Japan 2016: Layover at the Narita Transit Program

My trip to the states to visit friends and family (and well, to get hitched) included a nine-hour layover in Japan. Scott 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 occurred), with volunteer guides provided for one of three choices:

  1. Exploring Narita City
  2. Visiting the Aerospace Museum in Shibayama
  3. 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.

We also got our photos taken and posted on the Narita Transit Program Facebook page!

Narita-san Shinshō-ji.
Kale blooms. I love Kale, and have missed it so much for the past few years back in Singapore.
It was my first time seeing plum blossoms! They were so beautiful.
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.
Our lovely guide gave Scott 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.
They also had the zodiac animals lining the street. Had to capture this for the Year of the Monkey.
Me with my zodiac animal, the Tiger.
Scott with his zodiac animal, the Dog.

This odd-looking horse was too weird to pass up.
Cute bunny!
… Is there a tortoise in the zodiac???
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! Here’s senbei on a stick.
Artisanal soap – that’s one of our guides trying it out.
Yuzu 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).
I liked these lights.
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 next door for some actual unagi. Apparently Steven Spielberg ordered a meal from here once. It was so yummy. Not a trace was left in any of our bowls.
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.
Thank 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 Scott who isn’t able to sleep on planes.