Top 20 Things to Do Alone at Tokyo Haneda Airport
I watched the movie The Terminal not too long ago, and it made me realise we don’t pay enough respect to airports. Sure, we see it as a place that literally takes us places, but we are actually always eager to leave the airport. It has always been an entry point to a place and its exit point. Most airports in the world are beautifully designed, but we hardly spend time and savour it.
In Japan, just like everything else, airports are a beauty! In a country that seems to have already cracked the code to the future, the airports are some of the luxurious places you can ever be. If you visit Japan, you will find that the country is better than what you had expected before you boarded the flight from your home country. But let me tell you the journey of Japan begins from the airport itself. Haneda in Tokyo is where you step into the beautiful country, and let me tell you, you won’t regret it if you spend quite some time at this airport. Haneda is one of the busiest airports not only in Japan but also around the world. It was built in 1931, and today it services more than 60 million passengers per year!
But more than that, there are so many things to see and do at this airport. To make things easier, let me list 20 things you can do there to wile your time during your solo travel to Japan.
1. Observation deck
As kids, we loved watching airplanes take and land. It somehow always represented freedom. Even as an adult when we begin our solo female travel journey, watching planes take off makes us happy due to a very different reason. Now when I see another plane take off, it reminds me of the new places I am yet to travel to, and it fills me with joy. But if you are at the Haneda airport, you will have a big observation deck just to see flights land and take off. This is located in Terminal 1 of the domestic airport and is accessible from the sixth floor and is a pretty large area.
Terminal 2 has another observation deck, and from there, you can catch a glimpse of many of Tokyo’s finest attractions like the Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Skytree, and the likes. You can take a shuttle between the two observation decks. But make sure you check it because this is a must-see when at Haneda airport during your solo trip to Japan. Also, on a clear day, you can even catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji from here.
2. Take a sip of one of the best ales
The capital city of Tokyo definitely has some of the best food in the country and maybe even in the world, but if you want to taste an ale that is not just delicious but restricted to the Haneda airport alone, you have to come to Sky Tree. The local beer brewed in Tokyo is called the Haneda Sky ale, and you can find the restaurant just off the Terminal 1 observation deck. So, you can watch the planes while sipping on a beer. If you are hungry, you can also try out the Sky dog, which is a juicy sausage and pork cutlet in soft French bread.
3. Cross the Nihonbashi bridge
How cool is it when you see a replica of a popular bridge right in the middle of the airport. The Tokyo Nihonbashi bridge built over the Nihonbashi area was constructed in 1911, but even if you have missed this bridge on your trip to Japan, you can always see the replica and imagine what the original must be like. The one at the airport is 25 m long, which is half the size of the original, leading from the fourth floor to the fifth at the international terminal. This is indeed extremely cool and a must-visit at the Haneda airport during your solo travel.
4. Writing on the wall
We have all heard of Paris’ Love Lock Bridge, where you inscribe the name of your loved one in a lock over a bridge on the Seine River. At Haneda airport, they have come up with a similar idea where you can buy a small wooden tag from a vending machine and then write your personalized wish and put it next to hundreds of others. On a female solo trip, this feels like a warm hug and an assurance that you are not alone.
5. Learn more about airplanes
Only in an airport in Japan will you ever find a museum for airplanes. While at the Haneda airport on your solo female trip, remember to book a ticket for your JAL Factory Tour Sky Museum. Located between the domestic and international terminals, this museum allows you to not only see models of different historic planes but also real aircraft at the tarmac. But tickets sell out real fast, and booking begins almost six months in advance.
6. Feel what it’s like to fly a plane
Well, yes, technically, without learning how to fly, you won’t be allowed to charter a plane. But at Haneda airport, you can come close enough. I am dead serious. If you are an airplane nerd, I suggest you stay at the Haneda Excel Hotel and opt for their “Superior Cockpit room.” It looks like any other normal room, but it all changes when you see a full-on Boeing 737-800 flight simulator at one end of the room. A stay here will cost you around 25,000 yen per night, and if you want to experience the simulator, you will have to pay another 30,000 yen for a 90-minute session with a proper instructor. Yes, it isn’t cheap, but so isn’t flying a plane, right?
7. Rent a Robohon
It is no secret that very few countries in the world have taken as big a stride that Japan has when it comes to technology. And you get glimpses of it all throughout the airport. When at the Haneda airport on your solo female travel, you absolutely have to consider renting a futuristic robot guide tour called Robohon! This is a hybrid between a robot tour-guide and a smartphone that you can rent at the Global Wi-fi counter. Rentals begin at 1500 yen for 24 hours.
8. Hikoki pudding, anyone?
When we think of Japanese food, we think of sushi, ramen, tamagoyaki, and so on. But in reality, the dessert that the country has to offer can very well compete with its savoury counterparts. Mochi, Japanese cheesecake, pancakes, fish-shaped sweet cakes, Japan converted a savoury-loving girl like me. Add to the list Hikoki pudding that you only get at Pastel dessert at the Haneda and is an absolute must-try on your solo trip to Japan. Hikoki means airplane in Japanese, and this rich and creamy pudding has an airplane drawn with cocoa powder on it. This is available only from Friday to Sunday and sells out really fast.
9. Airport shrine
The Haneda airport, they say, is like a mini country. And their assessment isn’t wrong. Japan is a country of contrasts. While it has futuristic cities, on the one hand, it boasts of preserving its tradition and culture on the other. It’s the same at the Haneda airport. While you have robots dressed as pilots being your guide, you also have little shrines here and there, which gives you a little peace amid the chaos of the airport.
10. Go vroom
If you are at terminal 2 of the Haneda airport during your solo trip to Japan, you must pop into Mercedes Me Tokyo Haneda. Are you a car lover, and do you dream of owning the best cars someday? This is just what you need during your time at the Haneda airport. Look at the latest models of Mercedes, and you are also allowed to sit in a car and get a feel of what it means to own one. There will be plenty of people around if you even need any information. But if cars bore you, the food at the adjacent cafe and the Merc merchandise that you can buy will definitely cheer you up.
11. A piece of Kyoto in Tokyo
Yojiya is the name of a cosmetics brand in Japan that is Kyoto based. The best thing about this brand is the blotting paper for soaking up the oil on your face, and while at Haneda airport, you have to get your hands on it. One book of these masks comes at 326 yen with tax. But that’s not all. At a vending machine here, you get a cappuccino, which comes with the perfect Yojiya face on it. Only in Japan can you find coffee art straight out of a vending machine.
12. Going back in time
Retail therapy is always a must at any airport, but at Haneda airport, they take it to the next level. Here you don’t just have shops and boutiques, but full streets representing the Edo period of Tokyo inside an airport! You can find Edo-koji street on the fourth floor of the international terminal. Walking down the street gives you a feel of Tokyo in the ancient Edo period, and it’s just wonderful! With Japanese paper lamps everywhere, the Edi-koji street will immediately take you back in time, and thus this is an absolute must-visit!
13. The pop culture
Japan is a country unto itself, and many of its culture both traditional and modern is unique to Japan alone. Suppose you are into Japan’s popular culture, head over to the fifth floor of Haneda’s international terminal. There are two zones in the Tokyo Pop Town: Hot Zone and Cool Zone. Get hold of your favourite Manga comics and everything anime. But the one place you absolutely must head to at the Haneda airport on your solo trip to Japan is the huge Hello Kitty shop in the area. You can buy merchandise and even try out their desserts like daifuku (mochi cake stuffed with custard cream) and vie for their limited pancakes called dorayaki.
14. Designer shops
While you need to dress a little conservative when in Japan, it doesn’t mean that Japan is lagging behind when it comes to fashion. In fact, that’s farthest from the truth. If you travel through the busy Tokyo districts of Harajuku and Shinjuku, you will be overwhelmed by the bright, pop coloured, and trendy fashion that the country has to offer. So just to get a taste of that, when you are at the Haneda airport during your solo trip to Japan, you must check out some of the up-and-coming Japanese boutiques.
15. Gorge on some delicious food
There is an abundance of good food in Japan, so when you are at the Haneda airport, go crazy! Apart from the places I have already mentioned, there are plenty more options for you to explore. The best part is that these restaurants remain open 24×7, so no matter when you go, you will always be served. If you want an authentic Japanese experience, you can try out restaurants along Edo Koji Street, or if you want to just sip on a coffee while eating a sandwich or a hotdog, try Cafe Cardinal at the international airport.
16. Look at the stars
Very few airports in the world can boast of a one-of-a-kind planetarium dome inside their premises. But then Haneda isn’t your usual airport now, is it? The dome has almost over 40 million stars projected with the help of computers. You can also sit at the cafe adjacent to the planetarium and enjoy looking up at the stars and constellations.
One of the best ways to spend your time at the Haneda airport is to have fun and memories to last a lifetime. One of the best ways to ensure that is by clicking pictures at the photo booth. You will find these booths all over the airport and even if you find it difficult to locate one, just ask someone at the airport. With quirky backdrops behind you, pose away and then carry those pictures back and put them up on your fridge! It will bring a smile to your face every time you see these pictures.
18. Toy story
I don’t know about you, but I am still a child at heart, which means toys still excite me. So, if you are like me, you must head over to the Hakuhinkan Toy Park during your first solo travel. You can race cars, play other games and also carry home toys if you want to.
19. Stay at a capsule
When it comes to places of accommodation, Japan has a few surprises up its sleeves, and one of the best places you can spend some time while at the Haneda airport is a capsule hotel. The First Cabin capsule hotel at the Haneda airport is a must stay during your visit. It is a replica of an airplane, and you can choose between a first-class cabin and a business class cabin. You can get all the luxuries of flying the best without having to shell a lot of money. Believe it or not, it will cost you only 6000 yen.
20. People watching
This can be done at any airport in the world, and it is indeed one of my best pastimes (not in a creepy way, lol). Haneda should not be any different. Japan is definitely one of the best countries you can travel to, and at the Haneda airport, you will find the perfect melting point of all cultures. Play a guessing game by yourself. Look at someone and imagine what their story could be. This is also the best place where you can strike up a conversation with a fellow solo traveller, and you can swap travel stories.
There are so many things at the Haneda airport you can do. You can even plan to stay here for a day or two, and you will still have plenty left to do!
So, when are you flying in and spending some time at the Haneda airport?
An introverted blogger who is looking to make unforgettable solo travel memories with one short life.