In spite of Japan's incredible regional diversity, matched perhaps only by the nations of Western Europe, the majority of the country's international flights arrive and depart from Tokyo's two airports. Of these, Narita International Airport (which is actually located in Chiba prefecture, a whopping 41 miles east of Tokyo Station) is the busiest, with more than 31 million international passengers using its facilities in 2017 alone. Chances are good that you'll arrive at, depart from or transit through Narita International Airport if your travel plans involve Japan.
Although Narita Airport is one of the most user-friendly airports in the world, brushing up on some essential facts before you go will make your time there even more seamless and enjoyable.
Narita Airport Code, Location, and Flight Information
- Code: NRT
- Location: Narita, Chiba, Japan
- Website: www.narita-airport.jp/en/
Know Before You Go
Narita International Airport (known in Japanese as 成田国際空港 or Narita Kokusai Kūkō) has two main terminals (named Terminal 1 and Terminal 2), which are completely separate from one another. Traveling between these terminals requires that you take a train, bus or taxi, and that you exit immigration and security, and re-clear them on the other side. Terminal 1 houses Star Alliance and SkyTeam airlines while Terminal 2 is home to Japan Airlines and its oneworld partners, however, so if you're transiting Narita on a single ticket, you shouldn't have to worry about this.
Narita International Airport is also home to low-cost Terminal 3 (which is connected to Terminal 2 via underground walkway), but this isn't a common transit point.
A limited number of Japanese domestic flights also arrive at and depart Narita, but Haneda handles far more domestic passenger operations. If you are connection to a destination elsewhere in Japan (or coming from one, prior to your journey abroad), it's a good idea to verify that your domestic flight originates from or terminates at Narita Airport, even if you booked it on the same ticket.
Narita International Airport Parking
While it's unlikely that you will arrive to Narita Airport by car (driving in Japan is frustrating, on account of low speed limits and high tolls), the airport has plenty of parking facilities. Specifically, there are six lots: P2-N, P2-N2, P2-S and P3 (which are convenient to Terminals 2 and 3); and lots P1 and P5 (which are convenient to Terminal 1).
Parking fees depend upon how long you park and in which lot your park your car. If you want to reserve a spot in advance (which you can do on this page), you will need to pay an additional fee of ¥515, or about $5. Although Japan is an exceedingly low-crime country, security officials patrol Narita Airport parking lots 24 hours per day.
Driving Directions to Narita International Airport
Narita Airport is far from central Tokyo, though those residing and visiting Chiba prefecture and eastern areas of Tokyo will find it more convenient. The main route to reach Narita Airport from central Tokyo is split about halfway between National Highway 14 and the Shin-Koku Expressway (also known as E65) and takes about 55 minutes with no traffic.
If you have rented a car, it will very likely be equipped with an ETC card, which will automatically record your passage through toll gates; the rental car company will charge the tolls to your chosen payment method. If you are driving a private car or a rental car without an ETC card, you will need to stop at each toll gate and manually pay the required amount.
Narita Airport Public Transportation and Taxis
Public transportation options between Tokyo and Narita Airport are varied and offer extremely frequent departures:
- Narita Express: Departing at least twice an hour during the airport's operating hours, the Narita Express takes you from Narita Airport to central Tokyo in around an hour. While use of this popular train is free for holders of the Japan Rail Pass, you do need to make a seat reservation (which is also free) in advance of departure. If you're buying a ticket with cash, keep in mind that while the Narita Express only travels directly to a few main stations in Tokyo (including Shinjuku, Shibuya and Shinagawa, in addition to Tokyo Station) your ticket entitles you to free onward transport to any Japan Railways (JR) station in the Tokyo area. The cash price of a one-way ticket is 3,000 yen, though some discounts may be available.
- Keisei Skyliner Electric Railway: This is officially the fastest way between Narita Airport and Tokyo, though there is some fine print. Specifically, the 36 minutes of travel time advertised is between Narita Airport and Nippori, a station northeast of central Tokyo, near the popular tourist areas of Asakusa and Ueno. Additionally, since Keisei is a private company, you cannot use your JR Pass to take the Skyliner, which costs starting at 2,470 yen one-way.
- Limousine Buses: Dozens of limousine buses travel between Narita Airport and various points in Tokyo every day. Travel time is between 60-120 minutes, depending upon traffic and your final destination, and tickets cost around 3,000 yen one-way.
- Taxis: Due to Narita Airport's distance from Tokyo and the high cost of taxis in Japan in general, it is not advisable to travel by taxi from central Tokyo to Narita. If you do, however, you can expect the journey to take between 60-90 minutes, and cost a minimum 25,000 yen (more than $200), not including toll costs.
Additionally, you may be able to ride public transportation directly between Narita Airport and destinations elsewhere in Japan. Visit the bus ticket counter just outside the immigration area to see your options, visit Hyperdia to see optimal train routings, or speak to your accommodation provider to see what they recommend.
Where to Eat and Drink at Narita Airport
By international standards, Narita Airports dining options are limited, at least if you don't have lounge access. However, some choices open to all travelers include:
- Tatsu Japanese Grill in Terminal 1 offers Michelin-star udon noodles among its menu options.
- An affordable option for Terminal 2 travelers is Yoshinoya, a well-known Japanese fast food brand famous for its rice and noodle bowls.
- Both Terminals 1 and 2 have FaSoLa cafes, where you can enjoy delicious Cremia ice cream and hot Japanese sake.
- The lone dining option in Terminal 3 is Caffe LAT.25°, which serves up coffee and light snacks.
Where to Shop at Narita Airport
Narita Airport offers a variety of shopping facilities, including several Duty Free boutiques. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- ANA offers its own duty-free shops in Terminal 1, and can deliver your purchases to you at the boarding gate.
- Both Terminals 1 and 2 are home to a variety of luxury brand boutiques, including Burberry, Chanel, and Prada.
- Numerous small shops selling sundries and simple souvenirs are available throughout the airport.
- Terminal 3's sole shopping option is a duty-free shop operated by FaSoLa.
How to Spend Your Narita Airport Layover
Being that Narita Airport is relatively far from central Tokyo, you need a minimum of 6 hours to even think about venturing into the city. However, many travelers can travel to Narita city or elsewhere in Chiba prefecture, assuming they are able to enter Japan without a visa, or have obtained the visa necessary to do so.
You have two basic options for doing this. If you're adventurous and have an active internet connection (for maps as well as a translation app), you can ride a local JR Line train from the airport to destinations like Narita city or to Ichikawa, whose i-Link observation deck arguably offers the best view of Tokyo—you can see Mount Fuji rising above the skyline on clear days. The Narita Airport Corporation also operates an official "Transit & Stay Program," which offers free tours conducted by volunteer guides.
Narita Airport Lounges
Narita International Airport is home to more than a dozen airport lounges, most of which are operated by airlines themselves.
- Terminal 1: All Nippon Airways operates two lounges, each of which has an ANA Lounge (for business-class passengers of Star Alliance carriers, as well Star Alliance Gold card holders) and an ANA Suite Lounge, for Star Alliance first-class passengers. The airport is also home to a United club, which is open to Star Alliance business-class passengers and Gold card holders. SkyTeam business class and elite-status passengers can visit the Delta SkyClub or Korean Air KAL Lounge, the latter of which is also open to Priority Pass card holders.
- Terminal 2: Japan Airlines' two main lounge areas each offer a Sakura Lounge (for business-class passengers on oneworld airlines, as well as oneworld Sapphire members) and a First Class Lounge, for first class passengers on oneworld airlines and oneworld Emerald members. oneworld premium and elite (Sapphire and Emerald) passengers can also relax inside the American Airlines Admirals Club and Qantas Business Lounge. Other lounges in Terminal 2 include China Airlines' Dynasty Lounge and the Emirates Lounge, accessible via business class passengers and certain elite members of each airlines' loyalty program (and, in the case of China Airlines, all SkyTeam airlines).
- Terminal 3: As a hub for low-cost carriers, Terminal 3 has no lounges.
Narita Airport Wi-Fi and Charging Stations
Wi-Fi is available for free throughout all public areas of Narita International Airport, with supplementary networks available inside airport lounges and other private areas. If your phone connects but you don't see the login screen, navigate to the website Wifi-Cloud.Jp to be taken to it.
Dedicated charging areas have been built near many of Narita Airport's gate areas, and you can find other plugs in public areas throughout the airport. Try to be patient, however, since the airport's original facilities were built in the 1970s and construction hasn't necessarily kept up with technological advancement or passengers demand.
Narita International Airport Tips and Facts
Here are some other interesting facts about Narita International Airport, as well as trips for traveling through the facility:
- Narita Airport's immigration lines are famously long, but don't let that scare you—the Japanese are famously efficient! However, if the queue is overflowing when you arrive, you might walk to one of the other immigration areas to see if it's less crowded.
- In spite of being one of the world's busiest airports, Narita Airport has just two runways. A third runway is planned, and is expected to greatly increase capacity when it opens.
- Robots have long been a fixture at Narita Airport, initially for novelty and later for customer service. In the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, when foreign arrivals to Japan are expected to balloon even further, Narita Airport officials will deploy robots for security.
- Free observation decks are available on the fifth floors of both Terminals 1 and 2 just before the immigration checkpoint. These are a paradise for "spotters," as a result of the large number of international carriers that operate flight to Narita Airport.
- Many Japanese ATMs do not accept foreign cards, but several at Narita Airport do. As is the case at every store in the country, all the 7/11 convenience stores at Narita International Airport have ATMs that accept foreign cards. Numerous currency exchange booths operate throughout the airport, though some require a surprising amount of paperwork.
- Some aviation-minded photographers also watch landings from Toho Shrine, which sits just fee from the shorter of Narita's two current runways. Keep in mind that security at this shrine is very meticulous, and you could be searched or even denied entry.
- You can purchase a Japan SIM card or rent a mobile Wi-Fi unit in the basement of your Narita Airport arrival terminal. It's advisable to do this at the airport, as the process for procuring these items in the city can be complicated and bureaucratic.
- Although its operating hours have recently been extended, Narita International Airport is not a 24-hour airport. As a result, if you have a late flight (say, after 8 p.m. or so), you really don't want to miss it! In addition to having to wait until the next day to fly, you'll have to get a nearby hotel, as terminal facilities at Narita Airport close overnight.