Despite what you may see at first glance, the city is full of attractions and entertainment options, since it is also a major hub for airline crew in search of activities. Whether you are on a 24-hour stopover or intend to add Narita as part of your Japanese itinerary, we uncover why it is a city worthy of your vacation time.
1. Naritasan Omotesando Street
This is a store-lined street in front of Narita Station, stretching over a kilometre in distance with fantastic shopping, dining and drinking options. Shops include those selling traditional crafts, souvenirs and clothing, so it’s a great place to pick up gifts. There is a range of eateries, but be sure to try the local freshwater eel. Or if you have a sweet tooth, then give the Japanese pancakes a go. Some of the buildings date back to the Edo period, creating a gorgeous shopping experience among old Japanese architecture.
2. Naritasan Temple
This beautiful Buddhist temple is an insight into historic Japan. Built over 1,000 years ago, Naritasan Shinshoji Temple surrounds its main sacred object of worship, a statue of the Buddhist Fudo Myo-o deity. Despite the low-key location, it is actually the second most visited shrine or temple in Japan after the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo – its striking beauty no doubt the reason behind its popularity. A variety of temple buildings are also scattered around the peaceful gardens that incorporate both traditional Japanese and European influences.
3. Narita Airport
Love airports? They actually don’t get much better than Narita, so arrive early and explore what it has to offer. At Terminal 1, there is the AA Art Gallery featuring works from talented local artists, as well as the fabulous Kabuki Gate (above), a kabuki experience gallery and shop designed to showcase the traditional performing art, featuring life-sized mannequins in costume. Aviation fans will love watching planes take off and land from the observation decks of Terminals 1 and 2. Or if you’d rather wait for your flight in style, then check into one of the comfy traveller’s lounges and watch the planes with a beverage and newspaper instead.
4. Naritasan Park
Located behind the famous Naritasan Temple, the park is a huge traditional landscape of plants, flowering trees and ponds with goldfish circling around. It is beautiful during all seasons, but especially in spring, during cherry blossom season in March and April, and autumn (October), when the leaves change to warm brown, yellow and orange colours. There are two waterfalls that feed the park’s stream, and if you’re lucky, you can catch one of many music performances held in front of the Great Peace Pagoda on weekends in spring and autumn.
5. The Museum of Aeronautical Sciences
The Museum of Aeronautical Sciences is a super-fun, hands-on museum all about the wonderful world of aviation. There are full-scale replicas of historic aircraft, a garden of smaller planes and helicopters, and you can even try piloting your own plane in the life-sized flight simulators. As the museum is located next to Narita Airport on the south end of the runway, there is an impressive observation area offering great views of all the action. The design of the deck is modelled after a flight control tower.