A friend is making his first big international trip and I made a couple of quick videos of the arrivals process at Tokyo's Narita Airport so he could get the lay of the land before his flight. I figured I'd post this publicly in case it's useful to others out there as well.
Here's the English-language timetable for the Narita Express (N'Ex for short). Note the letter codes for trains that don't run every day. Narita has free Wi-Fi , as do most of the stations on the Yamanote line (including Shibuya and Shinjuku). Just remember that you might have to open Safari and attempt to visit a web page in order to prompt the Wi-Fi confirmation screen to appear (i.e., iPhone Apps can't usually display a Wi-Fi login screen). A list of JR Station maps is here.
First video shows international passengers arriving and navigating to the JR office where you can buy Narita Express tickets or exchange your voucher for a JR pass. When you redeem your pass, ask the agent to also reserve you a seat on the next Narita Express (also called N'Ex).
If the line is ridiculously long and you decide to pick up your rail pass in the city later on, you can purchase a Narita Express ticket from the agent at the counter further down. If you aren't familiar with Japanese trains, I highly recommend against using the ticket machines – they're incredibly difficult to use, it's very easy to make a mistake, there's always a line of grumpy people stressing you out, most don't take credit cards, and the few that do usually require Chip + Pin cards which no one in the USA has. (Aside from Barclay and PenFed, all American Chip cards are Chip + Signature).
Then, find out what track you're on and head over to the fare gates. If you're using a JR Pass, you always have to go through the staffed gate (i.e., you don't use the automated fare gates). Make sure you note which train car your seat is in! On the platform you'll see signs showing you where to stand for each car. This is critical since the Narita Express actually splits in half midway through the journey and each half goes to a different destination! Inside the train, the announcements are in English, Chinese, and Japanese and there are digital displays showing your destination and progress.
|Platform signs show where each car will be, make sure you're in the right place before the train arrives!|
If you're using a rail pass, this won't matter, but if you're using a ticket, it will: watch the video and notice how the fare gate spits your ticket out way down at the end. Keep your ticket because you'll need it to exit! Also note that in Japan, the gates are usually wide open unless you do something wrong and they they'll close, blocking your exit. Luckily, in Japan a man with white gloves usually appears who just fixes everything for you and gets you back on your way.