Ever since the opening of Narita International Airport (NRT) back in 1978, Tokyo’s Haneda Airport has been used for predominantly domestic flights within Japan and some charter flights within Asia.
But as of Thursday, October 21, 2010, Haneda Airport has a new runway and a brand new International Terminal that’s filled with shiny new arrival and departures halls, gleaming gate areas, and dozens of new restaurants and shops.
An increased schedule of international flights to North America, Europe and Asia begins on October 31st.
The big advantage of flying into Haneda Airport will be the time you’ll save getting to and from Tokyo. By express train, it’s an hour’s ride from Narita Airport to Tokyo.
From Haneda, you can get to town on a monoral or a train in about 20 minutes.
The other advantage: Haneda’s International Terminal is brand new.
I was on site for opening day inspecting the restaurants, the shops and the new amenities along with what seemed to be at least half the population of Japan.
Several hundred people lined up as early as 3 in the morning to be among the first to ride the new monorail connection to the airport. And throughout the day thousands of what the airlines certainly hope will be future passengers made their way out to the terminal just to take a look around.
They visited the outdoor observation deck. Even though it was raining and there wasn’t much you could see.
They cheered on the cars zipping around the airport’s slot car racetrack.
They bought Hello Kitty souvenirs in a Hello Kitty store that a father of two young Hello Kitty fans assured me was among the most-well stocked Hello Kitty stores he’s seen.
And they waited patiently to be among the first to have a meal in brand new airport eateries that range from a pizzeria with a brick oven to a French café and a restaurant where sushi is delivered via conveyor belt.
Around lunch time, I joined one of the longest lines at the airport. The one where people were waiting to order green-tea soft swirl from the newest branch of Kyo Hayashiya, a sweets vendor that has its roots in a teahouse established in 1753.
And like this woman who was buying ice cream for herself and a friend, I sat and ate the swirled, sweet treat while contemplating future adventures that might start at this sparkling new airport.
There’s lots more to share about the amenities at Haneda’s International Terminal – and the two domestic terminals, which are quite swanky.
But in the meantime, here are links to the opening day reports from two travel colleagues, Airline Reporter David Brown and Jaunted’s Cynthia Drescher.