Ah yes, Narita Airport, one of Tokyo’s two international airports. Even if you’re arriving in Japan for the first time, you’ve probably heard of it. But did you know that Narita Airport isn’t actually in Tokyo? Or that, despite this, it was originally called New Tokyo International Airport?

Airports may not be the most interesting topic, but indulge us. Besides, if you’re flying into Narita Airport don’t you want to know where the decent food is? What about the Pokémon store? Or the showers? From the lowdown on the three terminals to where to take a pre-flight nap, here’s your ultimate guide to Narita Airport.

Narita Airport: The basics

Airport code: NRT
Narita City, Chiba Prefecture
65 km (40 miles) east of Tokyo (and around 90 minutes away by train, bus, or taxi)

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Narita Airport is considered the busiest airport in Japan in terms of international passenger numbers. The airport, which has three terminals and two runways, has been in operation since March 1978. In 2015, Narita added a third terminal that is used exclusively by low cost carriers (LCCs) — making it easier to find cheap flights to Tokyo.

Narita Airport terminals

Good ol’ Terminal 1. | Photo by Maria Danuco

All three terminals do both domestic and internationl flights. (In other words, there are no separate “domestic” or “international” terminals). Instead, Narita’s terminals are organized around the major airline alliances. This means if you’re transiting from an international flight to a domestic one — on the same airline or within the same airline group — you probably won’t have to transfer between terminals.

This also means that even if you’re a frequent visitor to Narita Airport, you may only really get to know one terminal — if you regularly fly the same airline.

Terminal 1 (T1) North Wing

SkyTeam (Air France, China Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, Delta, Garuda Indonesia, KLM, Korean Air, Vietnam Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, and others)

Terminal 1 (T1) South Wing

Star Alliance (Air Canada, Air China, Air India, Air New Zealand, All Nippon Airways, Asiana Airlines, EVA Air, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, United Airlines, and others)

Terminal 2 (T2)

Oneworld (American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Quantas, and others)

Terminal 3 (T3)

LCCs including Jeju Air, Jetstar, Philippines AirAsia, and Spring

Note: There are a couple of LCCs that depart from one of the two main terminals. These include Peach and Zipair (both use T1 North Wing) — so be sure to check in advance (especially on your way back to the airport).

Narita Airport opening hours

At Narita Airport, except in specific situations, planes are prohibited from taking off or landing between midnight and 6 a.m. This is to reduce noise pollution, which was a major concern of the local community when the airport was first built. However, all three of Narita Airport’s terminals are open 24-hours a day, 7-days a week. Some doors may be shut during darkness hours but the central terminal doors should be open.

24 hr amenities at Narita Airport

Very little is actually open 24 hours — pretty much just the convenience stores. There are also 24 hour ATMs and vending machines (including SIM card vending machines). Otherwise, the various airport Starbucks and McDonald’s start opening around 7 a.m. and stay open, at the latest, until about 9 p.m. Other cafes and restaurants have shorter opening hours.

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Arriving at Narita Airport

Arriving at Narita Airport, the Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 experience is pretty much the same. Only Terminal 3 has a somewhat different experience.

In all terminals, the International Arrivals hall is on the first/ground floor. The Domestic Arrivals hall is on the 3rd floor — from where you can get elevators or escalators down to the first/ground floor — at terminals 1 and 2; at Terminal 3, all flights use the same hall.

Narita Airport Arrivals Hall

All arrivals halls have ATMs, luggage courier services (for shipping your bags to your accommodation), and ticket counters for the coach buses that depart just outside for destinations around central and greater Tokyo.

At both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2, you’ll also find convenience stores, coffee shops, currency exchange, and SIM card and pocket wifi rental counters in the arrivals hall; at Terminal 3, head to the second floor for these services.

Onward transport from Narita Airport

Catch a limousine bus to central Tokyo (or a taxi or a train…). | Photo by Maria Danuco

The airport train stations are located in the basement (B1F) of both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. In the arrivals hall of either terminal, you can find clearly marked escalators that will take you to the train stations. Arriving at Terminal 3, you can either take a free shuttle bus or walk to Terminal 2 to catch a train — not a deal breaker at all, but just make sure to factor that in. You can also opt for a bus or a taxi (including pre-booked taxis, as well as shared minibus/taxi services, and regular cabs) from any of the terminals, including Terminal 3.

Pro tip: You can save time, stress — and often money — by booking limousine bus tickets or express train tickets online.

Read more about transport options between Narita Airport and central Tokyo.

Departing from Narita Airport

Returning to the airport, make sure you know your terminal. Not only do you need to decide about the train, you also need to remember that Terminal 1 and Terminal 2/3 have separate train stations (and each terminal has its own bus stop). Coming from Tokyo, the train stop for Terminal 2/3 comes before Terminal 1, which is the last stop on the line.

If you mess this up, you’ll have to get back on the train or take the free shuttle bus between terminals. While you can easily walk between T2 and T3, T1 is not within walking distance.

Narita Airport check-in counter locations

Depending on the terminal, the floor for check-in is different.

  • Terminal 1: 4F (International), 1F (Domestic)
  • Terminal 2: 3F
  • Terminal 3: 2F

Departing from Terminal 1, you’ll also need to know if you’re going to the South Wing or the North Wing. But don’t worry, there is plenty of signage to help you out (and you can walk between the two wings if necessary).

Remember: If you need to return something like a pocket wifi rental, do that before you get all the way to the departures lobby (especially at T1!).

Narita Airport services and facilities

Terminal 1 Airport Mall | Photo by Maria Danuco

Since they were built at different times, Narita’s terminals are quite different. But rest assured all have basic services and facilities covered. Additional amenities can be found only in certain terminals.

Services and facilities in all terminals

  • Toilets (including gender-neutral, accessible toilets), baby changing spaces, and lactation rooms
  • Free Wi-Fi and charging outlets
  • 24-hour convenience stores
  • Restaurants (including vegetarian and halal options)
  • Prayer rooms, quiet rooms, kids play areas, massage chairs
  • ATMs and currency exchange counters
  • Baggage delivery services and coin lockers
  • Phone/Pocket Wi-Fi rental and sim card vendors
  • Bus ticket counters
  • Duty free shopping and duty free pick-up

Services and facilities only in Terminals 1 and 2

If you’re arriving at Terminal 3, remember Terminal 2 is nearby — so you can pick up services there, too.

  • Tourist information centers
  • Nap rooms and showers
  • Airline lounges, smoking rooms, and observation decks
  • Postal services and luggage storage services
  • Car rental counters

For more information on nap rooms, showers, and lounges at Narita Airport, check out our Narita layover guide.

Additional facilities and amenities

  • Nail Salon: Terminal 1 Airport Mall, 4F (temporarily closed)
  • Hair Salon: Terminall 1 Airport Mall, 5F
  • Capsule Hotel: Terminal 2, B1F
  • Pet Hotel: Terminal 2, B1F

All of these facilities and amenities are landside. (Landside means the part of the airport open to the public, so arriving passengers must complete arrivals procedures — all the way through customs — to reach this part. Airside, meanwhile, is only open to ticketed passengers after departure procedures are completed, or before you exit customs, for arriving passengers).

Read on for a deep dive on the different terminals…

Terminal 1 (T1)

Terminal 1 is the largest terminal with 40 gates and the most amenities. It’s split into three sections: the North Wing, the Central Building, and the South Wing.

Narita Airport T1 amenities

Highlights: Uniqlo (Airport Mall, before security), Ippudo Ramen (Central Bldg, after security)

The best variety of shops and restaurants is in the Airport Mall, entry to which is located on the 4th floor of the Central Building (which connects the South and North wings). There’s a budget-friendly food court on the mall’s 5th floor — also where the skydeck is located.

The Airport Mall is before security, ideal for visiting after you’ve checked in and dropped off any luggage. Just make sure not to get turned around when you exit and wind up in the wrong wing of the airport.

Past security (airside), the South Wing has Narita Nakamise, the largest airport duty-free brand boutique mall in Japan. There is also duty free in the North Wing, and you can walk between the two wings (through the Central Building) — though give yourself plenty of time to do this.

Terminal 2 (T2)

Terminal 2 is the next largest terminal with 32 gates. In addition to the main building, there is a satellite building after passport control.

Narita Airport T2 amenities

Highlights Nine Hours (capsule hotel; B1), Pokémon Store (4F) — all landside, plus Yoshinoya (airside)

Terminal 2 doesn’t have a mall, exactly, like Terminal 1, but there is a good selection of shops and restaurants on the 4th floor before passport control, including the airport’s Pokémon Store. Past security, shopping is mostly duty free. Head to Narita 5th Avenue for the big brands.

Note: Narita Anime Deck, was on the second floor of Terminal 2, but unfortunately it closed in June 2023.

Catch ’em all in Terminal 2. | Photo by Maria Danuco

Nine Hours capsule hotel

Terminal 2 has the only hotel actually attached to Narita Airport — Nine Hours capsule hotel. It’s on the landside of the airport (as opposed to airside), meaning if you’re arriving, you’ll have to complete entry procedures to Japan before you can access it.

Terminal 3 (T3)

Terminal 3 is the smallest terminal, with a main building, a satellite building, and 23 gates. It is the main terminal for low cost carriers, and because of this it has outdoor gates and airstairs to keep costs down.

T3 Amenities

As we said, Terminal 3 is the main terminal for LCCs, so it’s a no-frills affair. Besides the small food court and a handful of souvenir shops, there isn’t too much to see or do. Luckily, Terminal 2 is easy to get to.

Getting between terminals

A free terminal shuttle bus connects all the terminals at Narita Airport. | Photo by Maria Danuco

Free shuttle buses run between all three terminals. On average, they depart every 5 to 6 minutes between 5 a.m and 11 p.m., and take no longer than 20 minutes to get between terminals (usually). You can also take the train between Narita Airport Terminal 1 Station and Narita Airport Terminal 2/3 Station, or walk (between T2 and T3 only).

Taking the shuttle bus between terminals

There are actually two shuttle bus routes. One does a clockwise loop from Terminal 2 to Terminal 1 to Terminal 3 (and back to Terminal 2). The other runs just between T2 and T3 (and is the quickest way to get between those two terminals).

TerminalTransit time to other terminalsDeparts from
T114 mins to T3 / 17 mins to T2Stop no. 6
T26 mins to T3 / 10 mins to T1Stop no. 1 for T3 / stop no. 18 for T1
T33 mins to T2 / 13 mins to T3Stop no. 2 for T2 / stop no. 3 for T1

Keep in mind that the shuttle buses don’t have dedicated luggage storage space. If you have a lot of luggage, take the train between Narita Airport Terminal 1 Station and Narita Airport Terminal 2/3 Station.

Taking the train between terminals

Two train operators serve Narita Airport: JR and Keisei, and you can use either of their lines to travel between Narita Airport Station 1 and Narita Airport Station 2.

Both take the same amount of time (about 1 minute) and cost the same (¥150), though Keisei trains tend to run more frequently. Just don’t accidentally take the JR Narita Express or the Keisei Skyliner — because these are limited express trains for going all the way to Tokyo that cost more and require special tickets.

Walking between terminals at Narita Airport

You can easily walk between Terminal 2 and Terminal 3 via a covered walkway. It’s only about 420 meters and takes about 5 minutes — or about 15 minutes total to walk between T3 and Narita Airport Terminal 2/3 Station.

It is not, however, easy to walk between Terminal 1 and the other two terminals. Terminal 1 is further away and there’s no dedicated connecting walkway. You’d have to walk on footpaths along busy roads, taking about 20 minutes. In this case, we recommend taking the shuttle bus or a train instead.

Traveling with lots of luggage? You can arrange to have it ported from the airport to your accommodation (and vice versa) using any of the luggage courier services found in the arrivals halls at all three terminals. Do this at Terminal 3 and you can walk hands-free to Terminal 2 and catch the train into Tokyo (or onwards).

Getting to and from Narita Airport

One of the train stations in the lower levels of Narita Airport. | Photo by Maria Danuco

There are several ways to travel between Narita Airport and central Tokyo, a journey which takes about 90 minutes. These include various train, bus, and taxi options. The best option for you will depend on a number of factors, including where you are staying and how much you value convenience.

The airport has two train stations, aptly named Narita Airport Terminal 1 Station and Narita Airport Terminal 2/3 Station. Terminal 2/3 Station is located at Terminal 2, and is the nearest station for Terminal 3 (which doesn’t have it’s own train station).

The stations are serviced by two train operators: JR, which runs the Narita Express, and Keisei, which runs the Skyliner. Both also run cheaper, regular trains that take longer and are more likely to require transfers.

Each train company uses different ticket gates and platforms, so be sure to check you’re in the right place before hopping on board.

There are also low-cost buses and pricier limousine buses that can get you to central Tokyo. Meanwhile, highway buses will take you further affield to other cities. Lastly, there are of course taxi, including pre-booked taxis, as well as shared minibus/taxi services, and regular cabs. These services are available at all terminals.

Geting from Narita Airport to destinations in Tokyo

Keep in mind that because of Narita’s operating hours, there are limited late-night options.

Things to do in Narita Airport

Last-minute souvenir shopping anyone? | Photo by Maria Danuco

We’ll admit that, compared to other international airports, Narita isn’t the most interesting. However, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do. There is a good range of dining and shopping options, and even an airport-wide intiative to help you have fun at Narita Airport.

If you’ve got a layover, consider checking out our full guide on making the most of your layover. Alternatively, if you’ve got time to kill before heading to the airport, why not check out the airport’s namesake Narita City? There’s a lot of things to see in Narita City, including museums and temples.

The history of Narita Airport

Narita Airport’s history is full of controversy. It all started because Haneda Airport was becoming too busy and noisy, so the government decided to build a new airport in an agricultural area near Narita City called Sanrizuka.

However, they did not consult the local community. Instead, the residents only found out after the plans for the new airport were made public in 1966.

Naturally, the community didn’t want to lose their ancestral farmland to a noisy airport. They were joined by student activists — during the height of the student protest movement of the 1960s — to oppose the airport. The movement became known as the Sanrizuka Struggle.

Despite the protests, construction went ahead and the first terminal building was completed in 1972. The residents and students continued to protest and construction was often delayed. When the airport finally opened on May 20 1978, there were extreme security measures in place.

Some of these security measures continued for a long time after construction was complete. In fact, right up until 2015 Narita Airport was the only airport in Japan where visitors had to show I.D. to enter. The protests also influenced the decision to build Kansai International Airport — the nearest international airport to Osaka — offshore on a man-made island.

Another thing to note about Narita Airport is that it was originally publicly owned and called New Tokyo International Airport. In 2004, due to issues around landing fees, the airport was privatized and renamed Narita Airport. However, the issue of landing fees still causes issues and makes Narita Airport a diffucult place for LCCs to operate.

Narita Airport FAQs

Is Narita Airport better than Haneda Airport?

Well, that depends on what you mean by better. While Narita Airport has more international flights, Haneda Airport is much closer to central Tokyo. In terms of “niceness”… let’s just say we here at Cheapo prefer Haneda. For more pros and cons, check out our video:

Which is busier — Narita or Haneda?

Narita Airport is busier in terms of international departures, while Haneda Airport has more domestic departures.

Is Narita Airport in Tokyo?

Nope. It’s actually in the neighboring prefecture of Chiba.

How far is Narita Airport from Tokyo?

Narita Airport is about 60 km away from central Tokyo.

Why is Narita Airport not in Tokyo?

When the airport was still in the planning phase, the Japanese government researched different locations. Since the main issues for Haneda Airport were noise and congestion, they wanted somewhere further from central Tokyo. In the end, they chose Narita because they thought it would be easier to expropriate the land. But, as you know from the mini history lesson above, that wasn’t the case at all.

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change.

Written by:
Maria's Tokyo favorites are: Sushi Oumi, Small Worlds Tokyo
Filed under: Transport
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