Narita Transit and Stay Program is a free guided tour covering Narita Airport’s surrounding areas. The programme was designed for long layovers at Narita Airport, with four options available: Narita City, Shibayama Town, Tako Town, and Sakae Town Tours.
TAKO TOWN TOUR
The tour started when we took a bus to the Ajisai-Kan roadside station, where we then rode electric bicycles to the Nichihon-ji Temple. This 15th-century temple boasts beautiful gardens within its precincts which are known for their displays of beautiful hydrangeas. It offers a great opportunity to find tranquility and restful rural scenery.
Then, we headed back to the road station and enjoyed a boat sightseeing tour along Kuriyama River, the second largest river in Chiba Prefecture. It took about 15 minutes to enjoy the scenic view of cherry blossoms and yellow mustard flowers in their full bloom.
The area is known for Tako Rice, which is highly prized for its subtle sweetness and slightly chewy texture. You can buy some prepared food made with this flavourful rice from the first floor of the roadside station, and enjoy your lunch on the benches beside the river bank.
SHIBAYAMA TOWN TOUR
It took about a 15-minute bus ride from the airport to the Museum of Aeronautical Sciences, where you will find the replica and actual aircraft, photographs, clothing, equipment and used by the aviators, and interactive exhibits such as a flight simulator.
From the museum, we took a 20-minute walk to the Hikoki no Oka Park, the nearby plane-spotting area, to observe aeroplanes in flight without any obstruction.
Then we visited a strawberry farm, and had a chance to taste fresh strawberries and meet with people who grew them. According to one of the guides, with more than 50 varieties, the strawberry season in Shibayama starts in December and goes on until the end of May.
Moments later, we arrived at Shisho Shrine, the sacred site with a history dating back for more than 300 years where local people pray for good harvest. We were mesmerised by the quiet simplicity of the site, while walking along the well-maintained entrance to the main hall lined with rows of somei yoshino cherry trees.
The highlight of the trip was Sora-no-eki Fuwari, a roadside rest area which offers an all-you-can-eat menu replete with fresh goodness. The menu included udon noodles, tempura, tamagoyaki, and much more. Don’t miss the strawberry-flavoured ice cream, which manages to be sweet but never cloying, and the tart berry flavour offsets its sweetness.
NARITA CITY TOUR
Narita City Tour is the most popular tour. We made our first stop at Narita Tourist Pavilion to enjoy the tranquil and elegant procedure of the Japanese tea ceremony, the quintessence of Japanese hospitality, starting from boiling water through to serving the whisked green tea.
Then, we dropped at Kawatoyo, the renowned unagi restaurant on the Omotesando. The menu includes grilled eel with special sweet soy sauce, grilled eel with salt, and grilled eel lunch box. The place also serves tempting and exotic foodstuffs, such as miso soup with carp (koikoku) and carp sashimi (koi no arai).
Naritasan Temple was our next stop after lunch. The site grounds are extensive, built on the hill and quite peaceful, a rich complex set of buildings with intricate woodwork. Inside, tourists were purifying themselves with incense. We took the path leading to Naritasan Park, past the Great Pagoda of Peace, a waterfall, and the former monastic training facility.
SAKAE TOWN TOUR
The highlight of Sakae is an Open Air Museum Boso no Mura, where you can take a real step back into time. Though most of the exhibits are replicas rather than real buildings, they never fail to create the nostalgic atmosphere. The merchant street was showcasing ways people used to live. There was a manmade river flowing through the town where visitors can see large colourful carp and enjoy a sightseeing boat.
For those who would like to take part in culture experience workshops, the facility offers an array of hands-on activities and experiences to get acquainted with Japanese cultures, such as futomaki sushi-making or candle-making. Just give yourself at least one hour if you plan to participate in these firsthand experiences.
HOW TO SIGN UP FOR THE TOUR
You must sign up through an application form at the Narita Transit and Stay Program counter in Terminal 2 at Narita Airport, or book the tour online via www.naritatransit-program.jp/guide.html#map_narita
Important Information: The sightseeing boats along the Kuriyama River and in the Open Air Museum Boso no Mura are available only on weekends.