, it does have excellent connections to most parts of Tokyo, including express trains, limo buses and cheaper commuter trains. If the flight to Haneda is the same as, or cheaper than the flight to Narita, then seriously consider it but check the arrival and departure times first.

Next week’s post will be about getting to and from airports, and how to work out the best transport for your circumstances.

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For further information, the ebook Japan Just for You is a practical step-by-step guide to planning your trip to Japan, starting with developing your own personal trip concept. It’s now available on Apple, Amazon and Kobo, with other ebook stores to come soon.