What to do with 24 Hours in Narita City
We spent the last couple days of our trip to Japan in Narita City, the “airport city” just outside of Tokyo. You can read about some of the things we did here, here and here, but I wanted to create a cheat sheet for those thinking of visiting. Before our 24 hour clock begins, a little info about getting to, and staying in Narita City:
Getting to Narita City
If you’re coming from Narita Airport, your hotel should offer a free shuttle bus that will whisk you to the hotel, and then another to take you into town.
Coming from anywhere else, you can take a train to either the JR or Keisei rail station, located next to each other downtown.
Just keep in mind that the majority of the shuttle bus stops are (in)conveniently located down several flights of stairs behind the Kesei Narita Station, and those shuttle buses are different from the airport buses in that they don’t generally have room for your luggage. So if you have bags with you, it may be easier to ride the train the extra stop to the airport and catch a bigger shuttle bus from there.
Where to Stay in Narita City
We stayed at the Narita Hilton, which was HUGE for a Japanese hotel room, comfy and attractive. Sorry, I never remember to take photos of my hotel rooms until I’ve strewn my stuff everywhere and disarranged the bed.
The drawbacks were paying for internet access, crazy prices for a crappy breakfast buffet (but they do have an in-hotel convenience store with much better prepared foods), and distance from the city. Still, it’s a nice hotel, and the close proximity to the airport is a selling point for many.
If I were visiting Narita again, I’d check out the options in the city first. The city center hotels aren’t fancy, but mostly under $100 a night, and many offer free internet. Being within walking distance of Omote-Sando and all the nightlife would have been more fun and saved the time and hassle of waiting for shuttle buses. The city hotels are still a just short drive to the airport.
A couple hotels to consider:
Wakamatsu Honten Ryokan is exceptionally close to Naritasan Shinshoji Temple and offers a classically Japanese lodging experience everyone should try once.
Richmond Hotel Narita is clean, modern, highly rated–and under $100 a night.
Welco Hotel Narita is also right in the middle of everything, well rated, and super cheap.
Itinerary: What to do with 24 Hours in Narita City
Morning– Now that you’re situated, the fun begins!
Let’s start our hypothetical 24 hours in the morning. You’re starving and eager to sight-see, so head downtown and grab some surprisingly great sushi from a convenience store near the station.
If you’re not the sushi-for-breakfast type (just know I’m disappointed in you), you can find baked goods, snacks of all kinds, sandwiches, rice balls and more at the “conbini.” I quickly became addicted to 7-11’s delicious Chocolate Matcha Croissant snacks– they’re similar to the sweetened breakfast cereal we’re used to here in the US, with a Japanese twist. Maybe you could pick up a couple extra and mail them back to me?
Appetite sated, you’ll want to check the Narita City website to see if there are any festivals happening while you’re there. If not, the number one item on your itinerary should be Narita Shinshoji Temple!
The temple grounds are surprisingly large, and there’s an adjoining park to explore, so plan to spend at least an hour here. It’s about a 15 minute walk from the station via Omote Sando Road. You’ll be be coming back this way and eating lunch here, so take note of what looks good.
To get to the Temple: Just follow my shakily drawn red line from the JR station to Shinshoji Temple! After you’ve explored the temple grounds and park, you’ll want to head back the way you came, down Omote Sando Road.
Lunch– There’s ample opportunity for souvenir shopping on Omote Sando, with everything from tchotchkes, to traditional sweets, to sake. When it’s time for lunch, I recommend choosing from one of the many restaurants offering the local specialty of unagi, grilled eel. It might not sound appetizing if you’re never had it, but I promise it’s actually really, really good!
Afternoon– My top pick for the afternoon is just outside of Narita City, the National Museum of Japanese History in Sakura. It covers a huge breadth of Japanese history, up through some modern day folk and pop culture, and is overall a really nice museum. Plus, you’ll get to see a bit of the Japanese countryside on your 15 minute train ride to Sakura.
To get to the Museum: Take the Kesei Line to the Kesei Sakura Station, then grab a taxi to the museum. You can also walk or take a bus (stop into the tourist info center across the street for English speaking staff with maps), but since we’re short on time, a taxi is easiest and fastest.
If museums aren’t your thing, check out Narita City’s additional sightseeing suggestions here.
Be sure to double check on Google maps before heading out; we tried to go to the Boso no Mura historic village, only to find that their map scale in the directions is really compressed. While it appears to be across the street from the rural Shimousa-manzaki station, after wandering around for 10 minutes, we figured out from the Japanese signs that it was actually a half hour walk down the road, on a scorching hot day with no public transport in sight. We decided to cut our losses and move on, but wished we hadn’t wasted the time.
One of your sightseeing options, Narita’s large Aeon mall, might seem like a silly thing to visit when there are Important Cultural Experiences available, but we had a great time browsing the stores, including my favorite travel pastime, roaming the aisles of the grocery store.
We loved the game arcade (remember when those used to exist?), 100 yen shop, and cake shop in the grocery.
If you don’t feel up to going out for dinner, the grocery marks down many of their prepared foods about an hour before closing, so you can take a feast of cheap sushi, fried everything, and baked goods back to your hotel. We did just that our last evening…though in my haste to pile my basket full of goodies, I managed to choose a disgusting jelly textured cocktail-thing and a non-alcoholic wine cooler to accompany my feast!
To get to the Mall: Most, if not all of the hotel shuttles stop at the Aeon mall, or you can pay a flat fee to take the Circle Bus, a city loop bus that also stops at some of the hotels.
Evening– Back in the Narita station area, you’ll find a wide variety of bars and restaurants, everything from formal dining to the takoyaki stand pictured at the top of this post. We ate at Hanaichi 871 (above), which was a nice fusion place with an English menu.
For a really awesome experience, book dinner at Yamato no Yu, an onsen and sushi restaurant outside of Narita City. They offer public baths, as well as private rooms with small outdoor baths.
To get to Yamato no Yu: Take the JR line to Shimousa-manzaki station, then walk about 15 minutes using their zoomed in map. Keep in mind that the hotel shuttles don’t run much past 11, so you should plan on a $20-$30ish cab ride back to your hotel if you stay out past then.
(this post was sponsored by Narita City, as always, all opinions are my own)