Make the most of a day out in charming Narita City, only 10 minutes from Narita Airport, with our Narita Day Trip Itinerary. It’s the perfect way to spend a long layover at the airport.
Entrance to Narita Shinshoji Temple. - image © Florentyna Leow
If you find yourself having a 6 – 8-hour layover at Narita Airport, you might be considering a sojourn into Tokyo for a quick visit to make the most of your time in Japan. But, while it’s entirely possible to head into Tokyo from this airport, it will take at least an hour each way depending on your mode of transport. That doesn’t leave much time for sightseeing.
Instead, we recommend a day trip to nearby Narita City instead. It’s smaller and less hectic than downtown Tokyo, but has all the charm of traditional Edo-period Japan plus delicious eating to boot. Our itinerary will help you make the most of your time here.
This itinerary contains the following sections:
- Notes Before You Go
- The Full Narita Day Trip Itinerary
- Narita Day Trip Map
- Recommended Accommodation in Narita
Part of Sakuranoyama Park. - image © Florentyna Leow
Notes Before You Go To Narita
- This itinerary is just a guideline. Add or subtract places as you like. If you’d rather visit the temple and park before having lunch along the Main Street, that’s entirely doable too.
- Itinerary timings are approximate. It is meant to be done at a rather leisurely pace, so you can spend as little or as much time as you like at each place. Adjust the timings to suit your schedule.
- It’s always worth checking train and/or bus times to make sure you won’t miss your connecting flights.
- If you’re especially pressed for time, we suggest skipping Sakuranoyama Park and heading back to the airport from Narita town.
- We’ve put in directions at the end of each section to minimise clutter.
- Don’t take your baggage with you. Leave it at the airport! Find out more in our guide to Narita International Terminal.
- This itinerary is also doable as a day trip from Tokyo. To get to Narita City from Tokyo, you can take one of the limited express trains running on the Keisei Main Line from Keisei-Ueno Station or Keisei-Nippori Station, and alight at Keisei-Narita Station. The journey takes 1 hour 11 minutes and costs JPY840. Alternatively, you can take a rapid train on the JR Sobu Line bound for Narita Airport from Tokyo Station, and alight at JR Narita Station. The journey takes 1 hour 20 minutes and costs JPY1,150.
- This is a walking itinerary. Visiting the temple also involves a few flights of stairs, though these are short, can be taken slowly and should not prove too onerous. Put a comfortable pair of walking shoes on and give it a shot!
The Keisei-Narita Station platform. - image © Florentyna Leow
The Full Narita Day Trip Itinerary
9:30am Travel from Narita Airport Terminal to Narita Town
For a day trip to nearby Narita town from Narita Airport, we begin at the train station at B1 in Terminal 1. You’ll see two railway companies – JR and Keisei – which we describe in our guide to arriving at Narita Airport. There are two ways to travel to Narita town from Terminal 1:
- 1)Take the outbound train on the Keisei Main Line and alight at Keisei-Narita Station. The journey costs JPY260.
- 2) Take the outbound express, rapid or local train on the JR Line and alight at JR Narita Station. The journey costs JPY200.
The principle is the same if you’re traveling from Terminals 2・3 – you will take the same outbound trains. And, practically speaking, it doesn’t really matter which line you take, as the two stations are a 2-minute walk from each other in Narita town. For the purposes of this itinerary, we took the Keisei Main Line heading to Ueno.
The Narita-Kaiun Kippu (Pass). - image © Florentyna Leow
First, you’ll need to purchase a ticket to Keisei-Narita Station. This can be done at the ticket machines or at the counter. A one-way journey will cost you JPY260. However, if you decide that you will definitely ride the train each way, ask the counter staff for the Narita Kaiun Pass (pictured above). This rail pass is a round-trip journey between the airport and Keisei-Narita Station, and costs JPY480. If you’re keen on saving a few pennies, this is the pass to pick up.
Signs leading to Platform 2 on the Keisei Main Line. - image © Florentyna Leow
After you’ve purchased the ticket, head over to Platform 2 on the Keisei Main Line. You can check departure times here. We took the 9:44am, but you can also take the 10:08 train if you miss this departure. After boarding, it’s about 10 minutes on the train to Keisei-Narita Station.
A section along Narita Omotesando Street. - image © Florentyna Leow
10:00am Narita Omotesando
Narita Omotesando Street is the main shopping street in Narita city. Stretching for a kilometer between JR Narita Station and Naritasan Shinshoji Temple, the street was once the last kilometer of the Narita Kaido pilgrimage route from Edo (old Tokyo). Pilgrims would arrive here and find traditional crafts shops, lively restaurants, places to buy souvenirs, and inns to rest at. In that sense, it wasn’t so different to us visiting modern-day Narita!
Along the first half of Omotesando Street. - image © Florentyna Leow
The first half of Omotesando Street is wide and spacious, with large souvenir shops and cafes on either side of the road. Here, the buildings look newer and larger.
Walking towards the temple. - image © Florentyna Leow
But venture nearer the temple and the street winds a little more, sloping downwards en route to Naritasan, becoming narrower as the buildings seem to huddle closer together. With retro-looking stores selling everything from rice crackers to pickles to locally-made sake, it’s the very picture of an Edo-period post-town.
Hand-woven baskets for sale. - image © Florentyna Leow
You’ll find all manner of traditional crafts here. For instance, you could consider hand-woven bamboo baskets for picnics, or trays for drying food in the sun. There are more pickles on sale here than you can shake a stick at. Who knew a small city like this had so many different varieties available?
The rice balls are superb here. - image © Florentyna Leow
At Omusubiya Kura, they serve fantastic freshly-made rice balls, but you can also sample a few of the pickles. We especially loved the baby aubergines marinated in karashi mustard!
Outside Narita Yume Bokujo. - image © Florentyna Leow
A visit to Narita Yume Bokujo is a must for those with a sweet tooth. It’s hard to miss with its bright yellow awning. It’s a great place for soft serve ice cream, and they also sell slices of rich, gooey cheesecake called “Makiba no Yume” or “Ranch’s Dream.” I think that says it all.
Walk in the direction of the building in front, following the road and turning right. - image © Florentyna Leow
If you took the 9:44am train, you’ll arrive at Keisei-Narita Station at approximately 5 minutes to 10:00am. Follow the signs to the exit (“gate”) and take the west exit. Walk straight and up the road, then turn right. You should have a number of bus stops on your left across the road, and JR Narita Station visible beyond that.
Bus stops are on your left across the road. - image © Florentyna Leow
Walk straight. You’ll pass by Mizuho Bank and McDonalds on your right.
The vertical characters read ‘Omotesando.’ - image © Florentyna Leow
You’ll know you’ve reached the Omotesando when you see this. From here, it’s a straightforward stroll towards the temple. Make sure you keep to the side, as cars and lorries tend to barrel along.
A delicious bowl of una-don at Kawatoyo. - image © Florentyna Leow
11:00am Brunch at Kawatoyo, Narita’s most famous eel restaurant
Narita is famous for its unagi. Indeed, grilled eel purveyors are rife along Narita’s Omotesando Street. Part of this might stem from the cultural belief that eating unagi provides a special energy boost, no doubt perfect for weary pilgrims arriving on foot in to Narita city. Whether this is true or not, what is certain is that the grilled eel in Narita is excellent, as droves of Japanese tourists visiting just to eat prove.
Chefs preparing eel for rice bowls. - image © Florentyna Leow
The eel restaurants are largely located along the latter half of Omotesando Street, and the most famous of these is Kawatoyo Honten. You’ll know which it is from the long queues (notably on weekends) and English signage, but more importantly, you’ll smell the charcoal-grilled eel long before you see the shop. There’s also a large preparation area just outside the restaurant where you can watch the chefs prepare hundreds of eels for grilling. This isn’t for the squeamish: a single live eel is efficiently killed, gutted, and filleted in under a minute.
Inside the restaurant. - image © Florentyna Leow
Due to rapidly depleting domestic eel stocks, grilled unagi is a more expensive treat than it used to be. But if you make room for just one eel meal, Kawatoyo’s una-don (charcoal-grilled eel on rice) is the dish to have when you’re in the area. Each bite is redolent with their sweet-salty sauce, tender and laced with fat, crispy skin on the outside. It’s rare to find eel this good outside of Japan, and worth shelling out for.
Kawatoyo is popular with tourists. - image © Florentyna Leow
If you’d rather have lunch later, just keep walking on to visit the temple first. You can always make your way back to Omotesando later. That being said, during the busier seasons, queues start forming shortly after Kawatoyo opens at 10:00am – that’s how famous they are.
Suruga-ya is another great unagi restaurant, albeit with no obvious English signage. - image © Florentyna Leow
If you’ve arrived on a day when the queues at Kawatoyo are proving a little much, an alternative unagi restaurant that’s arguably just as good is Suruga-ya just up the road on your left. You’ll know it by the eel-preparation setup that’s also visible from the road.
The Somon Gate at Naritasan Shinshoji Temple. - image © Florentyna Leow
12:00pm Naritasan Shinshoji Temple
Narita city’s main claim to fame is this magnificent Buddhist temple complex – Naritasan Shinshoji Temple, or Narita-san as it’s affectionately called. The temple was constructed in 940 and dedicated to the Buddhist deity Fudo-Myoo, a statue of which was reputedly carved by Shingon sect founder Kobo Daishi.
Narita-san sees many festivals and events happening throughout the year. It’s especially lively on New Year’s Day, as well as on Setsubun in February and during the Gion Festival in July. The latter attracts around half a million visitors each year!
The giant lantern at the Niomon Gate. - image © Florentyna Leow
Walking to the end of Omotesando Street takes you to the Somon Gate, which marks the entrance to Naritasan. You’ll see another gate right in front with a giant lantern hanging between. This is the Niomon Gate. Climbing the steps up leads you to the main temple complex.
Dried fruits seller at Naritasan Shinshoji Temple. - image © Florentyna Leow
There are a number of stalls around this main gate selling souvenirs and snacks. Think airplane charms for safe journeys and children’s toys. One of the first stalls you see walking in is a dried fruit vendor. Make sure you try some – they’re some of the best we’ve sampled in Japan, with none of the artificial chemical taste of supermarket varieties. The dried apples and pineapples are especially good.
The pagoda near the main hall. - image © Florentyna Leow
The temple precincts are fairly large, so you’ll want plenty of time to wander around and look at the buildings. There’s a few halls, an impressively ornate pagoda, and a huge pagoda further inside called the Great Pagoda of Peace. There’s no particular order in which you have to visit the buildings.
A sign for free walking tours at the temple. - image © Florentyna Leow
If you have the time, sign up for a free walking tour. You can do this at the information center at the top of the stairs to the right. These tours are run by local retirees who volunteer their time to take tourists around. They’re friendly and definitely help with clarifying some of the more esoteric aspects of Buddhist iconography around the temple.
Inside Naritasan Park. - image © Florentyna Leow
1:00pm Naritasan Park
Naritasan Shinshoji Temple alone is worth a trip out to this city, but the park attached to the temple grounds is also unmissable. Parts of the park are laid out as a Japanese-style strolling garden, but retains most of its natural surroundings.
A quiet corner in the park. - image © Florentyna Leow
You’ll meander along a central pond lined with black pines and stone lanterns, and then suddenly find yourself walking up cobblestoned paths through tall cedar trees. This park is spacious and not overly manicured – a rarity for a park in Japan – and wonderful to simply relax in.
Outside the Calligraphy Museum. - image © Florentyna Leow
Naritasan Park is also home to the Naritasan Museum of Calligraphy. A visit here is optional, but highly recommended. Calligraphy or “shodo” in Japanese means the “way of writing,” and it’s uncommon to have an entire museum dedicated to this art form. Their collection is pretty impressive, with over 6,000 pieces spanning ancient Chinese calligraphy to contemporary works. However, it doesn’t matter whether you can read Japanese or not: it’s a rich, powerful medium that can be appreciated for its visuals alone.
A strolling garden. - image © Florentyna Leow
The park is a self-contained, and while it’s quite large, it’s difficult to really get lost here – all you need to do is give yourself time to wander. One entrance into the park is to the right of the pagoda near the main hall, and the other entrance is further into the temple grounds, right after the Great Pagoda of Peace.
The Great Pagoda of Peace at the far end of the temple grounds. Walking past this will take you into the park. - image © Florentyna Leow
Walking past the Great Pagoda of Peace and taking a meandering path downwards will lead you through a plum grove (which blooms in late winter/early spring) and down into a Japanese-style garden. After crossing the small bridge and walking for a few minutes, you’ll arrive at the Calligraphy Museum.
Soft-serve ice cream makes a great mid-afternoon snack. - image © Florentyna Leow
3:00pm Tea break
Now that you’ve spent a few hours wandering around, it’s time for a tea break. Exit the temple and retrace your steps to Omotsando Street. There are a number of cafes, kissaten, and teahouses along Omotesando en route back to the station.
Miyoshi-ya is just off the main street – quiet and beautiful. - image © Florentyna Leow
Coffee An nearer JR Narita Station is a great spot for coffee and cake. For a taste of traditional Japanese tea and desserts, the charming teahouse Miyoshi-ya is a good choice. We’ve included these places and a few other suggestions in our Google Map.
Watching planes take off and land from Sakuranoyama Park. - image © Florentyna Leow
3:45pm Sakuranoyama Park
At this point, you’ll have had a lovely day out in Narita, and you may wish to head back to the airport to catch your connecting flight. This is easily done by retracing your steps to Keisei-Narita Station and taking the train back. However, if you’re visiting during cherry blossom season, we strongly suggest sparing some time to visit Sakuranoyama Park.
During springtime this becomes a pale pink avenue of cherry blossoms. - image © Florentyna Leow
Located approximately 4km from Narita Airport, Sakuranoyama Park is popularly known as ‘Plane-Spotting Hill.’ It’s located on a small hill where you can watch airplanes landing at and taking off from Narita. The park is especially popular with families with young children on the weekends, and is a nice way to stretch your legs after a long and cramped flight.
Watching planes from the shade of these trees. - image © Florentyna Leow
As the name implies, many of the trees in the park are cherry blossoms, which makes it a fantastic place to visit during springtime. Plane-watching and blossom-viewing – what’s not to like about this place? Even if you’re not visiting during sakura season, it’s still a great way to spend some time on a short layover. The sight of planes taking off at golden hour is particularly beautiful and impressive.
Bus Stop #2 at JR Narita Station. - image © Florentyna Leow
Short of taking a taxi from Narita, the best way to get here is by bus. Buses to Sakuranoyama Park from Narita town are extremely infrequent, so to keep things flexible, it’s best to ride the bus to the nearest stop and walk from there. In total, it is a 30-minute journey – approximately 15 minutes on the bus and 15 minutes of walking. It might sound long but it’s not particularly onerous.
The bus stop you’ll need to alight at. Show the bus driver if required. - image © Florentyna Leow
Walk to JR Narita Station. Near the clock tower, you’ll see a number of bus stops. Take the bus from Stop #2 bound for Tako. Look for this if required: 多古本線・八日市場駅行. Alight at 遠山農協前 Toyama-Nokyo-mae. Turn around, and walk in the opposite direction.
Cross and turn right here. - image © Florentyna Leow
At the second traffic light is Kosuge Crossing.
Turn left at this fork. - image © Florentyna Leow
Turn right and walk along the road for about 15 minutes, veering left when you reach a fork in the road.
To the left is a car park for Sakuranoyama visitors. - image © Florentyna Leow
You’ll pass a car park on your left.
CAPTION - image © Florentyna Leow
Then, you’ll see Sakuranoyama Park on your left.
The bus stop is located near the park entrance. - image © Florentyna Leow
5:00pm Head back to Narita Airport
When you want to head back to the airport, exit the park. On your left near the sign to the park, underneath the “40” speed sign is the bus stop. The bus to Terminal 2 costs JPY240. Make sure you have some cash on you, as the bus doesn’t accept IC cards.
The timetable for Narita Airport-bound buses. - image © Florentyna Leow
You’ll also want to double-check bus times before you visit. Direct buses from Sakuranoyama Park to Narita Airport Terminal 2 leave just 5 times a day on weekdays, once an hour as pictured above: 12:45pm, 2:05pm, 3:25pm, 4:05pm, and 5:05pm.
If you are unable to take any of the buses above, you will need to take the bus from the opposite side of the road to Narita Station (or walk back to the Toyama-Nokyo-mae earlier) and take the train back to Narita Airport. This is a longer route back to the airport and best avoided if you are short on time.
The bus stop to wait at if you’re heading straight to Sakuranoyama Park. - image © Florentyna Leow
Note: if you have a short layover during cherry blossom season and you want to prioritize this park for some sakura-viewing, you can take a bus directly from Terminal 2 in Narita Airport. You’ll need to head to the bus stops located outside the Arrivals Hall, and look for 28-C across the road from Door 7. This bus goes to Sakuranoyama Park. From the park, you can then take the bus in the opposite direction back to Terminal 2.
Narita Day Trip Map
Our Narita Day Trip map which has each of the places discussed above marked on it.
View the full size version of the map.
Recommended Accommodation in Narita
If you have an early morning flight, where you stay the night before makes a huge difference in your day. Or, if you have a late arrival, you might like to stay at the airport for a night instead of trying to figure out trains the moment you touch down. Airport hotels are perfect for times like this.
Besides the airport hotels, we recommend staying as close as possible to Narita Airport to minimise travel time in the morning. There are a few hotels near the station with free shuttle services. Another good area to check out is around Narita Station, just under 10 minutes by train from the airport. As a bonus, you’ll get to explore and eat around Narita town itself. We’ve suggested a few hotels in this area below.
Nine hours Narita Airport - image © Booking.com
Have an overnight at Narita Airport between flights but don’t necessarily want to shell out for a hotel? A capsule hotel is an inexpensive and less back-breaking alternative to sleeping on an airport bench. Located in the basement of Terminal 2, 9H has overnight rates starting from JPY3900. With hourly rates, you can even freshen up with a shower and take a short nap in one of the comfortable pods. The first hour costs JPY1500, and JPY500 per hour thereafter.
Narita Airport Rest House - image © Booking.com
Narita Airport Rest House has a bit of a monopoly on the hotel business at the airport – it’s been around for a while and things are starting to look slightly outdated. There’s no denying it’s convenient though; this is the only non-capsule hotel that’s on the airport premises itself. Rooms here are fairly spacious for Japan, but more importantly, they’re clean, air-conditioned, and reasonably comfortable. Be warned that the pillows are quite hard. The showers have great water pressure though.
Overall, the Rest House is good for an overnight stay. If you’re accustomed to a little more comfort and luxury, the Nikko might be a better option. The shuttle bus to the Rest House takes just 5 minutes.
Hotel Nikko Narita - image © Booking.com
Short of staying at the airport hotels above, our first choice for a stay near Narita would be at the Hotel Nikko Narita. Rooms at the Nikko are decently sized for a layover. The amenities provided are typical of the Nikko chain of hotels - everything you need is in the room, and of the quality you expect of this chain.
Mornings at the Nikko see a delicious Japanese-style buffet spread every morning. Good Japanese-style breakfasts are not particularly easy to come by at hotels – they can be hit or miss – so you’ll be missing out if you don’t include breakfast during your stay here. The free shuttle buses run every 30 minutes, and the hotel restaurant is pretty decent. Plus, there’s a pool! We’d say it’s worth repeat stays if you often fly via Japan.
ANA Crowne Plaza Narita - image © Booking.com
ANA Crowne Plaza Narita is a corporate airport hotel – i.e. it’s a big chain and therefore fairly reliable and unsurprising, which is what you want when you’re groggy and tired from a long flight. Rooms are spacious and comfortable, if beginning to look a little dated. Those who want a little more luxury should book a suite.
As expected, there are regular shuttles running between the airport and this hotel. There’s a 24-hour fitness centre on site; even better is that the hotel offers free access to this for guests. This is a real rarity in Japan, so if having a hotel gym is important to you, we recommend booking a stay here. Lastly, a special mention should go to the concierge, too – the front desk staff are fantastic.
Hotel MyStays Premier Narita - image © Booking.com
The MyStays hotel brand is fairly consistent across their branches. Rooms here are small when compared to similar hotels internationally, but they’re larger than most Japanese hotel rooms of this ilk. More importantly, they’re clean and comfortable. The toiletries provided in the rooms are good, as are the rest of the amenities. The hotel restaurant isn’t bad either. There’s a free shuttle bus to Narita Airport, and also to AEON Narita Mall and Narita Station. Plus, gym bunnies will be pleased to hear about the on-site fitness center. One downside: they charge extra if you want your room before check-in hours – no ifs or buts.
Hilton Tokyo Narita Airport - image © Booking.com
If you’ve stayed at a Hilton anywhere else in the world, you already know what to expect: great service and comfortable rooms. It’s not the best Hilton in the world – rooms are on the slightly smaller side than your average Hilton elsewhere, because it’s Japan – but the gym is decent, the buffet breakfast is good, and the water pressure from the showers is excellent. Free shuttles make it convenient to get to and from the airport; budget about 20 minutes for the ride. This Hilton is an entirely reasonable choice for an overnight from Narita Airport.
Wakamatsu Honten - image © Booking.com
Why not make the most of your layover and try out a traditional Japanese inn? Wakamatsu Honten is located in nearby Narita city – a few minutes away by train – and overlooks the scenic Naritasan Park. There’s an in-house onsen to soak in, and rooms here are spacious and clean. For the full experience, make sure you book breakfast and dinner along with your room. Late arrivals will find a lack of restaurants open in the wee hours. Booking the meals has to be done at the time of reservation; you can’t add this on when you arrive. The multi-course feasts are a great way to experience Japanese cuisine and hospitality – thoroughly recommended.
Tokyo Vacation Checklist
- For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Tokyo guide
- Check Tokyo accommodation availability and pricing on Booking.com – usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too
- Need tips on where to stay? See my one page guide Where To Stay In Tokyo
- You can buy a Japan SIM card online for collection on arrival at Tokyo Narita or Haneda airports. Or rent an unlimited data pocket wifi router
- See my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Compare airline flight prices and timings for the best Japan flight deals.
- If you're visiting more than one city, save a ton of money with a Japan Rail Pass – here's why it's worth it
- A prepaid Suica card makes travelling around Tokyo much easier - here's how
- Get essential travel insurance for Tokyo – World Nomads is well-regarded (and here's why)