All due to a bunch of "happy" friends who are going on a long trip to Japan end of this year that I got to know that Singapore Airlines now have direct flights to Haneda Airport, which used to be solely a domestic airport. I have always landed at Narita, and out of curiousity I went to check out more on Haneda. Damn it, it is MUCH nearer to Tokyo than Narita!
Ever since my "first" experience at Narita, my not-so-good impressions never changed much despite passing through the airport a couple of times (Ok now passing through customs is much faster than in 1992). Frankly, for a country so advanced and wonderful, Japan's airports seem totally out of place and even backward (I will discuss about Kansai International Airport another day), there is ZERO buzz that we have come to associate with international airports around the world. I just read recently in the news that Incheon Airport of South Korea has in effect become the de facto airport hub for Japan, which is really laughable. Finally the Jap authorities are waking up and trying to bring their airports up to mark, starting with the transformation of Haneda, which is the biggest in terms of passenger traffic.
Based on my preliminary research, Haneda is only 15-30 minutes away from Tokyo (oh man, so near) and hence obviously one can save tons of money on transport as opposed to coming in from Narita. To Tokyo Station, it supposedly costs 620 yen (SGD10) by train, and 900 yen (SGD14) by limousine bus. Now compare this to trips from Narita: a one way NeX (Narita Express) ride costs 2900 yen (SGD46) and 3000 yen (SGD48)on an airport limousine bus (but the bus brings you right to the hotel doorstep). A trip from Narita to downtown Tokyo is also at least one and a half hours - that's an hour of missed shopping. Ha! I am so landing at Haneda next time.
However, since my experience is at Narita, and for the few poor souls who are still landing there, here are some tips. I ALWAYS choose to take the Airport Limousine bus simply because they deliver me right to the hotel doorstep (but please do check in advance that they go to your hotel - but they cover most hotels). Trust me, you do not want to lug your heavy lugguage up and down the train stations, absolutely not the way to start a holiday. Unlike in some countries, not much time is saved if you take the train. And, most important of all, if you are staying in Tokyo for a few days, there is an Airport Limousine package that allows you to save some money. If you buy a one-way ride, add another 100 yen (total: 3100 yen) and you can get an ALL-DAY Tokyo Metro Pass worth 610 yen. You can maximise the ticket by travelling all over Tokyo on the subway and save much. Best, if you are only staying in Tokyo, purchase your return ride on Airport Limousine in advance (total: 6000) and get a FREE TWO-DAY Tokyo Metro Pass! This is not advertised on the website, but we found out on the most recent trip to Tokyo when we purchased the tickets at the counter. You can find more information here:
Whether or not you exit by the North Wing or South Wing, you can see the Airport Limousine counter right in front past baggage clearance. Japan is also a very punctual nation to the MINUTE, so make sure you know when the bus is arriving and departing. The rides to each destination are normally on an hourly basis.
The freebies do not seem to extend to Haneda Airport, possibly because the fares are so much cheaper, but I guess we need something special for us to get off at Narita from now onwards :).
On a last note: I did not mention travel to town by taxis because unless you are a millionaire many times over - do not bother.