Daunting, isn’t it? 40 million passengers a day use the Tokyo transit system. Image: Tokyo Metro
This is a bit of a different post for us, about something other than just airplanes, airports & airlines. Enjoy! Â
It was early Thursday morning on my last day in Tokyo. It had been a whirlwind trip. Sunday and Monday had been taken up on the inaugural All Nippon AirwaysÂ (ANA) flight from Vancouver (YVR) to Tokyo-Haneda (HND). I spent Tuesday at ANAâ€™s New Employee Ceremony, and then explored HNDâ€™s observation decks. On Wednesday morning I was treated to a somewhat manic half-day bus tour of Tokyo. After that, I explored a bit, and went back to my hotel at HNDâ€™s Terminal 2 to get some work done, and to recover!
My start and end point – HND’s International Terminal
But now, I had the whole day to explore the city before returning to Haneda Airportâ€™s International Terminal for my 9:55 pm flight. I had a long list of suggestions of things to see from friends and colleagues. Everyone had said that the best way to explore Tokyo is by transit, and I had my maps ready to go.
The statistics are phenomenal; 40 million passengers use Tokyoâ€™s transit system, every day.Â Most commuters travel on Tokyoâ€™s extensive urban railway system, and eight million use the Tokyo Metro (subway) daily. There are over 130 lines and 1,000 stations on the fully-integrated rail system. No surprise, then, that the worldâ€™s busiest train station is in Tokyo, at Shinjuku Station, with over three million passengers per day. Â The entire system is clean, efficient, inexpensive, and operates exactly on time, all the time.
However, there are a few things that an explorer needs to master before venturing out.
All Nippon Airways Boeing 767-300ER lands at YVR on Sunday afternoon -Â Photo: Leighton Matthews | Pacific Air Photo
ANA – All Nippon Airwaysâ€™ first scheduled flight to Canada landed at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) on Sunday afternoon. The arrival of the Boeing 767-300ER from Tokyo International Airport – Haneda (HND) ushered in the option of a new airline and new destination airport for Tokyo-bound passengers who originate or connect in YVR.
Located on Tokyo Bay, Haneda airport is a short 15-minute train or monorail ride for passengers to connect to Tokyoâ€™s extensive transit system. Haneda was relegated to domestic flights in the late 1970â€™s, when Narita International Airport (NRT) opened to serve international traffic. Although a new express train now serves distant Narita, many consider traveling between downtown Tokyo and NRT to be a time-consuming and expensive ordeal.
Looking to return HND to its previous status as Tokyoâ€™s convenient gateway, a new International Terminal was opened in 2010. Initially, international flights were limited, and slot-restricted to middle-of-the-night arrivals, which wasnâ€™t particularly appealing to passengers or airlines. Fortunately, HND opened up daytime slots in 2014, most beginning this week. ANAâ€™s YVR-HND route is just one of many new international flights serving the airport.
BONUS: Touring Haneda Airport’s New International Terminal
AirlineReporter was invited to join in the inbound flightâ€™s arrival festivities at YVR, and to fly to Haneda on the inaugural. As AR.comâ€™s Vancouver-based correspondent, I was given this â€œplumâ€ assignment. But not without much jealousy coming from our staff in the Seattle area, including our illustrious Editor-in-Chief!
The sitting area of ANA's Business Class Lounge at Haneda International Terminal. Click for larger.
Having one airline lounge is pretty sweet. However why only have one when you can have three all located in one terminal? All Nippon Airways (ANA) has three different lounges in the new International Terminal at Haneda Airport (HND) and each one is a bit different.
The first lounge I explored was their Business Class Lounge located after security. The lounge was quite large, very clean and futuristic looking and great views of planes.
Next door to the Business Class Lounge you will find the First Class Lounge. While walking over I joked with the ANA folks that the Business Class Lounge would be hard to beat, but I think they did it. The first class lounge feels a bit darker with a lot of black being used, but makes up for it with having a lot of personal space. The lounge is quite a bit smaller, but has cooler seating. You have the ability to sit in some futuristic looking chairs or in your own little cubical-like space (photo).
ANA's First Class Lounge at the Haneda International Terminal is very impressive with their fancy seating.
The third lounge is the smallest and has the smallest “wow” factor. It is located outside of security and is the arrival lounge (photo). It is a good place to take a quick shower, check your email or even charge your phone with their nifty free phone charging machine (photo). Actually all three lounges have access to showers (photo), which can be very helpful if you had a long day of travel and you are heading right to your meeting.
Since international flights will only be allowed to arrive at HND between midnight and 5am, the arrival lounge is also handy if you won’t get access to your hotel until later in the day.
Unlike some other airline lounges you need a Business or First Class ticket to get access; you can’t buy a day pass. But you don’t need just an ANA ticket, any Star Alliance premium ticket can get you access.
If you don’t have a premium ticket, you still can get access to the international terminal’s public lounge which is not connected to any airline (photo). You are able to buy a pass for only about $12. It is not nearly as fancy as ANA’s lounges, but for $12, you can’t go wrong!
CHECK OUT ALL 35 PHOTOS OF ANA’S LOUNGE
Disclaimer: ANA gave me and other invited guests free access to all three lounges to check them out.
A look down on the new international terminal at Haneda. Click for larger.
Earlier I discussed the difference between Tokyo’s Haneda and Narita airports. The big change at Haneda (and the reason why I flew half way across the world) is the new international terminal.
A look down the Japanese themed shopping area. Click for larger.
The new terminal is quite impressive. When you first walk in you notice the high, waving ceilings and impressive open space. There isn’t a heck a lot of color, but don’t worry, we will get there. After you go up to the first level, you are transported to a whole new world. It seems like you might be walking down an old-schoolÂ JapaneseÂ street with plenty of shopping and food options.
After security, all passengers have the ability to access a lounge for about $12.
Everything before security was crazy. There were thousands of people from around the area that decided to come to the new terminal to check it out. Lines came out of everyÂ restaurantÂ (even coffee shops) and it took hours to get a table. Thank goodness that Japan always has plenty of vending machines (photo).
The new international terminal at Haneda has an amazing observation deck. The rain didn't stop visitors.
After going through security things got very quiet (photo). Since most flights won’t start until the 31st, there weren’t too many wandering around. Just because there weren’t many passengers yet didn’t mean there wasn’t much to do. There were plenty of duty-free shopping options and of course food. There is an ANA lounge for Star Alliance members (which I will blog about in the future) and a JAL lounge for One World. If you are unable to get access to either, no worries. The terminal has a pay-per-visit lounge for everyone else. For about $12 you get get access to the public lounge and for another $12 you are able to take a shower. Not a bad deal at all.
Thousands of locals showed up to check out the new international terminal.
This is a lot to fit into a terminal that only has ten gates. Although there aren’t many gates, the terminal needs to handle a lot of passengers since there will be quite a few large aircraft flying from it. One of the gates is designed to be able to handle the largest airliner, the Airbus A380.
There was even live entertainment at the new terminal. I had no idea what he was saying, but he was still awesome.
The new terminal is very exciting. Not only for providing international flights for Haneda Airport, but for also just being plain cool. I hope to be able to visit the new terminal again in the future.
CHECK OUT ALL 108 OF MY HANEDA INTERNATIONAL TERMINAL PHOTOS.
* Harriet Baskas posts some photos of the new terminal.
* Check out Cynthia Drescher’s post with Jaunted