I leave in a few hours to spend my spring break in Florida—actually one of the last places I expected to spend spring break, but Ms. Joe has a new, difficult job and needs someone to give her backrubs at night.
Anyway, Narita is a really inconvenient airport. No matter how you do it, it takes at least an hour to get there from the city. Then there’s the time you have to spend getting to wherever you’re boarding your transportation, and the time you have to spend wandering around the terminal to get where you need to be. If you’re like me, you also have to factor in the time you spend being held for questioning.
It used to be worse, actually. Back in the day, the trains to Narita didn’t even stop at the terminal. You had to get off on the edge of the airport property and then take a bus. Fortunately, the Transport Minister figured this was daft, and he opened up some underground platforms that were originally intended for a Shinkansen line. (He’s a great guy—his name is Ishihara.) So today, the trains drop you off inside the terminals… but you still have to go up four stories to get to check-in. Hmpfh.
So what’s the best way to get to and from the airport?
THE LOW END: KEISEI LIMITED EXPRESS. This costs something like ¥1,000, and runs between the airport and Ueno. It isn’t a bad way to travel, per se, but it’s a commuter train. Basically, you’re in for a really long subway ride, and if you’re trying to travel during rush hour, you might end up crammed in.
THE MID-RANGE: SKYLINER. First of all, don’t take it early in the morning. That’s a route that will lead you to nothing but pain. I took the first train out of Ueno one day last summer, and there wasn’t a seat to be had. Then I had some scuzzy Chinese guy throw his seat back on me so quickly that it nearly split my PowerBook in half. Once we got going, it wasn’t too bad for the ¥2,000-ish fare. But you have to walk a mile underground to get from the station in Ueno to the subway; Nippori is a bit more convenient.
THE HIGH END: NARITA EXPRESS. It’s fast, it goes to most of the major stations, there are girls in funny uniforms selling snacks, and because it costs ¥3000, nobody takes it. I love this train. It has its drawbacks, though. For instance, if you get on at Tokyo Station, you have to go down escalators to the seventh level of Hell to get to it.
THEN THERE’S THE BUS… I don’t know who takes the bus. I figure the bus only makes sense if you’re staying at a hotel, or if you want to go to some suburban area that the trains don’t directly serve (e.g. Tokorozawa). You can go to that city air terminal thing in Hakozaki, I guess, but then you only have one line to transfer to. I avoid the bus because it costs as much as the train and tends to be less convenient (also slower), but maybe it makes sense for other people.
Of course, you can also fly from Haneda to Kansai and change planes, but that takes the adventure out of it. And I must admit, the trip to Narita is much better than the 2-hour drive I face on the Florida end. Selah.