Narita Airport is one of the major airports in Japan and for many visitors, it is also their first point of contact with the country. Having adequate and decent facilities are some of the features that contribute towards a pleasant airport experience.

One such value added program offered at Narita Airport is the Narita Airport Transit & Stay Program. There are two different types of tours offered on the Narita Airport Transit & Stay Program: Volunteer Guided Tours and Self-guided Tours, that cover an array of sights and experiences for the visitor.

A JAL aeroplane heading towards adventure

I took the opportunity to try out three of the volunteer guided tours and found them to be interesting and worthwhile as they gave me a little glimpse into Japanese culture and tradition. These tours use public transportation and typically start from 9:00 and return back to the airport by 14:00, and can be booked online beforehand or on the day itself at the tour reception counter located near the arrival gates at each terminal. Note that while it is free to join a tour, participants will have to pay for their own transportation, rental equipment and meals.

Hydrangeas (ajisai) and rice fields
Electric bicycle rental at Takomachi costs 500 yen, a cheap and easy way to explore the area
Takomachi's local rice variety, Takomai.
Taking the bus back to Narita Airport from the Museum of Aeronautical Sciences
A dish of local vegetables at Restaurant Fu Wa Ri

Tour 1: Dressing up at Boso no Mura, an Edo Period open-air museum

Boso no Mura is an open-air museum that recreates the atmosphere, lifestyle and a village from the Edo Period. Visitors are welcome to rent Edo Period style outfits-from traditional ones to ninja costumes-to further enhance their visit to the museum, which was exactly what I did. My indispensible guide at Boso no Mura introduced the sights and various workshops that were held at the museum. Dressing up in a summer yukata definitely made for a different experience and it felt like I was in a different world.

Visitors to Boso no Mura can participate in a variety of hands-on experiences or dine in the village itself. While I did not participate in any experiences, I was just as happy looking into the different shophouses and buildings, and wandering around the museum grounds in costume and taking pictures. Before I knew it, it was time to leave the open-air museum and head back to the airport. Time really flies when you're having fun!

Edo Period style village recreated at the open-air museum
Sitting pretty in my summer yukata in a samurai house
A farmer's land with real plants
Sorting wheat in the storehouse
Boso no Mura has lots of wide green spaces to rest and walk around

Tour 2: Cycling between rice fields and seeing seasonal flowers in Tako Town

Tako Town, Takomachi, is a small town about 25 minutes away from Narita Airport by bus. My helpful guide who could also speak English accompanied me from the airport and together, we took the bus to our destination, Takomachi Roadside Station (michinoeki). There, we rented electric bicycles and cycled along the Kuriyama River, through rice fields (that were growing local Tako Rice), and to the nearby Nichihonji Temple before returning.

I found this tour to be extremely enjoyable as it allowed me to go for a short bicycle ride, afforded scenic rice fields, and visit a temple with a long history. My knowledgeable guide also introduced the sights which gave me a better understanding of the things we saw. One of the highlights when I was there was that my visit coincided with the hydragea (ajisai) season and there were many of them in bloom when I was there. June is typically the ajisai flower season and they typically reach their best in mid June. Depending on season, visitors on this tour can also get to see cherry blossoms in spring along the Kuriyama River or autumn colors at Nichihonji Temple.

Volunteer guide easily identified with their pink vest
Walking along the Kuriyama River where hydrangea plants and cherry trees line the banks.
Nichihonji Temple can be entered for an additional fee of 300 yen
Hydrangea garden in front of the temple
Very picturesque forest and ajisai flowers
Sanmon Gate to Nichihonji Temple
Inside the Ajisaikan Roadside Station Tako where we rented the electric bicycles, and got lunch before going back to the airport

Tour 3: Eating fresh local vegetables and airplane watching in Shibayama

The town of Shibayama is the closest to Narita Airport and one of the tour destinations offered by the Narita Airport Transit & Stay Program. For this tour, I went with the option of visiting the nearby Museum of Aeronautical Sciences before heading to my main attraction which was lunch at Fu Wa Ri, a restaurant at the nearby roadside station Soranoeki Fuwari Shibayama.

The aviation museum is located near the end of the runway and provides ample views of airplanes from its two observation decks. One of my favorites was definitely the short paid tour to the nose of a real Boeing 747, and where I could live my dream of being a pilot. Not far away from the Museum of Aeronautical Sciences is Hikoki no Oka (or Aeroplane Field), an observation platform where I spent some time just watching planes land and take off. It is one of the places where the planes fly almost overhead giving spectators a chance to see the underbelly of the plane. Finally, I headed to Fu Wa Ri, a popular lunch buffet restaurant that usually sees long lines before it opens but tour participants will not have to wait in line to enjoy the homecooked delicacies.

Museum of Aeronautical Sciences
Inside the exhibition hall where there are close ups of plane parts and simulator rides
Inside the Boeing 747 where I got to be pilot for 5 minutes
A heart to show how much I heart watching planes
No better place to spend a lovely day out
Roadside station Soranoeki Fuwari Shibayama on the right and restaurant Fu Wa Ri on the left
Local and regional produce on sale
Lunch buffet spread of local ingredients
My first round
Fresh from a nearby field

Links