Half or Full Day Guided Tours of Narita, on the JR Narita Select Bus Tour
June 7, 2017
Narita Select Bus Tour is the tour run by JR in cooperation with the Narita Airport Transit and Stay Program. The driver takes tourists directly to several top destinations near Narita Airport, and usually the tour is also accompanied by an English-speaking volunteer guide (subject to availability). Visitors can choose from a half day tour (AM Bus Tour or PM Bus Tour) for 2000 yen, or combine them for a full day tour for 3,500 yen.
I joined the AM Bus Tour last week and was glad I did. It was a great introduction for someone who is genuinely interested in history, art, and culture of Japan. The itinerary started with Naritasan Shinshoji Temple, then went to Shibayama Nioson Temple, Haniwa Museum, and Tako Ajisai-kan Roadside Station. The tour completed in about 5 hours.
On the day I visited, the main approach (Omotesando) to Naritasan Shinshoji Temple was lively with stores offering traditional crafts, local foods, and one-of-a-kind souvenirs. We walked past several famous unagi (eel) restaurants where the elongated fish was being cleaned, prepared and cooked by fishmongers. Then we stumbled upon a long established shop where rice crackers are made individually by hand, in a traditional setting.
Though there were quite a number of tourists, the holy place was more peaceful than what I had anticipated. Before entering the main hall, I was reminded to collect goshuin, a unique stamp of the temple, which proves you are a real visitor of the temple. Then we approached the large splendid main hall and took a stroll in the extensive temple grounds.
Moments later, we headed to the large souvenir shop where our bus driver was waiting for us. Before leaving, I bought a pack of teppozuke, pickles made by filling a hollowed-out gourd with red chili peppers wrapped in shiso leaves. It was crunchy, a little salty with a hint of spiciness.
About 15 minutes later, we arrived at Shibayama Nioson Temple. We walked past the main gate guarded by the black statues of Nio, the guardian of the Buddha. According to the tour guide, the principle image of the sacred main hall is the Eleven-Headed Avalokitesvara which can be seen once a year, during Setsubun, the day before the beginning of spring in Japan, which falls on the 3rd of February.
Later, we encountered about 150 Haniwa figures at the Haniwa Museum, located within the grounds of Shibayama Nioson Temple. The exhibits include soldiers with swords, ladies with necklaces, and many more figures. The second floor displays a collection of watercolor paintings depicting the life of the Buddha from his birth to his enlightenment and his later life until death.
Tako Ajisai-kan Roadside Station, the last destination, is located on the bank of the Kuriyama River. The first floor of this modern building sells rice grown in Tako, which is highly priced for its subtle sweetness and slightly sticky texture. On the second floor, we tried our hands at making rice balls with this rice. Then we purchased some prepared Japanese foods and enjoyed our lunch on the wooden benches beside the river bank. Before leaving for the airport, we bought a bag of Tako rice to enjoy at home.
All in all, it was a wonderful experience for me. The bus tour was convenient and well organized. It was obviously less expensive than independent travel. The bus driver and the tour guide spoke English fluently. I would definitely like to try the PM Bus Tour when I have time.
For more information.
Read More about the Narita Airport Transit & Stay Program
Tataya Kudo is a travel writer and photographer who loves writing and photographing places and plates of food. Her interest includes slow travel, food, and culture. Tataya currently makes Tokyo her home, where she spends her free time writing about things that touch and inspire people to travel.