Long layovers don’t have to be the worst. If you have hours to wait or if you have to stay overnight, here’s how to get the most out of your Narita layover.
For most travelers, layovers can be a boring experience. The things you can do during this time usually involve a lot of sitting. You sit while you keep yourself fed. Then you sit again, fiddling with your phone or tablet, or trying to catch some zzz’s. Fortunately, a Narita layover can be a very different and surprising experience. Narita features plenty of activities and places to see that can make your brief stay memorable. All it takes is the willingness to get up off your butt and explore. Here are some tips to make the most out of your layover at Narita.
Always, Always Have a Plan
You think you have plenty of time with your long layover, but it’s actually shorter than you think. You have to compensate for the time spent going through customs, immigration, checking-in for the next flight, and other intangibles. Careful planning will avoid the nightmare scenario of missing your next flight. Tokyo, being the capital city of Japan, will certainly have more attractions than Narita. Unfortunately, it is also sixty to ninety minutes away from Narita International Airport. In comparison, Narita City is a seven-minute train ride from the airport. Visit the Foreign Tourist Information Center located at terminal 1 and 2 to divide your time wisely. They will provide you with information, free maps, and brochures.
Not Enough Time to Leave the Airport?
Staying at the airport is not the most exciting option, sure, but at least it’s budget-friendly. You can rest and relax in deluxe airport lounges or shop and dine. Narita airport also has an oxygen lounge juko where you can breathe in oxygen in different flavors (from eucalyptus to cinnamon). If you are feeling jet-lagged or have a headache, this might help. You can also have a taste of Japanese culture on your Narita layover. The airport management regularly holds performances, demonstrations, and workshops. These events vary monthly and include calligraphy workshops, tea ceremonies, and a Kabuki dance show.
Sometimes, Sleep Is All You Need
Instead of sleeping on airport chairs, why not sleep somewhere more comfortable and unique. Capsule hotels started in Japan to accommodate salarymen in the past and you’ll find one in Terminal 2. This is a novel and cheap way to catch some sleep during your Narita layover. Nine hours has overnight rates of 4900 yen. If you just want a quick nap, you can pay 1500 yen for the first hour and 500 yen for the succeeding hours.
Do You Have Four Hours or More to Spare During Your Narita Layover?
If you think you can fit in four hours in-between flights, then this is the perfect opportunity to visit the nearby city of Narita. Make sure that you have the necessary documents to enter the country of Japan. You will also need yen as most shops will not accept foreign currencies and the majority of transactions are still through cash. An awesome way to visit the best sights around Narita is by signing up for the guided tour provided for by the Narita Airport Transit and Stay Program. It is a two-and-a-half to three-hour tour where you can see the countryside, do some shopping, or visit some temples. The best part about it is that it’s completely free of charge. You have the option of a self-guided or a one on one guided tour. For guided tours, you don’t have to pay the volunteer guide. You’ll still have to fork over some cash for the round-trip train ride, admission fees on some sites, things you want to buy, and lunch.
Journey Through Time Along the Street of Omotesando
Omotesando means the main road leading up to a shrine, and in this case is the Narita-san Shinshoji. The Narita Omotesando is an 800-meter long road that will take you back to the days of Edo when people would walk all the way from Tokyo to visit the Narita shrine. Unagi or grilled eel shops were opened to cater to hungry travelers making a pilgrimage. Today, over sixty unagi shops and restaurants remain along the Omotesando. Time to get your eel on! There are also Japanese traditional noodle or ramen shops and other restaurants serving different cuisines ranging from Indian to Italian. Oonoya is a restaurant and museum along Omotesando that was previously a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn). If you are looking for souvenirs during your Narita layover, this is the place to shop around. Some of the famous products you can find are yokan (gelled sweat bean), senbei rice crackers, teppozuke (pickled snake melons or uri), and sake. They also have 100-yen stores where you can buy chopsticks and other knickknacks.
Visit a Thousand-Year-Old Temple
At the end of the Omotesando is the Narita Shinshoji temple. It has been around since 940 AD and is easily the most famous tourist destination in Narita. It is dedicated to the Buddhist deity Acala and Fudo Myo-o who is a fire god. Here you can see priests burn wooden amulets in the Goma fire ceremony. Other important buildings you can check out are the three-storied pagoda built in 1712, the Niomon main gate, and the Shaka-do. hall devoted to Shakyamuni. You can also consult local fortune tellers or buy paper oracles from vending machines. Behind the main hall, you’ll discover Narita-san Park. In the park is where you’ll find the Great Pagoda of Peace and other structures like a bell tower and a prayer wheel. People visit the park to view ume (plum) blossoms in early spring and autumn leaves in the fall.
The Time-Honored Tradition of Going to Museums
A tour of a foreign city feels incomplete without visiting at least one museum. There are several museums that may pique your interest. The Shibayama Museum of Aeronautical Science is located just outside Narita airport. You can view classic airplanes and pretend to be a pilot. Narita-san Park is the location of the Narita-san Calligraphy Museum. Learn about the history of calligraphy and behold works ranging from the Edo period to modern times.
Enjoy a Hassle-Free Layover
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