Metro Tokyo (東京都), Japan – Narita Airport to the City

Upon arrival at  Narita Airport my first order of business was to get into the city!  Narita airport is not actually that close to downtown Tokyo, it’s located about 57 km away.  The closest subway station to my hostel was Kuramae station (蔵前駅) which is actually relatively easy to get to from Narita airport.  It’s located on the eastern side of Tokyo in the Taito ward (台東区) which is one of 23 special wards that make up Tokyo City.

Nowadays the transit options in Tokyo are available on Google maps, so you can just type “Narita Airport to Kuramae station” and it will tell you the best routes to get there:

This was the route I chose:

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Unfortunately just two years ago, this was unavailable to me.  Luckily, hostelworld.com provides some instructions to get there.  I decided the best option would be to get there by rail and subway.  The following were the instructions provided by hostelworld.com:

From Narita International Airport *By Keisei line – The cheapest way (75-80 min, 1060yen ) Take limited express train from the airport (NOT SKYLINER) Get off at Aoto sta Transfer to Subway Asakusa Line (at the same platform) Get off at Kuramae sta on Asakusa line (4min walk)

1. Take A2 Exit and turn right…

This description seemed simple enough, but I was extremely nervous because it was my first time in the country, and I couldn’t speak Japanese obviously.  My initial thoughts were that the “Keisei Line” was a named suburban commuter train line operated by the Tokyo transportation board or whatever; it’s not.  Keisei is a private company that operates several train lines in Chiba prefecture.  Their train lines are the most common way to get to the airport.  I initially thought it was pretty silly to have private trains as the main way to get people to and from the airport.  But I soon learned that this is the way it is done in Japan.  In fact ALL RAIL is privately operated in Japan, but sometimes they are partially owned by various Japanese governments.

The line I took to get into the city is the Keisei Main Line (京成本線) which has been around since 1978.  The limited express version of this line was the best version to take for my situation.  The signage at the airport was very clear (in English) to get to the train and I got to the platform with my luggage and hopped on.

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Borrowed from Wikimedia Commons

This train is basically a subway and looks like this:

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Borrowed from Wikimedia commons

Inside is pretty much like ever subway in a major city with seats on the outside and standing room in the center.  The train was quite busy, but I got a good seat.

All the stops were announced along with other probably not very important announcements… in Japanese only.  Actually 99% of all information (audio or text) on this train was in Japanese only. Very convenient for all the international travellers who are new to Japan (that was sarcasm). Basically I had no idea where I was or what was going on at this point. Eventually though, I figured out that I was at Aoto station and got off. Then… I wasn’t sure what to do. For some reason I didn’t read that the platform that I had to transfer to was the same one I just got off at. How could a subway station and suburban line train use the same platform??  Turns out… they do.  All I had to do was hop on any train and it would’ve been the right one. In fact, I didn’t even need to get off the train, as it becomes the Toei Asakusa line without the need to change trains.  The most simple way to get from the airport to the correct station –  no train changes!  Somehow I couldn’t figure that out.

Like I said, English signage is not great.  The total cost was 1060 Yen (about $12.57).

Actually, the information I had was not completely up to date.  The quickest way according to Google is by the Keisei Sky Access line, as follows:

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 In 2010, Keisei added the Keisei Narita Airport Line (京成成田空港線) Narita Sky Access (成田スカイアクセス).  By using this new line, I could’ve saved myself 20 minutes!

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Borrowed from Wikimedia Commons

The trains that run on these tracks are newer, bigger (it is heavy rail after all) and pretty bas-ass looking:

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Borrowed from http://tecchan.loriskumo.com

The only drawback is it costs a little bit more (1240 Yen).  According to Google this train would also turn into the Asakusa subway, but I have a hard time believing that something that looks like that would run as a subway?  There is an additional way to get to the city via the JR East Narita Express line.  This line costs a bit more but only takes about 1 hour to get to Tokyo station where you can transfer to subways. If you had a JR Pass (which I did NOT) then it would be the way to go as it is included with your pass.

This adventure in transportation was confusing, but hey I got there, so I guess it works.

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