A quick guide to one of our favorite destinations!
Japan, Land of the Rising Sun, is a must-see destination on most travelers’ bucket lists! There are many exciting places to visit throughout the four main islands of the Japanese archipelago. Located in central Honshu, the Tokyo Major Metropolitan Area, with its 50 million inhabitants, is the world’s most populous metropolitan area! There is so much more to see in the other parts of Japan, from the snow paradise of Sapporo on Hokkaido Island to the port city of Nagasaki located on the Southwest island of Kyushu, and everything in between! BusinessTravel365 will be posting a series of articles about Tokyo and further adventures possible in Japan. Unfortunately, as of March 2021, Japan is still closed to most foreigners due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and all visa-free travel is suspended. We sincerely hope that soon this amazing country will once again be accessible to our clients, and when it is, we will be there to assist our BusinessTravel365 customers!
Consider this a “primer,” with just the most basic information about the most convenient gateway city to Japan from the United States. From different fascinating cities to cultural traditions and even a write-up about a stay in a traditional Japanese Ryokan hotel, we hope to introduce our clients to the fascinating aspects of Japan. Check back here for the links!
Unique facts about Tokyo and Japan!
- On a clear day, it is possible to see Mount Fuji from Tokyo. The clear days, however, are not often. Some say there are only about 10-12 days per year when this is possible.
- When in the Tokyo Metro (or Japan Rail (JR) lines like the circular Yamanote Green Line) in rush hour traffic, expect to be “pushed” into the train car by the Oshiya. These pushers get everyone in as the doors close!
- Tokyo by the numbers: There are over 220 Michelin-starred restaurants, over 4000 shrines (almost the same number of temples), nearly 900 train stations, over 150 museums, and over 100 universities.
- An interesting fact: There are so many vending machines on the streets that there is one machine for every 25 residents! That is a lot of soda, water, and especially hot and cold coffees! As most devices have a way to keep some of the bottles/cans cold or warm, the purchaser chooses the temperature!
- Tokyo had its start as a fishing village known as Edo. It came to an important position after 1603 when it was the head of the Tokugawa Shogunate. In the mid-1800s, as the population crossed 1 million people, it was renamed Tokyo after the Meiji Restoration in 1868.
- A one-night stay in a capsule hotel is a unique experience in Japan! There are different types of hotels, and they have a wide range of services. Most are separated by gender and have community washing facilities. Silence in the sleeping areas is golden, but most of the capsules come with earplugs!
Tokyo: Getting There
Gateway Cities from the USA to Tokyo
There are many possibilities for business class flights to Tokyo. Japan has two major air carriers: Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airlines (ANA). Until ten years ago, most of the international flights arrived and departed from Narita Airport. Recently, more international flights are now flying to Haneda Airport. Narita is located about one hour by train or taxi from Chiyoda, the central neighborhood of Tokyo. All Major US airlines (United, American, and Delta) fly from their hub cities to Tokyo. You can purchase Business Class tickets to visit this island nation or onward with connections to other countries in Asia. It is often possible to travel with a more extended stop in Tokyo before or after the rest of your international travel.
Air Canada also serves several cities in Canada nonstop from Tokyo. Aeromexico even serves Tokyo Narita Airport from Mexico City!
Below is a summary of the flights to Japan from the United States:
|Gateway City:||Flights per Week:||Distance (miles):||Flt Time(E/W):||Airlines (Airport):|
|Honolulu||10 flights per week||3850 miles||6:30 / 8:30||HA (N) JL NH (H)|
|Seattle||12 flights per week||4860 miles||8:30 / 10:00||JL (N) NH DL (H)|
|San Francisco||20 flights per week||5150 miles||8:45 / 10:30||JL NH UA (N) DL NH (H)|
|Los Angeles||33 flights per week||5475 miles||9:30 / 11:00||AA NH JL SQ UA (N) NH (H)|
|San Diego||3 flights per week||5580 miles||9:30 / 11:15||JL (N)|
|Dallas||14 flights per week||6450 miles||11:00 / 12:30||AA JL (N) JL (H)|
|Houston||3 flights per week||6700 miles||11:45 / 13:00||NH (H)|
|Chicago O’Hare||22 flights per week||6300 miles||11:15 / 12:45||AA JL NH (N) JL UA (H)|
|Atlanta||7 flights per week||6910 miles||11:45 / 13:30||DL (H)|
|Washington Dulles||3 flights per week||6810 miles||12:00 / 14:00||NH (H)|
|Detroit||4 flights per week||6455 miles||11:15 / 13:00||DL (H)|
|Newark||5 flights per week||6800 miles||11:45 / 13:15||UA (N)|
|New York JFK||11 flights per week||6800 miles||12:00 / 13:30||JL (N) JL NH (H)|
|Boston||4 flights per week||6730 miles||12:00 / 13:15||JL (N)|
Spotlight on Tokyo Haneda Airport: The Oldest International Airport with the Newest International Terminal, Closest to Downtown Tokyo
Haneda was the first and only international airport for Tokyo from 1931 until 1978, when the New Tokyo International Airport at Narita opened. From 1978 to 2010, the airport primarily served domestic flights and scheduled charter flights to international destinations. Between 2010 and the expansion in 2014, there was an increase to 25 global destinations in 17 countries. Terminals 1 and 2 are the domestic terminals and base airports for Japan Airlines and ANA, respectively. ANA has moved some international flights to Terminal 2 in time for the Olympics in Summer 2021. Terminal 3 is the main international terminal. Handling 87 million passengers, it is the fourth busiest airport in the world (2018). The airport capacity in the near term is 90 million passengers. The premium business routes are operated from Haneda, while primarily leisure routes and charter flights operate from Narita Airport.
Airport Lounges at Tokyo Haneda
There are a variety of lounges at Haneda Airport. Public accessible Power Lounges (North, Central, and South) are located in Terminals 1 and 2, on the third and fourth floors. Airline lounges, for the most part, are closed due to COVID. Japan Airlines has both a First Class Lounge and a Sakura Lounge (access for Business Class passengers) on the Fourth Floor of the main building. These lounges are open from 6:00 am until 2:45 am daily. ANA has both their ANA SUITE LOUNGE (for first-class passengers and high-status cardholders), and the ANA LOUNGE (for business class passengers) open in Terminals 2 and 3 on the fourth floor from 5:00 am to the departure of the last ANA flight daily. Guests from Oneworld airlines use the lounges of Japan Airlines, and ANA-operated lounges welcome other Star Alliance airlines passengers. The TIAT Lounge in Terminal 3, fourth floor, is open daily while flights are open and provides contract services to airlines of the Sky Team Alliance and other international airlines.
Getting There and Away
As with most places in Japan, travel by train is the most efficient and cost-effective method to travel to and from Haneda Airport. Taxis provide the only genuinely door-to-door transfers, and costs start from 5000 JPY ($46). A Keikyu Railway train takes 13 minutes to reach Shinagawa station and costs 410 JPY ($4). The Tokyo Monorail takes 13 minutes to Hamamatsucho Station (on the JR Yamanote Line) and costs 490 JPY ($4.50). The final option is the Limousine bus that travels in 25 minutes to Tokyo Station and costs 930 JPY ($8.50). The Keikyu and Monorail stations are on the basement level of Terminals 1 and 2 and the second (arrivals) floor of Terminal 3.
Interesting Facts about Tokyo Haneda Airport
- In the last years, before fully opening international service from Haneda, the longest international flight allowed was to be no further than the longest domestic flight from the airport. This was one of the rules established to ensure that the opening of international flights from Haneda did not reduce flights from Narita.
- Today, 11 years after Terminal 3 opening, there is still a 2000 JPY ($18) airport facility charge per passenger to pay for constructing the newest terminal at Haneda.
- The international Terminal 3 is open 24 hours a day, but the other two terminals, including the six-story restaurant in Terminal 1, are open from 5:00 am to midnight.
- Like the Shinkansen, the Tokyo Monorail opened in 1964 for the Tokyo Olympics. That international event was a significant opportunity for Japan to show off its remarkable post-war recovery and economic successes. But, ironically enough, success also led to the building of Narita airport in the 1970s, which took almost all international traffic from Haneda for over three decades!
Spotlight on Narita Airport
In 2021, Narita International Airport is still the largest international airport in Japan – with 33 million international passengers in 2018! This airport was one of the first airports in the world to divide the terminals by Airline Alliances. Terminal 1 – North is the home of SkyTeam Airlines and their partners, without a primary Japanese airline partner. Terminal 1 – South is dedicated to Star Alliance Airlines and is anchored by ANA. Terminal 2 is dedicated to Oneworld Airlines and is anchored by Japan Airlines.
Unfortunately, the premium routes are currently moving to Haneda Airport, about 50 miles closer to Tokyo. However, Narita will always have an essential role in the Japanese aviation industry. Today, there are approximately 90 weekly departures to the United States from Narita, as opposed to about 60 from Haneda.
Airport Lounges at Tokyo Narita
Due to COVID-19, many lounges at Narita Airport are still closed. That includes over half the lounges for the two leading Japanese airlines. In Terminal 1, one ANA LOUNGE is open in Sattelite 5, from 6:30 am until the last flight. The only other lounge in Terminal 1 is the Narita Premium Lounge in Sattelite 1 4th floor – from 7:30 am to 9:00 pm. This lounge is for passengers flying with airlines that purchase contract access.
In Terminal 2, JAL has two lounges open (of five in normal operations). The First Class Lounge is on the fourth floor of the Landside building. The Sakura Lounge (for business class passengers) is on the third floor. Both lounges are open from 7:30 am to 10:00 pm.
Getting There and Away
First of all, if you want door-to-door service, a taxi will cost at least 200,000 JPY ($180) one-way and will take at least 70 minutes. That is the most expensive but most convenient option. There are limousine buses to various destinations throughout Tokyo, with costs starting from 2800 JPY ($25) and takes no less than 80 minutes. Several different train options exist. The fastest is the Keisei Skyliner to Ueno Station, which takes 41 minutes (the quickest option) and costs 2500 JPY ($22). Another is the Narita Express (NEX) to Tokyo Station (and Shinagawa, Ueno, or Shinagawa Stations) that costs 3020 JPY ($26) for the 53-minute ride. The longest and most cost-effective train is any local train, traveling about 90 minutes and costing 1190 JPY ($10.50). Both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 have JR and Keisei train stations on the basement level below the arrivals halls.
Interesting Information about Narita Airport
- The 13,100-foot long runway at Narita is the longest in Japan and among the longest in the world!
- Due to noise restrictions, this airport has always been closed from midnight to 6:00 am. In that time, if an aircraft has to land here, they are often diverted to Haneda, as that airport is open all night, with a very circuitous noise abating approach pattern to avoid the residential areas of Tokyo.
- There always seemed to be protests at Narita Airport. From when the planning began in the 1960s until well after the airport opened in 1978, the demonstrations were so severe that it was one of the only airports in the world to require identification just to enter! That requirement was eliminated in 2015.
Tokyo: A Primer
Geography of Tokyo
The enormous metropolis that is Tokyo is divided up into smaller neighborhoods, many with over 1 million residents! For Tokyo and all of Japan, the center of the city and country is considered to be the Imperial Palace, located about 1 mile from the JR Tokyo Station. Future informative posts by our team will describe it in further detail. The primary neighborhoods in Central Tokyo are:
- Chuo – Where the shopping area of Ginza and the Tsukiji Fish Market are located.
- Minato – South of Chuo, where Roppongi (Tokyo Tower), Shiodome (new area along Tokyo Bay), and Shinbashi, among others, are located.
- Shibuya – In addition to having the world’s most crossed crosswalk, Harajuku (Meiji Shrine) is in this area west of Minato.
- Shinjuku – North of Shibuya are skyscrapers, shops, and the entertainment areas of Tokyo, as well as the most visited train station in all of Japan, with over 2 million passengers every day!
- Chiyoda – The Imperial Palace and Gardens are here, as are the National Diet (Parliament) Building and the electronic shopping area of Akihabara.
- Shitamachi – Considered the oldest part of Tokyo along the Sumida River, this area has many vital stops for tourists traveling to Tokyo: Ueno (the best place to see the Sakura, as well as the Tokyo Zoo, National Museum, and other interesting sites), Asakusa (most popular temple in Tokyo) and Nakamichi shopping street, Ryogoku (where the Sumo Stables and Edo-Tokyo Museum are located), and Bunkyo (the University of Tokyo and Tokyo Dome are here).
Beyond the center, the suburbs also have many interesting places to visit – but most first-time visitors to Tokyo and Japan find the above areas to be sufficient for even a week in this fascinating city.
The Best Time To Visit Tokyo
The city has four very distinct seasons. Summers can be hot and quite humid, with temperatures usually hovering between 75 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The winter is mild; temperatures rarely drop below freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit). There is rarely snow, most often freezing rain. When that happens, most of the city’s modes of transportation just stop.
The best time to visit Tokyo, and for that matter, all of Japan, is universally considered the Cherry Blossom (Japanese call them Sakura) season for about ten days at the end of March to April each year. South and West of Tokyo, the Sakura blossom earlier in March. As you move north towards Sendai and up to the island of Hokkaido, the Sakura blossom later in April or even early May. The fall season from mid-October to mid-November is also an exciting time to visit Japan when various fall colors produce an interesting backdrop to your visit.
Money Matters in Tokyo
Cash is still king in Japan. This tendency has changed over the recent years, but many places still prefer to receive cash as payment for products and services. As Japan is very safe, both residents and tourists alike choose to carry a lot of cash when walking around.
The currency of Japan is the Japanese Yen or JPY for short. The current exchange rate is 110 JPY for 1 USD. The Japanese Yen is available in 1000, 2000, 5000, and 10,000 Yen “paper money” denominations. Coins are also used in 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, and 500 Yen denominations.
In Japan, tipping is considered offensive to the recipient. Many Japanese restaurant wait staff will run after clients if they do not wait for their change, even if just a few Yen! On the other hand, waiting for the change in a taxi, even if it is parked in an inconvenient location, is considered polite. We cannot even think of a place in Japan where tipping is acceptable. It is best not to tip. Period.
Bank and ATM availability
To guarantee that you can withdraw money at an ATM, try at the airports upon arrival in Japan. Make sure you withdraw sufficient cash for your time in Japan, as you never know when you will find another ATM that accepts foreign cards. Many Japanese ATMs do not accept foreign cards. The second best location to find an ATM that accepts foreign credit and debit cards is within Japan post offices. Outside of these two locations, most ATMs have a withdrawal limit of 50,000 JPY (roughly $90).
Currency exchange options: the best rates
The most dependable place to exchange money for a fair exchange rate is the Japan Post. There are post offices in most major train stations. Banks also exchange currencies but for significant service charges.
Want to Explore Japan Beyond Tokyo? Other Destinations in Japan!
Japan has many destinations that could fill several trips. One of the best ways to link Japan together is with the help of a Japan Rail Pass. Mostly only available outside of Japan, these tourist-only tickets enable users to travel over 1000 miles on a day trip to an exciting destination. Just a few of these destinations, from closest to Tokyo to farther afield (requiring at least one overnight, at a minimum), include:
- Yokohama – the other half of the world’s largest metropolitan area of Tokyo-Yokohama, with a colorful Chinatown.
- Mito – visit Kairaku-en here, a short hour trip from Tokyo. This is one of the three Nihon Sanmeien, the greatest gardens in Japan!
- Kamakura Peninsula – this includes a famous Buddha and some cultural stops about one hour south of Tokyo.
- Nikko – a circuitous ride on the Nikko JR Line from Utsunomiya leads to this UNESCO site of five famous Temples and Shrines.
- Hakone Circuit – see Mount Fuji (Japan’s sacred highest mountain), using various transport methods to visit the “Swiss” village of Gora, Owakudani and its sulfur baths, Lake Ashi and the pirate ship cruise, and the history of Hakone-machi.
- Nagano – a short Shinkansen ride takes you to the site of the 1998 Winter Olympics and the Zenkoji-Ji temple. The most sacred Buddhist artifact in Japan is located here.
- Kanazawa – a recent extension to the Shinkansen affords a chance to visit Kenroku-en, another of the three most famous gardens of Japan.
- Nagoya – there are 11 Toyota factories located around this region.
- Takayama – the historical capital of the Japanese Alps, with historic wooden houses and the Ginya museum.
- Sendai – destroyed in the Tohoku earthquake of 2011, and home to Matsushima Bay, one of the three photographic sites in Japan.
Our Favorite Itinerary to Visit Japan
There are many reasons to visit Japan. For every type of tourist, there are plenty of things to see and do here. Our suggestion for a comprehensive self-guided tour is a 17-day journey from Fukuoka in the Southeast (on Kyushu island) to Sendai in the Northern part of Honshu island. There are many stops along the way, such as Hiroshima and Miyajima island with its famous red torii gate in the water, Okayama, Himeji, Kobe, Osaka, and Kyoto. The trip continues to visit Kanazawa, Takayama, Nagoya, Tokyo, Nikko, and Sendai. With good planning and the help of BusinessTravel365, there can even be a few more surprises along the way!
This article is authored by the Travel Experts at BusinessTravel365. We look forward to leveraging our knowledge and experience to help book great flight deals for your next business class travel worldwide!
The information is current as of 07/2021.