What to Do with an 11-Hour Layover in Tokyo, Japan (e.g. Switching from Haneda to Narita International Airport)

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Do I have enough time to make it to Tokyo? This was the first question my friend Alyssa and I asked ourselves when we were planning a quick pit stop in Tokyo during our layover in Japan upon returning to the States from Thailand. As we got closer to our arrival in Japan, we wanted to make sure that we built in enough wiggle room to not miss our flight home. Sure enough, our 11 hour and 15 minute layover was sufficient time to make it into the city when taking into account changing airports. Really when we skimmed off time for getting our luggage, going through customs, and getting to Tokyo and Narita International airport, we had about 5.5-6 hours to explore.

Prior to arriving in Tokyo we made sure to have a general plan of what we were going to do, as we knew there was limited time. Alyssa and I decided to focus on one main area of Tokyo-Shibuya. This is a really trendy, eclectic, and artistic district in Tokyo. Since we were switching airports, Alyssa and I did need to bring our luggage with us.

How much money to bring for a day in Japan? Honestly, it depends on the person. Alyssa and I definitely spent the most on transportation. Grab, which is the Uber of Asia, and taxis were a lot more expensive than taking the train. We each took out 1,100 yen which is about 100 dollars. Although some places take credit cards, I would recommend having cash on you as this is more common and will save the hassle in the long run. At the end of our trip, we both had money left over which ranged from 10-20 dollars.

How to get from Haneda Airport to Shibuya? Alyssa and I asked for assistance at the airport information booth once we collected our luggage. The attendant helped us purchase the proper train ticket into Shibuya Station. We took the red line (Keikyu-Kuko Line) to Shinawaga Station and switched to the green line (Yamonte Line) before arriving at Shibuya station. This route normally takes about 35-45 minutes. I would factor in about an hour of travel time to arrive at Shibuya Station from Haneda Airport once your luggage is collected when factoring in purchasing a ticket and arriving at the red line. The price for this route is 580 yen.

Where to store luggage? Alyssa and I were able to store our luggage at Shibuya Station. When we arrived, we asked staff at the station to assist us on where to find these storage  lockers. Alyssa and I were able to stuff all of our bags (5 total) into the largest locker paying 600 yen total. If you can share a locker, I would recommend doing this to save money. It was good for the whole day. The earlier in the day you get there, the better as the lockers may be full by early afternoon. When Alyssa and I returned at around noon to retrieve our luggage, there were a few people waiting for locker access.

Upon researching places to store luggage in Shibuya, I also found the Luggage Storage Service Shibuya. We didn’t need to use it but if the lockers are full at Shibuya Station or your luggage is too big, this seems like a reasonable alternative. Here is the website: http://baggage.jp/english/.

What we visited in Shibuya:

  1. A Happy Pancake: It’s worth a visit to Shibuya just for these delicious pancakes. I have never had anything like these but will never forget them. These pancakes melt right in your mouth. Although the restaurant opens at 10 am, I would recommend coming a half and hour early as it fills up fast. Alyssa and I were required to sign in when we arrived. This determines the order you will be seated and order your meal. Average cost for pancakes ranged from 1,1000-1,4000 yen. They have multiple locations. If you are in Shibuya, it’s walking distance from Shibuya Station. Just make sure you have a digital map to use, as the streets can be incredibly confusing. If you are stubborn like myself and decide not to purchase a SIM card, maps.me allows for an option to use offline maps. It’s important to download the map of the region you are seeking out when there is Internet access before using it.                                                                             20180716_101948                       Here is a link the website to A Happy Pancake: https://magia.tokyo/
  1. Shibuya Crossing: Alyssa and I went to the Starbucks at Shibuya crossing to check out the view from above. We had to wait a few minutes to scope out a seat. However, once we did, it was worth sitting at the window taking in the busy traffic of people. If you’re lucky, you may meet a new friend while taking in the view like we did. This is said to be the busiest intersection in the world.                                            Screenshot_2018-09-01-15-13-15
  2. Owl Village Shibuya: Although Alyssa and I went here and the fee was reasonable (1500 yen to get a drink and play with the owls), I wouldn’t recommend this stop. The reason is because it didn’t appear that the owls were treated very humanely. They all had bands tied to their legs. When I asked the woman who works there if they were ever taken off, she said no. It made me sad to see all of these owls so close to each other and stuck in a small room where they weren’t free to fly. For these reasons, I don’t think owl cafes such as these are very ethical. We ended up leaving early because of this and I wish I would have researched these cafes more. I hope others may learn from this and think twice before entering this type of cafe.

    Although these may not be located in Shibuya, the bottom of this article lists a cat and dog cafe in Tokyo that are considered to be ethical:  https://wanderluxe.theluxenomad.com/skip-tokyos-bunny-owl-cafes-visit-ethical-animal-cafes/

 How to get from Shibuya to Narita International Airport? Alyssa and I decided against a taxi or Grab, as this was by far the most expensive. We also didn’t have enought time to switch trains. Instead Alyssa and I decided to take the Narita Express, which was 3,190 yen a person. We were able to purchase our tickets at Shibuya Station. In taking the Narita Express, make sure to look at the schedule as it came 2 times every hour for the times we were looking at. The Narita Express was very clean and hassle free. Alyssa and I did not need to worry about traffic. It takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes to travel from Shibuya Station to Narita International Airport on the Narita Express. We made it to the airport with about 2 and a half hours left prior to boarding our plane. I was a bit nervous about not arriving 3 hours ahead of time but it was sufficient. Alyssa and I had more than enough time to check our bags and go through security.

Here is the website for the Narita Express: http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/nex/tickets.html

Upon doing further research, there is also an Airport Limousine that runs from Shibuya to the airport. The price is similar: 3,100 yen. This bus also appears to come twice every hour. Since traffic can vary depending on the time of day, it will likely take a little bit longer to arrive compared to using The Narita Express.

Website for the Airport Limousine: https://www.limousinebus.co.jp/en/areas/bus_stop/nrt/shibuya/for/45/2

I really enjoyed getting a small tasted of Tokyo during my 11-hour layover in Japan. It was definitely worth the adventure!

Sarah Masse