Many of us have experienced the mix of dread and anticipation that comes with a long layover during an international journey. Luckily, Narita Airport has you covered with plenty of things to do and places to explore during your next layover.
Narita Airport is Japan’s largest and most commonly used international airport. It is located in Chiba Prefecture, next to Tokyo and is used as a hub for both international and domestic flights. Luckily the area surrounding Narita Airport has plenty of things to fill in time so you’re not left passing time in a food court.
If you’re looking to experience some Japanese culture during your layover, the nearby Naritasan Shinshoji Temple is a great option. Located less than 10 minutes away by train and then a relaxing 15-20 minute walk, Naritasan is an impressive and imposing Buddhist temple. First built in 940AD, the temple boasts an extensive history and is home to both a new and original main hall, a three-storied pagoda and a large Tahoto-style pagoda. There is also a beautiful garden located next to the temple which incorporates a number of aspects of traditional Japanese landscape design, along with some European elements.
While the walk from the train station may seem long at first glance, this walk actually takes you through the traditional Omotesando Street. This street is home to many shops and restaurants, many selling traditional foods and crafts. Some of these shops have been in operation for generations and can offer great insight into Japanese tradition and culture. It is easy to spend a few hours exploring the temple itself, the nearby gardens, the lively, bustling businesses along Omotesando Street as well as some of the delicious cuisine offered by some of the restaurants on the street.
However, if you’re looking for something a bit more modern, AEON Mall might be the place for you. AEON is perhaps the most popular chain of malls in Japan and they are able to cater to all demographics. With over 150 stores covering fashion, homewares, designer and food, there is something for everyone. AEON Mall Narita also has a large games arcade, a SanRio store and a wide variety of restaurants.
There is also a supermarket and Muji store to stock up on fresh food and any other essentials you might need. Some shops also offer tax-free shopping for tourists.
If this sounds a bit too high-paced for a layover after a long flight, AEON also has a Rafine branch in the mall. Rafine is a chain of highly-respected and popular massage and reflexology shops. They have a number of different massage and reflexology options available, ranging from hand reflexology through to whole body massage. This can be a great option for relaxing after a long flight and making sure to feel refreshed before the next flight.
AEON Mall is accessible by bus from Narita Airport, JR Narita Station or Naritasan Shinshoji Temple.
If you’d like to explore some of Japan’s history while feeling the atmosphere Edo-era Japan, the city of Sawara is ideal. This city was a merchant hub during the Edo period (1603-1867) with a number of canals used for transporting rice still in existence today. Some of the businesses in this town have been operating since this period. The historical district Sawara has some beautiful waterfront walking paths and bridges to enjoy, including a ‘waterfall bridge’, which water flows from at certain times of day. The botanic garden in Sawara is also home to Asia’s largest collection of irises, with over 1.5million. If you’re visiting during the wrong season for irises, the garden also has large areas of lotuses, wisteria flowers and other seasonal blossoms. Sawara is a bit further from Narita than some other options at around 1 hr by train, but exploring Sawara can be a relaxing and peaceful way to enjoy time during your layover in Narita.
If you are travelling as a family and looking for something unique to do during a layover, or even if just as an adult who loves nature, Narita Dream Dairy Farm (Narita Yume Bokujo) is a great option. This 300,000sqm dairy farm is located in the beautiful countryside of Chiba, the prefecture in which Narita Airport is located. The farm has been producing dairy products since 1887, but now also offers sightseeing services. This makes it more interesting than an average petting zoo, as you can not only see and interact with the animals, but also try the foods and drinks made with the dairy they produce. The animals on the farm include goats, sheep, ducks, guinea pigs, hedgehogs and of course, cows. There are also many seasonal events depending on the time of year. The farm has a free shuttle bus service to JR Namegawa Station, which can be found about 50 minutes from Narita airport by train.
For true relaxation, Japanese-style, an onsen is ideal. An onsen, or natural hot spring bath, is an integral part of Japanese culture and they are enjoyed by all demographics. When visiting Japan, going to an onsen is regularly considered a must-do. Luckily, there is an onsen located close to Narita Airport, at just 4 km away. Sora no Yu is welcoming to foreign travellers and many of their services are available in English. You can relax in the natural hot spring baths, make use of the various spa and massage services and even stay overnight in their hotel if you have an overnight layover. Sora no Yu also has private baths available for booking for those who may feel self-conscious using the more public baths or who just want a more private experience. The facility also includes a number of other bathing options, including saunas, rock baths, herbal baths and more. One thing to note is that many onsens in Japan don’t allow tattoos due to common associations with Japanese criminal elements. Sora no Yu does allow tattoos, but if your tattoos are larger than hand size, you must book a private bath. Those with tattoos smaller than a hand can use the normal public baths as normal. Sora no Yu is very easy to access with a regular shuttle bus running between Narita Airport and the facility itself.
Layovers are often the worst part of a long international journey but are often unavoidable. Narita airport bypasses the disappointment that often comes from a long layover with a variety of things to enjoy within close proximity. It becomes easy to enjoy Japanese culture, food, shopping and more all within a short bus or train journey from Narita Airport.