Updated April 2014
Narita versus Haneda
Narita International Airport is the main airport for most international passengers. Narita is the name of the city where the airport is and it’s not in Tokyo.
Haneda International Airport is in Tokyo and is slowly adding more international flights. For Torontonians and others in that part of Canada, Air Canada is supposed to start flying to Haneda in July 2014.
Getting into Tokyo from Narita from fastest to slowest
1. Helicopter – only 20 minutes or so!
The fastest way to arrive in Tokyo is by helicopter. It only takes 20 minutes and a Hermès edition helicopter is available through MCAS. Please comment if you have enjoyed this option.
2. Express Trains – under an hour and reliable
The slower express train (about an hour) is the Narita Express. If you have a Japan Rail Pass, you can use it from the day you arrive (but you don’t have to). Validate your pass first at the JR East Travel Service Centers on the lower levels of Terminals 1 and 2. I never used this option, preferring the Keisei line (below).
The transportation pass plus Narita Express option was the Suica Card and N’EX combo. It was retired as of April 1, 2014 but maybe another option will replace it. Family and friends visiting Hitoshi and I used this option and it was handy.
I love the Keisei Line!
Keisei operates the faster Skyliner to Ueno (about 40 minutes) and the Access Express to Southern Tokyo. Both trains stop at Keisei Ueno station, which is across and down the street from the JR Ueno Station. There is an underground passage from Keisei Ueno Station to JR Ueno Station, which we used in the winter or during storms.
The Skyliner also stops at several stations before Ueno, allowing for connections, as long as you don’t have much luggage. (We found it hard to find elevators/escalators at some stations and all the stairs were a pain with heavy bags.)
I love the Keisei Ueno Station because it’s smaller and less crowded than JR Ueno. There are lockers around the corner from the ticket gates and I have never seen them all full, even in the middle of summer vacation. Steps leading up to one entrance to Ueno Park are around the corner from the street exit.
Note! Ueno is said oo-eh-no. Using American/Canadian English, “oo” sounds like the same in “choose”, “eh” as in “hey” and “no” as in the “o” sound in “don’t”. It’s said quickly.
3. Local Train – over an hour but the least expensive train and reliable
During a 12-hour stopover in Tokyo in 2006, the staff at the information desk at Narita Airport suggested taking the Keisei Line to Ueno and then visiting Ueno Park. This fit my tight budget and I got a pamphlet with maps and coupons.
This option was Y1,000 until the 2014 tax increase. It is now Y1,030, which is still a deal! This direct train is the Keisei Main Line Limited Express and takes about 80 minutes. It is a local train, you can’t get a reserved seat and it can get crowded, but it’s the cheapest and an adventure.
4. Taxi – over an hour and pricey but private
If you need privacy, prefer to stay on the ground and have lots of time, you can take a taxi or perhaps a limo. Scroll down in the link for travel times and prices. Traffic can jam quickly and badly and fares increase in the morning and evening.
5. Bus – over an hour but can fit a small budget
I have never taken the bus and it isn’t my first choice after getting stuck in a traffic jam on Tokyo’s edge on a highway bus without a toilet. But the bus is an option if your schedule is loose, you’d like a nap and prefer door to door service with your bags.
Shipping bags – the sweat-free solution
I love shipping my bags as an alternative to carrying (lugging?) them from the airport.
What is your favorite way to get to Tokyo (or somewhere else) from Narita?