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I am traveling from Singapore to San Francisco and an airline which I am choosing has a layover of 7.5 hours at Tokyo Airport (NRT). I am wondering if I would be allowed to go out to experience the city for a while in some form a visitor visa. I know, Singapore has such facilities, but does anyone know if I can do something similar in Tokyo? Any suggestions or pointers are welcome. Note - I do not have a visa for Japan yet, but I am hoping that 1 day visitor visa could be possible at airport.

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What passport(s) do you hold? –  Ankur Banerjee Jun 14 '12 at 15:11
    
@AnkurBanerjee I hold Indian passport. I am PR of Singapore (not sure if that would help outside of SG) –  Senthil Kumaran Jun 14 '12 at 15:25
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Citizenship / residency status is very important for these situations. –  Ankur Banerjee Jun 14 '12 at 15:26
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3 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

For the visa part, the rules are (from Timaticweb):

Visitors continuing their journey to a third country within 72 hours can obtain a Shore Pass/Transit Pass on arrival, provided:

  • being able to prove to Japanese immigration that Shore/Transit Pass will be appropriately used; and
  • departing from the same airport of arrival; or
  • departing from a different airport (or seaport) in the district of the airport (or seaport) of arrival, provided both ports are located within the same group as listed below.
    • Group A: Airports: Narita (NRT), Haneda (HND), Chubu Centrair International (NGO), Niigata (KIJ), Komatsu (KMQ) and
      Yokota. Seaports: Tokyo, Yokohama, Niigata and Nagoya;
    • Group B: Airports: Kansai International (KIX), Chubu Centrair International (NGO) and Komatsu (KMQ). Seaports: Kobe and Nagoya.
    • Group C: Airports: Fukuoka (FUK), Nagasaki (NGS), Kumamoto (KMJ), Kagoshima (KOJ), Naha (OKA) and Kadena.
      Seaports: Hakata (Fukuoka), Shimonoseki and Naha (Okinawa).
    • Group D: Airport: Chitose (CTS). Seaports: Tokakomai, Otaru, Hakodate and Muroran.

Additional Information:

  • Tokyo (NRT) closes at 11:00pm.Visa required passengers intending to transit overnight, must hold a transit visa or obtain a Shore Pass in order to clear Immigration.

Under those rules, you should be able to obtain a transit pass on arrival at Narita and venture out of the airport.

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Thanks for this answer. Both this and @hippietrail answer above help me a lot to plan my journey. Thank you! –  Senthil Kumaran Jun 14 '12 at 22:57
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I'm not sure about the visa part, but about the time:

By the cheapest train I seem to recall Narita airport is about two hours from Tokyo. Also you might well have to be back at the airport at least one hour before boarding, and quite possibly more. And the train system in Japan is notoriously complex. It will be very easy to get a bit lost and miss your flight in Tokyo (I've done it once) and it will be very expensive to just take a taxi the whole way to the airport from Tokyo. You might consider renting a car, but you'll have to make sure you've prepared in advance because even with English on all road signs, Japanese place names etc can be a bit bewildering when you're not used to it.

If you just want to dip into Japanese culture though, don't worry because Narita has quite a bit to offer for an airport city. It's very compact, hard to get lost in, and close to the airport so even if you have to take a taxi it won't be too expensive. It's a fairly typical little Japanese city with lots of small shops, food, parks, a calligraphy museum, and a temple that is at least a thousand years old.

My first two times in Japan I had only 24 hours in Narita between flights and I enjoyed it very much.

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That's helpful information. Thanks a lot for that. I shall try to figure out about the VISA part. –  Senthil Kumaran Jun 14 '12 at 15:23
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I see that the itenerary I had selected is not longer available, I will have to transfer from NRT to HND in 7 hours and got to see if it is worth it. Yes, I am very interested in taking a dip for the first time I am going towards japan. –  Senthil Kumaran Jun 14 '12 at 23:28
    
Any suggestions for going East of the airport to the ocean communities? –  BozoJoe Dec 10 '13 at 7:52
    
@BozoJoe: Why not ask in a new question? –  hippietrail Dec 10 '13 at 10:04
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Many visitors in your situation find their time in Tokyo quite disappointing. Tokyo is far from Narita*, confusing, and crowded. The best sights in Tokyo are the temples, but there is a superb temple complex in Narita city. Stay in Narita.

*This should improve when the new train line is completed.

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Unless, of course, you actually enjoy the crowdedness and confusingness of Tokyo :) –  BrendanMcK Nov 17 '12 at 11:39
    
The Naritasan temple complex and unagi road are quite fun –  BozoJoe Jan 10 at 22:23
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