Somebody in my family is going to Tokyo, and hearing their instructions, I decided I needed to help them a bit. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here is a travelogue to help you navigate your way through Narita onto the trains.
The Japanese train system is a marvel. It is the one thing you must try if you go to Japan. However, the first time can be confusing. Just follow the pictures, and the confusion won't be too bad.
Let's say you just have landed at Narita, like my two friends here.
Exit the plane.
The airport has lots of glass. I like it.
Walk a long ways and keep your eyes open for the sign with a bag on it. You want to go there to collect your bags. Even if you only take carry on, like me, you'll still need to go this way.
You don't have to walk on the moving sidewalk. After flying for 8-9 hours, I like to walk. But if you go onto the moving sidewalk, make sure to stand to the side if you don't walk on it. There is a walker and a standing side.
After walking a while, you will normally come to an escalator. This takes you to another level. On this level you will need to go through passport control.
You'll need to get into the long line for passport control. Normally, the airline will have given you a landing card before landing. You will need to read it carefully and fill it out. They will take one half, and staple the other half to your passport. They collect this other half on the way out. If you lost your card, don't worry, you can get another one before passport control while in the line.
Make sure you have the address of the place you are going to stay at. You need to put this on your boarding card for entry into Japan.
Sorry, no pictures of passport control.
After you are through passport control, there is an escalator that takes you downstairs. As you go down, you can see the baggage claim info. If you have bags, pick them up here.
See the escalator? That at the top is passport control, and this is what you just came down. After you get your bags, at the bottom is also customs.
Normally, they don't search your bags too often if you don't declare anything. And they will just wave you through.
Go through customs and through the sliding doors.
It can be pretty busy on the other side of the sliding doors.
Once into the main terminal, you will normally see places to buy bus tickets.
Here is the tickets for the buses. The buses are nice if you want to see the traffic into Tokyo. But they are very slow, you will get stuck in traffic. You are better if you can take the Narita Express.
To get to the express go down one floor. However, if you need to exchange money, do it on this floor. I suggest always having $100, because the taxis don't take credit cards!
Go down one floor. Sorry, I don't have a picture.
See the red in the distance. This is down one floor, and that counter is the train tickets. Normally, you can simply say 2 tickets Narita Express to Tokyo. Give them your American Express.
Walk past the counter once you are done.
In a very few steps, you'll see another escalator down.
Go down one more floor to the Express. You can see the signs are very clear.
This is my ticket.
See the red circle. I am in the 3 car. 14th seat. In row A.
When the train comes, you will see Narita express sign show up on the overheads.
Sorry, this isn't a picture of Narita, because I didn't have one. This is a picture of Shinjuku, but you can get the idea.
Downstairs in Narita, you will find a bunch of signs in LEDs. If you click on the picture, you will see the 11:42 LED signs has an airplane on it. The Narita express always shows an airplane. So, always look for the airplane.
The board will change from Japanese and then the English descriptions. One train comes after another, and they are never late and never early.
Get into your comfortable seat. In a little over an hour, you will be there!
At the end of the car, no picture, you will see and LED map that will show your progress on the trip. If you are traveling during the daytime, you'll see some farm land on the way. When you hit buildings, you are just starting into Tokyo. Tokyo central is maybe the second stop. Look at the LED signs over the exit door to make sure.
I hope that even if you aren't in my family, but stumbled across this while looking for stuff on Narita, that you'll find this helpful. Write me a comment if you like it!
Japan is a magical place.