I flew to Tokyo on an ANA (All Nippon Airways) flight from San Francisco. I like flying ANA; the Japanese level of service is a nice change from the usual flying experience, and that’s important on a flight this long.
When the plane was ready to pull away from the gate, the gate agents and available ground crew gathered outside to wave good-bye. I’m always delighted by this small act.
Going through immigration and customs at Narita Airport is one of the most efficient and quick processes I’ve run into. Getting off the plane you walk down a corridor where you are scanned to see if you have a fever, and as you walk through another door you walk across a pad that disinfects the soles of your shoes. No standing in another line, it all happens automatically as you walk to immigration.
Foreigners go through a separate line for Immigration, and while waiting in line for the next Immigration officer, you step to a kiosk where your picture is taken and your fingerprints are scanned. For some reason, machines have a hard time reading my fingerprints, and here was no exception. It took about five tries before
I got an acceptable reading, but even with that, getting through Immigration was pretty quick.
Narita is about 80 kilometers or 50 miles outside the city of Tokyo, which would mean a long and expensive cab ride. Instead, I took the Narita Express to Shinjuku Station, which was faster (and more expensive) than the bus or the local train, but cheaper and quicker than a taxi.
Shinjuku Station on the other hand was an experience. According to the Japan Visitor website, about 3.6 million people a day –
let me say that again, 3.6 million people a day!
- pass through the station, and 13 train lines converge here. Needless to say it is very, very big. I had worked out which subway station was closest to my hotel, now I just had to work out which platform - from among the 13 different train lines - my train departed from. Fortunately, I had practiced saying “Where is …” in Japanese before I left. Fortunately, people seemed to be genuinely happy to point me in the right direction.
Bottom line, entering Japan for citizens of North America, the European Union, and some other Asian countries, is a
The ATMs spit out brand new 100,000 yen notes.
breeze. The trains are clean, fast, and a great way to move around. Possibly Useful Information:
- There is a Tourist Information Center in both Terminal 1 and 2 on the first floor of the Arrival Hall. These information desks are staffed with representatives who speak English, Chinese, and Korean.
- There is an ATM near the Tourist Information Center in Terminal 1; there are ATMs in the other terminals as well. And the Bank of 7-11 (officially the Seven Bank) is a real thing; no joke.
- The Narita Express is found two levels below the first floor. You can buy a ticket from a self-service machine, which was actually pretty easy. There are people who will help you as needed.
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