Yep, it's day 4 for me now, but I'm still writing about day 2 - I'll get caught up eventually!
Tokyo International Airport - aka Haneda - may seem an odd choice for a tourist attraction, but truthfully we've done all the "normal" stuff in years past. You can read about things like Tokyo Tower, Roppongi Hills, Asakusa and whatever else in my other Japan trip reports. (I've also done a bunch of even touristier stuff I apparently never got around to writing about - Imperial Palace, National Museum and such.) I really do probably have enough material to write a book on things to do in Tokyo at this point. But airports are the megastructures of the modern age, and as with anything else, the Japanese always go way over the top with them. I'd never been to Haneda before (it's still mainly a domestic airport) and my wife had heard there was good food there(?!) So we decided to check it out.
It's pretty cool even just getting there, because the easiest way is via the Tokyo Monorail. This is a neat little attraction on its own - like the Yurikamome Line, it snakes its way through Tokyo at about 10 stories off the ground. You can get some good sightseeing in just sitting on the monorail. And seriously, other than Brockway, Ogdenville, and North Haverbrook, how many cities really have monorails these days?
This is the monorail in action, as it pulls into the airport. It's quite hard to see but if you look closely, you can actually just make out Mount Fuji in the far background. (Look for the outline of a snow-capped mountain in the right half of the photo.)
A view from the monorail - not the best view, but the only photo I took:
By the way, the tip of Tokyo Tower is still bent.
Haneda's now got three terminals - Terminal 1, Terminal 2, and the brand new International Terminal. We went to all three.
This is the entrance from the monorail into the International Terminal.
This terminal's got a little "town" inside that's styled after traditional Japan. The town has shops and restaurants.
Not just typical airport shops and restaurants either - actual real stuff. I guess this is what my wife had heard about - we ended up eating in this area.
This is pork katsu - which is really just Japanglish for "cutlet". It was so freakin' good. This is one of those places where they cook right in front of you, and you can see exactly what they're doing. Everything was very fresh tasting, and the breading was so crispy and light. And the pork was just beautiful; very tender and flavorful. This was not an expensive lunch, either (well, relatively speaking); about $20 per person, I think. I don't remember the name of this place but like everywhere in Japan, all the restaurants in this area put pictures of their food outside, so it's pretty easy to find by just looking for something like this. I remember it was on the left side of this little town, if you decide to check it out.
Haneda has at least two terminals with outdoor observation decks - they haven't gone absolutely batshit crazy with fear like we have. (American airports used to have observation decks too; now you're lucky if you don't get arrested for taking pictures of airplanes from the parking lot.) These are no joke either; they're huge, spanning the entire width of the terminal, and set up specifically for people to be able to take pictures and video, with little holes in the wire fencing to stick your camera lens through.
Both of these were taken from the Terminal 2 observation deck. I actually saw three 787's in a one hour span, including one landing and one taking off! The great thing about outdoor observation decks is the sound - I actually took some video too, which I'll post later.
This is one half of the International Terminal observation deck. This deck looks inward towards the other terminals and control tower, and I actually liked it better than T2's deck (despite the photos above).
This is Terminal 2's deck, which is located above ANA's international gates and has a view of one runway and the city of Tokyo behind it (it's to the left, out of this photo).
Anyone can just walk into the airport and out onto these observation decks. No security checks needed.
Terminal 2's got a lot of shops inside too - basically an entire upscale mall - and a lot of interesting architectural details.
Terminal 1 was not quite as cool - though it is huge and impressive in that way.
That's half of Terminal 1's check-in area. I was standing near the middle when I took this - there's kind of a divider just behind me here and then another half that looks just like this going in the other direction.
T1 doesn't have as much stuff for non-fliers to do - I couldn't find an observation deck and there aren't as many shops on the pre-security side. So we didn't spend much time there, and you could probably even skip it.
But overall, it was a pretty fun and surprising little trip! We thought we'd be there an hour or so but we ended up spending 4 hours at the airport. Great views, impressive architecture, great photo opportunities, great food and shopping... not much more a tourist could really ask for.