By far the easiest way to get to Hakuba Valley is by arriving in Tokyo and transferring from there. Tokyo has 2 major international airports. It is possible to access Hakuba from Nagoya’s Centrair airport, as well as Osaka’s Kansai airport, but the connections are no where near as often, and quite expensive.
Immigration and Customs
Clearing immigration and customs in Japan is not difficult, and the system has been streamlined to avoid delays.
On arrival at the immigration booth, you submit your passport and arrival card (hopefully soon to be done away with). You’ll get your photo taken, and get fingerprinted (both index fingers).
Then it is off to the luggage carousels to claim luggage. Once you have everything to head through customs, where there are green and red lanes like most other countries. Security checks (sniffer dogs and x-rays) are done before your luggage arrives on the carousel, so customs tend to be quite quick. A warning however that Japan has very strict laws on drugs, pornography, and weapons. And remember that Habeas Corpus does not exist in Japan, and smuggling anything illegal can result imprisonment without charge, long incarceration penalties, and deportation from Japan with no right to re-enter. DON’T bring drugs into Japan.
Narita Airport has the most international flights and is located about 60km east of central Tokyo. The airport has a long history or trouble with local residents since the government forcibly commandeered land back in the 60s. With frequent demonstrations, security was tight at the airport, with check points for those arriving by both vehicle and train. These check points only ceased operations in 2012.
Narita Airport has 3 terminals. The original terminal one has been extensively redeveloped, and the only original gates are the two circular satellites on the northern side of the building. Terminal two opened in the early 90s, and consists of a main terminal and a satellite terminal that used to be connected by automated train services, but have since been replaced by moving walkways.
Terminal 3 was added in 2015 to serve low cost carriers and is located about 400m north of terminal 2.
Terminal 1 is the base for All Nippon Airlines, and all Star Alliance carriers also use this terminal. Japan Airlines is based in terminal 2, and houses all One World alliance members. Members of other alliances and independents are shared between the terminals.
Haneda Airport has only opened to international flights in the last 10 years or so and is still mainly a domestic airport. It is located a lot closer to central Tokyo than Narita Airport. With Narita Airport closing it’s runways between Midnight and 6AM, and the completion of the 4th off shore runway, Haneda has seen a rapid increase in the number of international flights. Originally slots for international flights were only going to be given to those landing between 11PM and 7AM, but additional slots have been granted during day time hours.
Haneda Airport has 3 distinct terminals. Terminals 1 and 2 are for domestic flights only and house Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways respectively (along with the subsidiaries). The separate international terminal opened in 2010, and serves all international flights.
Nagoya Centrair Airport
Located 35km south of Nagoya, Centrair Airport opened in as another one of Japan’s off-shore airports in 2005. The rise in off-shore airports is seen as a measure to allow for 24 hour operations, especially vital for cargo operations. Centrair replaced the aging Komaki airport to the north of Nagoya, which while planned to close, has continued on a limited basis operating domestic flights only. Although originally losing several airlines due to poor customer numbers, Centrair has seen a come back in the narrow-body short haul international market with flights from the Asian continent and Europe on the increase.
Osaka Kansai Airport
Kansai Airport is located about 50km south west of central Osaka. It was one of the first off-shore airports built in the world and has a 5km long access bridge with both vehicle and train traffic crossing.
Kansai Airport has flights to most parts of the world, with more locations added often.
Apart from the main International / Domestic terminal, there is also a LCC terminal on the other side of the airport, mostly serving Peach Aviation.