A Tale Of Two Observation Decks: Tokyo Haneda vs. Narita

Introduction: Revisiting Tokyo…Twice
Cathay Pacific The Deck Lounge Hong Kong
Japan Airlines 777-200 Business Class Hong Kong to Tokyo
A Tale Of Two Observation Decks: Tokyo Haneda vs. Narita
Hotel Century Southern Tower Tokyo
Scoot 787 ScootBiz Tokyo to Taipei
Cathay Pacific A350-1000 Business Class Taipei to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific A330 Economy Class Hong Kong to Tokyo
Cathay Pacific 777 Economy Class Tokyo to Hong Kong


Airports are exciting places. Sometimes it’s fun to gaze at airport terminals and wonder about how everyone you see will be scattered all around the world by this time tomorrow. Sometimes it’s fun to watch departures boards, looking at all the places you’re literally a plane ride away from. But as an aviation geek, one of the things that’s been nearest and dearest to my heart is watching planes roll by the tarmac, wondering where they’ve been yesterday and where they’ve been tomorrow.

Most cities have one large airport. Tokyo houses two. I prefer one airport to the other in almost every regard, though both of them feature outdoor observation decks, which is what I wanted to dedicate a separate post to.

Tokyo Narita Airport Terminal 2 Observation Deck

Narita Airport has two observation decks. One is in Terminal 1, and it features views of planes taking off and landing, which would’ve been exciting. Unfortunately in every case on this trip I was flying in and out of Terminal 2, which was a little less exciting, as the views were mostly of parked planes.

Tokyo Narita Airport Terminal 2

The observation deck is housed by a “shopping and dining” area which is located above the immigration counters landside, and spans the length of the terminal.

Tokyo Narita Airport Terminal 2 Shopping and Dining Area

From there, a hallway leads you up to the observation deck, where you’ll find an unmarked door.

Tokyo Narita Airport Terminal 2 Hallway to Observation Deck

From there, you’ll reach Tokyo Narita Airport’s Terminal 2 observation deck. On the day that I visited it was raining, so there weren’t many options in terms of where to sit. Obviously, though I wasn’t here to sit, but rather I was here to take some photos of parked planes.

Tokyo Narita Airport Terminal 2 Observation Deck

The views of planes were…good. If you have a good camera, your photos of planes will be of good clarity. However, there was a major drawback – the fence separating the observation and the tarmac was really “dense”, which became in the way of many photos. Still, though, I enjoyed the ability to photograph some planes and get some fresh air.

Japan Airlines Boeing 787 Tokyo Narita Airport

Japan Airlines Boeing 787 Tokyo Narita Airport

Air India Boeing 787 Tokyo Narita Airport

Japan Airlines Boeing 787 Tokyo Narita Airport

Unfortunately from this deck it was kind of it for the views. You got a pretty good view of gates 71-75, 82, 84, and 86 (in hindsight there was probably another observation deck at the other end with a view of gates 61-68, 92, 94 and 96), though that was it. Similarly, at Terminal 1, you’ll get good photos of planes taking off and landing, though you won’t be impressed in terms of parked planes.

I have to be objective and say that this was still a pretty good way to spend some time at Narita Airport.

Tokyo Haneda Airport International Terminal Observation Deck

Haneda Airport has three massive observation decks – one in each domestic terminal, and one in the international terminal. I only had the opportunity to visit the observation deck in the international terminal, though I was blown away by it. Wow, what a facility.

Much like Narita Airport, Haneda Airport’s observation deck is also located in a “shopping street” a couple of levels above the terminal.

Tokyo Haneda Airport International Terminal

From there, clear signage led me to the observation deck. While Tokyo Narita Airport’s observation deck is as large as a big apartment, Haneda’s observation deck spans literally one half of the terminal. It’s massive (to put into perspective, the below picture only covers a fourth of the entire thing).

Tokyo Haneda Airport International Terminal Observation Deck

But the best thing about the observation deck must be that you have clear views of parked aircraft as well as runway action. Now, I visited the observation deck at 9:30 PM, so it was really quiet – there was one Jetstar A320 that took off at the time, which I missed. On a good day, though, you should be able to grab amazing pictures of airplanes taking off and landing without issue, especially with a camera with good zoom.

Japan Airlines Boeing 777 Tokyo Haneda Airport (the one that flew us in from Hong Kong)

ANA Boeing 777 Tokyo Haneda Airport

ANA Boeing 787 Star Alliance Livery Tokyo Haneda Airport

Qantas Boeing 747 Tokyo Haneda Airport

ANA Boeing 787 Tokyo Haneda Airport

Bottom Line

As far as observation decks go, Tokyo Narita’s observation deck is a fun way to spend time, though it pales in comparison to Haneda’s impressive offering. There are a few things to note about the two airports, though:

  • Immigration at Tokyo Narita took forever, especially upon landing (they were trying out this new system with fingerprint scanning, which wasn’t working well at all), whereas immigration at Tokyo Haneda took a couple of minutes
  • Tokyo Haneda may be adorned with some questionable colour choices, though it’s generally quite modern; in comparison, Tokyo Narita feels like a warehouse (there’s no other way to put it)
  • I didn’t fly out of Tokyo Haneda, though Narita has an underwhelming selection of things to do airside – if you have a lot of time to kill at Narita and don’t have lounge access, stay landside
  • However, Tokyo Narita’s landside shopping felt marginally more impressive than Tokyo Haneda’s (both airports have a variety of shops landside)
  • Lastly, and actually quite importantly, Haneda is substantially closer to the city compared to Narita

In conclusion, I far prefer Tokyo Haneda Airport to Tokyo Narita Airport. It’s much easier to snag award space into Tokyo Narita, though I’ll try to fly into Haneda Airport as best I can given the chance. The passenger experience is just that much more pleasant, and the much more exciting observation deck doesn’t hurt either.

Have you been to the observation decks at Tokyo’s airports?

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