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.
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.
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.
We got our photos taken and posted on the Narita Transit Program Facebook page!
Here’s some images of Omotesando with their historical architecture:
They also had the zodiac animals lining the street!
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!
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:
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.
We headed to Kikuya Chrysanthemum House (菊屋) next door for some actual unagi though. Apparently Steven Spielberg ordered a meal from here once.
Us 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.
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.