If you’re coming to Japan through Narita International Airport, you’ll probably want to get into Tokyo as quickly as possible. The airport is about 60 km east of central Tokyo in Chiba Prefecture, so don’t even think of cabbing it. One of the easiest options for getting into the city (or back to the airport) is JR East’s Narita Express (N’EX) train, which can get you to Tokyo Station in as little as 53 minutes.
Narita Express Route Map
While buses to Tokyo Station take about 90 to 100 minutes, the N’EX competes against the Keisei Skyliner express train. Although Skyliner trains can travel from Narita airport to Keisei Ueno station in 41 minutes, it’s another 15 minutes to Tokyo Station via JR trains including transfer time. That makes the N’EX the best option if you’re going from Narita to Tokyo Station or hubs like Shinjuku, Shibuya, Shinagawa or Yokohama.
N’EX trains serve the Tokyo area and surrounding Kanto region. Going to Narita, trains begin from or stop at only a handful of stations including Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Shinagawa, Yokohama and Tokyo Station (where N’EX trains are split or combined) before arriving at Terminal 1 Station or Terminal 2 & 3 Station. N’EX trains operate throughout most of the day, departing every 30 to 60 minutes from some hub stations during peak hours.
From Shinjuku Station, the first N’EX train departs at 5:55 A.M. Most other hubs including Ikebukuro, Shibuya, Shinagawa and Tokyo Station have N’EX services starting between 6 and 7 A.M.
From Narita airport going into Tokyo, the trains begin at about 7:45 A.M. and depart every 30 minutes or so until about 9:45 P.M. Services that leave Narita airport before 9 A.M. take about an hour and 15 minutes to reach Tokyo Station because they stop at stations such as Narita and Chiba.
Narita Express Tickets
All seats on the N’EX are reserved and a fare ticket and limited express ticket are required; the Japan Rail Pass can also be used. Tickets can be purchased at Narita airport and JR ticket offices, and limited express tickets can be bought at vending machines on N’EX platforms. Reservations can be made from overseas at the dedicated JR East website; seats are usually available except during holiday travel periods.
N’EX trains have ordinary and first class (aka Green) carriages. An ordinary-class ticket from the airport to Tokyo Station is 3,020 yen and a first-class ticket is 4,560 yen. Other hubs in Tokyo are about 200 yen more. JR East also offers a N’EX Tokyo Round Trip Ticket with over 30 percent off the regular price, so that a return ticket to Tokyo Station is only 4,000 yen instead of 6,040 yen.
You can use your JR Rail Pass on the N’EX but you’ll have to consider whether you want to validate it so early into your trip to Japan or simply buy tickets.
Riding the Narita Express
Rapid and smooth, the Narita Express offers a level of luxury comparable to Japan’s Shinkansen bullet trains. The sleek E259-series trains are used exclusively by the N’EX and consist of six cars, with a bold split-face design on the lead car.
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The difference between the ordinary and first class (or Green) carriages on the N’EX is mainly one of comfort and space. Ordinary-class seats have fabric upholstery and a 1.02-meter seat pitch, while first-class carriages have leather seats and a 1.16-meter seat pitch. All seats have reclining backs, power outlets, adjustable headrests and tables.
Onboard amenities include ceiling-mounted flat-screen monitors with trip information, large bathrooms, luggage storage areas near the doors and multipurpose cabins. Passenger announcements are offered in multiple languages.
Staying Overnight at Narita Airport
If your plane arrives late at Tokyo Narita Airport or you have an early departing flight you may need to stay overnight. There are several hotels near the airport with free shuttle bus service to and from the airport. Check the Narita Airport Hotel website for availability of rooms.
Article by Tim Hornyak. All rights reserved.