Monthly Archives: January 2012

Densha de Dan #9: Keisei Skyliner

I used to hate going to Narita Airport.

Although it’s considered to be Tokyo’s main international airport, it’s nowhere near Tokyo. Compared to Haneda Airport, which is just a mere 20 minutes away from the city center, it used to take a full hour to get from Narita to Tokyo Station.

Prior to July 2010, you had two main (railway) choices to get to Narita Airport: JR East’s Narita Express (NEX), and Keisei’s (old) Skyliner.

Narita Express

Keisei Skyliner prior to July 2010. Currently renamed as Cityliner.

The time it took to get to the airport was about the same as their lines ran almost parallel to each other, and the price was only a couple hundred yen apart. When it came to choosing which one to ride, it was usually decided by which one would depart first.

Then, in July 2010 Keisei utilized an abandoned section of line, rebuilding new track while using pre-established lines. This provided a straightshot to the airport cutting the transport time nearly in half (depending on where you board/get off).

Not only is the Keisei Skyliner faster than the Narita Express, but it’s cheaper as well!

In Japan, the fare is determined by the distance travelled plus an express seating fee. Not only is the Skyliner faster than NEX, it’s also cheaper due to the shortened route.

Fares as of January 2012:

  • Keisei Skyliner
    • Narita Airport to Ueno Station: ¥2400
  • Narita Express
    • Narita Airport to Tokyo Station: ¥2940

But price and time aside, the Skyliner has become my preferred method to getting to the airport.

Along with the new route, Keisei also introduced a new train set to use, which is a design that stands out among the best of the best in the country.

Keisei AE Series

Who ever designed the interior put a lot thought into what kind of services would be convenient for those travelling to and from the airport. For example, at the foot of each passenger, there are a total of 4 plug outlets; 2 in the front and 2 in the back. Plenty to recharge your phone, computer, Hello Kitty camera and whatever else.

The seats themselves are spacious and there are designated places at both ends of each car to put your luggage, no matter how large it is. Cameras have also been placed around the luggage area as a theft-prevention device.

My last piece of praise about the train has to be the view.

For first-timers coming to Japan, arrival into Narita Airport maybe a bit of a shock. Most of those coming in already have the misconception that they’ll be surrounded by the glow of Tokyo’s lights as soon as hitting the jetway.

But since you’re flying into Chiba Prefecture, not Tokyo, you’ll get a lot of farmland instead. However, the closer you get to Tokyo, you’ll see the vast rice patties dwindle down to backyard tomato gardens as Tokyo’s many skyscrapers and towers move into view to dominate the landscape.

It’s a nice transition to help you settle into the madness, which is Tokyo.

Upon arrival into Nippori or Ueno Station, it’ll give you a great view of Tokyo Sky Tree (opening to the public May 22nd!).

Other onboard services include a vending machine, HUGE bathrooms, onboard signage available in 4 languages.

AT LAST, I was able to make a video on a sunny day, so I give you Noseprint #3:

Although the Skyliner provides the quickest method to Tokyo, there’s a fleet of trains, buses, taxis, and even a helicopter to get you where you need to be. It all comes down to preference (or a deep wallet if going by heli. Only ¥280,000!!!).

Any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below and I’ll answer quickly.

Until the next journey!


Keisei Skyliner – (English) Official webpage of the Skyliner. Includes a timetable that can be downloaded in PDF format, and ticket information.

Narita Airport Access Information – (English) Has links for a variety of methods getting to and from the airport.

The Gala 1-Day Ticket

(NOTE: ALL information is for the 2011-2012 season!)

Living in or around Tokyo and looking to get some winter action done this season?

You’re in luck as you have access to well over 100 different ski resorts littered throughout Niigata, Nagano, and Gunma Prefectures. However, getting to a resort can cost well over ¥15,000, and that’s just in transportation costs. That’s not including lift tickets, board/ski rentals, etc.

That’s where the Gala 1-Day Ticket comes in.

all within reach!

With the Gala 1-Day Ticket, it includes:

  • Round-trip Shinkansen from Tokyo to Gala-Yuzawa Station (via the Joetsu Shinkansen Line)
  • 1-Day lift ticket for Gala-Yuzawa Ski Resort
  • 10% off rentals

…all for ¥12,200.

If you were to purchase the Shinkansen tickets and lift ticket separately, it would come to ¥18,300, saving you at least ¥6,100. Also, if you board at a station other than Tokyo Station, the price gets cheaper further along the Joetsu Shinkansen.

For example:

From Omiya Station – ¥11,100. Kumagaya Station – ¥10,100. Takasaki Station – ¥8,700. Also, if you purchase the ticket from an automated ticket machine rather than buying from a staffed window, it’ll save you an extra ¥300!

Trains for Gala-Yuzawa leave at least twice an hour and the trains home are just as frequent.

As for Gala Yuzawa Ski Resort itself, it’s not a bad place to go skiing. From train platform to ski lift takes no more than 2 minutes (EXTREMELY convenient if you bring your own gear), and there are plenty of facilities available to guests, including restaurants throughout the resort, locker rentals, a LARGE changing area, and even a hot springs. It’s also one of the higher resorts in the Yuzawa, so the snow tends to stick around a bit longer than the neighboring resorts. There’s a high speed gondola provided at the main building and the resort has plenty of quad and triple lifts to get throughout the entire resort with ease.

However, the ease and convenience of Gala-Yuzawa Ski Resort has its costs. Because they’ve made it TOO easy for Tokyoites to visit, it’s one of the most crowded, especially on weekends!! Lines to get on the lift can get long, and it makes the lunchtime rush a little unbearable, especially if you’re starving. Also, there isn’t as much variety as some of the other resorts, such as Naeba or Happo-one in Nagano Prefecture, but it’s enough if you’re just doing a day trip.

All-in-all, it’s a good price for a one-day trip. If you’re looking to do a weekend trip, there are plenty of specials that the local hotels or inns can offer that also include lift tickets. If you need help looking, don’t be afraid to leave a comment below, and I promise to respond quickly!

Finally with any train ticket report, are the fine details to help plan your trip better.

  • Price: ¥12,200 on weekdays, ¥13,200 on weekends (from Tokyo Station. Half price for children
  • Type: One-Day Shinkansen Pass plus lift ticket. Getting on/off at stations not ticketed for is not allowed.
  • Purchase Locations:
    • Automated ticket machines that also sell Shinkansen tickets
    • JR Ticket offices (Midori-no-madoguchi)
  • Purchase/Usage Period: December to April/May (depends when resort closes for the season)

Finally, JR East has provided a lot of useful links, all in English!, to help give a little more information (just in case I forgot anything!)


GALA 1-Day Ticket – (English) Official JR East webpage about the ticket. Also gives information how it can be used in conjunction with the JR EAST PASS (if you’re an overseas traveller).

Gala-Yuzawa Ski Resort – (English) Official webpage for the ski resort. Includes detailed information about the resort, such as hours of operation, lift operation, weather/snow conditions and courses.

GALA日帰りきっぷ – (Japanese) Official JR East webpage about the ticket.

Snow Japan – (English) A great (if not the BEST) English-related webpage to snowboarding and skiing in Japan. Has detailed information about ALL resorts in Japan and is updated at least once a day. A great place to start if looking to hit the slopes this winter.

E7 Series Shinkansen Announced

It was brought to my attention by a reader (thanks J.G!), that JR East will introduce the E7 Series Shinkansen on the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line (currently named the Nagano Shinkansen Line) starting from 2015.

This follows the E5 Series, currently running along the Tohoku Shinkansen Line, and the E6 Series, which will run on the Akita Shinkansen Line from next year.

From a Mainichi Newspaper article:

According to JR East, the company is already working on a blueprint for the new model and will launch a prototype train by summer 2012.

…which means we’re just a few months away from seeing what kind of design it will have. Will it inherit anything from the E5 or E6? Or will it have a complete resdesign altogether? We’ll see.

With the formal announcement of the E7, I’m hoping that they’ll finally announce something for the Joetsu Shinkansen Line since they’re planning to retire the trains throughout the next few years.

Complete article about the announcement of the E7 can be read here.

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