A Wonderful Day in Narita City and Sakae Town, on the Narita Airport Transit & Stay Program
June 12, 2017
Narita Airport Transit and Stay Program is a free tour covering the sightseeing spots around Narita Airport, designed for long layovers. There are two plan options available: Volunteer Guide Tours and Self Tours. The Volunteer Guide Tours are accompanied by one or two volunteer guides while Self Tours are self-guided.
Last week I joined two Volunteer Guide Tours: Narita City and Sakae Town tours. We met our guides at the airport and then bought a round trip train ticket to Narita Station. Moments later, we arrived at Narita Tourist Pavilion (Narita Kanko-kan) and participated in the tea ceremony.
In case you aren’t familiar with it, the Japanese tea ceremony (Sado) is a ritual of preparing, serving and drinking ground Japanese green tea called matcha. It is a discipline art form that Japanese women traditionally practiced before marriage, along with Japanese authentic flower arrangement (Ikebana).
The tea ceremony was held in a small tatami room and led by a Japanese lady in English. We were served a small block of chilled yokan (red bean jelly) on a piece of white paper. Then a lady in kimono prepared the tea solemnly in front of the seated guests. Later, the host exchanged bows with each guest as they received a bowl of matcha. The host then showed us how to hold the tea bowl with both hands and how to bow formally and properly. Before sipping the tea, the guests rotate the tea bowl to avoid drinking from the front. Before leaving, all participants received two postcards and a paper crane as souvenirs.
For foodies traveling to Narita City, don’t miss out on an unagi lunch at Kawatoyo, the most renowned unagi restaurant in the neighborhood. The place is highly popular among both locals and tourists. Hence, the lunch time queue would start forming around noon even on weekdays. The menu includes grilled unagi with or without sweet soy sauce, kimosui (eel liver soup) and a grilled unagi lunch box. Aside from unagi, the restaurant also serves koi no arai (carp sashimi) and koi koku (miso soup with carp). That’s the reason why there is a carp pond on the first floor near the entrance.
After lunch we took a stroll through the Naritasan Temple grounds, enjoying its architecture, culture, and getting a glimpse of the monastic life. We wandered through the temple’s garden, past the Great Pagoda of Peace, a waterfall, and the former monastic training facility. Leaving the holy site, we took a different path, past Shusee Inari Shrine. There, visitors buy abura-age (special fried tofu) to throw as an offering.
On the next tour, to Sakae Town, we visited Cosplay Kan and the Boso-no-Mura Museum. Three of us dressed up in traditional kimono and samurai costumes at the Cosplay Kan, the rental shop with choices of kimono, hakama, samurai costumes and ninja outfits for adults and children. It was fun to take a stroll around the open-air museum in the traditional attire of Japan.
The outdoor museum is something Japan does very well and Boso-no-Mura Museum is no exception. Though most of the exhibits are replicas rather than relocated buildings, they never failed to exude authenticity.
After taking a stroll through the Merchant Street and crossing a small bridge over a clear creek with beautiful carp, we made a brief visit to a middle class samurai residence. Then we headed toward the farmhouse of the village head. In front of the farmhouse there was a buckwheat plantation reaching the flowering stage, sweet potato and tea plants. The day was a real step back into time.
The museum offers several traditional craft workshops, such as candle making and hand painting on papier mâché, for interested visitors.
Layovers don’t have to be endless hours of watching the clock and waiting for your fight. With Narita Airport Transit and Stay Program, in fact, a layover can be a memorable part of your journey.
Both Narita City and Sakae Town Tours complete in about 3-4 hours. Be sure you have plenty of time on your layover between flights.
You can see and book tours here:
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.