Why people don’t talk more about Naritasan is beyond me. I’m pretty sure its grounds have seen less regular tourists than people who were just killing time because they had a long layover before their connecting flight at the nearby Narita airport. It is, after all, very easy to reach, and an ideal getaway for anyone who would rather discover a tiny part of a country instead of macerating forever within the walls of an airport.
All I’m saying is, don’t avoid it.
We booked a hotel at the airport as we had a rather early flight the next morning, and our hotel had a shuttle for the city of Narita. Many hotels do, and from the airport itself you can take the JR line to Narita station, or the Keisei line. From the station, there is a long, downwards street lined up with traditional houses, shops and restaurants, and it leads to the temple, which is not just a temple, it’s a park. If you go behind the main temple you’ll end up in a kind of forest and it takes a while to get out.
I definitely don’t regret going there, and I also won some chocolate at the Family Mart next to the station later so yay!
We tried shark dumplings at the hotel (not bad, but it can’t compare to crab xiao long bao, which are my new obsession) and I ordered a dessert which came with a very weird blue liquid under the main bowl, and we spent forever trying to figure out if it was just a decoration or if it was edible. We never found the answer.
With a rather shitty AC, we didn’t sleep very well. We parted ways in the shuttle to the airport, as I was leaving from Terminal 2 and Mom’s plane was leaving from Terminal 1. I was given access to the Sakura lounge, which is usually reserved to first and business class passengers, as well as JAL/Oneworld members, but seems to be opening up to Premium Eco passengers as well (unless they just wanted to be nice when I checked in). It’s comfy, quiet, and offers free food and drinks – the curry is to die for. I hope I’ll get to stay in this lounge again as it relaxed me before the flight, making it the best flight I ever had. Seriously. I didn’t sleep a wink, but I didn’t need to. I just read. I had a window seat this time, and not a first row one either, which, in Premium and with the “sliding in its shell” seat system, was perfect. Time flew by. The second flight however, from Helsinki, felt like I had been in that plane for much longer than 3h. I was at the security exit and couldn’t tie my seatbelt (way too short for some reason, that never happened to me before oO there was like 20 cm missing! Because the staff looked very pissed off I didn’t say anything and pretended nothing was wrong). The exit door also made a horrifying noise when the plane took off and the cabin pressure changed. And then… the isolation wasn’t the best, and air was passing through the small gaps of the door, right against my arms. I was freezing. So uncomfortable. Later, when we arrived in Ireland and started to go down, water seeped through the gaps and kept landing on my legs. The worst. If I get sick I’ll know why.
Landing in Dublin and waiting at passport control wasn’t fun: they only had 3 people in the booths, one for EU passports and two for the others (one of them changed to EU after a few minutes), and being Swiss I never know where I should go. Some airports have CH written with EU, but this one doesn’t, so I was confused. Not wanting to be told to go to the back of the other queue, I followed the crowd in the non-EU line.
There were only us in there, the passengers from Helsinki. No one else. Yet it took almost an hour to go through, because for some reason they stopped a few Israeli passport holders from entering, but not before spending about 10 minutes with each of them, investigating stuff. Once I went through (after the EU only lines opened to the non-EU too and one of the guys in the booths had the brilliant idea to ask the entire group of 15 Russian girls in front of me to go through all at the same time) the guy laughed and said I should have queued with the Europeans, but that he understood the confusion since there is no CH anywhere. I’ll know next time. At least I didn’t have to wait for my bag; it was waiting for me, the belt already stopped a long time ago.
I had a small scare when I tried to withdraw some money, because I am very smart and didn’t even have 2 euros on me, only yens. The ATM didn’t accept my card. I figured it was blocked because I told my bank I’d be in Japan until that day, but it still left me with no way to pay for the hotel or the bus – my scare didn’t get better once I approached the currency exchange booth and saw it was closed for the day. Luckily I found another one after customs and changed my yens. Long story short the ATM was just broken because I paid for my hotel room with my card later.
I slept next to the airport (it always makes me laugh that this hotel has a shuttle because they’re literally on the other side of the road). I wasn’t tired so I believe I could have survived a 3h bus ride. I am now back home, preparing a post to wrap things up, and wondering if I should go back in February or earlier.