Your travel plans include a layover or an early flight from Narita International Airport. You look it up on Google Maps and notice the airport is nowhere near central Tokyo. What do you do?
Unlike many other airport cities way out in the boonies, Narita City is full of interesting things to see and do. The city started to see significant foot traffic as a major pilgrimage site during the Edo period, and has a rich religious history. Whether you’re at the tail end of your trip through Japan and have an early flight to catch, or you’re in Japan for 16 hours with a long layover to kill, you won’t regret spending the day in Narita. Allow for 30 minutes either way to and from Narita International Airport via the Keisei Line to Keiseinarita Station. If you’re here on a layover, make sure you don’t need a transit visa
1. Caffeinate at Hashira Deli & Cafe
Need an energy boost to get the day started in Narita? Head to
Hashira Deli & Cafe, a mere two-minute walk from Keiseinarita Station. This adorable cafe has a rustic wooden interior, an elevated area covered in tatami mats and a little patio for sunny days. They brew a ton of tasty coffee drinks and make a killer chai tea latte. They also serve up freshly baked scones and lunch sets for around 1000¥. I recommend just getting a drink and a snack here so you have enough room for Narita City’s culinary speciality (more on that later!).
Tatami mat seating area at Hashira Deli & Cafe in Narita City. — Photo by Julie Fader
2. Go Souvenir Hunting on Omotesando Shopping Street
This street starts off near Keiseinarita Station and goes all the way to the city’s main attraction,
Shinsho-ji Temple. If you’re interested in checking out some traditional Japanese goods,
Omotesando Shopping Street is the place to go. This winding road is lined with restaurants and little shops that sell everything from traditional Japanese footwear and fans to ceramics and chopsticks. Visitors and pilgrims have been popping in these shops on their way to Shinsho-ji for centuries. You could spend hours just wandering from shop to shop marveling at that flawless Japanese craftsmanship.
Omotesando Shopping Street in Narita City. — Photo by Julie Fader
3. Get a Feel for the Past at Narita Tourist Pavillion
Alright, alright, a tourist pavilion doesn’t sound like the most interesting place to visit… but this one’s different!
Narita Tourist Pavilion is also a cultural centre and home to a mini-museum. Here, you’ll get a feel for Narita’s cultural heritage with displays showcasing floats from the city’s yearly Gion Festival, as well as historical memorabilia. An added perk: this spot has free wifi for travellers.
Traditional clothing across the ages at Narita Tourist Pavillion. — Photo by Julie Fader
4. Feast on the Local Speciality
For hundreds of years, the ryokans
(traditional Japanese inns) in the Narita area have been proudly serving their guests unagi
(freshwater eel). Among the many shops that line Omotesando Shopping Street are 60 restaurants that specialize in eel. Kawatoyo Honten
stands out in the crowd. Established in 1917, the restaurant front is open-concept, showcasing the chefs attentively preparing and slow-roasting their fish. The mouth-watering smell of sweet-soy glazed eel wafts all the way up and down the street, drawing customers in.
Kawatoyo Honten eel restaurant in Narita City. — Photos by Julie Fader
5. Wander Through 1000-Year-Old Temple Grounds
temple has a history dating back 1000 years and is one of the largest temple grounds in all of Japan. One of the first things you’ll notice is a pond with a large turtle-shaped rock covered in actual turtles. But pilgrims haven’t been journeying to Naritasan for a thousand years for the sight of turtles resting on a giant rock turtle. They come for a statue of the Buddhist Fudo Myoo deity. This statue was carved by Kobo Daishi, one of the most important figures in Japanese Buddhism and the founder of the Shingon Sect. Come for the statue, stay for the turtles.
The main hall at Naritasan
Shinsho-ji Temple. — Photo by Julie Fader
6. Get a Breath of Fresh Air in a Massive Park
Narita Park is 165,000 square meters of glorious nature right behind Shinsho-ji’s main hall. Various trails lead through forested paths that change from bright pink cherry blossoms in the spring to vibrant green summer leaves that turn fiery red in the fall. There are several ponds that tons of turtles and colourful koi
(carp) call home. Throughout the park are benches, picnic tables and gazebos for you to sit back and relax.
One of three ponds in Narita Park. — Photo by Julie Fader
7. Drink Some Tea in Style
On your way back up Omotesando Street, stop by
Miyoshiya Tea Room before returning to Keiseinarita Station. This traditional Japanese tea house should give you a feel for classic Japanese aesthetics. 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 if you're running out of yen. For those of you who have yet to try wagashi
(Japanese sweets), this is your chance. If you're there on a hot day, pair your desert with an iced matcha.
At Miyoshiya Tea Room, you can sit outside and enjoy the weather or enjoy your tea in a room with floor to ceiling windows on all four sides. — Photo by Julie Fader
Have some time to kill around Narita?