If you have a long layover in Narita and are looking for things to do near Narita airport then check out this list of 10 amazing Japanese experiences you can do within one hour of the airport that doesn’t require traveling into Tokyo!
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Explore the Streets of Edo Japan in Sawara Town
Sawara town is part of Katori City and just 20 kilometers from Narita Airport. It can be accessed by train from Narita station in 30 minutes. Sawara was once a wealthy merchant town as it used to be a stop off for samurai on their way back to the Tohoku region. Today many of the Edo era buildings remain along the riverfront so you get a sense of how the town would have looked during that period. Many of the buildings now house traditional souvenir shops, cafes, and restaurants so it’s very easy to spend the afternoon here exploring.
Try Award-winning Sake at a Local Brewery
Aiyu is the only sake brewery in the south of Ibaraki prefecture and has produced award-winning sakes. The brewery opened back in 1864 and is still housed in the same building. During your visit, you can see the sake production process take place from beginning to end and sample some of the award-winning sakes that the brewery produces. Tours are free of charge and can be arranged via Aiyu’s website here. Aiyu is situated in Itako city which can be accessed by bus from Narita.
Take a Traditional Boat Ride Around One of Japan’s Largest Lakes
Itako City can be reached easily by train from Narita and has sightseeing boat cruises available to tourists. The city has 20 historic bridges in total, and this sightseeing cruise takes in 12 in around one hour. The cruise takes place around the Lake Kasumigaura area, which is the second-largest lake in Japan.
To rent a boat for 70 minutes costs 7,000 yen (for up to five people). There are cheaper courses available for shorter periods, for example, 30 minutes costs 5,000 yen. The boats operate from 9 am to 4 pm daily and you should expect it to be busier during the May and June periods during the festival season. You can find further information on the website here.
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Visit the Oldest Shrine in Eastern Japan
Kashima Jingu is one of the most visited shrines in all of Japan during the New Year period when some 600,000 people flock there. Japan is home to around 85,000 shrines in total however Kashima Jingu is the oldest shrine in Eastern Japan and was first founded around 600 BC.
The Shinto shrine is dedicated to one of the gods of martial arts, so it’s often visited by Japanese teams praying for a big win in an upcoming tournament. The shrine grounds are home to three ‘power spots’, a Japanese concept that refers to places believed to provide visitors with healing or refreshing energy.
Watch One of Japan’s Best Professional Soccer Teams
Kashima city is home to the Kashima Antlers, one of Japan’s top soccer teams playing in the J1 League. Kashima has won the J League title a record eight times, and their stadium will also be home to the soccer matches during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. You can check out their website here for more information and match fixtures.
Try Craft Beer and Pizza at Paradise Beer Factory
is also home to the Paradise
Beer Factory, an
independent craft beer brewery and restaurant serving up delicious home-made
Paradise Beer was set up in 2008 and uses 100% natural farming methods to create their sustainable, delicious beer – a rare find in this part of Japan where it is generally more profitable to grow rice rather than barley. Even the water that is added to the beer comes from the holy spring at nearby Kashima Shrine. The high mineral content within the spring water helps to create a more flavorful tasting beer.
See the Best of Japan’s Four Seasons with Irises, Cherry Blossoms and Autumn Leaves in Itako City
No matter what time of year you visit Japan, there is usually some kind of flower or leaf viewing experience available showcasing the best of the four seasons. In spring, see the cherry blossoms at Chosho-Ji temple in Itako, or the vibrant red maple leaves during autumn. During June you can catch the hydrangeas and irises in full bloom during the city’s most popular festival.
Try Your Hand at Baking Japanese Rice Crackers
Itako city is also home to the Nishikura senbei shop. Senbei are traditional Japanese rice crackers and a popular snack here. At this small family-run shop, you can watch as the staff bake the senbei by hand, and even have a go at baking them yourself. Afterward, you can purchase different varieties of crackers as souvenirs for your family and friends.
Discover Amazing Local Cuisine
The cities of Katori, Itako, and Kashima are all in close proximity to each other and are home to some amazing cuisine, much of it made using locally sourced produce. For delicious French-Japanese fusion, go to the Nipponia Merchant Town Hotel, try the local specialty dish of eel in Itako city, or dine at Akachochin ( 赤ちょうちん ) yakitori (grilled chicken skewers) restaurant that dates back over 45 years in Kashima.
Explore Katori Jingu Shrine
Katori Jingu Shrine and exploring the temple and grounds. This popular Shinto
shrine is unusual because it is painted black, which is quite rare in Japan.
The road leading up to the shrine is lined with small shops and restaurants so
it’s easy to spend a couple of hours here wandering around the temple complex,
feeding the deer, and stopping for a snack or lunch in one of the restaurants.
Have you experienced a long layover in Narita before? Where did you go? Let me know in the comments! If you are heading to Japan check out my Tokyo 5-day itinerary here, and 3-day Kyoto itinerary here.