New Chitose Airport
The gateway to Hokkaido.
New Chitose Airport is the northern prefecture of Hokkaido’s main airport and the fifth busiest in Japan. Located about 50 kilometers outside of the central hub of Sapporo, its unique features make it one of the country’s most enjoyable airports to travel through.
Originally opened in 1991, New Chitose has since been renovated and expanded to become the major transport hub it is today. Over 22 million passengers pass through the airport annually, and it serves a growing number of domestic and international destinations and airlines. These include industry stalwarts like JAL and ANA, as well as low-cost alternatives such as Jetstar and Peach Aviation.
In addition to its position as the main entry point to Hokkaido, New Chitose Airport has clearly been designed with its visitors in mind. Its interesting facilities make it a surprisingly pleasant place to kill time before your flight – so much so that you won’t even mind if your plane is delayed!
Relax at the airport onsen
Like many airports, there’s an on-site hotel, Air Terminal Hotel, providing a convenient place to stay for people arriving late at night or departing early in the morning. However, what’s unique to New Chitose is that it also has an on-site onsen (hot spring). The first airport onsen in the world, it offers both an indoor and open-air hot spring bath where you can unwind while waiting for your flight. The facility also boasts a relaxation room and a range of massage services to help you achieve peak tranquility.
The onsen isn’t the only unique feature of New Chitose Airport. It’s also home to Japan’s first airport cinema. Sora Cinema Chitose has nearly 400 seats across a total of three screens, and the capability to show 3D films.
If you don’t have time for a movie, drop by the Doraemon Waku Waku Sky Park instead. Particularly good for those traveling with children, it has an arcade, a playground and a crafts workshop – all themed around Japan’s beloved anime character Doraemon, the blue robotic cat.
There are a number of shops in the airport selling a wide range of local goods, including food and other souvenirs. Chocoholics should make a beeline for Royce’ Chocolate World, located on the connecting path between the domestic and international terminals. As well as the gift shop selling a wide range of Hokkaido chocolate products, it features a chocolate factory where you can watch the sweet treats being made.
There’s also a bakery filled with chocolatey baked goods and a chocolate-themed exhibition for those who want to learn more. You can also find a more traditional food court in the airport offering various Hokkaido delicacies for passengers who get peckish before their flight.
On top of these features, there are of course the standard airport facilities at New Chitose. These include luggage storage, ATMs, currency exchange, a prayer room on 2F of International Terminal Building, an observation deck, wifi and phone rental areas, and free wifi.
There is also a really helpful tourist information center with language assistance in English, Chinese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Portuguese and Spanish. Here you can get travel consultation, transport info, sightseeing pamphlets, etc.
For more on flights and transport in Japan, check out our Japan 101 guide.