5 Incredible Things to Do in Narita, Gateway to Japan

When 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. With many long layovers in this gateway city, consider exploring Narita for a few hours or days before your flight home. Narita is just a 10-minute train ride from Narita International Airport, making it an easy stopover. These five incredible things to do in Narita will convince you to see this town as more than just the location of Japan’s largest airport.

Naritasan Shinshoji Temple is a must-see in Narita ~ 5 Incredible Things to Do in Narita, Japan
Naritasan Shinshoji Temple (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

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1. Visit Naritasan Shinshoji Temple.

If you only have time to do only one thing in Narita, make it Naritasan Shinshoji Temple. 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 reciting their morning prayers.

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, one of the monks seated at the entrance will draw a good luck or good healthy prayer for you.

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. This park offers a peaceful place to wander among grassy spaces, cherry trees, statues, and koi-filled ponds.

In fall, Japanese maples show off hues of amber, gold, and crimson. 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.

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. As a souvenir of your visit, purchase unique brands of sake, hand-woven baskets, chopsticks, teapots, and other specialty items found only in Japan.

Narita is 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.

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, then 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, guides promise to get you back to the airport on time for your flight!

If you’d rather, then book a Narita Layover Tour through TripAdvisor. You must have at least two travelers in your party to reserve this 4-hour walking tour of Narita. It ncludes Naritasan Ometesando and Naritasan Shinshoji Temple. Your guide will provide interesting insight and facts about Narita.

Those with a long layover could 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?

Prayer flags in Naritasan Park ~ 5 Incredible Things to Do in Narita, Japan
Prayer flags in Naritasan Park (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

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5 Incredible Things to Do in Narita, Japan

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.

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

  1. 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!

  2. 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.