Japan Guide - Getting to Japan

Most people travel to Japan from overseas by plane. If you plan to fly to Japan you are most likely going to arrive at Narita Airport (outside Tokyo), Haneda Airport (in Tokyo) or Kansai Airport (outside Osaka) - or increasingly into Chitose International Airport in Sapporo, Hokkaido.

Narita and Haneda (in the Tokyo region) and Kansai are the main travel hubs, and most major airlines offer direct flights to and from North America, the UK, Australia and New Zealand, as well as many Asian destinations. Other airlines also have flights, but it usually involves a stopover in one of their home cities. There are also international airports in Honshu (Nagoya and Niigata), Kyushu (Fukuoka, Kagoshima, Kumamoto and Nagasaki) and Okinawa (Naha). Depending on where you are going, or where you are coming from, it can be cheaper and more convenient to use one of these airports. Nagoya is especially easy to get in and out of and it is conveniently located between Tokyo and Osaka.

Ticket prices are highly dependent on the time of year so prepare to pay a lot if you plan on traveling during peak season. Tickets are most expensive in July and August, and around Christmas and New Year's. Flying on weekdays can often save you money as well. Be prepared to pay a departure tax of around Y2000 when leaving the country, although this can sometimes be included in your ticket price.  Recently very cheap flights have been available in Japan and worth looking into.

Narita International Airport

This is the biggest and busiest airport in Japan. Many visitors don’t realize that Narita Airport is actually in Chiba Prefecture, which is more than 60 kilometers from central Tokyo. Airport bus services take about 1.5 hours if you don’t hit too much traffic, and the price of taxis are prohibitive. Traveling by train is by far the easiest way to get to and from the airport. You can either choose from the Narita Express (about 3000 yen) or Keisei Skyliner (about 2000 yen). A local train without the fancy 'Skyliner' name does a similar route as the Skyliner for around 1000 yen -- and it only take a bit longer.  The quicker services can get you to and from the airport in about 40 minutes.

Baggage Forwarding

Although most people shouldn’t have a problem carrying or storing their luggage on trains or other public transportation, there is a convenient and reliable system in Japan called takkyu-bin or special delivery. If you can’t be bothered carrying your things all the way to the airport you can have them sent ahead of time. All you have to do is pick them up at the company’s counter once you arrive at the airport. Takyubin services are excellent.  They are quick, inexpensive and very reliable. 

International Air Travel Times

North America (west coast):
About 10 hours

North America (Chicago):
About 13 hours

North America (New York):
About 15 hours

Europe: (London to Tokyo):
About 12 hours

Europe: (London to Tokyo via Moscow):
About 15 ½ hours

Europe: (Helsinki to Tokyo):
About 13 ½ hours

Australia: (Sydney to Tokyo):
About 9 hours

New Zealand: (Auckland to Tokyo):
About 11 hours

By sea

Those looking for a more adventurous path to the Japan can travel overland by train and then by sea. Ferry services are common from South Korea, but you can also travel from other destinations such as China, Taiwan and Russia. If you have the time, ferries can be a relaxing and inexpensive alternative, and certain routes such as Keelung to Okinawa are a wonderful way to arrive in Japan.

The fastest and cheapest route from South Korea is the boat from Pusan, just 200 kilometers north of Kyushu. Daily services are available to Fukuoka in Kyushu and Shimonoseki, on the western tip of Honshu. If you're traveling between Pusan and Fukuoka, you have your choice of the ultra-fast hydrofoil services and the normal ferry. South Korea is the closest country to Japan and a lot of visitors use this route to make "visa runs" if they are planning to work in Japan. If you'd like to depart from China, you can board the ferry from Shanghai to Osaka or Kobe. There is also a ferry from Nagasaki to Shanghai and Kobe to Tangu (near Tianjin) that run every Thursday.

If you are coming to Japan from Taiwan, a great way to arrive is from Keelung or Kaohsiung to Okinawa. The ferry stops at the Miyako and Ishigaki islands along the way and there are weekly services to Naha - the main city in Okinawa. From Naha it's possible to arrange to continue on to Osaka.

If you're traveling from Europe, the most common routes include: The Trans-Siberian train from Moscow to Vladivostok, an eight night journey to Russia's eastern shore; the Trans-Manchurian train from northern China to Beijing; and the Trans-Mongolian that also ends up in Beijing after traveling through Mongolia

Ferry services are available from Vladivostok to Niigata City on the Japan Sea coast, as well as Fushiki City to the south. There are also services from Korsakov, on the Siberian island of Sakhalin to Wakkanai - on the northern tip of Hokkaido. This trip is by far the shortest trip, only taking six and a half hours. In August the ferry from Korsakov also runs to Otaru, which is just outside Sapporo.

International Sea Travel Times 

South Korea (Pusan-Shimonoseki)
About 14 and a half hours

South Korea (Pusan-Fukuoka by hydrofoil):
3 hours

South Korea (Pusan-Fukuoka by ferry):
About 15 hours

China (Shanghai-Osaka/Kobe):
2 days

China (Kobe-Tangu):
1 day

Taiwan (Keelung / Kaohsiung-Ishigaki / Miyako):
16 to 19 hours

Russia (Vladivostok to Niigata/Fushiki):
About 2 days

Russia (Korsakov (Sakhalin)-Wakkanai):
6 ½ hours

Note: Keep in mind that ferry times and frequency vary depending on the season.



Japan General Information

Part 1 Information on Japan
Part 2 Getting to Japan
Part 3 Tourist information
Part 4 Passport and visas
Part 5 Costs and money issues
Part 6 Post and telephone
Part 7 Internet and newspapers
Part 8 Measurements
Part 9 Health and safety
Part 10 Accommodation
Part 11 Food
Part 12 More food!

Please note: We will be updating this section in the near future. If you would like to help us do this, please do contact us. Thank you.