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Getting there & away
Japan has three international airports. Outside Tokyo is Narita International Airport (NRT), where you'll want to land if your main business is in the capital, the surrounding region, or at points north or east such as Hokkaido. Another international airport, Kansai International Airport (KIX) outside Osaka, is convenient if your destination is Osaka, Kobe, Nara, Kyoto, or western or southern Japan; it is also convenient for domestic air travel within Japan, since most domestic flights out of Tokyo depart from Haneda Airport, necessitating an airport transfer if you arrive at Narita International Airport. In between Narita and Kansai airports, outside Nagoya, is the Central Japan International Airport (NGO), nicknamed Centrair, which offers the advantage of slick airport facilities (including hot-spring baths!) and easy access to Nagoya, the Shinkansen bullet train, Japan Alps, and beyond.
Because the flight to Tokyo is such a long one (about 12 hr. from Los Angeles or London and 13 1/2 hr. from Chicago or New York), you may wish to splurge for a roomier seat and upgraded service, including special counters for check-in, private lounges at the airport, and better meals, though these come with a price. You should also consider a mileage program, because you'll earn lots of miles going to Japan.
Japan's major carriers are Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways (ANA). JAL, Japan's flagship and largest domestic carrier, offers more international flights to Japan than any other airline, flying nonstop to Tokyo from Honolulu, Kona, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, and Vancouver. JAL also serves other countries worldwide, including flights from London, Sydney, and Auckland to Tokyo. ANA offers daily nonstop service from New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu, Toronto, Vancouver, and London.
One advantage to flying with JAL or ANA to Japan is that you can purchase your Japan Rail Pass through them. In addition, flying to Japan with JAL (or another Oneworld fare partner such as American Airlines) or ANA (or a Star Alliance member such as United Airlines) means you are then eligible for deep discounts on domestic flights within Japan.