Japan: Business Aviation Destination Guide
Japan is, and always has been, a popular tech and destination stop location for general aviation (GA). While GA access, particularly to the Tokyo area, is much improved over what it was 15 years ago, there are still issues to consider in terms of airport hours, overtime options, parking availability, and maximizing the success of the ground handling experience.
The following is an overview of what you need to know:
Tokyo area airports
Tokyo is the primary destination for most international biz av flights to Japan. Tokyo is served by two airports – Haneda (RJTT) and Narita (RJAA) – and both have their pros and cons from the general aviation (GA) operating perspective. The good news is that both locations offer easier GA access and less onerous lead time requirements than was the case just a few years ago. RJTT is available to GA 24 hours, while RJAA allows operations only 0600-2259 local. Although slots can be a little more challenging to obtain for RJTT, they can, in many cases, be set up with 24-48 hours’ notice.
For more information on operating to Tokyo, visit our Tokyo Business Aviation Destination Guide.
Other popular AOEs
Outside of Tokyo, popular airports of entry (AOEs) include Sapporo (RJCC), Sendai (RJSS), Nagoya (RJGG), Osaka (RJBB), Fukuoka (RJFF), Kitakyushu (RJFR), Kagoshima (RJFK), and Naha (ROAH). Complete GA support services are available at all locations, but airport and customs, immigration and quarantine (CIQ) clearance hours should always be confirmed in advance.
Non-AOEs used by GA
Nagoya (RJNA) and Kobe (RJBE) are generally not AOEs, but CIQ clearance can be requested with prior notice. Both locations have airport operating hours 0700-2200 local. RJBE has a full-service fixed-base operator (FBO), while GA support at RJNA is provided out of the main terminal. Some locations may require extended notice for CIQ arrangements. For example, RJBE mandates 14 business days advance notification in order to have CIQ available.
Slots are required for every major airport in Japan. Besides Narita (RJAA) and Haneda (RJTT), where airport slots should be requested as early as possible, slots are generally not difficult to obtain. For example, RJTT has increased GA slot availability from eight to sixteen per day (0600-2259 local – no limit between 2300-0559 local). Likewise, RJAA has boosted GA slot availability from eight to 16 per day and no longer has any limitation on 2300-0600 local airport slots.
Overflight permits are only required for general aviation (GA) aircraft registered to non-ICAO states, and the lead time for these permits is 10 business days. Landing permits are not needed for private non-revenue operations but are always required for charter (non-scheduled commercial) aircraft. The suggested lead time for a charter permit is three business days and 24 hours for business urgency.
Documentation and information needed for a charter permit request include:
- registration and airworthiness certificates
- worldwide insurance certificate
- charter contract between operator and the customer
- aircraft operator certificate (AOC)
- noise certificate
- complete passenger information – passport details including date of birth (DOB), nationality, and gender
- Any documents that certify that the aircraft is TCAS/ACAS equipped
- licenses and medicals for all pilots operating into Japan
- power of attorney to allow your provider to request the permit
Note that a separate application is required if you’re operating domestic charter flights within Japan. Lead times for urgent business purpose flights are 24hours when operating with passengers and three business days for ferry flights.
Cabotage regulations limit charter operators’ ability to pick up and transport Japanese nationals on domestic flight legs. However, operators may fly domestic legs with passengers who’ve arrived into Japan onboard the aircraft or will depart internationally with the same aircraft. A list of passengers traveling on domestic charter legs, along with their titles and positions in the company, should be noted in the charter agreement. For more information on charter landing permits and cabotage, please see our article titled “Japan Flight Permit Changes – Improvements for Business Aviation.”
CIQ clearance services at airports in Japan are not always 24/7. In fact, most Japanese airports don’t have customs and immigration available 24 hours per day. Osaka (RJBB), Tokyo Haneda (RJTT), and Nagoya Chubu Centair (RJGG) are the only airports in the country currently providing 24-hour CIQ. However, it is possible to arrange CIQ in advance at Kitakyushu (RJFR) for any given arrival/departure.
At most airports in Japan, customs, immigration, and quarantine (CIQ) is cleared in the main terminal with scheduled commercial passengers. Clearance time varies depending upon how busy the terminal is. The fastest in-terminal clearance is about 10 minutes, while worst-case scenarios run up to two hours. While a few airports allow GA passengers to use fast-track clearance lanes, most request passengers to stand in line with commercial arrivals. Crew may clear via dedicated crew lanes at all airports in Japan.
For example, Nagoya (RJNA) clears GA passengers/crew within the general aviation terminal (GAT), typically taking two to three minutes per person although CIQ must be arranged in advance. In the case of Kobe (RJBE), CIQ must be arranged in advance too.
Once CIQ is approved, crew and passengers are cleared within the fixed-base operator (FBO) in about five minutes, but aircraft must first stop at the main terminal for quarantine inspection before proceeding to the FBO.
VIP CIQ clearance
RJTT and RJAA offer exclusive GA clearance options. The cost for this service is approximately 3,200 USD (including taxes) per arrival or departure with associated clearance times of just two to three minutes per person. Also, Osaka (RJBB) just opened a GA facility for exclusive usage by GA passengers. The cost for this service is approximately 2,500 USD (including taxes) per arrival or departure.
Passengers requiring visas for Japan must obtain these in advance at a Japanese embassy or consulate, as no visa on arrival options are possible. Crew members, regardless of nationality, do not require visas to enter Japan. Crew Shore Passes will be issued upon first entry for those who hold crew IDs, have passports, and are listed on the gen dec. Note that shore passes limit the duration of stay and/or where you may travel within Japan. A Single Port shore pass is valid for up to eight days, including the day of arrival. If you intend to remain in Japan for more than eight days, a visa must be obtained before arrival. Multi-Port shore passes are also available, and these are valid for up to 16 days, including the day of arrival.
You’ll need to present a gen dec and complete passenger manifest for inbound GA clearance. You’ll also present your immigration form (embarkation and disembarkation cards) and customs declaration form. These cards can be filled out by your handler, in advance, except for the signature. Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS) data – including all names, nationalities, genders, date of birth, and passport numbers – should be transmitted to your ground handler in advance to avoid clearance delays on arrival. The ground handler will have APIS transmitted prior to the aircraft’s arrival. Passports must be valid for the entire length of stay in Japan. Note that passenger visas (when required) cannot be obtained on arrival. Crew, on the other hand, never require visas regardless of nationality. Crew members listed on the gen dec are issued Shore Passes upon passport and crew ID presentation.
It’s generally prohibited to bring catering leftovers or non-perishable foods into Japan. But, there’s latitude in these regulations, and some exceptions may be possible. If you have specific needs and/or wish to offload catering and have it stored at the airport for your next flight leg, check with your ground handler in advance.
Domestic pets may be temporarily imported to Japan but only at certain airports. For example, a dog or cat may be imported via Sapporo (RJCC), Narita (RJAA), RJTT, Nagoya (RJGG), Osaka (RJBB), and possibly in AOE airports other than those above, but this must be checked and arranged in advance.
Documentation requirements include:
- application for import inspection
- power of attorney (if a customs broker is used)
- results of rabies antibody test
- health certificates issued by a government agency of the exporting company
- any other documents that Animal Quarantine Service may require
If all requirements are not met, the animal will be placed in quarantine for up to 180 days. If no problems are found in terms of health conditions, and assuming the animal survives the quarantine process, the dog or cat will be granted importation. For more information, see the following links on the Japanese Animal Quarantine Service:
Bringing firearms into Japan is prohibited. Any onboard guns or weapons must be notified to police and customs prior to arrival in Japan. In no event may weapons be removed from the aircraft while it’s in Japan. Upon arrival, police and customs inspectors will come onboard to verify the weapons and place a seal on where they’re stored in the cabin. This seal will be inspected and removed pre-departure. If this seal has been tampered with, or police/customs feel there’s anything suspicious, departure will be held.
Flight planning for business aircraft operations in Japan is straightforward for the most part. But, particular processes should be followed to avoid potential operational issues on arrival/departure. As each airport has specific procedures and local operating restrictions, it’s best to review all requirements with your 3rd-party provider and/or ground handler prior to the day of operation.
All air traffic control (ATC) tower personnel in Japan are fluent in English. Flight plans may be filed either by your ground handler or directly via AFTN. It’s recommended that flight plans be filed approximately two hours prior to the estimated departure time. If you have an airport slot confirmation, this must be placed in remarks section 18 of your flight plan. Note that it’s essential to ensure that flight plans are filed for the approved airport slot time rather than a requested schedule. If you should experience a schedule delay, be sure to revise your on-file flight plan with the updated departure time.
To operate in Japan’s airspace, your aircraft must be equipped and certified for TCAS and RVSM. Japanese authorities also prefer that you have RNAV 1 or 5 capability. While ADS-B is not currently a requirement for Japan, this may change in the future.
Your ground handler will gather all flight-related documents and weather briefs and consolidate this in one packet on the day of operation. If a request is made in advance, your ground handler will provide weather advisories during your stay and contact the crew if significant weather, such as a typhoon, is predicted to impact the airport area.
Common errors surface from time to time when operating in Japan. Some of these errors include filing a flight plan time that differs from your approved airport slot time, providing an incorrect aeronautical fixed telecommunication network (AFTN) address for the ICAO portion of the flight plan, and filing incorrect SIDs or STARs. If the flight plan arrival or departure time varies – by even 5 minutes – from airport slot time, it may be rejected. Be particularly careful in filing SIDs and STARs to/from RJTT, as they vary depending on the time of day. For example, if you’re departing RJTT at night, but file SID/STAR approved for daytime ops, your flight plan will be rejected and must be revised/resubmitted.
Be mindful that hotels throughout much of Japan tend to sell out during specific tourism periods of the year. These include Golden Week (late April), cherry blossom blooming season (late March), summer holidays (August), and autumn (late October into November). During these peak periods, operators and ground handlers may need to become creative in sourcing crew accommodations. In some cases, it may be necessary to drive some two hours out of town to obtain adequate crew accommodations. Or, depending upon the crew, they may be willing to consider capsule or love hotel options within the cities.
For international tech stops, we recommend RJBB, RJCC, and RJGG. For the quickest possible turns, with minimum ground time, all requested services – such as lav, water, trash, and in-flight catering — should be pre-ordered at least two hours prior to arrival. Operational delays may be experienced when tech stop requests are made last minute.
Tokyo and Osaka have plenty of 4- and 5-star hotel options, including airport area hotels. Prices for 4-star crew accommodations run about 250 USD/night at these locations and sell out at times. In smaller Japanese cities, you may not find major international hotel chains and could be dealing with 3- and 2-star properties. At some smaller locations, such as RJCC, you may only find availability of 3-star crew accommodations for crew rest within 10 or 15 minutes of the airport. Note that hotel demand throughout Japan can run very high during cherry blossom viewing season, March through April, and during the winter season on Hokkaido Island.
Typhoon season generally runs June through July in the south of Japan and September through October in the north. During major typhoon events, airports may close down operations for up to a full day. Fog can be an issue at RJAA, particularly during mornings, but does not generally impact other airports. At times, runways at RJAA may close for up to an hour or two due to severe fog. Thunderstorm activity and heavy rains also disrupt airport ops across Japan from time to time.
Japan is an expensive GA operating environment, and some airports tend to be more expensive than others. Parking charges also vary by location. For example, some airports charge parking fees for tech stops, and others do not. Be mindful that VIP customs, immigration, and quarantine (CIQ) clearance at Haneda (RJTT) runs about 3,200 USD per use (including taxes) or about 6,400 USD total for one arrival and departure. And this only covers passengers, as the crew must always clear via the main terminal at RJTT.
Airports in Japan are highly secure, with adequate fencing, access controls, CCTV surveillance, and 24-hour patrols. Therefore, aircraft guards are not usually recommended or required at major airports. However, operators can hire aircraft guards, but these will be unarmed guards.
Universal Aviation Japan can help
More information and team contact info are available on our website.