Layover at Narita Airport? Traditional Japan Awaits!
Believe it or not, Narita isn't just one of the two international airports around Tokyo. It is actually a 1,200 year old pilgrimage site and a charming city with a traditional heart. So, if you happen to have a layover at Narita airport and find yourself stranded for several hours with time to kill, there's no need to take the long 1½ hour ride into Tokyo to have a good time and experience a bit of Japanese culture - you can find all that just 10 minutes away in Narita city.
Narita city is a great place to explore traditional Japan on a time budget. The city center is compact and all the places I went to could be reached on foot from Narita station. There are actually two main stations right beside each other, one the Keisei-Narita station on the Keisei line, and the other the Narita JR station. Whichever you will be arriving at, I recommend you stop by the JR station first thing because there is a tourist information desk with exceedingly friendly and helpful English-speaking staff.
Two not to be missed sights are the great Daihonzan Naritasan Shinsho-ji Temple, boasting one of the largest temple grounds in all of Japan, and the Omotesando Shopping Street leading towards it, not to be confused with Omotesando in downtown Tokyo! The word "omotesando" (表参道) literally means "front approaching street" and can be given to any street leading directly to the entrance of a big temple or shrine (in Tokyo it happens to be the Meiji Jingu Shrine). This street is filled with little Japanese houses, traditional businesses selling spices, medicine, fabrics and the like, and of course the occasional souvenir shop.
A fun and delicious way to experience Japanese culture and aesthetics first-hand is by having green tea and sweets at a traditional tea room. Miyoshiya is a lovely tea room located just off Omotesando on a tiny back street. A plus for short-term visitors to Japan is that they accept all major credit cards and even have an English menu, so no need to exchange currency to shop and eat here. On hot days I recommend their iced matcha (made from powdered green tea). Seafood fans will enjoy the regionally famous fried eel on rice dishes (unagi don) that can be found at several other restaurants along Omotesando.
To top off your cultural adventure you can have the friendly ladies at the Machikado Fureai-kan, also found on Omotesando, help you dress in Japanese garb, complete with accessories and sandals. And it's practically free! They only ask for a small donation of 500 Yen to help them out with the cleaning fees. You can then stroll the streets in traditional style.
Make your layover at Narita Airport worth your while and have a taste of traditional Japan. Enjoy the culture, cuisine and style of the Land of the Rising Sun - only ten minutes from the airport!
Would you like to follow in Jenny's footsteps and explore Narita city yourself? Then take a look at her trip Layover in Narita City
Discover Jenny's other trips and favorite spots on her profile