Magic in Japan: Day in Narita

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Trip Index:

Introduction
Getting There – JAL First Class
Hotel Review: Ritz-Carlton Tokyo
Guide to Tsukiji Fish Market
Room Service Review: Ritz-Carlton Tokyo
Day in Tokyo
Taking the Shinkansen “Bullet” Train
Hotel Review: Ritz-Carlton Kyoto
Tea at the Ritz-Carlton Kyoto
Day 1 in Kyoto
Day 2 in Kyoto
Room Service Review: Ritz-Carlton Kyoto
Park Hyatt Tokyo: Revisited
Getting to Hiroshima
Hotel Review: Sheraton Hiroshima
Day trip to Miyajima
Day in Hiroshima
St. Regis Osaka
Food Shopping in Japan
One Day in Osaka
Day in Narita
Traditional Ryokan

I was wrapping up a trip in Japan and was on my way back to the airport when I stopped in Narita the day prior to my flight. Many tourists overlook Narita in Chiba which is a shame. It retains an ancient feel and is a friendly little town full of people that welcome tourists. Even if you have a long layover in between flights Narita is worth exploring rather than just passing the time in an airport lounge. Tokyo is a couple hours away from the airport, whereas Narita can be reached by hopping on the train at Terminal 2 and taking it just one stop.

Once there, no day trip in Narita is complete without a stroll down Omotesando which is like going back in time. The road has welcomed pilgrims on their way to the Shinshoji Temple for hundreds of years, and it still looks and feels like a town from long, long ago. As you make your way along the street there are souvenir buying opportunities, as well as restaurants. I passed tiny shops that had writing supplies and stationery, Hello Kitty trinkets and charms, red bean paste treats, and plush toys.

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Omotesando

Freshwater eel is a local specialty, and can be found for sale in buckets and on menus. I saw all kinds of packaged goodies and also noted the high number of homemade dishes on the restaurant menus.

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Local shop

Shinshoji Temple, or Naritasan Shinshoji as the locals referred to it was my next stop at the end of the street, and for good reason. It is a 1,000 year old temple, complete with five different buildings each reminiscent of the Edo period. Luckily I seemed to have stumbled upon the town during some sort of festival or special day, and many of the locals were all dressed up. It made for really fun people watching and eye-catching photography as well.

If you’re visiting by yourself, here is how to ask if someone will take your photo –

写真を撮ってもらえませんか?Shawshin wo tote moraemasen ka?

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People watching

According to Japan-Guide.com when at a purification station before the shrine, use the ladle to rinse both hands. Some fountains still allow you to rinse your mouth, though it is not done by everyone or at every shrine.

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Purification fountain

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The smell of incense filled the air, and as there was no defined route to take I was free to wander. Once at the offering hall, you can throw a coin in to the offering box, bow deeply twice, clap your hands twice, bow deeply one more time and then say a silent prayer. I didn’t know how much to throw in, but I’d heard that 50 yen is popular because when you say 5 yen it sounds similar to a word for destiny. Do any readers know if that is correct?

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At the top of the steps leading to Niomon Gate there was a large red lantern that was donated by the believers of Tsukiji fishmarket and weighs over 1,500 pounds.

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Narita-san Temple

The Great Pagoda of Peace rose up at 190 feet high in front of me. If you’re on a train from the airport headed for more distant places sometimes you can catch a glimpse of this structure since it is so tall. Reportedly, underneath the Great Pagoda of Peace is a time capsule that holds messages of peace from world leaders that won’t be opened until the year 2434.

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Great Peace Pagoda

Naritasan Park just behind the temple’s main hall is a peaceful place to explore, and I enjoyed a quiet walk around. It would be easy to spend several hours in just the park alone.

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Naritasan park

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An automated drink dispenser offered refreshments for the thirsty.

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Drinks

I had read that the park includes 3 lakes but I was surprised when I came across a waterfall. No one else was around, and the gentle splashing sound it made was calming.

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Waterfall

Even though the movie “Lost in Translation” was filmed around Tokyo I felt like Charlotte as I walked across stepping stones and made my way along serene paths, and with so few other people nearby it felt like the area was mine to explore.

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Stepping stones

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Trees

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Trees

There were signs around the park, but since I couldn’t read them I just walked anywhere that wasn’t blocked off.

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It was hard to believe that I was so close to a busy international airport and just a few hours away from the bright lights of Tokyo.

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If you decide to visit Narita, the temple complex is open from 8am – 4pm though many of the vendors don’t open their shops until a little later than opening time.

For those that would love to visit but are a little unsure of making the trip by themselves, Narita Transit Program offers a FREE 3 hour guided tour from Narita airport. You are just responsible for paying for your train ticket (which is just a couple dollars).

Here’s a screenshot from their website

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Have you been to Narita? If not, would you consider visiting the town while on a layover?

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  1. DavidB
    Reply

    I did this visit a few years ago, late spring, and found it a delightful way to pass a 24-hour plus connection at NRT. What sticks in my memory most, however, was the music being played on the speakers along Omotesando. It was at moderate level in the background and very Muzak style renditions of otherwise familiar western songs. It took me a while to actually recall what those songs were, but it ultimately struck me that day it featured western Christmas carols with a slight hint of Far Eastern instrumentation. Quite incongruous to be walking down this stylized Japanese shopping street to the strains of “Little Town of Bethlehem”, “Come all Ye Faithful” and other greatest hits of the season!

    • Melinda
      Reply

      @DavidB that’s hilarious that you were walking along an ancient road in Japan in time to Christmas songs…in late spring!

      I wonder if any other readers have been there and recognized Christmas songs as well, or if the music changes from day to day?

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