I told you we were done with Tokyo and, yet, we’re not. After checking in at the airport, Tawn and I took the train back one stop to the town of Narita. Longer-term readers may recall that we did this during an 8-hour layover in Tokyo in March 2007. For those of you who haven’t been reading that long, here’s a brief account:
Narita is the town where Tokyo’s main international airport is located. It is an hour by train northeast of the city, has a very old and beautiful temple, and is known for its unagi – grilled eel.
Taking the local train from the airport back to Narita, I remembered to take a picture of the daily news headlines posted in the train car. You don’t need to be able to read Japanese to tell that sex sells!
Narita isn’t a very large town, maybe 100,000 people, and its agricultural roots are still visible, although much of the town now supports the nearby airport industries, including the many hotels where overseas aircrew spend their one- or two-night layovers.
The walk from either of the train stations to the temple is only about ten minutes, following a cute street lined with little shops selling all sorts of trinkets and souvenirs. Just in the last two years, we’ve noticed a lot of change on this street, though, with several older buildings and mom-and-pop shops demolished in favor of newer, more generic stores, restaurants and bars.
Right across from the tourist information office is a small grilled eel restaurant. The kitchen faces the street and you can look in and watch the chefs grill the skewers of fresh eel.
You order and pay at the front counter, receiving little paper tickets. Then take a seat at a table (or in the traditional seating area on tatami mats, at the back of the restaurant). A few minutes later, tender, sweet and crispy unagi comes your way!
I’ve said it before and will say it again: if you have about six hours between flights at Tokyo Narita Airport, it is worth your effort to go through immigration and take the train into Narita Town.
After our return to the airport, Tawn did a little browsing in the shops and I went up to the observation deck. Japanese airports still have observation decks that are open to the public, which I think is a great thing. (Being an aviation enthusiast and all…)
A Japan Airlines 747 touches down on the main runway, the same one that the FedEx MD-11 crashed on a few weeks ago. I wasn’t able to spot any signs of that accident. In the foreground is a Korean Airlines 777.
With Delta Airlines’ recent acquisition of Northwest Airlines, they have been quick to repaint the Northwest fleet, at least the planes flying internationally. Now you are able to see something that didn’t exist just a few months ago: a Delta 747 and A330.
Beautiful new area in Terminal 1. While Narita doesn’t have all the amenities of Singapore Changi Airport, it is a more beautiful airport.
Since we had cashed in a few remaining miles to fly business class, we stopped by the All Nippon Airways lounge. If you are flying Star Alliance through Tokyo, don’t bother with the United Airlines lounge – go straight to ANA’s as it is much nicer.
With shower facilities and a good selection of food and beverage – not to mention an excellent view of the airfield – the ANA lounge was a nice place to relax before boarding the flight home.
Our friend Masakazu, whom we had joined for shabu-shabu and sukiyaki a few nights earlier, had emailed several of his friends who were working the flight back to Bangkok. The upside of this was that we received very friendly and attentive service on the way back home, including a complimentary bottle of wine to slip into our bag just before arrival!