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el2995 Narita - A travel report by USC
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Narita,  Japan - flag Japan -  Chiba
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el2995's travel reports

Narita City: A good 7-Hour Layover

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Narita travelogue picture
So you’re sitting in New Tokyo International Airport at the beginning your 7-hour layover while en route to Asia and you don’t feel like making the 90 minute trip by train just to get into Tokyo and you’re wondering how to pass the time until you reboard the plane. Why not take the 15-minute bus ride into Narita City and experience a bit of Japan beyond the airport? Narita City is a rather small but comfortable city that can give you the feel and sights of Japan without a lot of effort. [Update 19 November 2011 - I was able to find some old negatives from my Japan trip in the garage and scan some to add to this report.]

Favourite spots:
Rice paddies near Narita City.
Rice paddies near Narita City.
Narita City is laid back, with small uncrowned streets and backroads that meander past intriguing alleys and older wooden buildings, some of which lead out of the quaint city center and shortly take you into the countryside amid rice paddies, stands of pine and bamboo and scenic old farm houses. Narita City proved to be a good place to relax at the end of my three weeks traveling alone through Japan. The are a variety of shops if you are interested in a few keepsakes to remind you of your brief time in Japan, and the shop owners are quite friendly; I spent a hour talking with one owner about Japanese culture and music, after which he gave me a personal tape of recorded classical Japanese koto, shamisen and shakuhachi music to keep as a gift after he introduced me to his family.

What's really great:
Narita-San Temple
Narita-San Temple
Narita-San, a picturesque Buddhist temple complex and adjoining traditional Japanese garden, will give you a glimpse into Japan’s Buddhist culture and sense of aesthetics, with majestic shrines and temples laid out on the well-manicured grounds. Narita-San is an easy walk from Narita City Station, which is where the shuttle bus from the airport will drop you off. The main temple hall is especially impressive. It’s a very peaceful place. I’ll always remember walking along a streamside trail on the outskirts of the compound and hearing the songs of birds merge with the trickling of the water and the chants of Buddhist monks from a small prayer hall not far away.

Sights:
You'll find the trip in and out of the airport gate interesting, as there are lots of guards with body armour and long staffs to deal with the myriad demonstrators who protest the airport's expansion into what is held by some to be holy land, and by farmers who protest the expansion into their territory. The water cannons make for a nice touch.

Nightlife:
Narita travelogue picture
I saw one club called the Bunny Girl that I didn’t make it to. There were also a number of “gentlemen’s clubs” around that, like the hostess bars that I had walk by in Kyoto, had the downward-sliding cover charge schedule posted outside (with prices comparable to Kyoto), where the cost of admission goes down the later it gets in the evening. Unlike the Kyoto hostess bars, whose tasteful exterior decor and lovely, stylishly-dressed hostess standing out front and sweetly, yet elegantly, smiling at the potential passing customers tended to convey a sense of class and refinement, the gaudy signage with its manga-esque cartoon depictions of comely ko-gal maidens above the entrances combined with the rather agitated tout that tried to lure me into one of the places conveyed a bit of a seedy vibe.

Restaurants:
Narita travelogue picture
There are a lot of small family-owned Japanese restaurants to choose from; this is the best way to eat on a budget in Japan, with the basic traditional dishes oyako domburi very affordable and filling to boot; the sashimi and sushi also proved to be quite good.

Published on Monday August 26th, 2002


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