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Inside Tokyo-Haneda's New International Terminal, Part 1: The Main Hall and Edo Marketplace

Where: Tokyo-Haneda International Airport, Tokyo, Japan
October 21, 2010 at 10:30 AM | by | ()

It just so happens that Tokyo's Haneda Airport—a smaller, far more convenient airport than Narita that previously focused on domestic flights—opened their funky new International Terminal the same week we're in Tokyo. Thanks to ANA getting us security clearance, we'll be bringing you a 5-part series for complete inside looks at everything from the Monorail to the ultra-exclusive airside lounges.

Today, Part 1: Inside the Main Hall and Edo Marketplace.

From the moment we stepped off the Tokyo Monorail at the International Terminal station (which also just debuted), it was apparent that Japan should have just declared today a national holiday. Yes, everyone was taking pictures with everything, but it also seemed like half of Tokyo had turned out just to frolic in the public areas, causing the new restaurants to be booked up before it even hit noon and the stores to sell out of anything bearing the day's date (example: cookie tins!).

The main event was a big ribbon-cutting with CEOs of Star Alliance's big players in Asia, and the head of the Alliance, Jaan Albrecht, hinted that any of their member airlines that hadn't yet announced Haneda routes were seriously considering it. Can we get a New York-Haneda direct, pretty please? Once the business was concluded however, we quickly moved on to discover the first planetarium in an airport, the money-eating slot car track and the humongous observation deck, all completely open to the public as they are before security.

Since the airport promises that connections between the new international terminal and their breadth of domestic flights in the other terminals will take 80 minutes at the absolute longest, there's a huge drive to give passengers some way to experience Tokyo while waiting to board that next flight. Enter the Edo Marketplace. "Edo" is the old name for Tokyo, and indeed several areas of the new Haneda terminal have been modeled on Tokyo before skyscrapers, before vending machines on every corner. The Edo Marketplace includes a furoshiki shop, a traditional cosmetics boutique, origami demonstrations, floral and ikebana, and many classic Japanese eateries with charming waitstaff in kimonos.

Go one floor above or below Edo to find more modern shopping and dining options, including a giant Hello Kitty store, the slot car racetrack, manga by the shelfload, and tons of techy toys.

Because space is so valued in Tokyo, the new terminal places a huge emphasis on the luxury of it, with personal space a particular focus. This is evident everywhere, from ample seating options in the ticketing area to tricked-out individual rest pods in the airline lounges (more on that to come). Trust us, it's a frickin' playground for those who otherwise live their lives in a country of capsule hotels, packed rush hour trains and tiny city apartments.

The new Haneda International Terminal is a bit like a mini Japan wonderland, and indeed there's a real danger that travelers may loose track of time while spending it pre-security and thus miss their flights!

How to reach it on public transportation: If you want to check out the new terminal yourself, you don't have to have a flight to see the best stuff. Just take the Oedo or Ginza subway lines to Daimon/Hamamatsucho, and switch to the Tokyo Monorail; it leaves from Daimon bound for all Haneda terminals. The International one (called Tōkyō Kokusai Kūkō) is your first stop of them. Don't worry; all signs and announcements have English translations. The trip is about $5 and 20 minutes each way (from Daimon/Hamamatsucho).

Coming in Part 2 of our visit to Tokyo-Haneda's International Terminal: more Hello Kitty than should be allowed in an airport. Stay tuned!

[Photos: Cynthia Drescher for Jaunted]

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