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.
6. Narita Gion Festival
This festival has been taking place annually for over 300 years and signals the beginning of summer in Japan. It is huge – so popular with locals that they start preparing for the next one the day after it’s over. The whole of Narita becomes a vibrant place of colour, with floats, chanting and dancing. Come and join in the celebrations and witness some amazing sights and sounds. The festival is held each year on the three days closest to July 7, 8 and 9, heading into the weekend.
7. Nabedana Kouzaki Brewery
Nabedana has brewed sake (Japanese rice wine) for more than 350 years and the company has been in the family for 19 generations. Here, you can learn about the process of sake making and sample some of the freshly brewed bottles in the shop, including signature brands Jinyu and Fudoh. The shop has many kinds, sizes and prices of sake, from single bottles to gift sets, and there are cute little ceramic sake cups available for purchase. Reservations for the tours are required at least a week in advance (these are in Japanese but include English videos) via the website.
8. Kimono Try-On Service
The kimono is a traditional Japanese outfit, most often worn for special occasions such as festivals or formal family celebrations. At Kimono Try-On, men, women and children can sport one of these stunning garments and go for a stroll around the local area to take photos in them. Staff will help you put one on, and if you get really attached, you can even purchase a kimono in the shop afterwards. In summer, they also rent yukata, a garment made of lighter, thinner material than the standard kimono.
9. Edokko Sushi
If you love big portions, you’ll love Edokko Sushi. The pieces are all way above average in size, taste delicious and reasonably priced – visitors can expect to have a massive feast for lunch or dinner. The restaurant has a quaint and comfy atmosphere, so pull up a chair and get lost in a world of amazing sushi.
10. Narita Dream Dairy Farm
Since 1887, Narita Dream Dairy Farm has produced the freshest and most delicious milk for the people of Japan. This large 300,000 sq m farm produces its own ice cream and yogurt as well, and visitors can discover the processes of creating fine Narita Dream dairy products as well as savour the flavours in its restaurant and cafe. There is even a chance to milk a cow, twice a day at 11.30am and 2.30pm, and kids will love the pony riding stables and seeing the adorable bunny rabbits.
PHOTOS: FLICKR USER DRUFISHER (NARITASAN TEMPLE), INSTAGRAM, FLICKR USER かがみ～(NARITASAN PARK), FLICKR USER HETARLLEN MUMRIKEN (NARITA GION FESTIVAL), NABEDANA FACEBOOK
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.