Tokyo Narita is the international airport of Tokyo although it does have a couple of domestic flights. You will see the most variaty of all Japanese airports here. The observationdecks and spots around the perimter offer good opportunities for photos but a car and ladder can be very handy.
The airport has two runways. 34L/16R is mainly used by the larger aircraft for takeoff. The Airbus a380 will always land on this runway. Runway assigment depends roughy on the terminal being used by the airline. Terminal one bound traffic and cargo will use 34L/16R for landing. Terminal two traffic like all low costs carriers will prefer to use 34R/16L. To be able to photograph all traffic you will need to shot at both airports and need at least two days. Hope for 16L in operation for landings as for this spot no ladder is needed.
Mind to enter the airport you need a passport. The shuttle bus or car will be checked by security when entering the airport.
There are two observationdecks at the airport. Both are free and open early and are open till late. The one at terminal one faces west and is good in the morning.It can be found by taking an elevator to the 5th floor. Not all elevators will go to the 5ft floor. The fence has wholes in it so a camera lens can stick through it. Opening times are:
6:30 – 21:00 (Apr.1 – Sep.30)
7:00 – 21:00 (Oct.1 – Mar.31)
Some more info here.
There is a Lawson conveniance store (small supermarket) located at the same level of the observation deck at terminal one. Leave the deck. Take a left turn and you find it.
The deck at terminal two is less attractive. It faces east so good in the afternoon. It is only usefull for taking pictures of aircraft which gates are facing the deck. The runway 16L/34R is too far away for decent photos. You cannot see the other runway from here. There are two decks. To reach the other, walk past the restaurants. It can be found on the highest level of the terminal. Entrance is free.
There is an aviation museum (Koku Hakubutsukan) located near the approach of at 34L. This can be good for landingshots early in the morning. There goes a bus about two times per day to the museum from the terminal. For terminal one the busstop is 31. A taxi costs about 2000 Yen. The museum has a couple of aircraft parked outside like a YS11. These can be photographed for free. The museum has a small fee for entry. There is an observationdeck which allows for photos.
Along 34L there are a couple of good spots. You do need a ladder to be able to make shots though. This because the whole airport has high fences and some sort concrete sticks which allows to stick your lens through.
You do not need a ladder for spot 1. This is good for lineup shots and landing at 34L.
When landings are on 16L there is a very good spot near the begining of runway 16L. This spot is hard to reach by public transport. You will need to go to Narita station and then take a bus. From the Marroad Hotel & Narita Tobu hotel it will take about 50 minutes of walk. You do not need steps for this spot. The sun is good from about noon till sunset. There are some vendingmachines which offer water and softdrinks.
An example of photo taken here
Halfway 16L there is a spot for aircraft taxiing back after landing 34R. You will need a big ladder though which gets you about 3 meters high. One of the local spotters might help you with that.
The Narita Tobu hotel has a free shuttlebus to the airport which runs about three times an hour. We stayed here and the hotel was fine. It had free Wifi in the rooms and was clean. Some rooms overlook the airport but as it is located in the middle of both runways, far for photos.
The Toyoko Inn Narita Kuko is a popular hotel for spotters. It overlooks the approach of 34R and you are able to take landingshots of aircraft landing on 34R.
A few of the rooms of the Marroad have rooms overlooking runway 16R.
This is the Sakura no Yama park,. Good spot for landings 16R. This is very popular by the locals to watch planes. You do not need a ladder here. from the terminal you can take the shuttle bus of the Marroad hotel. Then you will need to walk 10 minutes to the park.
Good for lineup and landing 16R. you need a ladder with 4 to 5 steps because of the concrete fence here. This spot can be very busy with spotters in the weekend. A car is required to reach this spot or a long walk from the Marroad hotel. The photo below was taken by Sjaak Louwen
Lineup and landing 34L. For lineup shots 34L a small lader can be handy but not required. Landing shot example by Hisatomo Hosokoshi
Transport to Haneda
To reach Haneda from Narita you can take the train. We took the airport limousine bus as this brought us directly to our hotel. If you select a hotel make sure this is located near the Tokyo monorail or the railway. This runs with a few stops to all three terminals at Haneda airport.
We did not have any issues with police while spotting. There are a lot of Japanese aviation photographers. Unfortunately most of them do not speak english so it is hard to get in touch for a chat.
Make sure to read this website on spotting as well. The information is outdated but still usefull.
Japan is very well organized. Very clean. No rubbish on the streets despite there are very few dustbins on the streets. Very friendly people which are willing to help. Also not very expensive. Airport hotels can be a bit expensive but food is not. We had a meal in an airport restaurant for about 1200 yen. Drinks are about 120 yen from vending machines.