As I wrote in a previous post, changes are coming to the Japan Rail Pass this year. Originally announced in December, it will soon be easier to use the Rail Pass in Japan when it comes to purchasing, seat reservations, ticket collection and entering/exiting the JR system.
The JR Group put out another news release in Japanese on Monday, February 17, which details more information about the changes that will be coming. I’ve done my best to try to decipher the details from the press release. The most important part to take away is that the prices of the Japan Rail Pass under the new system will be increasing.
The new Japan Rail Pass
*The official launch date for the “new and improved” Japan Rail Pass will be June 1, 2020.
A new official website will be launched, www.japanrailpass-reservation.net … you can’t access it now as of this writing (February 2020) but it will be activated by Japan Railways prior to the launch date.
*Under the new system, you can purchase Japan Rail Passes online through the website. Once purchased, you will have up to one month to receive the pass. (Under the exchange order system you have three months to swap an exchange order for the pass)
*The prices for the Japan Rail Pass under the new system will be increasing. For the last few years, Japan Railways has trialed purchases of the Japan Rail Pass inside Japan at higher rates compared to purchasing an exchange order overseas and then exchanging it for the pass.
For example, a 7-day Standard Adult Rail Pass purchased in advance (via exchange order) currently costs 29,650 yen. If you wait to purchase it in Japan, it costs 33,610 yen.
The cost for Japan Rail Pass under the new system will be increased to the prices currently charged if purchasing a pass inside Japan. So, for example, if you purchase a 7-day Standard Adult Rail Pass in advance under the new system, it will cost 33,610 yen (up almost 4,000 yen from the previous cost).
*Once you have purchased a Japan Rail Pass through the new website, you can use the same website to make advanced seat reservations for trains. Reservations can be made between 4:00 and 23:30 Japan Time every day, which are the times that the regular JR reservation system is available.
*As stated previously, you must make one trip to a manned counter (such as a ticket office, or one of the travel service centers for foreigners) to pick up your Japan Rail Pass. At that point, your passport will be checked for eligibility… if your passport does not show you are a “Temporary Visitor” then you cannot receive the pass.
After your visit to the manned counter and receive your pass, you will be able to use ticket vending machines for reservations/pickup, and you will be able to use automatic ticket gates to enter and exit the JR system.
*The new system will only be available to foreign nationals. If you are a Japanese national, you must continue to use the exchange voucher system. It looks like the exchange voucher system will be available for at least three more years (until December 2023). If you still use the exchange voucher system, then many of the new features of the Japan Rail Pass might not be available for you to use.
The upgrades to the Japan Rail Pass, while sorely needed after so many years, will now come at an increased cost. The new web site for purchases and reservations appears to be tied directly into Japan Railways’ reservation systems, thus the reason why the “buy the pass inside Japan” price will apply. While still providing great value, you now need to plot out your JR journeys even more than before to see if a national rail pass is justified.
For example, the old rule of thumb was that a 7-Day Standard Adult Rail Pass could cover your trip from Tokyo to Kyoto or Osaka and back. (A 28,800 yen round-trip reserved ticket between Tokyo and Osaka for a 29,650 yen Rail Pass.) This will no longer necessarily be the case if you choose to order a rail pass through the new system.
One could argue that even with the new prices, a round-trip on the Narita Express between Narita Airport and Tokyo will be enough. However, remember that many international flights will be switching their Tokyo flights from Narita Airport to Haneda Airport at the end of March 2020, thanks to the addition of new arrival/departure routes and landing slots.
If you think that a trip to Japan is just Tokyo and Kyoto/Osaka, you’re wrong. Why limit yourself to Tokyo and Kansai when you can see much more?
For example, from the Kansai area, you could:
*Make an easy day trip to Himeji, home to one of Japan’s oldest surviving castles.
*Head to the picturesque traditional landscapes in Okayama or Kurashiki.
*Visit the Peace Park and museum in Hiroshima.
*Double back and spend a day in Nagoya, Japan’s third-largest city, which many tourists may skip over on the trip between Tokyo and Kansai.
*Cross the Seto-Ohashi Bridge into Shikoku and climb the 785 steps to the main shrine of Konpira-san in Kotohira, or visit the much-adored Ritsurin Garden in Takamatsu.
Do one of these day trips using the Shinkansen in and out of Kansai and your 7 Day Standard Pass will be more than justified. Just remember… your Rail Pass still won’t be valid on the fastest bullet train services, the Nozomi or the Mizuho.
Note that the price increases for the Green Car rail passes are steeper than the Standard passes: a 7-day Adult Green Car pass will cost 44,810 yen, an increase of over 5,200 yen. If you are looking for the 14-day Japan Rail Pass, a Green Car pass will cost an additional 8,200 yen (compared to a 5,700 yen increase for Standard). A 21-day Green Car pass for adults will increase by 8,280 yen (compared to 5,750 yen for Standard).
I’ll try to update this article when I learn more information, or when Japan Railways provides more details in English. In the meantime, if you are planning to visit Japan in the second half of 2020 or later (if I were you, preferably after the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics) then be sure to do your homework to see if the new Japan Rail Pass is for you.
This article was written in February 2020 and is accurate at the time of publication, subject to the site-wide disclaimer.
Happy New Year, and thanks for continuing to support one of my favorite side projects, my Japan travel and tips blog. May the year 2020 be a successful one for all of you reading.
My 2020 plans… may or may not include a trip to Japan. It’s too early to say, but I’ll try to keep you posted without giving too much away. If it doesn’t happen this year, it’s very likely to happen in 2021.
Meanwhile, this post is a quick self-promotion: As some of you remember, back in 2017 (the last time I visited Japan) I was fortunate enough to be a correspondent on one of NHK World-Japan’s English-language travel programs J-Trip Plan. In a short segment I offered tips and tricks on how to navigate Japan’s busy trains.
All J-Trip Plan episodes stay up for one year; the episode I was featured in originally aired in January 2018, which meant that the video expired in January 2019. Then, in February 2019, the episode that I took part in was renewed as part of NHK World-Japan’s focus on Miyazaki Prefecture for the month. The bulk of the episode features Nick Szasz, a Japan-based reporter, touring the mystical town of Takachiho with its rivers and gorges. One of the highlights of Takachiho is the Amano Iwato Shrine, which is located near the cave where it is said the sun goddess Amaterasu hid away after becoming so outraged by the cruel pranks of her brother.
To see Takachiho and my segment about taking trains in Japan, here’s the link to the NHK World Video-on-Demand page for J-Trip Plan, which is hosted by Thane Camus and Amy Ota. I highly recommend seeing all of the available videos for J-Trip Plan to help you plan for your next trip to the country… and for that matter, all of NHK’s videos on demand. You can easily make a day out of their informative programs covering everything from Japanese travel, food, documentaries, politics, sports and everything in between.
Anyway, the J-Trip Plan episode that I am in is called A Mystical Land of Myths and Getting Around Japan, so scroll down until you see that episode title with a picture of a large waterfall. The episode expires on February 11, 2020, so you will have until then to see it before it goes away again.
Enjoy the episode, and once again, may 2020 bring you happiness, health and fortune… and perhaps your first visit to a wonderful country, if you haven’t been to Japan already!
Update 12/27/19: An official English translation of JR’s press release is now out, specifying that in addition to the new features coming with the Japan Rail Pass, it will also be possible for Rail Pass holders to reserve seats at the ticket machines. Yet another win for tourists!
Hello everyone! I hope you are having fun and staying warm this holiday season.
Unfortunately real life has gotten in the way of some additional posts and updates… however, there IS an update that is worth sharing this morning, and it could be a real game changer if you are considering a visit to Japan.
Takeshi over at JPRail.composted on his Facebook page earlier today about an announcement made by Japan Railways. According to his post, the Japan Rail Pass will soon be sold online, directly by Japan Railways. In recent years, they have permitted online sales of the national pass by third-party travel agents at slightly increased prices. Now, in addition to the above methods, Japan Railways will handle online sales directly.
But what may come as a true “upgrade” to the Rail Pass to make it very useful is the fact that Rail Pass holders would be permitted to make online seat reservations for trips where reservations are available. Presumably, this will include shinkansen (bullet train) and limited express journeys operated by JR.
The JR release suggests that one could purchase a pass and make seat reservations through JR, pick up the rail pass at a manned counter, and then pick up reserved seat tickets at either the counter or at a ticket vending machine. Pass holders could then use automatic ticket gates to go through the wickets.
These changes are planned to be implemented in the Spring of 2020. If these changes are implemented as announced, it will mark a giant leap in the usefulness of the Japan Rail Pass. In particular, there will be two new features that will save tourists a whole lot of time.
First, the ability to reserve seats online and pick up reserved seat tickets at a ticket vending machine. I presume the option to pick up the tickets at the manned counter will still be available, but this will save some time as you do not have to get into a long line and then attempt to communicate your travel intentions to the clerk.
Second, the ability to use automatic ticket gates. Currently, all Rail Pass holders have to present their paper rail passes to a manned station agent at the ticket barriers in order to cross in and out. It remains to be seen how the automatic gates would be used in conjunction with rail pass users. Will the rail passes be upgraded to an IC-type card that holders can then tap in and out? Will the reserved seat tickets themselves permit access to the train in the place of basic fare tickets? Will there be measures in place so that only the passenger authorized to do so can cross through the automatic gates? The exact details of how the system would work are yet to be revealed by Japan Railways.
I will certainly pass along any more details once I hear about them, but this news about the Japan Rail Pass, and the measures that will be implemented, is a wonderful Christmas gift for those looking to visit Japan in the future.
News has come out of some of the Japan Railways companies that I think warrants special attention. Starting in May 2020, if you plan on bringing large luggage onto the Tokaido, San’yo and Kyushu Shinkansen lines, you will be required to make a special reservation.
The Tokaido, San’yo and Kyushu Shinkansen are among the most important bullet train lines in the country, stretching from Tokyo all the way to Kagoshima in southern Kyushu. Major stops along the way include Yokohama, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, Okayama, Hiroshima and Fukuoka.
The relevant JR companies state that the changes are being made in response to an increase of overseas visitors, especially as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics approach.
Starting in May 2020, if you plan to bring large luggage onto one of these lines (defined as total combined length, width and height between 160 cm and 250 cm, or approx. 63-98 inches) you must make an advance reservation at the same time that you book your ticket. This will book you into the last row of seats in a particular car, and allow you to use the area behind the seats to store your luggage.
If you do NOT make an advance reservation, you will be charged 1,000 yen on board and will be asked to move your luggage into an area designated by the conductor.
As this is a free service when booking your ticket, this sounds like a good idea. But until the details of this new program become clearer, I personally still like the idea of paying for a luggage delivery service and traveling light.
Last week I began what I am now referring to as my Japan 2017 Video Log project.
If you saw my last post, I announced that I would put together some sort of compilation video with the highlights from my 2017 trip to Japan. I’ve decided to put them into a video log and release the content on YouTube in small chunks so that I can share Japan with you from my perspective. Some of the video content that will be introduced has not been released before.
This series will revisit my trip from two years ago in a simplified manner, using video clips with text descriptions and occasional musical soundtracks obtained license-free from the Internet. Since I have to start saving these videos and take them off of my phone before my next big global journey, I decided to share the videos to the public in a way that differs from the original online series that was created and uploaded entirely from my phone.
As of this writing, I have completed three videos. The fourth video should be up later today.
Hello everyone! It’s been a while…. again! Sorry to keep you all waiting. As real life continues, I am finding it harder lately to update this blog… but I realize that many people are still visiting this site every day to look at my Japan travel musings, and I appreciate everyone’s support very much.
Today I did two things on this blog: I finished off my Welcome to Japan series with a post introducing Kansai International Airport, and I introduced the new logo for this blog. The blog logo is a commission by Sorachuru, who was recommended to me by one of her twitter followers and my good friend Umi. Please follow them on both Twitter and Instagram; their handles are @sorachuru and @shojonoumi respectively!
One thing I would like to TRY and do soon is to put some of my videos from my last trip to Japan (back in 2017) into a compilation video. The reason for that is because later this year, my next big adventure to another part of the world will begin. Eventually, I will have to archive all of my previous videos from my phone and send them to the cloud so that I will have the room to take new videos. If this project comes to fruition, I will certainly keep you all posted!
Another thing I want to TRY and do soon? Return to Japan. I am not sure if there will be an opportunity to do this next year, but I’ll see what happens.
In the meantime, thank you all once again for your support, whether you check this blog regularly or you are a first time visitor. Please ask me any questions you may have and I’ll do my best to answer!
Welcome to the last in a series of blog posts called Welcome to Japan. In the first project since updating the layout of my blog, I am introducing a series that will explain the available transit options after arriving at some of Japan’s major airports.
In the free time that I’ve had to post articles here, I have written about Narita Airport, Haneda Airport and Centrair Airport. Now comes the last of Japan’s major airports, Osaka’s Kansai International Airport, which is a fairly recent addition; it only opened in 1994. It became so popular that a second runway was put into operation 13 years later. Kansai Airport, like Centrair Airport and a few others, sits on a man-made island in the southern part of Osaka Prefecture.
In September 2018, a strong typhoon halted operations for some time, with the runways flooded and the major bridge linking the airport to the mainland severely damaged by a drifting tanker. Repairs on the bridge have since been completed, and Kansai Airport once again welcomes visitors eager to explore the Kansai region, while at the same time serving as a springboard to western and southern Japan.
When Kansai Airport opened in the 1990s, it took most of the international operations away from Osaka’s much closer Itami Airport. Itami is still in use today; while restricted to domestic flights only, Itami is actually busier than its more modern counterpart in Osaka Bay.
Technically speaking, the airport property sits within three municipalities: Izumisano City, Tajiri City, and Sennan City. The main bridge from the airport leads you to Izumisano, home to the Rinku Town outlets and commercial zone. Japan’s third tallest building, the Rinku Gate Tower Building, is located here as well. It is also a junction for train services heading south on the Kii Peninsula.
Kansai Airport has two terminals. By far the main attraction is the main terminal building, or Terminal 1, which was designed by the famous Italian architect Renzo Piano. The terminal building is the longest in the world, stretching around 1.7 kilometers (1.06 miles) from end to end. A people mover system stretches the entire length of the facility. It is also built for easy interchanges and connections. International passengers complete arrival formalities on the first floor, while departures are handled on the fourth floor. The second floor is dedicated to domestic arrivals and departures. Shops and restaurants are located on the third floor. Directly connected to the airport is a retail complex known as the Aeroplaza.
Pale in comparison is the much more simpler Terminal 2, which is a facility built specifically for Low Cost Carrier (LCC) airlines. Facilities are much more limited compared to Terminal 1. Free shuttle buses make the approximately 10-minute trip between terminals regularly.
Now let’s go into depth about what transit options are available to and from the airport. We begin with the trains… like Narita and Haneda airports, there are two main train operators competing for your business: Japan Railways (JR) and the private Nankai Railway. Each of the two offer a premium service heading to and from Kansai Airport, as well as standard commuter service.
It’s important to point out that much like Tokyo (but on a smaller scale) there is a circular loop that goes around Osaka, called the Osaka Loop Line. A big difference compared to Tokyo, on the other hand, is that a plethora of both subway lines and private rail lines cross around and through the loop.
Japan Railways (JR)
The JR offers useful connections to the Osaka Loop Line, the bullet train, and Kyoto. You can also pick up the national Japan Rail Pass and a variety of regional JR passes at the airport.
Their flagship limited express service is called the Haruka. It operates twice per hour throughout most of the day. With the exception of certain rush-hour trains, Haruka services leaving Kansai Airport operate nonstop to Tennoji, at the bottom of the Osaka Loop near the Namba district. The train then runs clockwise around the loop and split off, arriving at Shin-Osaka where you can easily connect to the bullet train to head off towards western Japan and cities such as Okayama, Hiroshima and Fukuoka, or even go east towards Nagoya and Tokyo. From Shin-Osaka, the Haruka proceeds directly to the ancient capital of Kyoto. Most services terminate there, while a few rush-hour trains operate as far as Maibara in Shiga Prefecture.
Haruka trains offer a combination of reserved and non-reserved seats. As it is a limited express train, you will have to pay a surcharge on top of the basic fare. Here are the Haruka fares to three major destinations:
Tennoji: 1710 yen unreserved, 2230 yen reserved (about 35 minutes) Shin-Osaka: 2330 yen unreserved, 2850 yen reserved (about 50 minutes) Kyoto: 2850 yen unreserved, 3370 yen reserved (about 1 hour, 20 minutes)
The Haruka also offers the first class Green Car seats, which are bigger but more expensive.
The fares seem outrageously expensive at first, but remember that you are paying for the convenience of reaching Kansai’s major stations and connection points in a hassle-free and efficient manner.
The cheaper commuter train version of JR trains is the Kanku-Kaisoku, or Kansai Airport Rapid train service. These make more stops; moreover, a major difference from the Haruka is that the commuter trains stay on the Osaka Loop Line, in most instances making a complete circuit. Rapid trains stop at Nishi-Kujo, which is a transfer point to reach Universal Studios Japan, and at plain Osaka station, which is the gateway to the Umeda area and features a newly renovated train station that I saw firsthand in 2017. Since the Kanku-Kaisoku stays on the Osaka Loop Line, you’ll have to generally change trains to reach other destinations in Kansai such as Kyoto. To reach Shin-Osaka or Kyoto, you’ll have to change trains at Osaka station and change to an eastbound train on the JR Kyoto Line (aka Tokaido Line). Sample fares:
Tennoji: 1060 yen (55 minutes) Nishi-Kujo: 1190 yen (65 minutes) Osaka: 1190 yen (70 minutes) Shin-Osaka: 1360 yen (about 80 minutes; change at Osaka Station) Kyoto: 1880 yen (about 2 hours; change at Osaka Station)
The above trains are all covered by the Japan Rail Pass and a variety of regional rail passes offered by West Japan Railway (JR West). Foreign tourists traveling out of Kansai Airport may wish to consider the short-range Kansai Area Pass, sold online starting at 2,250 yen for one day. It includes unlimited usage of trains in the Kansai region for one day, and also includes travel on the Haruka limited express in unreserved cars. Multiple day versions of the Kansai Area Pass are sold, but what’s interesting to note is that if your destination on the JR is either Shin-Osaka or Kyoto, purchasing a one-day Kansai Area Pass just for your trip on the Haruka is cheaper than buying regular unreserved tickets.
The ICOCA and Haruka ticket is also available for foreign tourists, and includes a one-way or round-trip on the Haruka in unreserved seats and a 2000 yen IC card (includes 500 yen deposit) that can be used for train travel, shopping, restaurants and vending machines.
Also note that Tennoji station connects to two of Osaka’s subway lines: the Midosuji Line and the Tanimachi Line. The Midosuji Line is among Osaka city’s most useful subway routes, as it runs north and south stopping at some major transportation hubs.
The competitor to Japan Railways is the Nankai Railway. Like JR, Nankai has a premium train as well as a regular commuter service.
Nankai trains run into southern Osaka, terminating at Namba Station, so if you are heading to this area then taking the Nankai can be a convenient option. Namba station is very large, so it may take a bit of time to navigate, but there are connections to the Midosuji, Sennichimae and Yotsubashi subway lines, as well as a connection to the Kintetsu and Hanshin railways. The Hanshin railway will take you west towards Amagasaki and Kobe (with connections available as far as Himeji) and the Kintetsu will take you east towards Nara (with connections all the way to Ise Bay and Nagoya if you feel so inclined). Nankai trains also stop at two other important hubs: Shin-Imamiya will connect you on to the JR Osaka Loop Line, and Tengachaya connects you to the Sakaisuji subway line, which provides an alternate means of traveling to Kyoto via the Hankyu Railway.
Nankai’s premier airport service is called the rap:t (pronounced ra-PEET). The trains have a very unique, streamlined/steampunk-ish look. Inside you have a choice of standard seats and slightly wider super seats. Unlike JR’s Haruka, all seats on the rap:t require a reservation. Trains leave every 30 minutes or so, and the fastest trains reach the Namba terminal in around 39 minutes. The fare between Kansai Airport and Namba, Shin-Imamiya and Tengachaya stations is the same: 1430 yen for regular seats and 1640 yen for super seats. It’s possible to purchase rap:t tickets in advance on the Nankai Railway website for a discount of 300 yen; you would then bring the voucher to one of the rap:t train stations and exchange it for an actual ticket.
Running more frequently (around 4 trains per hour) is Nankai’s commuter service, the Airport Express. The fare between Kansai Airport and Namba, Shin-Imamiya and Tengachaya stations is only 920 yen for the commuter trains.
As mentioned, the Nankai Railway offers connections to major train lines, so even though it stops short at Namba you can easily travel to other areas. Nankai sells a plethora of discount tickets that can be used to reach other parts of the Kansai and Hyogo regions:
Yokoso! Osaka Ticket: 1500 yen (online purchase). Sold only to foreigners, this includes a one-way trip on the rap:t from Kansai Airport, plus a one-day unlimited Osaka Subway/Bus pass.
Kyoto Access Ticket: 1230 yen. This ticket includes a one-way trip on regular Nankai trains from Kansai Airport to Tengachaya, and then a one-way trip from Tengachaya to Kyoto using the Sakaisuji subway line and Hankyu Railway. You can ride the Nankai rap:t train for an additional charge.
Nara Access Ticket: 1230 yen. This ticket includes a one-way trip on regular Nankai trains from Kansai Airport to Namba, and then a one-way trip from Namba to Nara using the Kintetsu Railway. You can ride the Nankai rap:t train and the Kintetsu limited express for an additional charge.
Kobe Access Ticket: 1130 yen. This ticket includes a one-way trip on regular Nankai trains from Kansai Airport to Namba, and then a one-way trip from Namba any station on the Hanshin Railway; you can travel as far as Kobe-Sannomiya and Motomachi, and apparently, you can also head towards Umeda (near JR Osaka Station) by changing trains at Amagasaki, which would still save you about 150 yen. You can ride the Nankai rap:t train for an additional charge.
Other useful passes are described on the Nankai website. One of the more useful tickets to get around the entire region is the Kansai Thru Pass, which gives you unlimited travel on private railways and many local buses in an vast area. Tickets are 4300 yen for 2 days or 5300 yen for 3 days, and you do not need to use the pass on consecutive days.
Highway Buses in and out of Kansai Airport are managed by Kansai Airport Transportation Enterprise. As mentioned in previous articles, they are convenient if you have lots of luggage and you don’t want to use baggage forwarding, or if you want to go to specific hotels. The only drawback is the potential for traffic.
Many buses go to Osaka’s dedicated terminal for airport buses, the Osaka City Air Terminal or OCAT in Namba, which offers access to Namba station. Buses leave every 20 minutes and are timetabled at 50 minutes between Terminal 1 and OCAT. The fare is 1100 yen one way, or 1900 yen round-trip.
Buses run every 20 minutes or so to the Sheraton Miyako Hotel Osaka, located next to Kintetsu Uehommachi station. Buses between Terminal 1 and the Sheraton take 55 minutes and cost 1550 yen one way or 2800 yen round-trip.
There are also buses that operate every 15-20 minutes to the Hotel New Hankyu and Herbis Osaka, adjacent to JR Osaka station. Buses between Terminal 1 and Hotel New Hankyu are timetabled at one hour, at a cost of 1550 yen one way or 2760 yen round-trip. Evening buses from the airport stop at more hotels in that area.
There are 1-2 direct buses every hour to Universal Studios Japan (70 minutes, 1550 yen one way or 2700 yen round-trip).
If you are connecting to a domestic flight at Itami Airport, there are regular buses that go there as well (75 minutes, 1950 yen one way or 3500 yen round-trip).
You’ll also find direct buses that go to Kyoto every 20-30 minutes (90 minutes, 2550 yen one way), Kobe every 20 minutes (65 minutes, 1950 yen one way), Nara every hour (90 minutes, 2050 yen one way) and Wakayama 1-2 times per hour (40 minutes, 1150 yen one way). Limited long distance buses also run to Okayama, Himeji, Takamatsu and Tokushima.
One other nice thing about these limousine buses is that some of the routes offer what is known as a transfer ticket, intended for passengers who are transiting at Kansai Airport. The transfer tickets offer a discount for round trips if you leave Kansai Airport and return on the same day. As an example, a transfer ticket to the JR Osaka station area and back on the same day costs 2200 yen (versus 2760 yen for a regular round-trip).
Of course the taxi is another option that is available for you to consider, but due to their high costs I do not recommend a taxi unless you are traveling in a group, or unless absolutely necessary. Flat fare taxis are available if you are traveling to Osaka city, costing 13000 yen for regular taxis and 14000-14500 yen for medium sized taxis. These flat rates do not include tolls, and late night trips will be higher in price. If you are heading elsewhere, fares are by the meter.
If heading to Kyoto or Kobe, ride-share van service is available. MK Taxi offers a ride-share service to Kyoto (starting at 4200 yen one way) and Kobe (starting at 2500 yen one way). There are additional charges if you have more than one large suitcase. Yasaka Taxi also offers a similar service to Kyoto for the same price as MK.
High Speed Boat
If you are going to Kobe Airport or heading in that general direction, you can avail yourself of the Kobe-Kansai Airport Bay Shuttle, a high speed boat service which offers a fast shortcut. The boat is presently offering a lucrative deal to foreign tourists until March 2020, with the regular one way fare discounted from 1850 yen to just 500 yen. Boats leave every 1-2 hours and make the run in just 30 minutes. Tickets can be purchased at Kansai Airport terminal 1; once you have the tickets, a shuttle bus will take you to the boat pier. On arrival in Kobe, you can either walk or take a shuttle bus to Kobe Airport and the Port Liner automated train line which goes into central Kobe. All considered, tourists can travel from Kansai Airport to central Kobe for the low price of just 830 yen (500 yen boat discount ticket + 330 yen for the Port Liner train) and do it in around 75 minutes or so with good connections.
In theory, once you have completed the trip to Sannomiya you could then take a short hop on the Kobe Subway to Shin-Kobe station (210 yen) which provides an alternate connection to the Shinkansen for points west. Continuing past Shin-Kobe will take you in the direction of Arima Onsen.
Two hotels are located on the island with Kansai Airport: the Hotel Nikko Kansai Airport of the respected Hotel Nikko chain, accessible from the first floor of the airport, and a hybrid capsule hotel on the third floor called First Cabin which offers a variety of sizes to suit different budgets. Note that the First Cabin has an early check out and a late check in time: 10:00 and 19:00 respectively.
A plethora of other hotels are available across the bridge by train, within close proximity of the Rinku Town and Izumisano stations. A train to Rinku Town by either JR or Nankai costs 370 yen, and a train to Izumisano by Nankai costs 490 yen.
Long-haul International Flights
Aside from domestic flights and regional flights around Asia, here is a select list of long-haul airlines that serve Kansai Airport with regular service as of this writing, in no particular order:
United Airlines flies to Kansai from San Francisco, United States.
Japan Airlines flies to Kansai from Los Angeles, United States.
British Airways flies to Kansai from London Heathrow, United Kingdom.
Air France flies to Kansai from Paris, France.
KLM flies to Kansai from Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Qantas flies to Kansai from Sydney, Australia.
All information and links were accurate as of July 2019, and subject to the disclaimer. Photos used in the article are either public domain or courtesy of creative commons licenses.
Welcome to the third in a series of blog posts called Welcome to Japan. In the first project since updating the layout of my blog, I am introducing a series that will explain the available transit options after arriving at some of Japan’s major airports.
My previous posts, scattered over the last few months, have focused on the two airports of Tokyo: Narita and Haneda. Heading off to the west, the next major airport, and one of the newer airports on Japan’s travel scene, is the international airport in Nagoya. Opened in 2005 in advance of that year’s world expo, I’ve been a big fan of this airport. I landed there to kick off my third trip in 2013, and spent a night in a hotel near the airport during my most recent vacation in 2017. Officially, the airport is known as Chubu Centrair International Airport, though the terms Centrair Airport and Nagoya Airport can also be used.
Centrair replaced an older airport located further inland in the city of Komaki, which used to be a hub for many domestic and international flights in and out of central Japan. There was a demand for more planes to serve the area, not only because of the Expo but because of requests from airlines and nearby businesses (including Toyota) to offer late flights without the restrictions imposed at Komaki where there was a nighttime curfew. Flights at Komaki eventually began to shift away, first to Kansai International Airport, and then to the new Centrair Airport. Now known as Nagoya Airfield, the airport is now the home for low cost airline Fuji Dream Airlines.
While I’ll give you all of the transit options out of Centrair (as I’ve done with the previous articles) I will also be a little partisan and tell you that you should make it a point to visit this airport when you are in Japan, either as an arriving/departing passenger or just for a visit.
Centrair Airport is built on a man-made island just off of the mainland in the city of Tokoname, meaning that flights can freely take off and land around the clock without worrying the neighbors. Tokoname is a great off-the-beaten-path destination if you have a layover, as it is known in Japan for its production of fine ceramics.
The airport has just one terminal building, split into two sections. The northern section of the terminal handles domestic flights, and the southern part of the terminal handles international flights. Since everything is contained in one building, changing between flights is extremely hassle-free. There’s no need to take a shuttle bus or anything else of the sort… all you need to do is follow the signs and walk. Later in 2019, a second terminal will open geared toward low-cost airlines, which will be connected by moving walkway to the Access Plaza (more details below).
If Nagoya is your destination, you will exit onto the Arrivals Lobby on the second floor. If you have some time, you might want to head upstairs and take a look at Sky Town on the fourth floor. In the wide concourse, you’ll see two distinct flavors: One side has a completely old Japanese feel to it, while the other contains a European flair with western restaurants and stores. These correspond to the two sections of the airport I just described (one for domestic flights and one for international flights).
If you’re like many travelers on the other hand, you’ll just want to head out towards your hotel or first destination. From the Arrivals Lobby, follow the signs and head up the ramp towards the Access Plaza. The Access Plaza is a large and functional space from which you’ll choose your method of transportation. You will also find a Family Mart convenience store there as well.
It’s important to note that Japan Railway (JR) does not operate trains to and from Centrair Airport. There is only one railway operator, the Meitetsu Railway. They offer very convenient and comfortable train services to Nagoya and surrounding areas, which I will get to in a moment.
Are you picking up a Japan Rail Pass? The Central Japan Travel Center, located in the Arrivals Lobby, offers voucher exchanges for the Japan Rail Pass daily between the hours of 9:00 and 20:30. You also have the option of making the exchange when you get to Nagoya Station, at several staffed JR locations.
These points are brought up since the Japan Rail Pass will not cover the Meitetsu Railway, or any other transit option for that matter, to and from Centrair Airport. Not to worry though… Meitetsu’s trains are super convenient, and the recommended trains to use for travelers are the all-reserved trains called μ-SKY, or myu-SKY.
The μ-SKY services generally leave twice every hour from Centrair, reaching Nagoya Station in as little as 28 minutes. The one-way fare for adults is 1,230 yen (870 yen regular fare + 360 yen μ-ticket). You can easily purchase both of these fares using the vending machines. There are also some trains with only a small number of reserved seats, and other trains that are regular commuter services. These trains are generally slower and take longer to reach Nagoya compared to the μ-SKY.
μ-SKY services generally continue on to Inuyama (home to one of Japan’s original surviving castles) and the city of Kani, home to many automotive part manufacturers.
Some trains continue on to Gifu. An easy transfer at one of Meitetsu’s major interchanges such as Nagoya or Jingu-mae (named for its location near Atsuta Shrine) will get you to the rest of Meitetsu’s network. Nagoya Station, though, is where you’ll get off to transfer to most of the other rail lines including the Tokaido Shinkansen, local JR trains, and the private Kintetsu railway.
Highway Buses are also available from Centrair Airport. Meitetsu Bus operates hourly buses from the airport to downtown Nagoya. The ride takes about one hour to reach Nagoya’s Sakae district, and stops at some major hotels including the Nagoya Tokyu Hotel and the Hilton Nagoya before arriving at the Meitetsu Bus Center near Nagoya Station. The one-way fare is 1,200 yen.
If you are arriving late at night or departing early in the morning, Nagoya Bus offers a limited service between the West exit of Nagoya Station and the airport for 1,500 yen. As of this writing, two buses depart from the airport daily at 0:40 and 7:00, and one bus leaves Nagoya Station at 4:10. The travel time is 55 minutes.
If you can time it right, the Meihan Kintetsu highway bus can be a very convenient method of reaching Japan’s ancient capital of Kyoto without having to take the μ-SKY and the bullet train. There are two daily round-trip services, costing 4,000 yen. Online reservations for the direct Kyoto buses can be made in English. There’s also the option of taking a bus to the city of Yokkaichi in Mie prefecture and transferring there to a bus bound for Kyoto, costing 3,000 yen. These options take 2 hours 40 minutes and 3 hours 15 minutes, respectively. By comparison, the μ-SKY and bullet train to Kyoto take around 80 minutes with transfer for 6,830 yen.
As mentioned in previous articles, taxis can be a good point-to-point option, especially if you are in a group. However, it is not recommended to take a taxi to and from Centrair Airport unless absolutely necessary, especially because there are no flat rate fares from the airport; all rides are by the meter. An approximate fare from Centrair Airport to Nagoya Station, including tolls, is 16,000-17,000 yen.
There is a charted van service that can take you to your destination in central Nagoya for approximately 14,000 yen. The van can seat up to seven passengers, so if you have seven in your party the cost is only 2,000 yen each.
If these fares sound high (and they are), you’re probably better off taking public transit to central Nagoya, then taking a taxi to your destination.
One exception: If you are heading into the mountains of Nagano Prefecture, there is a ride-share van service that operates several times per day. The one-way fare to Matsumoto, for example, is 8,900 yen, and door-to-door service is offered in some locations. It takes around 4 hours to travel between the airport and the areas served.
High Speed Boat
If you happen to be heading to the Nanki region, a large peninsula to the west that contains attractions such as Ise Shrine and Toba, and where Wakayama prefecture is located, a shortcut to avoid connecting through Nagoya city is to take a high speed boat across the bay. The Tsu Airport Line boat operates to the port of Tsu city, taking just 45 minutes at a cost of 2,470 yen each way. Boats operate once an hour, but during off-peak travel periods (i.e. winter) the boats depart every two hours. Once arriving at the port, you can reach the main train station in Tsu using a city bus (220 yen) or by taxi (approx. 1,700 yen) from which you can access the Kintetsu Railway network towards Osaka, Ise, Toba and Kashikojima.
There is also a twice-daily express bus service between the Tsu port and the cities of Ise and Toba. A set ticket including a one-way trip on the ferry and express bus costs 3,200-3,500 yen depending on the destination.
It is a bit of a walk to reach the boat pier in Centrair; take the elevated walkaway from the Access Plaza. The walkway goes over the highway and past the hotels that are stationed nearby.
There are a few hotels stationed around the airport property that are perfect for a rest before catching an early morning departure, or after landing from a late flight. The Centrair Hotel is directly connected to the Access Plaza, while the Comfort Hotel, Toyoko Inn and the new Sheraton Four Points Hotel (now part of the Marriott portfolio) can be accessed on the bridge that heads toward the boat pier. A capsule hotel, TUBE Sq, is located on the first floor of the Airport property near the Welcome Garden.
Other things to do at Centrair Airport
With a plethora of dining and shopping options, it’s easy to enjoy a few hours just for fun, or before/after a flight. While you’re out and about, don’t forget to see the Sky Deck, the outdoor observation area that stretches across most of the apron. You can enjoy watching planes arriving and departing from the Centrair airport runway.
If you need any travel necessities at the last minute, head on over to places such as the Amano drugstore (third floor), or Muji (fourth floor). At Amano I bought an inexpensive, reusable 1000ml plastic bag that is perfect for when I need to take small liquids through the security checkpoint.
If you want to try out a traditional Japanese bathhouse that overlooks the airport tarmac (but a little pricey compared to other bath houses), check out Fu no Yu on the fourth floor.
If you’re lucky, there might be a fair going on as well. When I visited Centrair in 2017, the airport had a Hello Kitty fair AND a Hokkaido Food Fair going on at the same time. I was lucky to try out some soft serve ice cream made out of Hokkaido milk, which was so delicious!
I love Nagoya’s Centrair Airport. A modern airport, no matter if it’s your first trip or you’re a seasoned veteran. As someone who can personally vouch for its conveniences, you will not be disappointed. It’s a great place to start a trip to Japan, near a city that many might not think about.
Here are a few more brief notes in closing:
The Centrair Airport website goes into much more detail about the things I have written about in this post. On the website you can see a list of airlines and destinations that Centrair Airport serves. While many of Centrair’s international destinations are focused on Asia, there are a few long-haul passenger services to take note as of this writing:
Delta Air Lines flies to Nagoya from Detroit and Honolulu in the United States.
Lufthansa has flights to Nagoya from Frankfurt, Germany.
Finnair flies from Helsinki, Finland.
Ethiad Airways flies from Abu Dhabi, UAE to Nagoya via Beijing.
A few of my Japan Travel Videos on YouTube from 2017 include scenes in and around Centrair Airport. Visit the page for my videos and check out videos #7 and #8.
Finally, all information and links were accurate as of February 2019, and subject to the disclaimer. Photos used in the article are either public domain or courtesy of creative commons licenses.
Welcome to the second in a series of blog posts called Welcome to Japan. In the first project since updating the layout of my blog, I am introducing a series that will explain the available transit options after arriving at some of Japan’s major airports.
In my first post I talked about Narita Airport. I will now talk about Narita’s “neighbor” Haneda Airport, the closest major airport to Tokyo.
Haneda Airport began operations well before World War II. It was not until the 1950’s that Haneda really began to expand with growing services around the globe. As it became a strong airport for both domestic and international flights, the government decided that a new airport was needed to address capacity requirements. In 1978 almost all international traffic shifted to Narita Airport. Haneda became a mainly domestic airport for the next several decades… a bit troublesome for anyone flying into the country at Narita wishing to transfer to a domestic flight at Haneda.
In 2010, a state-of-the-art International Terminal opened, heralding the return of mainline international flights. Slots were initially limited to inconvenient nighttime arrivals and departures as domestic flights still took up most of the daily schedule. This would slowly change, with more slots being opened thanks to new runways and taxiways and redevelopment of airspace routes.
Today, Haneda Airport stands as a proud symbol of Tokyo and Japan, whether you are arriving in the country or just transiting through.
Haneda Airport has three terminals. In addition to the International Terminal, Haneda has two Domestic terminals, each serving one of the two major Japanese airline carriers.
Terminal 1: Japan Airlines (JAL) domestic flights, Skymark Airlines Terminal 2: All Nippon (ANA) domestic flights, Solaseed, Air Do International Terminal: All international flights including JAL and ANA
*Domestic airline StarFlyer operates from both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2.
If you need to transfer between terminals, you have a few options.
If you are moving between the two domestic terminals, you can take a shuttle bus outside security, departing every 4 minutes. Alternatively, you can go downstairs to take a moving walkway, which is approximately 400 meters (1/4 mile) in length from one terminal to the other.
Moving between one of the domestic terminals and the international terminal is another story as they are much further apart. There are several options available:
You can use the Keikyu Railway or the Tokyo Monorail to travel between the terminals. Keikyu Railway has one station serving both domestic terminals, and one station at the international terminal. Tokyo Monorail has two stations serving each domestic terminal, and one station at the international terminal. The trip is only a few minutes and costs 200 yen. However, if you are transferring between an International and Domestic flight (and vice-versa) you can ride either of these trains for free by presenting your passport and onward boarding pass.
You can take the free shuttle bus outside of security that runs to/from the International terminals. Buses run every 4 minutes and make the trip in 7-12 minutes.
If you are arriving on an International flight and are changing to a Domestic flight, you may be offered an option by your airline to use the Domestic Transfer Counter at the International Terminal. This means that after you collect your luggage from your International flight and clear immigration/customs, you proceed to the Domestic Transfer Counter to check your bags and receive a boarding pass for your domestic flight. You then clear security immediately and take a bus that will drive you to the secure area of Terminal 1 or 2. This allows you to effectively “bypass” check-in and security queues in the domestic terminals, not to mention you don’t have to lug all of your belongings along the way.
Let’s talk more about the Keikyu Railway and Tokyo Monorail, the two rail operators with services to and from Haneda Airport.
The Tokyo Monorail is an engineering feat, having been completed in time for the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics to easily connect global visitors to the heart of Tokyo along the coast of Tokyo Bay. It has undergone a few changes since the early 2000’s, the most important of which was a re-build and re-route to serve the new International Terminal. Trains leave every few minutes and head towards Hamamatsucho station, which interchanges with the JR Yamanote Line that loops around central Tokyo.
The fastest trains, the Haneda Express, run from the International Terminal station to Hamamatsucho in as little as 13 minutes nonstop. Stopping patterns of trains will vary depending on the time of day; for example you’ll find that all of the services during weekday rush hours are local trains.
A one-way ticket to Hamamatsucho from any of the Airport stations will cost 490 yen, easily payable with an IC card like Suica or Pasmo.
An advantage of the Tokyo Monorail is its partnership with Japan Railways… or to be technical, its majority ownership (70% of the Tokyo Monorail stock is owned by East Japan Railway). As a result, trips on the Tokyo Monorail are free of charge for holders of any sort of national Japan Rail Pass or regional JR East Pass that includes the greater Tokyo area. What’s more, there’s even a JR East Service Center open seven days a week from 6:45-18:30 that can answer your travel questions or process rail pass exchanges.
The Keikyu is one of the most important private railways in Japan. Its primary purpose is to serve commuter passengers from Tokyo to Yokohama, Yokosuka and the Miura peninsula. One of their branch lines is an important one that runs from the city of Kamata directly towards Haneda Airport. Kamata is an important station to bring up because it may or may not affect your trip on Keikyu, depending on which train you use.
The fastest service on the Keikyu out of Haneda Airport is the Airport Rapid Express, or Airport Kaitoku, which operates nonstop between the Haneda Airport stations and Shinagawa station, which is on the JR Yamanote Line loop. These make the nonstop run in as little as 11 minutes at a cost of 410 yen; some others make one or more stops, including at Kamata, along the way. From Shinagawa, trains run north into the Toei Asakusa Subway Line, which provides easy one-seat train rides to Shimbashi, Nihombashi, Asakusa and Oshiage – a few go directly to Narita Airport as well.
The Airport Express is a common service that not only serves Shinagawa, but also serves Kawasaki and Yokohama. If you board an Airport Express to Yokohama, your train will travel to Kamata station and then reverse direction. These one-seat trips to Yokohama take around 23 minutes and cost 450 yen. You also have the option of changing at Kamata to the next fast train towards Shinagawa or Yokohama depending on your destination.
Transfers to the Shinkansen
Are you planning to take the Shinkansen right away when you land? Unlike Narita, which offers a direct Japan Railway connection to the bullet trains (the Narita Express), Haneda is a little different.
You can easily take the Tokyo Monorail to Hamamatsucho, and then take the Yamanote or Keihin Tohoku lines to either Tokyo or Shinagawa stations. If you are heading to northern Japan, go to Tokyo station. If you are heading towards Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka and points further west, go to Shinagawa station. All of these methods are free when you use any sort of national or JR East Rail Pass. Bear in mind that the Keikyu Railway offers a one-seat ride to Shinagawa, so even if you have a JR pass it may be worth paying the 410 yen to ride the Keikyu just for the convenience.
Just like Narita Airport, Haneda has a large number of highway buses that will take you out of the airport and into most parts of Tokyo. While they can get held up depending on road conditions, they also provide direct access to major hotels and train stations.
The Airport Limousine Bus does offer a service from Haneda Airport to Tokyo City Air Terminal, or T-CAT, but at an irregular frequency compared to the several buses per hour that ply to and from Narita. Buses take 35-60 minutes depending on the route and stops, but trips cost only 820 yen. There are a few buses per day that operate nonstop between T-CAT and the International Terminal only, while others serve some or all of the airport terminals.
On the other hand, the real route where the Airport Limousine shines in this instance is the run from Haneda Airport to Shinjuku and adjacent hotels. This is because Shinjuku is not as easily accessible by train from Haneda. You’ll find several buses per hour departing from all of Haneda’s terminals, with most stopping outside of Shinjuku Station, some continuing to Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal (which has become a major hub for highway buses heading out to other distant cities), and a few heading to some of the top hotels in the area. A trip from Haneda to Shinjuku costs 1,230 yen and takes about an hour.
The Airport Limousine web site has a complete list of stops made on its vast network, from train stations to hotels. It also offers direct connections to Narita. Each passenger is allowed to check up to two pieces of luggage in the hold of the bus.
Note that late night departures of the limousine bus (generally any bus leaving after midnight) will incur a night surcharge on top of the normal fare.
Expensive Tokyo taxis are another option. Once again, if you are travelling in a group and everyone is willing to pay a share of the taxi fare, it can be a good point-to-point option.
Flat-fare taxis are available from the flat-fare taxi ranks to bring you to most areas of Tokyo. Some examples of flat fare prices include 5,900 yen to Chiyoda ward (home of Tokyo Station) and 7,100 yen to Shinjuku. It’s important to note that flat fare services are not offered to the immediate areas and wards near Haneda Airport. If you go to these short-range destinations then you will pay by the meter.
If you are considering a taxi, my recommendation is to use public transit (in this case, train, monorail or bus) to a major station near where you want to go, and then take a taxi to your final destination.
Whether you are flying in or out of Haneda, transiting, or just paying a visit, the new International Terminal has a lot of wonderful features to please the curious traveler.
You’ll find stores and restaurants reminiscent of the old Edo era on the upper floors of the terminal, along with an observation deck and even a Muslim prayer room. If you forget any items, toiletries or bags, chances are one of the pre-security stores will fix you up.
The International Terminal also has a unique hotel, Royal Park Hotel The Haneda, located within the International Building. Rooms can be pricey at times, but the location can’t be beat. The hotel actually has two sections: In addition to the main hotel, there is also a Transit Hotel located within the secure part of the airport designed for outbound and transiting International passengers. If you have a long layover and don’t feel like venturing out of the airport, then sleep in your very own bed at this transit hotel complete with a shower. The hotel also offers refresh rooms with a sofa, TV and shower that cost 2,000 yen for an hour and 1,000 yen for every 30 minutes thereafter.
While Narita remains the major International airport of both Tokyo and Japan as a whole, Haneda is making a strong comeback with increasing flights and modern amenities for a pleasant trip. Out of the four major International airports in Japan, Haneda is the only one I haven’t visited (as far as the new International building is concerned). Please enjoy all that Haneda has to offer, whether it be for travel, transit or sightseeing.
All information and links were accurate as of December 2018, and subject to the disclaimer. Photos used in the article are either public domain or courtesy of creative commons licenses.
Welcome to the first in a series of blog posts called Welcome to Japan. In the first project since updating the layout of my blog, I am introducing a series that will explain the available transit options after arriving at some of Japan’s major airports. This post focuses on Narita Airport, one of Tokyo’s major gateways located some 60 kilometers to the east in Chiba Prefecture.
Narita Airport has an interesting history, as it was built on expropriated farmland. Protests lingered on for many years, with activists constantly delaying or sabotaging construction of the airport, upset that those who lived and worked on the land were not notified in advance of the project. Some say that the battle is a major reason why some of Japan’s newer airports, including Osaka Kansai, Chubu Centrair (Nagoya) and Kobe, are built out to sea on man-made islands.
Despite its past, Narita Airport is one of the major gateways into Tokyo, and indeed to the entire country. It is lately facing increased competition from the closer Haneda Airport, nevertheless most international airlines opt to serve Narita.
Narita has three terminals: Terminal 1 mainly serves airlines in the Star Alliance (including ANA, United, Air Canada) and SkyTeam (including Delta, Korean Air, Air France). Terminal 2 mainly serves airlines in OneWorld (including Japan Airlines, American, British Airways, Qantas). Terminal 3 recently opened and primarily serves low-cost-carriers (LCCs) including Jetstar Japan.
A complimentary shuttle bus system connects all three terminals outside of security. Terminal 3 can also be accessed via a walkway from Terminal 2.
Leaving Narita can be a little bit of a task, especially if heading into Tokyo itself. There are many transit options available, including some new players attracting frugal and LCC travelers.
Let’s go ahead and spell out the main travel options available from Narita Airport.
Narita Airport is served by two train stations: Narita Airport Terminal 1 Station and Narita Airport Terminals 2/3. The latter is connected directly to Terminal 2, from which Terminal 3 can be reached by walking or by shuttle bus.
Two railways run services from Narita Airport on three lines… so I’ll try to make this as less confusing as possible.
Let’s start with the premium trains that run out of Narita: the Skyliner and the Narita Express. These are fast, all-reserved trains that run towards Tokyo several times per hour.
TheSkylineris the fastest train – with speeds reaching 160 km/h on a short stretch of track near the airport, it is currently Japan’s fastest conventional passenger train. Operating on the Narita Sky Access Line, which is the straightest path towards Tokyo, trains operate between Narita Airport and Tokyo in as little as 36 minutes. The two main stations served are Nippori station and Keisei Ueno station. Nippori station is an ideal place to transfer to the JR Yamanote Line, which is the loop that goes around central Tokyo (the green circle line on the maps). It’s also possible to transfer to the Keihin-Tohoku line, which can bring you north to Saitama prefecture or south towards Yokohama. Keisei Ueno is the terminal station, which is separate from the Ueno station served by JR. A few minutes walk above or below ground will bring you towards several JR lines, including the Shinkansen heading northbound towards Tohoku, Niigata and Kanazawa, as well as several subway lines.
A one-way ticket on the Skyliner for adults is 2,470 yen, which includes the reserved seat fare. If you change to the JR or another line in Tokyo, you’ll have to pay the respective fares for those lines.
Here are some discount and package ticket plans that are available:
– Foreign visitors have the opportunity to purchase discounted vouchers for the Skyliner online at a cost of 2,200 yen one way or 4,300 yen round trip. Bring the printed vouchers to Japan where you will exchange them for your tickets.
– A discount package is available that combines either a one-way or round-trip ticket for the Skyliner with a 24, 48 or 72-hour free pass to use all subways in Tokyo. The open ticket for both Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway can be used for one of these specified periods, with the clock starting when you first use the ticket to enter the subway. Fares start at 2,800 yen for a one-way Skyliner ticket and a 24-hour subway pass.
– If you want to combine the Skyliner with a taxi, a package deal is available that includes a one-way ticket on the Skyliner from Narita Airport to Ueno, followed by a reserved taxi that will take you to any destination within 11 of Tokyo’s wards. On the way to your destination, the taxi will take a sightseeing route past two or three of Tokyo’s main attractions. The ticket costs 5,000-6,500 yen for one person, with the per-person cost reduced for two or three passengers in the same party. Up to two large suitcases per party are permitted (presumably because of the trunk/boot space in the taxi). Note that regular taxi ranks at the metered rates are available at Nippori and Ueno.
The Skyliner’s advantage is speed, with trains running in as little as 36 minutes between Narita Terminals 2/3 and Nippori station.
The Japan Railways answer to the Skyliner is the Narita Express, which generally operates out of Narita Airport twice per hour. Whereas the Skyliner has speed on its side, the Narita Express offers the best direct connections in Tokyo to the rest of the JR network. You can comfortably travel from Narita Airport to Tokyo station, Shinagawa, Shibuya and Shinjuku. Some services continue on towards Ikebukuro and Yokohama. With the Narita Express, you can relax comfortably on the same train to all of these destinations.
Onward connections by JR are easy. You can change to the Yamanote line at any of the major JR stations within Tokyo. Tokyo station offers a connection to all bullet trains – if you’re connecting to the bullet train towards Nagoya and Kyoto, an easier connection can be done from the Narita Express stop at Shinagawa. At Shinjuku you can connect to Chuo Line trains bound for Hachioji, Mount Takao, Mount Fuji and Matsumoto.
The other significant advantage is that the ride on the Narita Express is included in the cost of a national Japan Rail Pass, or one of the regional rail passes marketed by JR East. Simply exchange your Rail Pass voucher for the pass itself at Narita Airport, make your Narita Express reservation, and be on your way.
Without a rail pass of any sort, a one-way ticket from Narita Airport starts at 3,020 yen to Tokyo Station in standard class or 4,560 yen in Green (first) class.
A better deal for foreign tourists is the Narita Express round-trip ticket costing 4,000 yen in standard class, which includes a round-trip on the Narita Express and free travel to/from any JR station within a designated area. For example, you could take the Narita Express to Shibuya and then take the Yamanote Line to Harajuku. On the return trip you could travel from Nakano to Shinjuku and then take the Narita Express. Even a one-way trip to Yokohama on the discount ticket is much cheaper compared to its regular one-way cost of 4,290 yen.
The Skyliner and Narita Express are not the only options – cheaper commuter trains also serve Narita Airport, with a large reach at a low price. Keisei operates commuter trains from Narita on two lines: The Keisei Main Line and the Narita Sky Access Line. Services to Nippori and Ueno are offered like the Skyliner, but commuter trains also have a direct or one-transfer option to reach the Toei Asakusa Subway Line, which passes through some of Tokyo’s major districts including Nihombashi, Shimbashi and Shinagawa – some even go to Haneda Airport or Yokohama.
The Sky Access line offers a more direct and faster trip compared to the Keisei Main Line, at a slightly higher cost. In fact, to make sure that you pay the correct fare, there are multiple fare gates and split platforms for the Keisei trains at Narita Airport.
Sky Access trains run 1-2 times per hour and are known as Access Tokkyu (or Access Express) services. You can reach Nippori in 65 minutes at a cost of only 1,240 yen; Ueno is an extra 5 minutes from there. Going down the subway line, Oshiage, home to Tokyo SkyTree, is 55 minutes away (1,170 yen), Asakusa one hour (1,290 yen), and Shinagawa is 80 minutes (1,520 yen). If you need to change trains, the best place to do so is at Aoto, which is a cross-platform transfer.
The cheapest trains are the Keisei Line tokkyu, or Limited Express trains. They leave 3 times per hour during the day, with most trains terminating at Ueno. Nippori is 75 minutes away at a cost of 1,030 yen, with Ueno 5 minutes away. Changing in Aoto, you can reach Oshiage in around 70 minutes (980 yen), Asakusa 75 minutes (1,100 yen) and Shinagawa 95 minutes (1,330 yen).
JR’s commuter service runs 1 or 2 times per hour and operates through Tokyo and Shinagawa towards Yokohama and the Miura Peninsula. There are regular commuter seats, as well as unreserved Green Car (first class) seats that should be easy to get when leaving Narita Airport. Tokyo Station can be reached in 90 minutes (1,320 yen), Shinagawa in around 1 hour 45 minutes (1,490 yen), and Yokohama in a little over 2 hours (1,940 yen). A Green Car seat costs an additional 980 yen and can be purchased as a separate ticket or charged to an IC card.
The downside of using commuter trains is that they could get crowded as you enter Tokyo, especially during the morning rush hour. On the other hand, there are many interchanges to other train and subway lines that make navigating to where you want to go a little bit easier.
Buses are the primary competition for trains. While Buses can get delayed in traffic, buses can be the most direct method to reach Tokyo’s major hotels. If you choose the right bus, you can get a great price as well. Another advantage is that many buses serve Narita Terminal 3, the LCC terminal.
The flagship bus service is the Airport Limousine bus from Narita to the Tokyo City Air Terminal, or T-CAT. T-CAT is located in Hakozaki with easy access to the Tokyo Metro Hanzomon Subway Line and a taxi rank. With a choice of highways and a dedicated expressway exit, travel times to T-CAT are advertised at 65 minutes (minimum) at a cost of 2,800 yen each way.
The Airport Limousine web site has a complete list of stops made on its vast network, from train stations to hotels. It also offers direct connections to Tokyo’s other airport, Haneda. Each passenger is allowed to check up to two pieces of luggage in the hold of the bus.
Some travel deals for the Limousine Bus include:
– Return voucher: 4,500 yen for two tickets (one-way) to any destination within the 23 wards of Tokyo.
– Multi voucher: 8,000 yen for four tickets (one-way) to any destination within the 23 wards of Tokyo.
– T-CAT special: For foreign tourists only – trips to and from T-CAT are just 1,900 yen each way.
There are cheaper buses available which cost just 1,000 yen to reach Tokyo from Narita Airport, but note that these buses only allow ONE piece of checked luggage in the hold. Due to their popularity, the buses are also regularly full.
These buses include:
– Keisei Bus Tokyo Shuttle: Runs several times per hour, stopping a short walk from the Yaesu North exit of Tokyo Station. Buses take 65-85 minutes. If you buy a voucher online at least 2 days in advance, the fare is only 900 yen.
– The Access Narita (JR Bus/Be-Transse): Runs several times per hour, and stops directly at the Yaesu exit of Tokyo Station. No ticket purchase necessary – just line up and board the bus. These buses also go to Ginza Station, near Sukiyabashi Intersection.
A third way to reach Tokyo is by taxi, which is not recommended for most travelers. The reasons are simple: first, taxis can be expensive, especially in Japan. Second, remember that Narita Airport is some 60 km away from Tokyo, so taking a taxi will rack up a very large bill – equivalent to a few nights in the typical business hotel. One of the situations where you would consider a taxi from the airport is if you have multiple people in your party, in which case the cost of a taxi can be split between everyone. Of course, the other advantage of the taxi is the ability to drop you off at the destination of your choice.
A taxi hailed directly by yourself, according to an online fare calculator provided by a major Japanese taxi operator, costs in excess of 22,000 yen to Tokyo Station or 25,000 to the Expressway Bus Terminal in Shinjuku, not including expressway tolls. Remember that when fares are by the meter, the meter will be affected by slow or stopped traffic.
Flat-fare taxis are available to Tokyo from the flat-fare taxi ranks. These are a better option if you use a taxi, since the fare will be the same no matter if there’s good or bad traffic. As examples, flat fares to Tokyo Station cost 20,000-21,500 yen… as little as 6,700 yen per person for a party of three. To Shinjuku, flat fare taxis cost 22,000-22,500 yen.
The best option if you are considering a taxi, in my opinion, is to travel into Tokyo by public transit – Skyliner, Narita Express, or bus. When you reach a stop that is close to where you are ultimately going, you can change to a taxi. The Skyliner and Taxi ticket is also an option.
Narita Airport is, without question, the major gateway into Japan, although Haneda Airport is growing and trying to catch up. I hope this article helps you in making decisions about how to leave Narita and begin exploring a wonderful country.
All information and links were accurate as of August 2018, and subject to the disclaimer. Photos used in the article are either public domain or courtesy of creative commons licenses.