If you have ever been stuck in an airport you know the importance of being stuck in the right airport meaning an airport near a great tourist destination. The town of Narita outside Tokyo Japan is just such a place.
We took a bus from the airport into Narita proper. Here you will find crooked winding streets that lead you to the showpiece of the city…Naritasan Shinshoji Temple. On your way to the temple stop to explore the wooden shops along Naritasan Omote Sando. Here you will find some of the most beautiful silk kimonos that you will ever see, traditional Japanese cooking utensils and lacquered bento boxes, and bins of souvenirs to suit the fancy of just about every tourist. While in the area you must eat at the restaurants which feature the fake plastic food in their windows for easy ordering of traditional Japanese cuisine.
We have been to Narita several times. On one trip we were walking down to the temple when we came upon a festival with large group of older women performing several traditional Japanese dances. Their slow graceful movements were mesmerizing as they moved in unison together like a swarm of butterflies.
On another trip school children swarmed around us while handing us a card asking if they might practice their English with us. We spent a fun 10 minutes answering their questions until we moved on and stumbled upon the Narita Tourist Pavilion where we were snatched off the street by some very insistent older ladies. They lead us upstairs where we were treated to calligraphy lessons, traditional painting instruction and were dressed in traditional Japanese clothing. All this was followed by a tea ceremony. We had a fantastic time and it was one of the highlights of our trip.
The Naritasan Shinshoji Temple is one of the most peaceful places I have ever visited.The temple was founded in 940 and has classic traditional buildings dotting its grounds. Incense fills the air as you enter through the gate. Intricate carvings adorn the buildings forcing you to slow down and take in all hidden artwork. With gardens that look like they are manicured by tweezers and beautiful statues it is a niche of tranquility in an otherwise bustling city. We have watched as hundreds of babies were blessed by the monks and have been in awe as people pay their respects to the dead. This is a special place in a city that has had its share of growth pangs thanks to the arrival of the Narita Airport in the late 1970’s.
Narita also has an easy to navigate train station. We took the train into Tokyo to see a performance at the Kabuki Theater and arrived back in Narita worn-out but satisfied with our adventure.
Narita is the perfect place to spend some time outside of the airport and if you have a long layover I would urge you to check out this friendly city.
HINT: Narita is great place for a stopover. Check and see if United Airlines still offers a free stopover when traveling to various points in Asia.