A Crash-Course in Narita Culture

After an… eventful (to say the least) excursion from the airport to the Shinsoji Temples, I was ready to start doing some ‘splorin!

Venturing around places that look like they're straight out of a Miyazaki film?? Count me in!

Venturing around places that look like they’re straight out of a Miyazaki film?? Count me in!

Walking into the temple complex (which is MASSIVE), you’re immediate greeted first with rows of street vendors selling figures of a little blue creature called “Unari-kun”.

The sight seeing amabador for Narita, Unari-kun is an easy-going scorpio who enjoys attending festivals and sporting events

The sight-seeing ambassador for Narita, Unari-kun is an easy-going Scorpio who enjoys attending festivals and sporting events 

In charge of keeping everyone at the airport happy, Kutan is enthusiastic, friendly and enjoys late night strolls on the runway

In charge of keeping everyone at the airport happy, Kutan is enthusiastic, friendly and enjoys late night strolls on the runway

Gandering at the cutie, I first laid eyes on him in the airport, and to me, he looked like a bird so I figured the little bird was the airport’s mascot. Later, I found out that (1) he’s the city’s mascot, not the airport’s – the airport has Kutan (2) he’s NOT a bird, he’s an alien mix between an eel (because it’s the city’s specialty) and an airplane (because of the airport, so I guess I was KIND OF close with that one).

Somehow (with some sort of crazy self-control I didn’t even know I had), I was able to resist buying all of the Unari-kun souvenirs and made my way to the actual temples, which were exactly as I had pictured them, but even more awesome in person.

The brilliant Daito Temple

The brilliant Daito Temple

What really stole the show for me though, was Naritasan Park. I was walking along a narrow path, turned a corner and out of nowhere, a waterfall appeared. Now, I absolutely ADORE waterfalls (I’ve blog-squealed about them in Malaysia and Indonesia) and literally squealed with excitement and ran to dip my feet in the pond.

Water!? That's FALLING!? What could be better!? (trick question, the answer is nothing!)

Water!? That’s FALLING!? What could be better!? (trick question, the answer is nothing!)

Following the water running out of the pond, I discovered it flowed into three large Koi ponds. Here, I took a moment to enjoy how gorgeous the ponds were and how much I WASN’T afraid of the Kois, like I would have been before I conquered my fear in Thailand.

I hate pigeons in Toronto, but even THEY are pretty here!

I hate pigeons in Toronto, but even THEY are pretty here!

All of that feeling awesome about myself was hard work apparently, so I was starting to get hungry. I decided to grab some Udon from a nearby restaurant and enjoyed dying and going to eel, octopus, tofu and egg heaven.

OM NOM NOM!!

OM NOM NOM!!

Fortunately, happy delicious food-deaths aren’t permanent, and I was soon continuing on my way south to Omote Sando Street. Filled with even more shops literally overflowing with Unari-kuns and other traditional souvenirs and random statues of zodiac animals, Omote Sando represents the main downtown Narita strip. As such, it has a great traditional, old school vibe to it with a feeling of organized chaos.

Also home to the narrowest sidewalks I have ever seen!

Also home to the narrowest sidewalks I have ever seen!

After some amicable browsing, it was on to a completely different shopping experience: AEON Mall – home to a MASSIVE arcade with about 50 claw games alone (and about 5,000,000 other contraptions I couldn’t even recognize), a ton of Japanese-brand stores and some same-same but different Canadian brands.

Rocky Mountains REPRESENT!

Rocky Mountains REPRESENT!

I’ve never been much of a mall rat and I’m constantly surprised at how similar malls everywhere from Canada to Singapore to Japan actually are (which is to say I spent significantly more time in the arcade than the actual mall), but even still, before I knew it, it was time to hop back in the super-tourist-y brightly coloured cable car of a bus and head back to the airport.

Even though I wasn’t even in Narita for a full day, I still felt like I had seen a good amount of the city. After raving about my trip, I friend of mine asked if I had a copy of my itinerary, as he was planning on doing the same thing during his upcoming layover in Japan. I ended up writing him out a full itinerary and eventually realized that I could probably find a place that would publish it for me and eventually, I came across Unanchored. Now, you can check out and buy the full itinerary here:  http://www.unanchor.com/itinerary/view/338

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3 thoughts on “A Crash-Course in Narita Culture

    • I could barely believe them myself while I was there! I’m jealous I wasn’t able to see more of the country, but would definitely recommend checking them out if you ever get the chance !!

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