Ever since Haneda Airport was upgraded I had been wanting to check it out. A lot of my friends had been telling me how much better it was than the previous version and everyone seemed to be in agreement that it was vastly superior to it’s rival, Narita Airport which has long held a reputation for being outdated and extremely inconvenient and expensive to get to.
The new Haneda Airport has a much fresher design than Narita and features a strong emphasis on marketing the two most stereotypical views of Japan held by international tourists to visitors through the “Edo Hall” which tries to be a replica of a traditional Japanese shopping street (though the illusion is hampered a bit by the fact it’s visibly under a massive airport ceiling) and the “Tokyo Pop Town” which as you can probably guess, is focused on the pop culture aspects of Japanese culture such as Hello Kitty, One Piece, Doraemon, Pokemon and other popular franchises.
Within this area lies the Planetarium Starry Cafe which very much falls into the category of “Gimmick Cafe” along with all the cat, goat and French maid cafes by featuring a 360 projection upon the cafe’s ceiling.
The films range from surreal animated music videos, educational star constellation projections and even Japanese animated shorts voiced in English (though spoken by Japanese voice actors).
When you get to the cafe you might be mistaken, as I was, in thinking that the seats and tables near the entrance are the main cafe and begin to wonder where the planetarium is. In actuality this is a separate cafe that shares the same name but is completely separate from the planetarium section and even has it’s own menu that can be ordered from the main counter to the right of the entrance.
To get into the planetarium cafe you need to buy a ticket from the ticket booth opposite the counter for 500 yen per adult. You can also order any food and drinks you like here but be warned that even though some items correspond exactly to items on the other cafe’s menu, the majority of them are strangely more expensive. I guess the logic is that you’re paying for the experience to eat and watch the projections at the same time but it is very unusual especially when the food is exactly the same as it would be if you ate outside.
The staff seem to be aware of how strange their system is though and to their credit actually tried to talk me out of ordering food for the planetarium.
Determined to have the full experience, I ordered an eggplant pasta set and a lemon tea which together with the cost of admission set me back 1,740 yen. The food wasn’t bad by any means but as with most gimmick cafes, you are very much paying a premium for the unusual experience rather than culinary excellence.
I was surprised by how relaxing the planetarium was. It’s naturally very dimly lit to support the projections on the ceiling but each table had an individual lamp that provided a nice ambiance and quickly made me forget for a second that I was in an airport. The films shown were interesting and I noticed the several children that were present with their families at other tables seemed completely mesmerised by what was being shown above. If you want a place for your children to relax before a flight, this is definitely the place to be.
After a while I decided to simply enjoy the atmosphere and relegated the projections to background music. Other customers had appeared to do the same with a few reading books and others just enjoying their meal and talking with friends.
Planetarium Starry Cafe is definitely a different experience and worth checking out if you’ve got some time to kill at Haneda though I’m hesitant to recommend making a trip to Haneda solely to check it out. Kids will love it though and it’s a nice way to escape the hustle and bustle while waiting for check-in.
Station: Haneda Airport International Terminal
Train Line: Keikyu Line and Tokyo Monorail.
Features: 100% smoke free
Menu Language: Japanese
Hours: 11am – 5pm
Address: 〒144-0041 東京都大田区3-3-2羽田空港国際線ターミナル5F TOKYO POP TOWN
5F Tokyo Pop Town, Haneda Airport International Terminal, 3-3-2 Ota Ku, Tokyo 144-0041
Map: View on GoogleMaps
Directions: After entering the terminal from either the Tokyo Monorail or Keikyu Line walk right through the centre of the complex towards the Edo Hall on the fourth floor which is heavily inspired by old Japan and is very hard to miss. Go up the escalators to the Tokyo Pop Town on the fifth floor and turn right. Walk along this hallway and you should see the Planetarium Starry Cafe at the end.