whenever i have a long layover at Narita, i usually head on in to Tokyo for some food and shopping, but after a nonstop travel week i was ready to take it easy and see what Narita town was all about.
i’d heard from numerous sources that it was worth a visit, but i kept thinking to myself, how could a small town seemingly in the middle of nowhere compare to Tokyo?
and that’s what makes it special. it’s worlds away. i’m kicking myself for not going sooner.
i was lucky enough to go early in the morning (got there before 8:00) and the temple and streets were yet to be clogged with visitors. no, not just one small temple, but an entire grounds with a large Japanese-garden-esque park and lots to explore. i’d recommend at least an hour to an hour and a half once there.
you can go into quite a number of places; just remember to take your shoes off (there will be signs reminding you). you can even climb to the very top of the pagoda (enter at ground level and follow the arrows all the way up to the fifth floor). you might also be lucky and catch a ceremony of some sort like i did. (how the priests walk in those shoes is beyond me.)
p.s. on the way back to the station on the main shop-lined road there’s a stand on the right (or left if you’re coming from the station) that sells fresh “black and white” imagawayaki. black is filled with azuki (red bean), white is filled with mochi. both delicious and only 100 yen each; go for broke and get one of each flavor.
sidebar: getting there
there are plenty of pages dedicated to Narita town, including the famous Narita Layover Page which has lots of information on the city. i got to Narita by the Keisei line (blue ticket counters), which stops in the lowest level of both Terminals 1 and 2. the first stop past the airport is Narita town.
one thing i didn’t see mentioned elsewhere, though, is that you can save some money by getting a round-trip ticket. it’s not a ton of savings (480 yen vs. 500) but still. i was shown this by a Keisei employee when i asked for a round-trip ticket. she stepped away from the desk just to show me how to get it from the machine. remember that you can only buy a train ticket with cash, and getting the round-trip ticket requires using the machine.
speaking of cash, the 7-Eleven ATM in the South concourse of Terminal 1 only gives 10,000 yen (~$100) notes (at least when i tried it today), but i only wanted 2,000 (~$20). luckily i found a Citibank ATM in the North concourse that dispenses all sorts of bills.
anyways, how to save 20 cents by getting a roundtrip ticket, the Narita-Kaiun pass: hit the English button to use the machine in English, then hit Coupon, then the Narita-Kaiun Pass button. insert your money and get your ticket. keep the ticket handy — you will need to use the ticket to enter and exit both ways.