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These days there is one main way to get to Japan from America or anywhere else for that matter; by air. Sure, you can take a ship if you are on vacation and want a leisurely trip but most everyone arrives by airplane. Japan has two main air terminals. Tokyo, Narita International and Osaka, Kansai International. Tokyo's Haneda is now receiving a few international flights from the states as well.

Military travelers have an additional option. This is by US Government chartered aircraft, affectionately called the "Freedom Bird" by those who are waiting to return home after their tour is complete. These flights originate on the west coast and arrive in Misawa once a week. At this time, it arrives on Monday and departs back to the States on Tuesday (effective 12 Aug 2016 when the runway reopens).

When you arrive at your destination, all you want is to check in to your temporary quarters and get some sleep. Your sponsor has many responsibilities and getting you a reservation should be first on their list when they receive your arrival date. Make sure you check with your sponsor before you leave to ensure they have gotten you a reservation.

There is a seventeen hour time difference between Japan and Pacific Standard Time (14 hours for EST). We are ahead of America, time wise. So, for instance, when it is 6 AM on Monday in LA, it is already 11 PM the same day in Japan. Of course, that changes during daylight savings time in most states. During the summer, the difference is 16 hours (13-Eastern time). If you leave LA, on the 1st of the month in the morning, you arrive in Japan on the afternoon of the 2nd.

It seems like you lose a day. But don't worry, when you return to the States, you get the day back. If you leave Japan at 5 PM on the 1st of the month, you will arrive on the west coast before you took off. (Maybe a little later if you have an interim stop somewhere.)

There are other ways to travel, especiall for military folks. There is always military aircraft and this is a very common mode for Space Available travel while on leave, etc.

If you arrive at Narita via commercial air, you will have to get transporation to your place of assignment or into Tokyo to continue your trip. If you are headed to one of the bases in the Tokyo area, there are usually buses from those bases meeting flights at Narita. As you exit the customs area into the main lobby, you will see a counter (usually Northwest Airlines) with Americans working there. This is the meeting place for all buses from the military bases. Just ask these folks about getting to your destination. There is a small fee for this bus service ($20.00 - $25.00 last time I checked) but you can claim it on your travel voucher.

If you are going to one of the bases outside the Tokyo area or to a destination that is not a military base, then you will probably need to get into Tokyo. You can do this by taxi, train, bus or private car. If someone is meeting you, then this information is not for you. Meet your connection and enjoy your stay. Otherwise........ read on.

Train service from Narita is provided by the Narita Express, Keisei Skyliner and the Airport Narita. All of these trains stop at both airport terminals. The Narita Express takes about 50 minutes to make the trip to Tokyo Station which will put you in downtown Tokyo and from there you can go anywhere in the country. If possible, you should make reservations for this line. The Keisei Skyliner connects with Ueno Station which is in northern Tokyo and is also convenient for connections. This trip takes about 70 minutes. You should also try to make reservations for this line. Finally, the Airport Narita or Rapid Express line takes 80 minutes to Tokyo Station and you can not make reservations for this train. So if you can't get on one of the others, you can take the Rapid Express.

Taxis will prove to be too expensive for most traveleres, especially if you are expecting Uncle Sam to cover travel expenses. The last time I checked, the taxi fare to Tokyo Station was about 20,000 Yen. The yen to dollar excahnge rate fluctuates daily but you can figure that to be about $200.00 at todays exchange rate.

That leaves the final alternative of the Airport Limiousine Service. These oranges buses run regularly and are quite dependable. As you leave the customs area at Narita, this company has a booth in the main lobby of the Airport. You can't miss the orange sign. This service goes to the Tokyo City Air Terminal (TCAT) in central Tokyo, the Yokohama City Air Termianl (YCAT), Tokyo Station and Haneda Airport. Travel time for these destinations by bus can vary greatly based on the amount of traffic they encounter. Simply go to the booth in the lobby and tell them where you want to go. The attendant speaks English. They will give you a ticket for a specific bus at a specific time. They run about every 15 minutes. They will also tell you which stop to leave from. The stops are just outside the main doors of the terminal. Simply show the attendant at the stop your ticket and they will make sure you and your luggage get on the right bus.

So good luck and I hope you have a great trip. If you have trouble, just ask. Most attendants at public facilities in Japan speak at least a little English.

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