Whether you fly into Narita International Airport or Haneda International Airport which is mostly used for business trips, you'll find Tokyo is a fantastic place for a layover. Those who land at Narita will have a bit further to travel into Tokyo than those landing at Haneda, so a short layover there can be restrictive timewise.
Whichever airport you're flying into, you'll find there are certain attractions in Tokyo which are absolute must-sees. Don't forget though that it's a city with almost fourteen million occupants so whatever your idea of busy is, times it by twenty and you might get an idea of how chaotic Tokyo really is and it’ll still be an underestimation. Both airports are among the busiest in the country too, so whatever activities you have in mind for your layover always allow plenty of time for your transitions whether you're arriving or departing.
6 to 8 hour layover in Tokyo
A short layover of six to eight hours just isn't enough time to do a great deal in the mayhem of Tokyo if you want to do it independently. Catching public transport is fine if you speak Japanese, can read signs in Japanese, and know more or less where you're going. A short layover in Tokyo, in reality, is not enough time to risk getting lost in this enormous city, so make the best of your layover time by using the excellent facilities offered at either of the airports.
- Drop your bags off at a luggage storage service and set off to explore the terminals or settle down for a chill-out period in a VIP lounge.
- At Narita International Airport you'll find Terminal 1 has the Upcycle Art Museum, the NAA Art Gallery, the Art Promenade, and the Kabuki Experience Gallery to browse around.
- If you're in desperate need of some exercise on your layover at Narita, you'll find a wooded nature trail one kilometer long in the Sanrizuka Sakura no Oka Park which is next to Runway A.
- Those who are still kids at heart will love the Kitahara Antique Toy Collection on display in Terminal 1 at Haneda International Airport. It's an absolute joy that's bound to bring back more than a few memories.
10 hour layover in Tokyo
One way to get to see a lot of Tokyo in the shortest possible time is by taking a helicopter ride. It won't be the most economical but you will get to view all the major city landmarks like Tokyo Tower, the Tokyo Skytree and Rainbow Bridge, if only from a distance. With a couple of hours to spare, if you don't mind the mayhem, you can whiz around Tokyo in a speedy go-kart which is quite exciting if you don't mind being at ground level.
- There's a surplus of private tour guides in Tokyo who are more than willing to adjust their sightseeing routes to suit the time you have available on your stopover. Make the most of that by getting them to pick you up from the airport for a four-hour tour of the city.
- If the go-karting sounds like your sort of thing, do it by following a guide around or you'll get totally lost in the labyrinth of Tokyo's streets.
- Tokyo has a different face after dark and if your layover is an evening one you can soak up some of the city's atmosphere by taking a short walking food tour. You'll get some exercise, see some of the city and get to eat traditional Japanese too.
12 hour layover in Tokyo
When you have twelve precious hours on a Tokyo layover, the place to head for straight away is the observation deck of the world's tallest tower, the Tokyo Skytree, just because you can. There's a lot of things to do there other than snap photos of the views, so plan on spending an hour or more at the Skytree. Have a coffee or eat in the restaurant which has panoramic views of Tokyo, or visit the photo gallery send someone a postcard from the special post box on the 345th floor. Before getting above it all, don't forget to drop off your bags at a Tokyo luggage storage facility.
- Tokyo has a great cycle path network so hire a bike and pedal your way around the city on your own or join a six-hour guided cycling tour that includes all the main sites.
- If your layover includes the early hours of the morning one thing not to miss is walking around the stables where the sumo wrestlers are practicing. It's a real eye-opener watching the Japanese giants do their thing.
- Before you have to head back to the airport for your Tokyo connection, make sure you stop by the Imperial Palace to take a selfie with the towering ornate pagoda in the background.
24 hour layover in Tokyo
The one thing that you really have to do if you have a twenty-four-hour Tokyo layover is go to get a closer look at Japan's iconic volcano, Mount Fuji. You may be able to catch a glimpse of it from the Tokyo Skytree if there's no low cloud coverage, but it's more impressive when you're closer. Mount Fuji is a hundred and thirty kilometers from Tokyo so expect to use up a good portion of your layover getting there and back, but the landscapes of the countryside you'll see on the way will more than compensate.
- For a once in a lifetime experience and one that will make your layover totally unforgettable, plan a hike up Mount Fuji. Depending on weather conditions and your personal level of fitness it can take between five to ten hours to reach the summit. Don't forget, what goes up has to come down, so factor in time for the descent which you'll be pleased to know is quite a lot quicker.
- If you do want to hike Mount Fuji make sure you don't leave your hiking boots in your Tokyo luggage locker.