On a recent trip to Japan we were very nearly caught out by a timetabling anomaly for the Narita Express airport train service from Shinjuku so I thought I’d share it on the blog to save others some of the anxiety of arriving so close to check in closure time!
Basically the frequency of the service depends on the time of day. Up to and including 8am, the service runs almost every 20 minutes (great). After 10am it’s roughly every hour until nearly 8pm (not so great but manageable with planning). However from 8am there is nearly a 2 hour gap until the next service at 9:40am! This means that if your flight is at 11am or earlier, you must catch the 8am train or resort to other means of getting to the airport (including taking the Yamanote line to Tokyo and picking up the express from there where services are more frequent).
In short, either check the timetable carefully for your chosen boarding point taking into account your flight time or elect to always travel from Tokyo station rather than any of the other possible starting points as there are always regular services from this station.
A cursory search on Hyperdia would also seem to indicate that taking the Skyliner service from Nippori, accessed from Shinjuku via the Yamanote line, is quicker than the Narita Express anyway, and more frequent, providing an almost consistent 20 minute interval departure time throughout the day with an end to end journey time of just over an hour, compared with the express which is over an hour and a half door to door.