Translated by MATCHA-PR
Welcome Narita Select Bus Tour - Have Fun Exploring Japanese Culture!
Written by Shinji Takaramura
If you have a few hours to spend at Narita Airport, how about hopping on a bus tour that will take you to explore the rich history and culture of the area? Wearing traditional Japanese garments, fun activities and tasty local food are included!
Welcome Narita Select Bus Tour - Explore the History-Rich Narita Area in Comfort!
Are you staying overnight near Narita Airport or have to do several hours long layover? Then how about taking part in a tour that will introduce you to the exciting sightseeing spots in the area?
The Narita Airport Transit & Stay Program offers various type of tours - from bus tours to self-guided tours - that allow airport users to fully immerse in Japanese culture in the history-rich area around Narita!
You can find the Narita Airport Transit & Stay Program counters in the Visitor Service Center at Narita Airport Terminal 1 and near the South Exit of Narita Airport Terminal 2.
In this article, we will introduce to you one of their most exciting programmes – the Welcome Narita Select Bus Tour, which allows visitors to travel by bus to major sightseeing spots where they can enjoy Japanese culture.
There are two 6-hour courses for your choice: the historical Sawara Course and the cultural Shibayama Course. With only 3,500 yen, you will be guided to three top spots around Narita by bus.
The tour fee includes lunch and the entrance fees to every facility visited during the tour, as well as the guide fee. In addition to the tour guide, the group is accompanied by local volunteer guides who are fluent in English.
The bus departs from the bus stops located in front of Narita Airport Terminal 2, Terminal 1 and JR Narita Station at 9:40, 9:50 and 10:10 respectively. There's no need to register beforehand, just go to the bus stop and hop on the bus with the "Welcome Narita Select Bus Tour" sign on it!
After trying them both and having had a great time, I'm at a loss to say which I liked best! So let me introduce you to the features and highlights of each of the two courses.
On a sunny spring morning, I took the Sawara Course by hopping on the Welcome Narita tour bus from bus stop No. 30, located in front of Narita Airport Terminal 1.
The Sawara Course is available every week on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The bus takes you first to the Boso Village Open Air Museum where you can experience the lifestyle of the Edo Period (1603 - 1868), then to Kozaki, which is famous for its fermented food products, and then to Sawara, an area in Katori City which keeps the beautiful traditions that made it famous in the Edo Period.
The bus is wide and comfortable. Information about the tour is displayed on a screen in Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean. Moreover, the friendly tour guides are happy to tell you more about each area the bus is traveling through. You'll be impressed to learn just how rich is the history and culture of the Narita area!
Boso Village - Put on a Kimono and Explore the Old City of Edo!
Firstly, the bus will take you to the Chiba Prefectural Open-Air Museum Boso-no-Mura, or Boso Village. This unique village is a reconstruction of a Japanese city from the latter half of Edo Period (1603 - 1868) to the beginning of Meiji Period (1868 - 1912).
I chose to turn left at the first crossroad and the view of the Merchants’ Street was so overwhelming I felt myself gasping with eyes wide opened: a series of traditional houses and shops running to the horizon, people walking here and there in kimono and hakama, crafting sounds echoing in the distance.
It felt like I had just stepped through a portal to the past and became one of the residents here. This is also the place where you can experience various types of traditional Japanese occupations: old Japanese woodcut printing, making beautifully decorated candles or even crops harvesting.
All the buildings along the Merchants' Street, as well as the samurai residence, the farmhouses, and gardens, are open for you to explore!
Within the bus tour, you'll be spending one hour in this historical theme park, which is enough to put on a traditional Japanese coat called happi (*1), to explore the village and even to try your hand at one of the Japanese culture workshops.
*1 A happi coat is a traditional piece of clothing that's often worn during festivals.
I tried the traditional candle decorating workshop and it was really fun and instructive. You get to take home the cute candle you made yourself! It's a really nice souvenir from the historical Boso Village.
Hakko-no-Sato Kozaki Roadside Station - A Tasty Japanese Meal for Lunch!
After one hour spent at the Boso Village, the bus will move on to the next destination: Hakko-no-Sato Kozaki Roadside Station, a facility that sells the area's famous fermented food products such as miso bean paste, sake and soy sauce.
The town of Kozaki continues the old tradition of making fermented foods since Edo Period, and the variation of products here is so wide that you will feel like visiting a museum of fermentation.
At the Roadside Station shop, they sell carefully selected fermented food products from all around the country.
However, the most fun part is that you get to make miso balls by yourself using various ingredients, and then taste the soup on the spot. You'll get fresh onigiri (rice balls) to go with the soup. This simple lunch contains all the basic components of a typical homemade meal, and everything is fresh and savory. You get to learn so much about the Japanese food culture while enjoying your meal!
After lunch, how about exploring the surroundings of the roadside station? You'll discover fun places like this rooftop where you can actually sit on the pilot seat of an old airplane!
Sawara - A Leisurely Walk through the Charming Little Edo!
The last stop of this bus tour is Sawara, also known as "Little Edo", a town in Katori City that preserves the nostalgic townscape of Edo (Edo Period Tokyo).
In the old days, Sawara used to be connected to the big city via the Tone and Ono rivers. It is said that the craftsmen of Sawara were so skilled that they made even better products than the ones in Edo. Nowadays, many shops still preserve and continue their traditional occupations, keeping the atmosphere here almost unchanged. This makes this place one of the must-visit spots in Chiba Prefecture.
Do take a stroll along the river and visit some of the shops and museums on the way. The tour guides will be happy to show you around the area.
Summer and autumn are the seasons when the most important festival of the city, the Sawara Grand Festival (a UNESCO world heritage) is held. Gorgeous wooden floats called dashi (*2) carrying the statues of historical figures and legendary characters parade through the streets of Sawara in a festival that welcomes tens of thousands of visitors and onlookers from all around the country.
*2 Dashi are floats that are pulled along the streets during festivals. Many are colorful and elegantly decorated, and often have people sitting on top.
Outside of the festival period, you can take a closer look at these magnificent figurines and floats in Suigo Sawara Dashi Kaikan, a museum dedicated to this festival, and see how detailed and realistic they are made.
From Sawara, the bus will take you back to Narita Airport, where you'll arrive at approximately 15:30, or to Narita Station, which will be reached at 16:00 in the afternoon.
For further details on the Sawara Course, please refer to this page.
The Shibayama Course of the Welcome Narita Select Bus Tour is operated on every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It is a course that allows you to visit the historical Boso Village, Tako, the town famous for its delicious rice, and the Shibayama Nioson Temple, an old temple with amazing architecture and a fascinating museum.
Boso Village - Have Fun in the Farmhouse!
The first destination is the same as in the Sawara Course – the historical Boso Village. This time I decided to turn right at the crossroads and soon I was immersed in the bright green of spring trees and of crops.
A wealthy farmer’s house complex gradually came into sight. The farmhouse includes the main building, a gatehouse, storehouse, the barn, stables, woodshed, and work shed houses. If you visit the house, you can play traditional children’s games.
In the courtyard, you can try using traditional utensils used by farmers to work in the field.
Feel free to explore the interior of each building and see how people from the old time organized their work and their lives.
While visiting the farmhouse, we met a samurai! He was kind to show us his sword and tell us stories about how the handle swords - a true art in itself!
Boso Village is a really inspiring place, especially if you want to immerse in Japanese history and experience the past.
Tako Ajisai-kan Roadside Station - Make and Enjoy Delicious Rice Balls!
The bus will then take you to Tako Ajisai-kan Roadside Station on the scenic bank of Kuriyama River. On the second floor of the shop, you will learn how to make rice balls using the delicious Tako rice!
You'll have the onigiri for lunch, together with side dishes provided by the tour staff.
I would recommend to take the balcony seat and enjoy your meal while looking at the banks below, where flowers are delightfully swaying under the shining sun.
After lunch, don’t forget to check the shop on the first floor, especially if you want to buy some rice from Tako to introduce to your friends. Freshly baked bread, cooked meals, vegetables and other products that make great souvenirs are also available.
The Fascinating Shibayama Nioson Temple and the Haniwa Museum
The last destination, and also the richest in history and culture, is Shibayama Nioson Temple, which dates back more than 1,200 years ago.
You'll be struck by the contrast between the solemn and ancient atmosphere of the old temple buildings and the bright and lively colors of the green and the thousands of blooming flowers.
The spiritual power of this temple has been acknowledged widely since Edo Period. It enshrines a pair of black Nio statues, which are believed to hold the power of protecting people and houses from fire and theft.
On the day of our tour, we were able to attend a prayer called "goma" (*3) held by the temple monks, which was a truly impressive ceremony. If you attend the tour on a Saturday, you might also be able to witness it!
*3 Goma... A type of temple prayer held to ward off misfortune.
Attached to the Shibayama Nioson Temple is the Haniwa Museum, a facility hosting an impressive collection of haniwa, a type of unglazed clay figures that used to be buried in the tombs of high-rank officials in the 5th - 6th century AD.
More than 300 figurines, all discovered in today's Chiba Prefecture, are exhibited in the Haniwa Museum, showing the unique techniques and features of Japan’s prehistorical art, as well as the lifestyle of this area’s former residents.
Before you leave the temple grounds, how about ringing the ancient bell? Its deep echo will resonate through your body and clear your mind.
For more details on the Shibayama Course, please visit this page.
Welcome Narita Select Bus Tour -
Just Hop on the Bus and Enjoy a Fun Tour of the Narita Area!
The best part about the Welcome Narita Select Bus Tour is that these courses take you the famous sightseeing places close to Narita Airport, which can't be easily accessed by public transportation. If it weren't by bus, it would be impossible to visit three spots within only 6 hours!
If you take part in this hassle-free bus tour, you just sit back and let the staff guide you through the many layers of Japanese history and culture that exist in the Narita area.
Next time you are in Narita, do consider taking part in this tour and discovering the rich Japanese culture and history that lie right by the airport!
For more details about time efficient and convenient Welcome Narita Select Bus Tour, check out this article introducing the five reasons to join this exciting tour!
For further details on the Welcome Narita Select Bus Tour, please refer to this website.
Narita Airport Transit & Stay Program: https://www.narita-transit-program.jp/
Written by Rose Trang
Sponsored by Narita Airport