A layover in Tokyo from Haneda Airport – sushi, arcades, & beer in Akihabara

Tokyo is one of my favorite cities in the world. When I had the opportunity to include a 10+ hour layover in the city on my way from Seoul back home to San Francisco, I had to do it. A layover in Tokyo from Haneda is perfect, since it’s so easy to get into central Tokyo from the airport.

After landing on my Japan Airlines flight from Seoul Gimpo to Tokyo Haneda, I headed to immigration. There was zero queue, so I was at the Haneda monorail station in less than 5 minutes. Making a layover in Tokyo from Haneda is very easy. Just take the monorail to Hamamatsucho Station, where you can then transfer to the JR Yamanote Line on a train bound for downtown. You can purchase an all-in-one ticket to get you to your destination. In my case, it was 650 yen to get to Akihabara. It’s easy to figure it all out, but if you need help, staff members are available.

The monorail runs every 3 minutes & glides as softly as a cloud.

I had decided to spend my layover in Akihabara. The neighborhood is famous as an electronics & technology center. I hadn’t gotten to it on my previous visit to Tokyo, so I was excited to be able to spend a day checking it out. Thanks to great transit connections, I was in Akihabara less than 45 minutes after my flight had landed at Haneda.

The technological wonders started even before I got out of the train station. The exit was reached by going down a combination escalator/moving sidewalk, which I had never seen before.

Like most places in Tokyo, as soon as you step out of Akihabara train station, your senses are overwhelmed. Buildings tower above you, and bright lights flash from all the storefronts & arcades.

The first destination of my layover in Akihabara was lunch. I wanted some sushi, so I went to a place called Ginzo Akihabara that was underneath the train tracks. I could feel the rumble overhead as I ate.

My lunch was a feast of 18 pieces of nigiri and some sake. The nigiri was just 130 yen each. I love how Japan has such great, cheap, and fresh sushi.

After eating, it was time to explore Akihabara. I spotted my second dressed-up Colonel Sanders statue of the trip. There had been another one when I went to the Japanese baseball game in Fukuoka.

I walked through some of the electronics shops, but I didn’t buy anything. Instead, I headed for some of the neighborhood’s many arcades.

I spent a couple of hours playing video games. I’ve never really been into fighting games, just racing & sports. Since Japan doesn’t really have sports games in their arcades, I stuck mostly with racing games. I like playing racing games in Japan, as they are easy to figure out without translation. I would like to make it known that this photo was taken AFTER a race, and I did not intentionally drive straight into a wall.

In a corner of one arcade, there was a train simulator. It had simple controls, but I still managed to screw it all up. I started my train too slowly, then I overshot the platform by a mile. Sorry, fake Japanese commuters.

Of course, no Japanese arcade racing visit would be complete without playing some Mario Kart.

After spending a couple of hours playing arcade games, I was thirsty. I began making my way south, crossing the Kanda River.

There are a few craft beer bars in Akihabara that I hadn’t been to on my previous visit. For more, check out my favorite places to drink craft beer in Tokyo.

First I went to a branch of Craft Beer Market near Kanda station. I’d been to a couple of their other locations on my previous visit. They’re one of the best purveyors of craft beer in Japan. This Awajicho location had 30 taps, which they rotate frequently. The selection is a nice mix of Japanese beers & imports. Prices are fairly reasonable too.

My next stop was unplanned. I spotted a place called JHA Bar that had Brewdog’s Born To Die on tap. Since I hadn’t had it before, I had to stop in. It was a fun little basement bar, an Irish/British sort of place. They didn’t have any local beer available, but they did have a large European bottle selection.

Spotting this random bar shows why I love Tokyo. This area of central Tokyo near Akihabara & Kanda is one of the most crowded places in the world. Yet, even in the busiest areas, the side streets and alleys have small, friendly neighborhood bars and restaurants such as JHA. Whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find it. If you want great Japanese food, you’ll find a little local spot. Or if you want something else from home or elsewhere, you’ll find that too. It’s a melting pot of different cultures, yet still remains very Japanese. I was happy to be able to have a layover in Tokyo from Haneda like this, but I need to get back for a longer visit as soon as I can.

My final stop of the night before taking the subway & monorail back to Tokyo Haneda was a place called Devil Craft Kanda. They have a couple of locations in Tokyo. Devil Craft brew their own beer, but they also have an additional selection from around Japan and the United States. It’s a tiny phone booth of a space, and with 14 frequently-rotating taps they might actually have more taps downstairs than seats. There is an upstairs section as well. In addition to the good local beer, Devil Craft also serves Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, which smelled pretty good. There were several seats at the bar, so I had a good time chatting with the bartenders & other patrons.

Finally, it was time to get back to Tokyo Haneda. I took the same route back on the subway & monorail for the same price.

If you have the opportunity to give yourself a long layover in Tokyo from Haneda Airport, do it. I had 10 hours to spend, but you could still have a decent day even with less time. It’s so easy to get to and from the airport that there’s no reason to spend an entire day hanging out in Tokyo Haneda. Instead, treat yourself to a day in one of the greatest cities in the world, just like I did.

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