If you find yourself on a Narita International Airport layover even for just six hours, consider yourself immensely lucky – a treasure trove of culinary delights awaits.
Put your precious few hours to good use at Omotesando – no, not the faraway posh shopping district near Harajuku, but the 300-year-old road located just 15 minutes away from the airport. Lined with shops and eateries, Narita’s Omotesando is also a shopping street. Once there, you’ll be hard-pressed to resist the aroma of grilled unagi (eel), a local speciality. Other delicacies you’ve got to try include shoyu senbei (soy sauce-flavoured rice crackers) and yokan (jellied red-bean dessert). Extending 800 metres, the street leads to one of Japan’s best-known temples, Naritasan Shinshoji, as well as the picturesque Naritasan Park.
With half a day to spare, you’ll have no problems soaking up the centuries-old tradition of Japan at Asakusa, one of Tokyo’s historic districts and home to the capital’s oldest temple, Sensoji. And what better way to experience the rich history of Asakusa than by strolling down the streets in a traditional kimono? Look out for kimono rental stores when you arrive; some of them even do on-location filming! Foodies will also be well catered to here – Asakusa boasts a plethora of long-standing restaurants with recipes harking back to generations past, including soba and tororo (grated yam) rice.
A longer layover at Tokyo gives you plenty of time to visit the bustling districts of Shinjuku, Harajuku and Shibuya. At Shinjuku, feast on some seriously good eats at any of the area’s 39 Michelin-starred restaurants – don’t miss Nakajima, which serves up a set lunch for just ¥800, featuring the eatery’s award-winning sardines. After a cultural phenomenon like no other? Hop over to Harajuku, the ever-fashionable district where the line between eclectic and eccentric gets brilliantly blurred. Meanwhile at Shibuya, take in the Tokyo spirit by wandering around the area at night when it really comes alive.
Sleep can wait; to catch the riveting tuna auction at the Tsukiji fish market you’ll have to be there by 2am to guarantee your spot. After the auction, treat yourself to a scrumptious breakfast of the freshest seafood at any one of the market’s shops. Since it will still be bright and early by the time you’re done, take the JR Yamanote line to Harajuku station and visit the Meiji Shrine – nestled in a tranquil forest of 100,000 trees, the shrine makes for a refreshing change from your manic morning hours earlier. Next, stroll the streets of Ginza, the city’s glitziest shopping and dining district. There, you can splurge on sushi at Sukiyabashi Jiro, the restaurant immortalised in Jiro Dreams of Sushi (if you’ve managed to get a reservation). But a better alternative would be Umegaoka Sushi no Midori Sohonten, where you can get your raw fishy fix at a fraction of the price.