I really don’t mind a long layover when flying through Japan’s Narita airport. That’s because of the airport’s close proximity to a place where you can easily spend a day - Narita city. No, it’s not quite Tokyo. It does not have the vibrance of Shibuya Crossing or the spectacle of Takeshita Dori in Harajuku. But what Narita lacks in adrenalin and sensory overdose, it makes up for with its charm and authenticity. And the cherry on top of all this is how easily it is accessible from Tokyo’s Narita International Airport.
You could take a taxi to get there, which apparently costs about $45 for the roughly 10 minute journey (assuming no traffic!), but from everything I read, it was something highly discouraged. I realized why that was when I looked at the alternative - the high availability of fast and very inexpensive rail options. Both, the JR Line as well as the Keisei Line offer frequent trains, the latter being slightly faster. You could plan ahead as to which line and train if you’d like on Hyperdia, or just do what I did - show up at the station in Terminal 2 and buy a ticket on the next available train.
Round trip tickets are slightly cheaper than one-ways (so I was told at the counter). You can get round trip tickets at the Keisei Information Center, which is located right across the hall from the main ticket sales.
Pick up your round trip Keisei Line ticket here
Two tickets cost me ¥720 (cash only at the information center; credit cards accepted only at the main ticket sales). The next train was leaving about 4-5 minutes on platform 3 - that’s plenty of time to make it once you have your ticket in hand.
Take the Keisei Line from Narita International Airport to Narita City
In under 7 minutes or so, we were at the Narita station. If you boarded the train from Terminal 2 in the airport, Narita is the very next stop.
Narita International Airport Terminal 2 to Narita City in 7 minutes
Once you get off the train in Narita station, it’s about a 10-minute walk to Naritasan Omotesando street, the heart of this charming sleepy town. Just ask anyone in the station in which general direction to start walking to get the Narita-san Shinshō-ji temple and you’ll be on your way. This might also be a good time to pop in at the info desk at the station to pick up a train timetable and figure out which train you should target for your return to the airport.
In about 5 minutes you’ll arrive at this junction that should reassure you that you’re on the right track.
A 5-minute walk from the station should bring you to this point. Keep right.
If you arrive before 10 am, don’t expect to see a lot of activity just yet - another reason to get here before 10am! You’ll see the shops just starting to open for the day and the owners freshening their sidewalks.
A new day
While it might be too early for dining options, you could still indulge in any one of several snack shops you’ll pass along the way.
You’ll see a few of these snack shops along the way
When you’re ready to head back, just backtrack your way to Narita station. Trains typically leave every 15-20 minutes. The first stop is from Narita Station is Terminal 2.