Last year, I wasted six hours of my life in a lengthy Narita Airport layover and proclaimed it:
“THE WORLD’S MOST BORING AIRPORT FOR A LONG LAYOVER”
Sadly, Narita Airport is old and it IS incredibly boring, offering little in the way of food or entertainment. More recently, I had an even longer layover (25-hours) in Narita, planning to connect out of Haneda Airport the following day. This time I was determined to make the most of my brief moments in Japan. Surprisingly, I actually did find ways to amuse myself in Narita and really enjoyed my layover!
Here are a few helpful tips for navigating Narita during a long Narita Airport layover:
Stash your stuff
Conveniently, each terminal at Narita Airport offers a luggage storage area. The cost is 520 yen per day and is calculated by calendar day, not by a 24-hour period. My two bags cost 2080 yen (about $18 USD) for less than 20 hours. When packing heavier than normal, the price is well worth it for the convenience. I really hate schlepping large bags on and off buses, so everything I need for an overnight stay goes into my carry on bag.
Book a hotel near Narita town
For the frugal traveler, I recommend the Narita Gateway Hotel where I paid only $27/night for a 3-star hotel. The rooms are small but clean and very comfortable. The lobby has a very old European vibe, with large couches in the lounge area that are perfect for reading.
The free shuttle from Narita Airport leaves from Terminal 1 North, bus stop number 16.
Compare prices on a few other hotel options near Narita Airport:
Shuttle into Narita Town
Fortunately, most hotels in the Narita Airport area offer complimentary shuttles to either AEON Mall or JR Station. AEON Mall is a good escape on those cold Japanese winter days, but the JR Station area is a much more interesting neighborhood to explore. The area has tons of restaurants, bars, and shops set along narrow cobblestone streets and feels very authentically Japanese.
Explore amazing Japanese temples!
Naritasan Shinshoji Temple is a stunning 1000-year-old Buddhist temple. This landmark is conveniently located a 10-minute train ride from Narita Airport or a 10-minute walk from JR Station (where the Narita Gateway hotel shuttle drops off). The temple complex is a huge area and will inspire you to lose yourself in Japanese history while you wander through 5 different pagodas and a beautiful park.
Free tour guides are available daily from 10:00 am – 3:00 pm. Book in advance by emailing Naritasan firstname.lastname@example.org (or just ask when you arrive).
Getting there: From Narita Airport Terminal 2, take either the JR Line or the Keisi Line and get off at Narita Station. There are signs in English directing you to Naritasan Temple.
Savor delicious Japanese food
The street from JR train station to the Naritasan temple is lined with all types of restaurants. There are traditional Japanese noodle shops along with a wide variety of ethnic cuisine ranging from Indian to Italian. The choices are endless and the prices very reasonable.
Drink Japanese beer
After dinner, I stumbled into what I believe is one of the coolest bars in the world – The Jet Lag Club. For an aviation geek like myself, The Jet Lag Club is aviation heaven! The walls are lined with vintage airline posters, photos from the Vietnam war, airline logo stickers, and other aviation-related memorabilia. The place is owned by a Belgian guy who told me all the memorabilia is actually donations from the pilots who hang out there on layovers.
(Happy Hour price: 450 yen for a really large Kirin beer!)
Shuttle from Narita to Haneda
The drive from Narita to Haneda takes 65 to 85 minutes (depending on traffic) and large, comfortable buses run regularly between the two airports. Purchase your tickets in the airport arrival lobby, very near the luggage storage area. The buses depart Terminal 1 North from bus stop #3 and cost 3,100 yen (about $27 USD).
Enjoy modern Haneda International Airport (aka Tokyo International Airport)
Fortunately for Tokyo travelers, the new Haneda International terminal opened in October 2010. Luckily, the new terminal offers much more modern convenience and entertainment options than the aged Narita Airport. Food courts offer delicious Japanese food and comfortable chairs, perfect for people-watching while killing time. The airport also provides plenty of charging stations for electronic gadgets and comfortable work areas perfect for getting things done while waiting for your flight.
So, on your next long Narita Airport layover, stash your stuff and grab a shuttle. After that, slurp down some ramen noodles and an ice cold Kirin beer. Sit back, relax and enjoy your time in Tokyo.
Do you have any other tips, tricks, or hidden gems to recommend in Narita?
(Naritasan Temple Photo credit: *_* via Visual hunt / CC BY)