Domestic Flights in Japan

Japan, an archipelago stretching over 3,000 kilometres from north to south, presents a unique challenge to travellers keen on exploring its diverse landscapes, from the snow-covered mountains of Hokkaido to the subtropical beaches of Okinawa. While the country's efficient rail network is often the go-to choice for tourists, domestic flights offer an alternative that combines convenience, speed, and often, surprisingly good value. Here's how to make the most of Japan's domestic air travel as a tourist.

The Appeal of Domestic Flights in Japan

Speed and Accessibility

Domestic flights in Japan are a boon for those pressed for time or aiming to cover vast distances. With over 90 airports scattered across the country, air travel can significantly reduce transit times, making it possible to have breakfast in Tokyo and lunch in Okinawa.

Competitive Pricing

The rise of budget airlines in Japan, such as Peach Aviation, Jetstar Japan, and Vanilla Air, has made air travel increasingly affordable. Competitive pricing, especially when booking in advance or during sale periods, often puts flights on par with, or even cheaper than, shinkansen (bullet train) tickets for the same routes.

Scenic Views

Certain domestic flights offer stunning aerial views that are an experience in themselves. Flying into Hokkaido provides vistas of the rugged coastline and volcanic landscapes, while routes over the Seto Inland Sea unveil the intricate patchwork of islands below.

Navigating Domestic Air Travel

Booking Flights

Most domestic airlines in Japan have English websites, making online booking straightforward. For the best deals, consider booking well in advance or look out for last-minute offers. Tourist-specific fares, such as the Japan Airlines (JAL) Explorer Pass and the ANA Experience Japan Fare, offer fixed-rate flights across the country for international visitors, requiring only that flights be booked from outside Japan.

Airport Access

Japan's airports are well-connected to city centres and major tourist attractions by public transport. Services like the Tokyo Monorail to Haneda Airport or the JR Rapid Service to Kansai International Airport ensure that catching your flight is as stress-free as the journey itself.

Luggage Solutions

For those travelling with heavy luggage, domestic flights can be a convenient option as they alleviate the need to navigate busy train stations. However, consider Japan's efficient luggage forwarding services (takkyubin) if you're combining air with rail travel, allowing you to explore cities unencumbered by your suitcases.

Additional Need-to-Knows

Identification Requirements

  • While international tourists often do not need to show ID for domestic flights, it's wise to have your passport handy. This can be especially important if you've purchased a tourist-specific fare that requires proof of international visitor status.

Cultural Etiquette at the Gate

  • Queueing Culture: Japan is known for its orderly and respectful queueing culture. When boarding, observe the lines and follow the instructions provided by airport staff. This ensures a smooth and efficient boarding process for everyone.

  • Silence is Golden: Japanese society values quietude, especially in public spaces. While waiting at the gate or boarding, keep conversations at a low volume and set mobile devices to silent mode.

    Making the Most out of Your Flight

    Exploring Regional Airports

    Many of Japan's regional airports double as cultural gateways, offering a glimpse into local traditions and cuisines even before you step outside. From Sapporo's New Chitose Airport with its ramen alley to Naha Airport's tropical vibe in Okinawa, these hubs are destinations in their own right.

    Day Trips by Air

    Consider the possibility of day trips to destinations that might otherwise require a night's stay. Islands like Yakushima or remote areas like the Iya Valley in Shikoku become accessible for a quick visit, expanding the scope of your travel itinerary.


    Domestic flights in Japan offer a blend of efficiency, convenience, and the chance to see the country from a different perspective. Whether you're looking to maximise your travel time or explore off-the-beaten-path destinations, the sky's the limit when it comes to discovering Japan's myriad attractions. With a bit of planning and an adventurous spirit, flying domestically can be an integral part of your Japanese travel experience, providing not just a means to an end, but a memorable journey in itself.