As a way to break up the long journey home from Thailand, we stopped at Narita Airport (NRT) for an 8 hour layover. You have a couple options at this point: Stay at the airport – which isn’t a bad idea because it is clean, navigable, and the ramen we found was delicious. Or you can explore out into either Tokyo or Narita City. The former is about an hour away, though that’ll put you in the heart of Central Station. The latter is only about a 10 minute train ride and with a lot less people, you won’t have to spend your entire stopover waiting in lines. We went that route.
The logistics are easier if you have at least the outline of a plan, but it is possible to wing it here. We arrived in the morning and passed through immigration in Terminal 1. I looked up the map of the terminal and found lockers on the 1st Floor and an ATM at a 7/11. We took out ¥10,000 but the lockers needed small denominations, so we made change by purchasing a mediocre coffee (~¥450) across the hall. The large locker, ¥500/day, fit both of our carry-on bags with room for more.
The train was down another flight of stairs and the Keisei railway had tickets for ¥260/each and ran every 20 minutes. We took the second stop (first if you’re coming from Terminal 2 or 3) which was about 7 minutes. Now you’re in Narita City!
The first instinct is just to walk in any direction, but the streets seem to guide you down one path in particular. This was still relatively early in the morning so many shops had not yet opened. We ventured down the main Omotesando street and found the Naritasan Shinshoji – a Buddhist temple that covers a good amount of ground with plenty of opportunity to explore. The nearby Naritasan Park offers a beautiful walk around a lake with plenty of statues, pagodas, and gazebos to take in and practice your photography on.
Our stroll built up an appetite and some of the shops and restaurants had begun to open. We stopped at a 100 year old restaurant and enjoyed unlimited tea, tasty soup, and a bowl of unadon – a donburi style dish with eel, for which the city was known for. This cost around ¥2800. Still a little hungry, we stopped at a market to use the restroom and I got a pre-made onigiri ball and Rachel got some ice cream.
By this point, we were a little tired from the previous flight and the anticipation of the next flight leg, so we took the trip back to the airport. It took about 30 minutes to get through customs and up to the 4th Floor for international departures. We still had a good bit of Yen left, so Rachel bought a book for the trip home.
Japan has always been at or near the top of my go-to travel list, so this was a wonderful way to get a taste of the country. I want to come back to explore the various regions, and hopefully I get to do that soon.