Airport review: Haneda Airport, Tokyo

THE FLIGHT

QF26 to Sydney, economy class

OFFICIAL IATA CODE

HND

THE ARRIVAL

Unlike its sister airport, Narita, which is planted in the middle of some rice paddies about 70 kilometres outside Tokyo, Haneda is central and convenient. The airport is connected to major transport hubs in the city via the private Keikyu train line (which runs from Shinagawa), and a monorail, which runs from Hamamatsucho (where it connects to the Japan Rail network). There's also a bus service that picks up in various locations, including Shinjuku and Tokyo stations. The terminals in Haneda are spread quite far apart, so it's worth ensuring you're dropped at the international terminal, otherwise you'll have a long, extra commute. Signage for this is good. Luggage carts are free and easily accessible at all terminals.

THE LOOK

Haneda's international terminal opened in 2010, and as you would expect it's slick and modern. As well as being highly functional, with a spacious check-in area under a high ceiling and plenty of air-side facilities once you get past security, the terminal features several nods to Tokyo's culture and history, including a miniature recreation of the wooden Nihonbashi Bridge, an Edo-era marketplace filled with restaurants and souvenir shops, and a small forest of fake trees that changes with the seasons: red leaves in autumn, sparkling lights in winter, greenery in summer, and covered in cherry blossoms in spring.

CHECK-IN

Qantas' check-in area at Haneda is counter-based, and no web check-in was available before the flight. Despite that, when I roll up two-and-a-half hours before departure there's no queue whatsoever, and I'm checked in by a smiling assistant within five minutes.

SECURITY

Though queues at passport control are typically long on arrival in Haneda, on this departure they're pleasingly pain-free, with only a few people to wait behind before I'm stamped and scanned and on my way.

FOOD AND DRINK

This is where Haneda truly shines. In fact, it's a world leader. The airport boasts some of the best dining in a city that's obsessed with good food, with plenty of offshoots of Tokyo's most famous eateries to be found right here in the international terminal. That hardest part is deciding what to have, and what you'll have to forgo. There are two ramen choices, both of which are Tokyo favourites: Setagaya, in the land-side section; and Rokurinsha, in the air-side. In the Edo Market, land-side, there's also high-quality katsu pork at Katsusen; grilled beef at Champion Yakiniku; crowd-favourite udon noodles at Tsurutontan; deep-fried things on sticks at Kushinobo; and conveyor-belt sushi at Ariso. My advice: arrive early and arrive hungry, and leave enough money for a frosty Asahi beer air-side before boarding.

RETAIL THERAPY

Japanese travellers have a charming habit of always buying gifts for family and friends, which means Japanese airports are usually filled with stores selling high-end souvenirs. Haneda is no different, with some excellent choices in the Edo Market, land-side (though admittedly the best of the souvenirs on sale here are edible, which means you'll struggle to get them into Australia). Also land-side, there's "Tokyo Pop Town", an area that celebrates Japan's anime culture, including a Hello Kitty store and various "character shops" selling anime merchandise. Air-side, there's the usual mix of duty-free booze and high-end clothing stores.

KILLING TIME

If you're stuck at Haneda for a long period there are several options, including a hotel both air-side and land-side. There are also public shower facilities in the airport, free Wi-Fi, a paid-entry lounge, massage outlets and all of the food and retail options mentioned above.

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ONE MORE THING

Plane nerds, rejoice. Haneda's international terminal has one other feature you're going to want to check out, and that's the observation deck, located land-side above the restaurants and shops. Up here you'll find a large, open-air space overlooking the runways and all of the air traffic, with touchscreens to help you identify which airline you're looking at, which airport vehicle is buzzing past and which buildings are on the horizon. It is, without doubt, plane nerd heaven.

THE VERDICT

I love Haneda. Mostly, I love its food options, but there's more to its appeal than that. Access is fast and cheap, check-in is painless, flights tend to run on time, queues are short, and baggage services are great. But … did I mention the food?

OUR RATING

4.5/5

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