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5 Incredible Things to Do in Narita, Japan ~ Gateway to the Land of the Rising Sun

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If you visit Japan, you'll likely arrive by plane in Narita. Most visitors scoot off immediately to pursue adventures in Tokyo and beyond. But Narita is worthy of a visit as well, even if only during a long layover or for a day or two before your flight home. Narita is just a 10-minute train ride from Narita International Airport, making it an easy stopover. These five things to do in Narita will convince you to see this town as more than just the location of Japan's largest airport.

5 Incredible Things to Do in Narita, Japan

1. Visit Naritasan Shinshoji Temple.

The biggest draw to Narita is Naritasan Shinshoji Temple. In fact, it is the second most popular temple in Japan after Meiji Shrine in Tokyo. Built in 940, this impressive Buddhist place of worship welcomes visitors of all faiths. Come early in the morning to hear the melodic chant of resident monks doing their morning prayers. If you only have time for one of these things to do in Narita, make it Naritasan Shinshoji Temple.

Naritasan Shinshoji Temple is a must-see in Narita ~ 5 Incredible Things to Do in Narita, Japan

Naritasan Shinshoji Temple (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

For a truly memorable experience, copy Buddhist scripture with calligraphy to submit your prayer in writing at Shinshoji Temple. Inquire with one of the monks at the calligraphy classroom about participating in this Buddhist tradition. You will need to fill out an application and pay a fee to participate. If a calligraphy prayer session is not available on the day of your visit, worry not. In exchange for a small donation you can still get a good luck or good health prayer drawn in calligraphy by one of the monks seated at desks at the entrance.

Calligraphy prayer room at Naritasan Shinshoji Temple ~ 5 Incredible Things to Do in Narita, Japan

Calligraphy prayer room at Naritasan Shinshoji Temple (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

2. Wander through Naritasan Park.

Naristasan Park surrounds the Shinshoji Temple. Replete with grassy spaces, cherry trees, statues and koi-filled ponds, this park offers a peaceful place to wander. Japanese maples show off hues of amber, gold and crimson in fall. Meanwhile cherry blossoms make a big show of pink in the spring. The trees and plants were planted with the seasons in mind, though, so you can expect a beautiful display of nature no matter what time of year you visit.

View of Naritasan Park from Naritasan Shinshoji Temple ~ 5 Incredible Things to Do in Narita, Japan

View of Naritasan Park from Naritasan Shinshoji Temple (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

3. Shop Narita's traditional downtown.

Located about two hours from Tokyo by train (or an hour by automobile), most visitors to Narita don't need a car. Narita's small downtown is easily explored by foot. The town's main street and shopping district, Naritasan Omotesando, is lined with shops and restaurants that harken to old world Japan. Shop owners will welcome you with a smile and maybe even a tasting of local snacks. You can also purchase unique brands of sake, hand-woven baskets, chopsticks, teapots and specialty items found only in Japan.

Narita's Omotesando street is lined with traditional Japanese shops and restaurants ~ 5 Incredible Things to Do in Narita, Japan

Narita's Omotesando street (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

4. Taste local specialties.

One of Narita's specialties is unagi, or freshwater eel. The scent of unagi grilling over flaming coals wafts through town and will tempt your tastebuds. According to Japanese tradition, unagi boosts stamina. Plus, it's pretty dang delicious when served with teriyaki sauce and white rice. Kawatoyo Honten gets rave reviews from diners on TripAdvisor and offers a children's menu. Surugaya is another popular, more upscale option.

Unagi is slathered in teriyaki sauce and grilled over hot coals in Narita ~ 5 Incredible Things to Do in Narita, Japan

Unagi, slathered in teriyaki sauce and grilled over hot coals in Narita (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Be sure to buy rice crackers or peanut candies from one of the many shops along Omotesando. These Narita specialties often come in beautiful packaging and will make an interesting and tasty souvenir of your visit.

Traditional snacks for sale in Narita ~ 5 Incredible Things to Do in Narita, Japan

Interesting and colorful snacks for sale in Narita (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

5. Take a tour.

If you have a Narita International Airport layover that will last more than six hours, you can take advantage of a free tour of Narita or various other sites in and near Tokyo. You will need to pay for transportation by bus or train, but there is no charge for the tour. Don't worry about lugging your suitcases, either; they can be stored at the airport.

Sample and buy unique sakes in Narita ~ 5 Incredible Things to Do in Narita, Japan

Unique sakes in Narita (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Book a complimentary tour online in advance or just show up during the Narita Transit Program center's hours, 9 am to noon. Tours are provided to foreign visitors on a first come, first serve basis by local volunteer guides. Plus, they promise to get you back to the airport on time for your flight!

If you'd rather, book a Narita Layover Tour through TripAdvisor. You must have at least two travelers in your party to reserve this four-hour walking tour of Narita, which includes Naritasan Ometesando and Naritasan Shinshoji Temple. Your guide will provide interesting insight and facts about Narita.

Prayer flags in Naritasan Park ~ 5 Incredible Things to Do in Narita, Japan

Prayer flags in Naritasan Park (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Those with a lengthy layover can also stay in a rental lounge at the airport for free. But why not get out and see all of the things to do in Narita instead?

Read about things to do in Tokyo and intriguing attractions near Tokyo now!

Would you consider touring Narita during a layover, or for a day or two during your visit to Japan? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments section below!

My visit to Tokyo was hosted by visitors bureaus in Japan but I did not receive any compensation related to this story. This post includes affiliate links. Your clicks and purchases help keep TravelMamas.com a free resource for readers like you. Thank you!

About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments

  1. Stacie @ Divine Lifestyle says:

    Japan is such a gorgeous place. We’ve only been able to get there one time, but it was absolutely magical. Narita is definitely on the list when we get back!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      I want to go back to Japan, too! Kyoto tops my list and seeing the snow monkeys!

  2. Wow what an amazing experience! I would love to visit Japan one day, it is on my bucket list!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Susan – Japan is definitely bucket list-worthy. I hope you can check that one off soon!

  3. Jeanette says:

    What a wonderful experience! I would love to go to Japan one day. Especially for the food!

  4. Those pictures are breathtaking! My neighbor just got back from Japan and from these photos I can see why she loved it so much!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Japan is such a polite, organized and beautiful country. I’m glad your neighbor enjoyed the trip!

  5. Danielle says:

    I would love to visit Japan. I want to take it all in – food, scenery, culture, everything!

  6. TColeman says:

    I have always wanted to visit Japan! It looks like it is so beautiful.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      It’s so clean, too. I didn’t see one single wad of old chewing gum on the sidewalk or pavement anywhere I went in Japan!

  7. Amy Desrosiers says:

    I have never been to Japan and would love to check it out someday with my family. There are so many awesome architectural buildings and cool sites to see.

  8. Oh my. Japan is so beautiful. I’d have to spend a few weeks there to get just a tiny bit of its beauty. I could spend an entire day just staring at the interesting architecture.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      The architecture is especially cool in Narita. Most of Tokyo is very modern-looking since a lot of it burned and/or was bombed during the World Wards. Narita’s architecture is from the Edo Era and therefore is more traditional and pretty!

  9. Janeane Davis says:

    I am glad I found this article. My daughter wants to study the Japanese language this summer and then visit the county. This article will be very helpful to us during our travels.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Oh, how wonderful! My son is interested in learning Mandarin and Spanish but I can’t get my daughter excited about learning a foreign language at all.

  10. Claudia Krusch says:

    I have always wanted to go see Japan. Narita looks like a great place to explore.

  11. Rachael Yerkes says:

    I love to travel and I have never been here before, but now I’m thinking it is time to take a trip to Narita Japan! This look awesome!

  12. Japan is beyond amazing. It would definitely be awesome to visit.

  13. Toni | Boulder Locavore says:

    Looks like this is a great place to spend summer! I love Japan and I wish we can go back there soon!

  14. That first photo of the Shinshoji Temple looks gorgeous! I’ve never been to Japan, but it is on my bucket list of places to travel!

  15. Narita looks like a great place to visit. I would love to visit the temple and try the local cuisine.

  16. I would love to visit Japan on one of my vacations. Touring Narita would be fun experience.

  17. stella brown says:

    Narita Japan is on my bucket list, Narita is so beautiful to spend a long weekend.
    I love to read this article which has full of description & pictures about Japanese traditional, places, parks, local food and so on for travelers.

  18. If I transit through Japan in the future, I’ll have to do this … thanks!

  19. Global Girl Travels says:

    If there is one destination I wouldn’t mind visiting over and over again, it would be Japan. It is seriously beautiful with so many amazing blend of architecture, natural beauty and history. I’ve never been to Narita but this post has definitely convinced me to go someday!

  20. Japan is in my bucket list to visit this year and after reading your blog I got pumped to visit right now.

  21. Scott Adlhoch says:

    it looks like an incredible place to visit, it would be fun to have walk in the park.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Naritasan Park really is a beautiful place to go for a walk. I hope you can visit there soon!

  22. Nadia Martin says:

    Love Japan on our way to Narita

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