After my wife and I arrived at Tokyo-Narita airport on our flight from Shanghai, we needed to reach the city. This can be an intimidating experience if you’ve never visited Japan before. There are two high speed trains, several regional trains, plus buses that travel between Narita and Tokyo, and despite several visits I still find myself a little puzzled when looking at Japanese transit maps — they’re completely divorced from geography.
Fortunately the Narita airport has a tool that can recommend the fastest transit option if you are unfamiliar, as long as you know the general neighborhood of your destination. My preference is to stay in the eastern half of Tokyo, so I normally take the Narita Express, or N’EX. The Skyliner will be a better option for reaching northwest Tokyo.
All trains are located in the same general direction if you follow the signs out of baggage claim. The Narita Express will be indicated by a bright red sign that leads to its own platform. I tried and failed to purchase a train ticket with my credit card, so expect to wait in a short line to purchase a ticket from the station agent. Again, there are several ticket windows for each train. Make sure you get in line for the right one, and don’t forget to get a Suica card elsewhere on the concourse before heading down to the train platform.
The Narita Express costs ¥3,020 each way (~$30) or ¥4,000 for a round-trip fare. The best part about a round-trip fare is that it’s the same price even if you’re traveling past Tokyo Station. For example, our ticket to Shinagawa was ¥3,180 each way. Ofuna is ¥4,600 each way. You’ll still pay a flat ¥4,000 for a round-trip to either station. Your destination is important because the train will often split at Tokyo Station, and not every car is going to the same place.
Green cars are Japan’s term for first class train travel, and typically have a 50% premium. I haven’t tried the green car experience on Narita Express but don’t think it’s necessary. The main cabin is already quite comfortable, all seats are reserved, and there is complimentary WiFi onboard.
Ultimately the Narita Express was still the most convenient way to reach Tokyo, and once we arrived at Shinagawa Station we were just minutes from our adjacent hotel, the Strings by InterContinental. Door-to-door convenience like that made the long train ride more bearable.