Cycling and Tranquility in Tako, on the Narita Airport Transit & Stay Program
May 16, 2017
Layovers are often regarded as the dreaded compatriot to air travel. No one would ever volunteer for a layover…right? Well that’s exactly what I did in order to participate in Narita International Airport’s Transit Program. I joined one of their free, guided tours to alleviate the boredom of a long layover (Note: joining the tour is free, however, costs such as transportation have to be paid individually). If you are someone who is deliberately planning a quick trip around the airport, or more likely, you happen to be the unfortunate recipient of a layover, you can also consider taking part in Narita Airpot Transit and Stay Program! (The program is also open to visitors staying at a hotel in the area.)
This is the counter in Terminal 2. There is one in Terminal 1 as well.
There are several different trip options that you can choose from. You can register either online or at the counter itself. Don’t worry if you aren’t able to book a spot online, the staffs speak excellent English! I took Course 3 titled “A Walk in the Countryside in Japan”, which involved riding electric bicycles through the countryside, visiting an old Buddhist temple called Nichihonji, and enjoying traditional Japanese food for lunch.
We began the tour at around 10 in the morning. We took a bus to Tako Town’s designated roadside rest stop, known in Japanese as Michi-no-eki. Our guide explained along the way that Tako Town is famous for the quality of the rice grown here. The soil is supposedly packed with nutrients because the region used to be submerged by seawater. With this in mind, I kept a sharp lookout for any rice related products to taste!
Tako Town’s roadside station, Michi-no-eki Tako Ajisai-kan.
Electric bicycles for rent.
From the roadside station we rented electric bicycles to get to Nichihonji (the temple). Although it costs 500 yen to rent a bike, it is definitely a worthwhile experience. If you’ve never had the chance to try an electric bike before, trust me you will not be disappointed!
Riding between rice paddies on the electric bicycles.
Nichihonji was definitely the main highlight of the tour. Come June, the path leading up to the temple will be lined by hydrangeas in full bloom. Our guide told us that late May and the subsequent summer months are the best times to visit, as you will be able to see the most flowers.
Path to the temple in June, with the hydrangeas in full bloom.
Though there are tens of thousands of other temples across Japan–more than 70,000 actually–this tour gives you the opportunity to see Nichihonji from the inside. The local monk will give you a tour and explain the history of the temple (in Japanese but your guide will translate for you). One of the most fascinating historical artifacts was their collection of old books and scrolls written and preserved from centuries ago. You will be able to see these and more inside the temple!
Old scripts still in their original bindings.
After returning to the roadside station, it was time for lunch. We purchased bento (Japanese box lunch) of all sorts. They had a particular kind of sushi wrapped in tamagoyaki (a special Japanese version of pan fried egg that is made by folding the egg to create layers) that was extremely delicious!
However, the best food in my opinion was the dango (a rice ball resembling mochi) made from rice grown in Tako Town. As a dango enthusiast, I can safely say that this was one of the best dango I’ve ever had in Japan!
Dango from Michi-no-eki Tako Ajisai-kan: a must-try.
After lunch, we headed back to the airport just in time for me to catch my imaginary flight out of Japan. It was altogether a wonderful experience. The temple and the food really were the main attractions for me. If you decide on this course, make sure to ask about some of the other rice products available at the roadside station. We also had a rice pudding that was equally marvelous and would make for the perfect souvenir! If you are in Narita for a layover, why not give the Tako Town tour a try?
-Although the tour itself is free, you must pay for costs during the tour such as transportation, lunch, and misc. activities yourself. I spent around 2,000 yen in total.
-The tour takes around 3 hours. Make sure you have enough time to catch your flight.
You can see and book tours here:
For more information about Tako Town and what you can enjoy there, check out their guidebook here.
Read More about the Narita Airport Transit & Stay Program
I am from Taiwan and am currently a student studying at the University of Tokyo. I love to see and experience new things by traveling around Japan whenever I have time.