Trip Tips: Traveling through Narita Airport’s New Terminal 3

The other week, I flew to Tokyo to begin the house hunting process for our move to the capital this summer. We had booked tickets on Jetstar, the Australia-based budget airline that has been making serious inroads into the Japanese domestic market and flew from Kumamoto into Narita Airport. Little did we know that we would land at the newly-opened Terminal 3 as one of the first flights to grace the gleaming halls.

Terminal 3, the new terminal for budget airlines
Terminal 3, the new terminal for budget airlines

Terminal 3 set out to make a splash, design-wise. The concept behind the terminal was threefold – casual, functional and exciting. Casual was definitely in evidence, as the walkway to the terminal from the gates is made of the same material as an indoor running track. There’s plenty of functionality to the new building, with efficient baggage claim services, cell phone and router rentals right outside baggage claim and a bank of automatic machines and windows that offer tickets to the various trains and buses that run from Narita into the center of Tokyo. And if the furniture – indeed the terminal overall – gives you the impression that you’ve seen it somewhere before, giant “life store” retailer Muji had a big hand in the design process.

Tickets for various modes of transport into Tokyo
Tickets for various modes of transport into Tokyo

Is it exciting? Well, as much as airports can be exciting, I found myself fairly impressed. The food court had at least half a dozen restaurants, and the sushi I got for takeaway was shockingly good. The color scheme is lively, with red lanes (for arrivals) and blue lanes (for departures) making a splash compared to the usual staid airport palette. The on-site bookstore even had some titles in English (always a plus in my book … er, no pun intended).

Drawbacks? There are admittedly a few. The walk from the gate to baggage claim can be a bit brisk, mostly due to the open wall concept. The day we landed was rather chilly and the wind whipped right through those unprotected corridors. Also, being the add-on terminal, it takes a bit of walking to get to terminal 2 with its bus and train connections to the city. (However, the path is well-marked and a relatively flat walk.) The food court, while fantastic for those who have time to sit and eat, doesn’t offer a good deal of takeaway options for the plane. And the convenience store was out of water, but I chalk that up to the kinks of the opening week.

Color-coded lanes for departures and arrivals
Color-coded lanes for departures and arrivals

If you find yourself flying any one of the following airlines – Jetstar, Spring Japan, Vanilla Air or Jeju Air – either domestically OR abroad, there’s a good chance you’ll end up in Terminal 3. But all in all, Terminal 3 feels like a place you wouldn’t mind being stuck should your flight be delayed.

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