Naritasan temple is a big temple complex located near Narita Airport. For people who have a couple of hours, you can easily head to Naritasan and enjoy a little of the old style Japan. You can think of it as a small Kyoto as many of the buildings on the main street leading to Naritasan, Omotesando, have an old style look so if you are looking for old shops, this is the place to see them.
Naritasan is roughly 15 minutes from Narita Station. There are signs to help you get there but they are not always in the most visible locations for tourists. When I was looking for the route to Naritasan, I was happy that I had already used Google Maps to find it as I didn’t have to look for the route itself. It is pretty simple to go there as you just head down Omotesando Street.
When I visited Naritasan, it was a scorching hot summer day in August. It was difficult to get there and many of the shops were not open around lunch. I guess they waited to open in the afternoon, or I just didn’t notice they were open. Either way it was somewhat quiet. The entrance to Naritasan was quite majestic. The large gate was really inviting and the stairs to the main temple were quite beautiful. The pond at the base was really good and the tablets on either side were really interesting.
Once you get to the top of the stairs you are at the main temple complex. There is a small pagoda as well as a few other buildings. I can understand why this complex is pretty popular for tourists as you can actually walk into the main temple and enjoy a prayer. I was happy to get my Goshuincho (temple/shrine stamp book) stamped at the main temple but there are a few other areas where you can get it done as well.
Once you finish with the main temple complex, you can always return to Narita Station but there is so much more to see at Naritasan. If you head up behind the main temple, there is a smaller building and a few historical monuments. Keep heading up to the back and you’ll eventually reach the Great Peace Pagoda. This is one of the most famous buildings in Narita as you can see it from the trains coming and leaving the airport. By the time I reached the pagoda I was hungry, hot, and tired. It was hard to get good photos up close because it is pretty big and the trees around the pagoda make it difficult to get good photos of the entire building.
If you enter from the first floor, there is a small museum but everything was in Japanese so I couldn’t understand it properly. I then headed upstairs and was in the temple area of the pagoda. If you go upstairs from outside, you can’t enter that area as it is closed off. It was pretty interesting to head up there as they have several Buddhist statues and they were pretty large. I usually don’t get a chance to see them up close and I was the only person there at the time. I really enjoyed the peacefulness of being up there by myself and highly recommend you to visit that area.
After I visited the Peace Pagoda, I headed down to the main park below. There is a really nice fountain at the bottom and there is also a nice pond there as well. I went to see the gazebo that was at the far end of the pond but by the time I got there a work crew just backed their truck into the entrance and started to work. That was pretty bad timing. The entire area is actually not technically part of Naritasan Temple as it is considered Naritasan Park, but really there is no difference.
Overall Naritasan is a great place. It took me almost 10 years to get to Naritasan because it was just too far for me to visit. I had a good opportunity to visit this time and made the most of it. I may be back again but it might take another 10 years before I can do it. If you don’t have a lot of time in Japan and want to see some of the “old Japan”, you can visit Naritasan and have a wonderful experience that you can’t get from just visiting Tokyo.