Business Aircraft Ops to Japan: Local Area, Ground Transport & Hotels

> | April 28, 2016 | 0 Comments

Business Aircraft Ops to Japan: Local Area, Ground Transport & Hotels

This is a post by author Hiroshi Higashiyama. Hiroshi is representative director for Universal Aviation Japan, which has aircraft ground handling facilities in Haneda, Narita, Sapporo, and Osaka. Hiroshi is an expert on business aircraft operations in Japan and can be contacted at

This aviation blog post is part of a series on operating to Japan and continues from our last article entitled “Business Aircraft Ops to Japan: Flight Planning & Weather.”

General aviation (GA) trips to Japan are something to look forward to regardless of the time of year. However, depending upon when you arrive, you could face limited options in terms of preferred hotel accommodations. We always recommend that operators consider and confirm crew accommodations early on in the trip planning process. In addition, you also need to consider ground transport and documentation requirements.

The following is an overview of what you need to know:

1. Busy periods in Japan

There are high traffic holiday periods each year in Japan when local hotel accommodations sell out. During the cherry blossom season from the end of March to early April and the Golden Week which is from the end of April to early May, hotels sell out and have higher than normal pricing. This is also the student graduation period throughout Japan, putting further pressure on hotel availability.

From Christmas through early January is another time when accommodations sell out. In addition, many companies close during this time of year, and you may potentially experience certain service limitations such as reduced in-flight catering options.

Other times when pressure is put on local hotel resources include late October through mid-November and mid-August as these are prime tourism seasons. During busy tourism and holiday periods expect to pay $300-$400 per night for 4-star crew accommodations.

2. Hotel options

It’s recommended to use large international hotel chains when staying in Japan, but these are usually only available in larger cities and are the first to sell out. Four-star hotels are available in the vicinity of some larger airports, such as Tokyo Narita (RJAA), but are usually not available at smaller locations. When major international chain hotels sell out in larger cities you’ll need to consider local brand hotels. Some of these are very good – comparable, if not better than, major international chain options. However, these hotels may be different from what you’re used to. Capsule or pod hotels, for example, are extremely small rooms intended to provide cheap, basic overnight accommodation. These can be sourced in larger cities, such as Tokyo and Osaka, for about $50 per night. While these hotels aren’t normally recommended, they do serve as back-up accommodation options.

3. Short notice requests

Your 3rd-party provider and/or ground handler will do everything possible to accommodate short notice and last minute hotel requests. You may, however, face limited options as Japanese cities generally do not have sufficient availability of 4- and 5-star accommodations for the size of the particular city. It’s always recommended that crew accommodations be booked as soon as schedule is known.

4. Local transport

We find that most operators choose to use either prepaid transport (car with driver) or public transport. A wide range of prepaid transport options are available, including sedans, vans and SUVs. The public transport system in Japan, particularly high speed and local train services, is highly organized, efficient and punctual and effectively connects all parts of a city. Note that train services typically operate between 0530-2359 local.

5. Rental car options

Rental cars are not usually recommended for crews staying in Japan. While there are plenty of rental vehicle options available, roads can be narrow, traffic congestion can be high, and signage is usually not in English. Parking in city centers can also be an issue, and you may be faced with using automated elevator systems to have your vehicle parked. Also, cars drive on the left side of the road with steering on the right side of the car. If you do choose to use a rental car be sure to ask for a GPS (available with English text) and consider investing in full insurance coverage.

6. Documentation requirements

When entering Japan you’ll need a passport valid for your length of stay in country. Passengers may require visas, depending on nationality, and these must be obtained prior to arrival in Japan. To determine if a visa is needed please check the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. On the other hand, crew do not require visas. Crew members listed on the gen dec and carrying crew IDs will be issued “shore passes” upon arrival, and these are valid for a max stay of up to seven days for a single destination in the country and 15 days for multiple stops in the country. Immigration and customs cards must be filled out by all passengers, but only customs cards are required for crew. Your ground handler will fill out as much of this in advance a possible, assuming you’ve forwarded this information. Note that Japan has no mandated vaccination requirements at this time.

7. Agricultural restrictions

Japan is very strict on importation of agriculture items and onboard in-flight catering. If you have any onboard catering items you wish to bring into Japan, it’s best that you check with your ground handler so they can communicate with local authorities. In some cases you’ll be permitted to offload certain catering items and have them stored at the airport. In the case of smaller cities, however, your ground handler may not have access to refrigeration facilities to store these items. For more on agricultural restrictions please see the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

8. Onboard pet considerations

If you bring any animal into the country it will be placed in quarantine for 90 days. Note that in some cases your pet will not survive this process. In addition, owners must present pet health documentation including a health certificate and vaccination records. Due to these very strict local requirements it’s recommended that operators not travel to Japan with pets.

9. Additional reading: Operating to Japan – Series Index

Note: Links will be updated as articles are published.


For short notice operations to Japan it’s important to begin communicating with your ground handler as early as possible. This will help ensure you obtain the best available options in terms of hotels, local transport and other service support. Note that for passengers, when visas are needed, they must be obtained in advance. Also, be aware of strict agricultural and pet importation restrictions when traveling to Japan.


If you have any questions about this article or operating to Japan, contact me at


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Category : Best Practice

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Hiroshi “Higashi” Higashiyama, representative director of Universal Aviation Japan – Tokyo, has over 17 years of experience in the aviation industry in ground support and operations and is an expert on operating to Japan. Higashi’s expertise has earned him numerous invitations to speak both domestically and internationally at major industry events and conferences such as the National Business Aviation Association Conference. Higashi, who is based in Tokyo, along with the staff of Universal Aviation Japan – Tokyo, provided around-the-clock services for business aviation clients and humanitarian flights operating into Japan following the devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2011. He is also a member of the Japanese Business Aviation Association and works closely with local government officials to help improve business aviation infrastructure, processes, and procedures throughout Japan.

He can be reached at

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