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Getting there & away

Travel documents


A passport is essential. If your passport is within a few months of expiry, get a new one now – you will not be issued a visa if your passport is due to expire before the visa.


The price of your ticket will depend to a great extent on when you fly. High-season prices are determined by two sets of holidays and popular travel times: those in the country you’re flying from and those in Japan. Generally, high season for travel between Japan and Western countries is in late December (around Christmas and the New Year period), late April to early May (around Japan’s Golden Week holiday), as well as July and August. If you must fly during these periods, book well in advance.

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The Japan China International Ferry Company (in Japan 06-6536-6541, in China 021-6325-7642; www.fune.co.jp/chinjif in Japanese) links Shanghai and Osaka/Kōbe. A 2nd-class ticket costs around US$180. The journey takes around 48 hours. A similar service is provided by the Shanghai Ferry Company (in Japan 06-6243-6345, in China 021-6537-5111; www.shanghai-ferry.co.jp in Japanese).

The China Express Line (in Japan 078-321-5791, in China 022-2420-5777; www.celkobe.co.jp in Japanese) operates a ferry between Kōbe and Tientsin where 1st-/2nd-class tickets cost US$240/210. The journey takes around 48 hours.

Orient Ferry Ltd (in Japan 0832-32-9677, in China 0532-8387-1160; www.orientferry.co.jp in Japanese) runs between Shimonoseki and Qingdao, China, with three departures a week. The cheapest one-way tickets cost around US$130. The trip takes around 27 hours.


FKK Air Service (0766-22-2212; fkk-air.toyama-net.com in Japanese) operates ferries between Fushiki in Toyama-ken and Vladivostok. One-way fares start at around US$250. The journey takes around 36 hours. The ferry operates from July until the first week of October.

An even more exotic option is the summertime route between Wakkanai (in Hokkaidō) and Korsakov (on Sahkalin Island), operated by the East Japan Sea Ferry Company (in Japan 0162-23-3780, in Russia 4242-42-0917; www.kaiferry.co.jp in Japanese). One-way fares start at around ¥22, 500 (around US$190) and the journey takes around six hours. The ferry operates from mid-May to the end of October.

South Korea

South Korea is the closest country to Japan and has several ferry connections.


Kampu Ferry (in Japan 0832-24-3000, in Korea operating under Pukwan Ferry 051-464-2700; www.kampuferry.co.jp in Japanese) operates the ShimonosekiBusan ferry service. One-way fares range from around US$85 to US$180, and the journey takes around 12 hours.


An international high-speed hydrofoil service, known as the Biitoru (say ‘beetle’), is run by JR Kyūshū (in Japan 092-281-2315, in Korea 051-465-6111; www.jrbeetle.co.jp/english) and connects Fukuoka with Busan in Korea (around US$110 one way, three hours). Camellia Line (in Japan 092-262-2323, in Korea 051-466-7799; www.camellia-line.co.jp in Japanese & Korean) also has a regular daily ferry service between Fukuoka and Busan (around US$80, six hours from Fukuoka to Busan, 11 hours from Busan to Fukuoka).


Arimura Sangyō (in Japan 098-869-1980, in Taiwan 07-330-9811) operates a weekly ferry service between Naha (Okinawa) and Taiwan, sometimes via Ishigaki and Miyako in Okinawa-ken. The Taiwan port alternates between Keelung and Kaohsiung. Departure from Okinawa is on Thursday or Friday; departure from Taiwan is usually on Monday. The journey takes about 20 hours. One-way fares cost around US$140 in 2nd class.

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Trans-Siberian railway

A little-used option of approaching or leaving Japan is the Trans-Siberian Railway. There are three Trans-Siberian Railway options, one of which is to travel on the railway to/from Vladivostok in Russia and take the ferry between Vladivostok and Fushiki in Toyama-ken. The cheaper options are the Chinese Trans-Mongolia and Russian Trans-Manchuria routes, which start/finish in China, from where there are ferry connections to/from Japan via Tientsin, Qingdao and Shanghai.

See below for information on ferry connections between Japan, Russia and China.

More detailed information is also available in a good number of publications – see Lonely Planet’s Trans-Siberian Railway: A Classic Overland Route. Those making their way to Japan via China (or vice versa) should pick up a copy of Lonely Planet’s China guide, which has invaluable information on travel in China as well as information on Trans-Siberian travel.

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Entering the destination

Entering the country

While most travellers to Japan fly via Tokyo, there are several other ways of getting into and out of the country. For a start, there are many other airports in Japan, which can make better entry points than Tokyo’s somewhat inconvenient Narita International Airport. It’s also possible to arrive in Japan by sea from South Korea, China, Russia and Taiwan.

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There are flights to Japan from all over the world, usually to Tokyo, but also to a number of other Japanese airports. Although Tokyo may seem the obvious arrival and departure point in Japan, for many visitors this may not be the case. If you plan on exploring western Japan or the Kansai region, it might be more convenient to fly into Kansai International Airport (KIX) near Osaka.

Airports & airlines

There are international airports situated on the main island of Honshū (Nagoya, Niigata, Osaka/Kansai and Tokyo Narita), and on Kyūshū (Fukuoka, Kagoshima, Kuma­moto and Nagasaki), Okinawa (Naha) and Hokkaidō (Sapporo).

Tokyo Narita international airport

With the exception of China Airlines, all international flights to/from Tokyo use Narita International Airport (NRT; www.narita-airport.or.jp/airport_e). Since Narita is the most popular arrival/departure point in Japan, flights via Narita are usually cheaper than those using other airports. Of course, if you can get a cheap flight into another airport, particularly one close to your area of interest, then there’s no reason to use Narita.

Osaka/kansai international airport

All of Osaka’s international flights now go via Kansai International Airport (KIX; www.kansai-airport.or.jp/en/index.asp). It serves the key Kansai cities of Kyoto, Osaka, Nara and Kōbe. Airport transport to any of these cities is fast and reliable (though it can be expensive if you’re going all the way to Kyoto).

Chūbu international airport centrair

Conveniently located between Tokyo and Osaka is Japan’s newest major airport: Chūbu International Airport Centrair (NGO; www.centrair.jp). From Nagoya, flights connect with Australia, Canada, China, Guam, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Saipan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and the USA.

Fukuoka international airport

Fukuoka, at the northern end of Kyūshū, is the main arrival point for western Japan. Fukuoka International Airport (FUK; www.fuk-ab.co.jp/english/frame_index.html), conveniently located near the city, has flights to/from the following cities: Seoul, Busan, Beijing, Dalian, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok, Manila, Guam and Ho Chi Minh City.

Naha airport

Located on Okinawa-hontō (the main island of Okinawa), Naha Airport (OKA; www.naha-airport.co.jp in Japanese) has flights to/from Seoul, Manila, Shanghai and Taipei.

Niigata airport

Located north of Tokyo, Niigata Airport (KIJ; www.niigata-airport.gr.jp in Japanese) has flights to/from Irkusk, Vladivostok, Khabarovsk, Seoul, Shanghai, Harbin, Xian, Honolulu and Guam.

Other airports

On Kyūshū, Kagoshima Airport (KOJ; www.koj-ab.co.jp in Japanese) has flights to/from Shanghai and Seoul; Kumamoto Airport (KMJ; www.kmj-ab.co.jp in Japanese) has flights to/from Seoul; and Nagasaki Airport (NGS; www.nabic.co.jp/english) has flights to/from Shanghai and Seoul.

On Hokkaidō, New Chitose Airport (CTS; www.new-chitose-airport.jp/language/english/index.html) has connections with Shanghai, Taipei and Shenyang.

Airlines flying to/from Japan

Aeroflot (code SU; 03-5532-8701; www.aeroflot-japan.com/eng/index.asp; hub Sheremetyevo International Airport, Moscow)

Air Canada (code AC; 03-5405-8800, toll-free 0120-048-048; www.aircanada.ca/e-home.html; hub Toronto Pearson International Airport, Toronto)

Air China (code CA; 03-5520-0333; www.china-air lines.com/en/index.htm; hub Beijing Capital International Airport, Beijing)

Air France (code AF; 03-3475-2210; www.airfrance.com; hub Charles de Gaulle International Airport, Paris)

Air India (code AI; 03-3508-0261; www.airindia.com; hubs Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai, & Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi)

Air New Zealand (code NZ; 03-5521-2744, toll-free 0120-300-747; www.airnewzealand.co.nz; hub Auckland International Airport, Auckland)

Air Niugini (code PX; 03-5216-3555; www.airniugini.com.pg/main.htm; hub Jacksons International Airport, Port Moresby)

Air Tahiti Nui (code TN; 03-6267-1177; www.airtahitinui.com; hub Faa’a International Airport, Faaa)

Air Pacific (code FJ; 03-5208-5171, toll-free 0120-489-311; www.airpacific.com; hub Nadi International Airport, Nadi)

Alitalia (code AZ; 03-5166-9123; www.alitalia.com; hubs Malpensa Airport, Milan, Leonardo da Vinci International Airport, Fiumicino)

All Nippon Airways (code NH; 03-5435-0333, toll-free 0120-029-333; www.anaskyweb.com; hubs Narita International Airport, Tokyo, Kansai International Airport, Osaka)

American Airlines (code AA; 03-4550-2111, toll-free 0120-000-860; www.aa.com; hub Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Dallas)

Asiana Airlines (code OZ; 03-5812-6600; us.flyasiana.com; hub Incheon International Airport, Seoul)

Austrian Airlines (code OS; 03-5222-5454; www.aua.com/us/eng; hub Vienna International Airport, Vienna)

Biman Bangladesh Airlines (code BG; 03-3502-7922; www.bimanair.com; hub Zia International Airport, Dhaka)

British Airways (code BA; 03-3570-8657; www.brit ishairways.com; hub London Heathrow Airport, London)

Cathay Pacific Airways (code CX; 03-5159-1700; www.cathaypacific.com; hub Hong Kong International Airport, Hong Kong)

China Eastern Airlines (code MU; 03-3506-1166; www.ce-air.com/cea2/en_US/homepage; hub Shanghai Pudong International Airport, Shanghai)

China Southern Airlines (code CZ; 03-5157-8011; www.cs-air.com/en; hub Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, Guangzhou)

Continental Airlines (code CO; 03-5464-5100, toll-free 0120-242-414; www.continental.com; hub George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Houston)

Continental Micronesia (code CS; 03-5464-5050; www.continental.com; hub Guam International Airport, Guam)

Delta Air Lines (code DL; 03-3593-6666, toll-free 0120-333-742; www.delta.com; hub Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Atlanta)

Deutsche Lufthansa (code LH; 03-4333-7656, toll-free 0120-051-844; www.lufthansa.com; hub Frankfurt International Airport, Frankfurt)

Dragon Air (code KA; 03-5159-1715; www.dragonair.com; hub Hong Kong International Airport, Hong Kong)

EgyptAir (code MS; 03-3211-4524; www.egyptair.com.eg; hub Cairo International Airport, Cairo)

Finnair (code AY; 03-3222-6801, toll-free 0120-700-915; www.finnair.com; hub Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, Helsinki)

Garuda Indonesia (code GA; 03-3240-6161; www.garuda-indonesia.com; hub Soekarno-Hatta Airport, Jakarta)

Iberia Airlines (code IB; www.iberia.com; hub Barcelona International Airport, Barcelona)

Iran Air (code IR; 03-3586-2101; www.iranairjp.com; hub Mehrabad International Airport, Tehran)

JALWAYS (code JO; 03-5460-0511, toll-free 0120-255-931; www.jalways.co.jp/english; hub Narita Inter­national Airport, Tokyo)

Japan Airlines (code JL; 03-5460-0511, toll-free 0120-255-931; www.jal.com/en; hubs Narita International Airport, Tokyo, Kansai International Airport, Osaka)

Japan Asia Airways (code EG; 03-5460-0533, toll-free 0120-747-801; www.japanasia.co.jp in Japanese; hubs Narita International Airport, Tokyo, & Kansai International Airport, Osaka)

KLM-Royal Dutch Airlines (code KL; 03-3570-8770; www.klm.com; hub Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam)

Korean Air (code KE; 03-5443-3311; www.koreanair.com; hub Incheon International Airport, Seoul)

Malaysia Airlines (code MH; 03-5733-2111; www.malaysiaairlines.com; hub Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Kuala Lumpur)

Northwest Airlines (code NW; 0476-31-8000; www.nwa.com; hub Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport, Minneapolis)

Pakistan International (code PK; 03-3216-6511; www.piac.com.pk; hub Jinnah International Airport, Karachi)

Philippine Airlines (code PR; 03-5157-4361; www.philippineairlines.com; hub Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Manila)

Qantas (code QF; 03-3593-7000; www.qantas.com; hub Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport, Sydney)

Scandinavian Airlines System (code SK; 03-5400-2331; www.flysas.com; hub Copenhagen Airport, Copenhagen)

Shanghai Airlines (code FM; 06-6945-8666; www.shanghai-air.com/ywwy/home.htm; hub Shanghai Pudong International Airport, Shanghai)

Singapore Airlines (code SQ; 03-3213-3431; www.singaporeair.com; hub Singapore Changi Airport, Changi)

Sri Lankan Airlines (code UL; 03-3431-6611; www.srilankan.aero; hub Bandaranaike Airport, Colombo)

Swiss International Airlines (code LX;03-5156-8252; www.swiss.com; hub Zurich International Airport, Zurich)

Thai Airways International (code TG; 03-3503-3311; www.thaiairways.com; hub Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok)

Turkish Airlines (code TK; 03-5251-1551; www.thy.com; hub Atatürk International Airport, Istanbul)

United Airlines (code UA; 03-3817-4411, toll-free 0120-114-466; www.united.com; hub Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Chicago)

US Airways (code US; 03-3597-9471; www.usairways.com; hub Philadelphia International Airport, Philadelphia)

Uzbekistan Airways (code HY; 03-3500-1355; www.uzbekistanairways.nl; hub Yuzhny Airport, Tashkent)

Vietnam Airlines (code VN; 03-3508-1481; www.vietnamairlines.com; hub Tan Son Nhat International Airport, Ho Chi Minh City)

Virgin Atlantic Airways (code VS; 03-3499-8811; www.virgin-atlantic.com; hub London Heathrow Airport, London)


Garuda, Malaysian Airlines and Cathay Pacific usually have good deals for travel between Australia and Japan. Return fares start at around A$1200 with Garuda, which allows a stopover in Bali. Direct flights to Japan with airlines including Qantas and Japan Air Lines (JAL) are more expensive – expect to pay at least A$1600 for a return fare.

Two well-known agencies for cheap fares are STA Travel (134 782; www.statravel.com.au), which has offices in all major cities; and Flight Centre (www.flightcentre.com.au), which has dozens of offices throughout Australia. For online bookings, try www.travel.com.au.


Return fares between Vancouver and Tokyo start at around C$1000, while return fares between Toronto and Tokyo start at around C$1300. Carriers to check include Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Air Canada, United, American, Delta and Northwest Airlines.

Travel Cuts (800-667-2887; www.travelcuts.com) is Canada’s national student travel agency. For online bookings, try www.expedia.ca and www.travelocity.ca.


There are several daily flights between Japan and Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific, as well as on JAL and All Nippon Airways (ANA). In Hong Kong try Four Seas Tours (2200-7777; www.fourseastravel.com/fs/en). There are also flights between Japan and Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Harbin, Shenyang, Xian and Dalian.

Continental Europe

Most direct flights between Europe and Japan fly into Tokyo but there are also some flights into Kansai. Typical low-season return fares from major European cities are Frankfurt–Tokyo €500, RomeTokyo €700 and ParisTokyo €580.

The following are recommended travel agencies in continental Europe:


Anyway (08 92 89 38 92; www.anyway.fr in French)

Lastminute (08 99 78 50 00; www.fr.lastminute.com in French)

Nouvelles Frontières (08 25 00 07 47; www.nouvelles-frontieres.fr in French)

OTU Voyages (01 55 82 32 32 www.otu.fr in French) This agency specialises in student and youth travellers.

Voyageurs du Monde (08 92 23 56 56; www.vdm.com in French)


Expedia (01805-007146; www.expedia.de in German)

Just Travel (089-747 33 30; www.justtravel.de)

STA Travel (069-743 032 92; www.statravel.de) For travellers under the age of 26.


CTS Viaggi (064 41 11 66, www.cts.it in Italian)

Netherlands, the

Airfair (0900-771 77 17; www.airfair.nl in Dutch)


Barcelo Viajes (902 20 04 00; www.barceloviajes.com in Spanish)

Nouvelles Frontières (902 12 42 12; www.tui.es/VIA/Inicio)


In most of Japan’s major cities there are travel agencies where English is spoken. For an idea of the latest prices in Tokyo check the travel ads in the various local English-language publications, and in Kansai check Kansai Time Out. In other parts of Japan check the Japan Times. For more details on city-based travel agencies, see relevant sections under Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto.

New Zealand

Return fares between Auckland and Tokyo start at around NZ$1500. Airlines that fly this route include Malaysian Airlines, Thai International, Qantas and Air New Zealand. You’ll save money by taking one of the Asian airlines via an Asian city rather than flying direct.

Both Flight Centre (0800 243 544; www.flight centre.co.nz) and STA Travel (0508 782 872; www.statravel.co.nz) have branches throughout New Zealand.

South Korea

Numerous flights link Seoul and Busan with Japan. A SeoulTokyo flight purchased in Seoul costs around US$200/400 one way/return. From Tokyo, flights to Seoul are the cheapest way out of Japan. Low-season return fares start as low as ¥30, 000.

In Seoul, try the Korean International Student Exchange Society (Kises; 02-733-9494; www.kises.co.kr in Korean; 5th fl, YMCA Bldg, Chongno 2-ga).


Return flights from Taipei to Tokyo start at around NT10, 000. Flights also operate between Kaohsiung and Osaka or Tokyo.


Expect to pay from UK£500 to UK£600 for a return ticket with a good airline via a fast route. ANA and JAL offer direct flights between London and Japan. Air France is a reliable choice for flights to Japan (usually Tokyo), but you’ll have to change in Paris. For a less convenient trans-Asian route, it’s about UK£350. The following travel agencies are recommended:

Flight Centre (087-0499 0040; www.flightcentre.co.uk)

Flightbookers (087-1223 5000; www.ebookers.com)

North-South Travel (01245 608291; www.northsouthtravel.co.uk) North-South Travel donates part of its profit to projects in the developing world.

Quest Travel (087-1423 0135; www.questtravel.com)

STA Travel (087-1230 0040; www.statravel.co.uk) For travellers under the age of 26.

Trailfinders (084-5058 5858; www.trailfinders.co.uk)

Travel Bag (080- 0082 5000; www.travelbag.co.uk)


From New York during the low season you can find discount return fares to Japan for as low as US$700. Some carriers to check include Korean Air, JAL and ANA, United Airlines and Northwest Airlines. From the US west coast, low-season discount return fares are available from as little as US$500. High-season discount fares will just about double these figures.

STA Travel (800-781-4040; www.statravel.com) is a good place to start your ticket search in the USA. IACE Travel USA (800-872-4223, 212-972-3200; www.iace-usa.com) is a travel agency specialising in travel between the USA and Japan which can often dig up cheap fares. San Francisco’s Avia Travel (800-950-2842, 510-558-2150; www.aviatravel.com) is a favourite of Japan-based English teachers and can arrange tickets originating in Japan.

The following agencies are recommended for online bookings:






www.sta.com (for travellers under the age of 26)


Other Asian countries

There are daily flights between Bangkok and Japan on Thai Airways International, ANA and JAL, with fares starting at about 18, 000B return in the low season. From Singapore, return tickets cost approximately S$800; from Indonesia (Jakarta/Denpasar), a return flight costs around US$800.

From the Philippines (Manila) a return flight to Japan is around US$550 and from Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur) it’s around RM2500 return. From Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City) a return flight costs around US$650.

Other Asian countries with limited flights to Japan include India, Nepal and Myanmar (Burma).

Other regions

There are also flights between Japan and South America (via the USA and Europe), Africa (via Europe, south Asia or Southeast Asia) and the Middle East.

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