Figuring out Narita Airport

As I continue to figure out things for myself, I am beginning on working on figuring out the largest airport in Japan, Narita International Airport.  I will continue to study the diagrams of the airport terminals and read their guides about how to get through customs, but I figured I turn to the internet for information.

After the plane lands from the insanely long flight from the US, I would assume I would stand up, gather my belongings and head to the terminal.  From what I have read, you then go through passport control where you tell them what you are doing in Japan. They take a picture of you, stamp your passport, and then send you to baggage and customs.  This is where I get confused.

I’ve read in some places they will go through your bags and check and in other places, they only spot check some bags coming through customs.  Now I’m not trying anything stupid like smuggling stuff into Japan (come on now) but I just want to know what is the process through customs and getting through all the checks before finding my way to the buses, train, or a taxi to get me to Ginza.

So I’m reaching out to the internet world to see who has ever flown into Narita airport from another country (the USA or another, doesn’t matter).  I would like to know each step you took when you made your way off the plane and through all of customs, from passport to getting your bag.  So if you have flown into Narita and gone through the process, please let me know.  I want to know everything you went through, what to know, little things that will make it faster, and how long it takes.  Does it take an hour? How long will I be sitting in line?  I appreciate any information you all can give.  Arigato!!

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4 thoughts on “Figuring out Narita Airport

  1. I’ve been through once. This is what I did, step by step: I followed the signs.

    I can’t actually be more detailed than that 😉 I’m sorry, I know you want to be prepared, I just can’t remember. I know they didn’t check through my bag, I took the “nothing to declare” channel and although any customs anywhere can do spot checks I’ve never been picked for a spot check.

    The airports are really experienced at getting massive numbers of people – all types of travellers from all types of places, language groups, etc – through in the fastest possible time so they really do try to idiot-proof the process and have staff on hand to give directions where needed (fellow travellers are usually also very helpful – don’t be shy to ask questions! At Narita we asked a Japanese fellow passenger and she didn’t speak a word of English but she took great trouble to listen and communicate and help us anyway).

    My only tip is to take a pen as the only hold ups I’ve experienced that I had any control over were when I was searching for a pen. Fill out your paperwork as soon as you get your paws on it.

  2. Thank you. I’m just an over-planner at times so I always want to make sure I know everything before hand. I joked I would know all the cracks in the sidewalk in Tokyo before I got there, just the planner and person I am.

    From what you say and from what I have read, it should be fairly simple. Do they give you all the paper work on the plane or when you land and go through passport control? And typically how long does it take to get through? I’ve read 30 minutes, I have read over an hour depending on how many international flights are arriving at Narita at that time.

  3. Where do they give you the paperwork? I can’t remember specifically what happened, but they almost always do it on the plane. If you miss out for some reason, there are extras at the start of the immigration queues.

    I don’t think you’re going to get more precise than 30-60+ minutes for getting through, though – these things tend to have a bit of a range. But I think you would be unlucky to spend over an hour, 30-60 is more likely.

    Also, taxi from Narita to Ginza is probably not a good idea. It’s pretty far, and taxis are pretty expensive. In fact, my husband’s company will pay for business class airfares and transfers to and from anywhere in the world but NOT taxis from Narita to central Tokyo. Employees must take a shuttle or train (or wear the expense themselves!) because it is just deemed to be unreasonably pricey.

  4. Nice, 60 minutes is what I’m expecting (plan for the worst, hope for the best) so if that’s the case I’ll be able to plan out my itinerary even more precisely.

    I’ve read horror stories about being charged over $200 (USD) for a ride into Tokyo and then the amount of time it takes can also be bad. I will be taking the shuttle service that the Marriott provides that only cost around $50 for a ride right to the hotel, can’t beat that price.

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