Japan is one of my all time favorite traveling destinations; it’s also a busy layover spot to get to the rest of Asia. It is amazing to me how a country can be universally reserved and orderly while being culturally avante garde. Japan is an amazing contradiction of tradition and progress. Unfortunately I’ve only been there twice, but hoping to go back many more times in my life.
Traveling to Japan, the tone is set when you arrive at Narita Tokyo International Airport (NRT). This airport is huge and awesome and clean. There are three terminals encompassing somewhere around ~155 gates. Terminal one is split into a North and South wing, with the North serving Delta/SkyTeam carriers (Aeromexico, Air France, China, China Eastern, China Southern, KLM, Korean, Vietnam), Hawaiian. The South encompasses United/Star Alliance carriers (Air Canada, ANA, Egypt, EVA, Lufthansa, Singapore, South Africa, Swiss, Thai, Turkish) and Etihad.
Terminal 2 is where Japan Airlines operates along with American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, FinnAir, Iberia, Qantas, Tam and a few airlines from other Asian countries. Terminal 3 is for low cost carriers. This airport is amazing for layovers as there’s a ton to do, but it is somewhat far from the city, so you can’t just make a quick trip into Edo itself (it’s 40 miles away) if you only have a few hours.
The food here is amazing, but I am biased because if I can get a decent bowl of ramen in an airport, it’s shooting to the top of the list (that’s right, Heathrow ;). There’s your regular McDonald’s, Starbucks offerings for western food, but if you’re laying over in Japan, enjoy Japanese food! There’s udon, soba, sushi, curry, yakatori, ramen, donburi, tonkatsu shops, and a food bar where you can get ALL of these things. I spend most of my time here stuffing myself (but if you’re flying on JAL, save your stomach for their snacks and yuzu sky time drink).
There are luxury and duty free shops galore: Ferragamo, Tiffany & Co, Burberry, etc, but I recommend hitting up the Japanese convenience stores, Hello Kitty, and souvenir shops. Where else are you gonna get your last minute Japanese KitKats for your flight?
Remember: ✈️ = Sayonara, sucker to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = domo arigato, mr. roboto
Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️ (far from city center, BUT there are trains that go directly to the airport)
Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️ (it’s very large, but there’s an abundance of clear signs in Japanese and English)
Convenience of check in/security lines: ✈️✈️ (it’s a very busy airport, but they go as efficiently as they can)
Dining: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ (Japanese food bonanza)
Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (like everything in Japan very clean, and has their musical toilets with the automatic seat covers)
Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi not available, decent amount of charging)
Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ (lots of things to see, shops, food, japanese culture, kabuki, shower and rooms available to rent, airline lounges, observation deck to watch takeoffs and landings–I want to live here)