Planespotting and more: Tokyo Narita

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I'll start off by saying this; if you are staying near the city center of Tokyo just head to Haneda, as it'll probably be easier to reach than Narita. I'll cover the basics of planespotting there on another guide.

I'll explain everything below.



Narita Airport has some facilities available if you need to overnight there. At Terminal 2 you can find a 7-Eleven which is open 24 hours. A shuttle bus (free) runs between all three terminals, from 5 AM to 10:30 PM. Click the following link if you wish to know more: Narita Airport Terminal Shuttle Bus.

It is important to know no flights operate in or out of Narita after 22:30, so if you arrive at Terminal 3 late at night, you'll have to walk 15 minutes to Terminal 2, the terminal most hotel shuttle buses operate out from.

The list of carriers operating to Narita is quite long,you can check it here. Some of the most interesting aircraft include the MIAT 767 or IBEX CRJ700.
There are also many cargo airlines at NRT, like Nippon Cargo Airlines or ANA Cargo, which are based there.

Let's start with planespotting hotels near Narita.


Marroad International Hotel: The day after I arrived at Narita I went to the Marroad International Hotel. This hotel has a direct view to runway 16R and the taxiway to that runway.
I stayed at room 1289. If you do decide to book a room at this hotel, do it with a month or more on advance. Prices will be quite high if you don't. If you need to go to the airport you can use the free shuttle bus, same if you want to go to Keisei Narita Station.

Of all hotels I have visited during this trip, this is my favourite one. If you like to take night photos, you are at the perfect hotel, you might as well have dinner while shooting an aircraft waiting to line up.
Please note you have to shoot behind glass, but it's not too difficult to block the reflections.

At daytime, you can shoot arrivals and departures on 16R. Light is OK only from sunrise to about 9 AM. At 11 AM light will start to get bad.

You can see how light conditions are at approximately 10:30 by looking at the pictures above.

In case of runway 34 operations, you will be able to see departures, but most aircraft will be too high as they pass the hotel.

Narita Gateway Hotel: This hotel is located "near" runway 16R/34L, also has a free shuttle bus and most importantly: it's cheap. There is double glass, so it is difficult to take photos. You can request a room facing the runway, and try to take some shots.
On my second visit I took some photos from the entrance, you can see one below.

Photo taken at 300mm from the hotel window, cropped.

Photo taken at 360mm from the hotel entrance, 34L departure.


Many people will wonder if a car is necessary for spotting at NRT.
The answer is NO.  Most spots are easily reachable by bus and walking.


Sakura no Yama park is located near runway 16R/34L. You can see all movements on this runway from this spot.

It's probably the best spot for days in which runway 16R is used, as you can see takeoffs and landings. If the airport is on the other configuration (34L), you can take photos of heavy aircraft departing, although they will be a bit high.

Getting here is tricky from the airport. I suppose there is a bus, as there is a bus stop, but I don't know the times, neither the fare. If you are staying at the Marroad Hotel just go out the main entrance and turn left. Walk straight, and after crossing a small tunnel you'll see the park.

Best way to get the from any other hotel would be to get a taxi.
Just as an example, a taxi from the Gateway Hotel to Sakura no Yama costs 1200 yens, 2000 for the way back.

Light here is good from 1 PM (landings) to sunset.

There is a supermarket just down the road, and a convenience store across the park.
It is also possible to take night photos as aircraft line up.


Located near the southern end of runway A (16R/34L) is the Museum of Aeronautical Sciences.
It holds a collection of aviation related items inside, plus two viewing terraces, one outdoors and one indoors.
On the entrance you can see 13 aircraft on the grass, including an YS-11.
From the grass area (entrance), you can take photos of aircraft approaching runway 34L.

If you get a ticket to enter the museum (IMO it's worth it) you'll have access to the viewing terraces located on the 4th and 5th level.
From the outdoors terrace you get the same views as you get from ground level.
From the indoors one, well, it's different. Although you have to shoot from behind a glass, you're quite high up, so you get to see the takeoffs, even though light is almost never good there.

Photo taken from ground level.




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