Access is obviously straight forward, so I won’t discuss that in detail. There are now 3 terminals at Narita Terminal. Terminal 3 is for LCCs and is a bit of a walk from the main terminals.
While at the airport, you can use the free WiFi (or, of course, data if you have it), to access an app like Flightradar24 to see when planes are landing or taking off.
Let’s take the Terminals in turn.
Terminal 1 (ANA & Star Alliance mostly)
Terminal 1 is split into a north wing and south wing, but there is no difference when it comes to the observation deck. It gives you a very good view of the main runway, although you may have to search for a bit to find a good gap in the fence (there are some small squares cut out) to fit your lens through. Alternatively, just take pictures of planes on final approach or after they have already taken off. On a good day you may even be able to get Mount Fuji in the distance (I only realised this after getting home one time and seeing the picture on my computer screen).
With the name ‘NARITA’ written in the banking on the far side of the runway, you may also be able to get some interesting shots featuring that.
Terminal 2 (JAL and OneWorld alliance mostly)
Terminal 2 isn’t as good for photos due to being in between the two runways. With a good lens you can get some shots of planes coming in above Toho Shrine (see the post about taking photos near Narita Airport).
In addition to the pictures of planes in the sky, you can get some good taxiing shots – including those which have a legacy of the protests against the building of the airport (as I discussed in the previous post, and touched upon in my books Japan: The Basics and Shinkansen: From Bullet Train to Symbol of Modern Japan. In the middle of the taxiways is a house which was never destroyed and planes have to effectively go around it.
Terminal 3 (LCC terminal)
Terminal 3 (effectively an extension to the north of Terminal 2 if using the map above) is where there were spots for planes back in the day when the airport was congested and passengers needed to be ferried to the plane by bus. I experienced this once after the airport had been closed the previous day due to heavy snowfall. I’ve only used it since the terminal building was constructed a couple of times. It has (at least when I went), no outdoor observation deck, but you can, at least, get some good views of the planes thanks to some large windows.
See details about other photographs I have used in my research here.