A day in Narita

The township of Narita seems to be largely overlooked by tourists although is frequented by airline cabin crew because of its proximity to the airport.

Just 15 minutes by cab from Narita's International Airport, Narita's main attraction is Naritasan Shinshoji Temple, or the more familiar, Naritasan. It's one of the largest Buddhist temples in the region and thousands of Japanese flock to the complex every day. We were lucky enough to see it on a Sunday under perfect blue skies.

Our first glimpse of the complex came from the front window of our ryokan - we had a fantastic view over the entire main entrance, and were close enough to hear the gonging of the bells at 6.00am and 5.00pm each day.

On our first morning in Narita, we saw a procession of monks in traditional kimono-like robes and wooden platform clogs, shuffle over to this building in the photo below, bow at the entrance, and come back out again 10 minutes later, shuffling away as quickly as their clogs would take them. We gathered this was part of the daily prayer ritual. After they'd finished, an attendant came out and swept the area, and then moved a large wooden chest in front of the doorway, into which people tossed coins before they came there to prayy throughout the day.

One of the buildings in the Naritasan Temple complex
According to the Japan Guide website, Naritasan "was built in the year 940 around its main sacred object of worship, a statue of the Buddhist Fudo Myoo deity. Kobo Daishi, the founder of the Shingon Sect and one of the most important figures in Japan's religious history, is said to have carved the statue."

A number of buildings and shrines are dotted throughout the complex, which then backs on to Narita Park, a peaceful oasis in the middle of this bustling little city. The Great Pagodo of Peace looked lovely with a touch of frost in the foreground. It's all very ornate and well cared for, and the grounds around the complex are spotless.

The Great Pagoda of Peace
Visitors typically arrive at one of the train stations at the top of the hill that leads down to Naritasan. We saw it both early morning when things were quiet, and mid-afternoon when the crowds swelled!

Main street of Narita, brimming with people, traditional foods and crafts
The main street is lined with shops and stalls, selling all manner of food specialties and crafts from the region. We saw soba noodles and rice crackers being made by hand, fresh eel being consumed as quickly as it could be filleted and barbequed; and gelatenous sweets and candied fish that looked slightly more dubious.

Fancy a candied fish??
There are stacks of restaurants in the area, and over 60 (I read) that specialise in barbequed unagi (eel). This was clearly a crowd favourite judging by the queues of people waiting to get into the unagi restaurants. We had rice and noodle dishes for lunch, with the obligatory rice, miso soup and green tea.

Narita is definitely worth a visit if you get the chance. I've visited on stopovers to Europe, and it's easy to get into the city from the airport. Staying in a ryokan, like Wakamatsu Honten, where we stayed, gives an even more authentic feel to it all - it's Japanese, but not as "in your face" as Tokyo. You actually get a feel for traditional Japanese life.

There's more photos of Narita and Naritsan on my Flickr feed.

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