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Narita Transit Program: Narita City

My trip to the states to visit friends and family, and well, to get hitched included a nine-hour layover in Japan. Ottie and I went through immigration with the intention to explore Narita city on our own, but upon enquiry at one of the numerous helpful information counters, realised that there was a Narita Transit Program for travelers just like us. Yay! The program is provided completely free (apart from expenses which we’d occur), with volunteer guides provided for one of three choices – exploring Narita City, visiting the Aerospace Museum in Shibayama, and picking strawberries in Tako. We had a hankering for unagi (eel), so we chose the first option. Anyway, after so many trips through Narita Airport over the years, it wouldn’t be right not to visit the city.

Our first stop was to Naritasan Shinshoji (成田山新勝寺), a Buddhist temple so famous that it’s claimed that a million people line up down the main street of Omotesando during the new year. A million! I can’t even try to wrap my head around so many people on so small a space.

Visiting Shinshoji Narita Temple with the Narita Transit Program in Chiba, Japan

Lantern at the entrance of Shinshoji Narita Temple with the Narita Transit Program in Chiba, Japan

Japanese sandals (geta) hanging at the entrance of Shinshoji Narita Temple with the Narita Transit Program in Chiba, Japan

Ottie welcome luck from incense smoke onto his head at Shinshoji Narita Temple with the Narita Transit Program in Chiba, Japan

Plum blossom at Shinshoji Narita Temple with the Narita Transit Program in Chiba, Japan

Coins on a fountain at Shinshoji Narita Temple with the Narita Transit Program in Chiba, Japan

Kale & Violets at Shinshoji Narita Temple with the Narita Transit Program in Chiba, Japan I never knew that Kale (ハボタン) looked so much like cabbage in bloom! I had to translate the katakana to find out what it was. I love Kale, and have missed it so much for the past few years back in Singapore. Also,Violets (ビオラ) in the foreground.

Plum blossoms at Shinshoji Narita Temple with the Narita Transit Program in Chiba, Japan

Plum blossoms at Shinshoji Narita Temple with the Narita Transit Program in Chiba, Japan It was my first time seeing plum blossoms! They were so beautiful. I’m looking back at the pictures I feverishly took of these blooms and feeling all the feels. (*w*)

Flora at Shinshoji Narita Temple with the Narita Transit Program in Chiba, Japan

Fountain in a garden at Shinshoji Narita Temple with the Narita Transit Program in Chiba, Japan

Buddhist monk escorted to the prayer hall at Shinshoji Narita Temple with the Narita Transit Program in Chiba, Japan

Monks heading towards prayer hall at Shinshoji Narita Temple with the Narita Transit Program in Chiba, Japan

We happened to be in temple grounds for the daily prayer ritual, and were lucky to catch the head monk and his retinue heading towards the gold-gilded prayer hall. Loitered on the outside listening to the steady drumming of the gigantic taiko as we witnessed so many devotees fill up the prayer hall.

Statue of traveling monk at Shinshoji Narita Temple with the Narita Transit Program in Chiba, Japan

Bronze statues at Shinshoji Narita Temple with the Narita Transit Program in Chiba, Japan

Peeking through a door at Shinshoji Narita Temple with the Narita Transit Program in Chiba, Japan

At Shinshoji Narita Temple with the Narita Transit Program in Chiba, Japan We got our photos taken and posted on the Narita Transit Program Facebook page!

Incense for luck in love at Shinshoji Narita Temple with the Narita Transit Program in Chiba, Japan Our lovely guide gave Ottie and I a bundle of incense sticks to put together into this pot! It was for us to get blessings for love. He refused to accept the 100 yen we tried to reimburse him.

Here’s some images of Omotesando with their historical architecture:

Omotesando at Narita, Chiba, Japan

Omotesando at Narita, Chiba, Japan

They also had the zodiac animals lining the street!

Year of the monkey at Omotesando at Narita, Chiba, JapanHad to capture this for the Year of the Monkey.

Standing next to my zodiac animal the tiger.Me with my zodiac animal, the Tiger.

Ottie with his zodiac animal the dog.Ottie with his zodiac animal, the Dog.

Weird horse sculpture at Omotesando at Narita, Chiba, JapanThis odd-looking horse was too weird to pass up.

Rabbit zodiac animal at Omotesando at Narita, Chiba, JapanCute bunny!

Tortoise sculpture at Omotesando at Narita, Chiba, Japan… Is there a tortoise in the zodiac???

Pigeon at Omotesando at Narita, Chiba, Japan

Blossoms etched onto road posts at Omotesando at Narita, Chiba, Japan

Stairs at Narita, Chiba, Japan

Afternoon sun upon a statue of a guard dog at Narita, Chiba, Japan

Thanks to our awesome guides, we somehow got to sample so many things on our leisurely walk down Omotesando – we even got to taste some sake!

Ottie and a senbei on a stick at Omotesando at Narita, Chiba, JapanSenbei on a stick.

Handmade soap at Omotesando at Narita, Chiba, JapanArtisanal soap – that’s one of our guides trying it out.

Lights at a shop selling handmade soap at Omotesando at Narita, Chiba, JapanI liked these lights.

Honey Yuzu sampling at Omotesando at Narita, Chiba, JapanYuzu Mitsu (Yuzu Honey), which is made up of Royal Jelly honey if I’m not mistaken. We liked it so much that we ended up buying the satchets (because bottles would be confiscated at the airport).

Somehow, Lady Luck was on our side when we witnessed this pretty procession by the ladies at a dance school, something that supposedly occurs once a year:

Celebratory procession down Omotesando at Narita, Chiba, Japan

Celebratory procession down Omotesando at Narita, Chiba, Japan

Omotesando is famous for their unagi shops, and there was even one with a live preparation! It was so fascinating watching these professionals pick out an eel from a bucket, kill it through a stake through it’s eye, before swiftly gutting and portioning it.

Live eel preparation in an eel shop at Omotesando at Narita, Chiba, Japan

We headed to Kikuya Chrysanthemum House (菊屋) next door for some actual unagi though. Apparently Steven Spielberg ordered a meal from here once.

Kiikuya Chrysanthemum House at Omotesando, Narita, Chiba, Japan

Unagi lunch with volunteer guides from the Narita Transit Program at Kiikuya Chrysanthemum House at Omotesando, Narita, Chiba, JapanUs and our guides, Ben & Hiro (?)! We learnt that they themselves are quite the travelers, with children and grandchildren settling in the US , which is probably part of the reason why their English is so good. It’s so heartening to see such enthusiasm for life as these sirs, and it’s such an inspiration for myself.

Unagi lunch at Kiikuya Chrysanthemum House at Omotesando, Narita, Chiba, JapanIt was so yummy. Not a trace was left in any of our bowls.

Volunteer guides from the Narita Transit Program at Narita International Airport, JapanThank you Narita Transit Program!

Apparently, any participant of the Narita Transit Program is also eligible for a complimentary visit to the Rassurants Traveler’s Lounge back as Narita Airport, which we gladly welcomed to spend the next two hours before we headed back to the grind of going through customs. Just as well, since our little jaunt in Narita city had taken a toll on Ottie who isn’t able to sleep on planes.

Rassurant traveler's lounge in Narita International Airport, Japan

Ottie catching up on sleep at Rassurant traveler's lounge in Narita International Airport, JapanI had to.

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