Food & Fudomyo in Narita City

Naritasan Shinshoji Temple, Narita

Transiting through Narita International Airport on your way to Tokyo or some other fabulous Japanese city? Well don’t! Do yourself a favour, get out of that cavernous airport, jump on a train (they’re terribly punctual, you know) and take the ten minute ride into Narita City. Seriously, you won’t regret it. Well, unless you miss your connecting flight.

So you don’t, I’d advise scheduling in a stop and stowing your luggage at the airport’s storage centre or in a locker at the train station, because Narita City really deserves your attention. It’s a gem of a place that serves up a lovely taste of Edo period Japan… with a side of unagi (eel). In fact, I’d say that Narita City’s Omotesando Street is one of my favourite places in Japan to stop, eat and explore. Perhaps it’s because when I arrive I have no expectations or perhaps because it’s freaking awesome!

From Narita City station, I head out to Omotesando Street, the main shopping street that runs through straight through the town all the way to Naritasan Shinshoji Temple… the main reason for me absconding from the airport in the first place. It’s that easy.

Omotesando Street, Narita City

Harder is resisting the cute beanie clad Buddhas along the way. No, Buddha hasn’t turned hipster, it’s actually Jizo – protector of travellers, women and children and, in this case, the red beanies aren’t an ironic fashion statement, they’re there to expel demons.

Jizo - protector of travellers, women and children

Harder still is resisting the lure of the oodles of food and beverage outlets that dot the street as I wander its length to reach the 1000-year old Buddhist complex. But resist I do… for now.

Niomon Gate - Naritasan Shinshoji Temple, Narita City

Inside are a variety of temple buildings including a stunning main temple dedicated to Fudomyo, an angry looking blue dude wreathed in flame.

Fudomyo, Naritasan Shinshoji Temple, Narita Japan

Fortunately his anger is directed only at demons and he’s actually a pretty nice guy, busily removing the anxieties of his faithful followers and freeing them from oppression. I like him.

Fortunes at Shinsyouji Temple, Narita

Within the complex, paper fortunes are tied to strings and flutter in the breeze, and an ornate and brightly painted three Storied Pagoda that is decorated with elaborate dragons takes my fancy.

three Storied Pagoda, Naritasan Shinjiji, Narita Japan

As does a smaller temple where, it is alleged, women come to put in their order for something tall, dark and handsome. You’ll pass it on your way to beautiful Naritasan Park, a lovely place where you can easily lose a few hours while finding inner peace in the pretty gardens.

Tranquil Naritasan Park, Narita - Aleney de Winter

In the main courtyard of the complex, a parade of Shinto priests clad in robes so colourful the Wiggles would be proud, strut their stuff up the stairs to the main temple where giant Taiko-style drums are being pounded.

Monks at Naritasan Shinshoji Temple

The sound also reminds me of The Wiggles, in that it is somewhat jarring, but that is where the comparison ends because it is at the same time calming and meditational.

We undergo the cleansing rituals required before entering the temple, snorting a few incense vapors from a steaming pot and ladling a little water on to our hands to cleanse both hands and mouth… I might need a little extra given mine’s propensity for profanity.

Small details at Naritasan Shinshoji

Then we follow the monks into the temple for the daily Goma fire ritual, which has been performed at Naritasan Shinshoji every day for the past 1000 years.

During the esoteric ceremony monks chant, ring golden bells and keep pounding those taiko drums as they ceremoniously burn wooden amulets in a fire created as a symbol of peace and purification. During the fire ritual pilgrims pray for safety and prosperity and I’m a little shocked when, during the ceremony, a collective rush is made to hand over purses, wallets and satchels to the priest. The bags are then waved over the smoke as the head priest continues to chant, ensuring the future value of its contents is enhanced, before handing them back to their respective owners. I’m in!

But clearly my wallet didn’t get that memo and I’m soon emptying it of anything resembling money in Omotesando Street.

I walk back up the main drag, taking my time to enjoy the traditional style buildings, some dating back to the Edo period, and the kimono-wearing proprietors welcoming me to explore their tiny stores. I have to stay some of those stores aren’t for the faint of heart. A taxidermy store we stumble across is enough to make a member of the Addams family squeamish. But, if it is creepy dead things that float your boat, go for your life… I’ll pass.

Store full of unusual things in Omotesando Street

Hello Kitty and Taiko drum souvenirs are more my speed and far less likely to get me arrested when I arrive back home.

Hello Kitty in Narita

We also stock up on senbei crackers and sake – Narita’s clean spring water makes for amazing brew – and stop for a few quirkier snacks. And by quirky I mean bugs!

Sticky crickets in Omotesando Street

If you’re not up for braving a bag of sweet sticky bugs, Narita is all about great regional produce and the main attraction here, besides pickles, is unagi (eel) at its freshest and best. You know it’s fresh because they’ll likely slaughter it before your eyes, a slightly gruesome sight that could turn the faint hearted into a vegetarian. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Chef preparing Unagi in Omotesando Street

We stop for a lunch of local delicacies at Omotesando Street’s Kiku-ya, a 300 plus year old restaurant that’s been serving pilgrims and locals alike for 11 generations. It’s a sublime and rarefied experience. There are “fireflies” – meltingly tender baby squid, perfect red snapper, mackerel and yellow fin tuna sashimi, and freshly executed unagi, which is the specialty and a revelation. I’m not usually a huge fan of eel but this is melt-in-the-mouth flavour-packed perfection.

Lunch at Kiku-ya in Omotesando Street, Narita City

I could happily spend another day exploring Narita’s nooks and crannies but its time to tote our full bellies and a bag full of Hello Kitty and sake back to the airport. She may look innocent but I reckon that cat’s gonna be hammered by the time we reach our next stop.

24 Comments on Food & Fudomyo in Narita City

      October 12, 2014 at 9:28 am (10 years ago)

      Thanks for the link Shelley, great piece.

  1. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella
    October 9, 2014 at 10:13 pm (10 years ago)

    What a great idea! I never really thought that there was much in Narita as everyone seemed fixated on going into Tokyo!

      October 12, 2014 at 9:28 am (10 years ago)

      It’s definitely worth a day, especially if you like Unagi.

  2. Amanda Kendle (@amandakendle)
    October 10, 2014 at 11:43 am (10 years ago)

    Haha hope Hello Kitty survived!! Had never really thought that Narita was worth a visit (though I have always flown in and out of Osaka, but lots of our visitors when we lived there came through Narita) – will remember that for our future return trip. Gorgeous photos by the way!

      October 12, 2014 at 9:35 am (10 years ago)

      She kept her paws of the booze, Amanda. Narita City was a surprise and well worth a visit. x

  3. Denise
    October 10, 2014 at 1:14 pm (10 years ago)

    OMG it looks amazing. I’d love to go to Japan, even for the food alone. Not sure about those bugs though!

      October 12, 2014 at 9:34 am (10 years ago)

      The food is overwhelmingly fabulous. The bugs though… meh!

  4. Fiona
    October 10, 2014 at 1:34 pm (10 years ago)

    So many people posting from Japan…. I need me a fairy god mother to send me

      October 12, 2014 at 9:33 am (10 years ago)

      I wish one would magic me back there too

  5. MrsDplus3
    October 10, 2014 at 1:50 pm (10 years ago)

    Those photos bring back so many memories. When I worked for Virgin our crew hotel was in Narita, so I’ve spent many and day and night there. It’s a real little hidden gem x

      October 12, 2014 at 9:33 am (10 years ago)

      It is Robyn, what a great spot for your layovers.

  6. Cassandra
    October 10, 2014 at 4:47 pm (10 years ago)

    Oh, I love this post! I’m taking notes for when I go to Japan… I have no solid plan to go to Japan and I have no idea when I will be able to, but I just know I’ll go one day, I can’t not! 🙂 x

      October 12, 2014 at 9:32 am (10 years ago)

      GO. There is NOWHERE like it! I cant wait to go back.

  7. Have A Laugh On Me
    October 10, 2014 at 9:37 pm (10 years ago)

    I am so envious of all the awesomeness you have experienced! And had a wee giggle about the Wiggle comparison! x

      October 12, 2014 at 9:32 am (10 years ago)

      Thankfully they didn’t bust out any “Mashed Potato” Em 😉

  8. mamagrace71
    October 12, 2014 at 7:58 pm (10 years ago)

    LOL! Wiggly Shinto priests! Love it 🙂 I do miss Japan. Hope to get back there soon!

  9. hugzillablog
    October 14, 2014 at 3:17 pm (10 years ago)

    What an incredible-looking place. I was suspended in a world of delighted awe until we got to the taxidermy and edible bugs, which snapped me right out of that! Random fact about me: I studied Japanese for five years in high school but have never been there.

      October 14, 2014 at 5:27 pm (10 years ago)

      GO. Now. It is marvellous. And they have sake. 🙂

  10. NewLifeOnTheRoad (@NewLifeOnRoad)
    October 14, 2014 at 4:39 pm (10 years ago)

    Oh those bugs!! I showed my boys the sweet sticky bugs and they were all “Gross, that’s disgusting” 🙂
    Love the Buddhas with the red hats! So cute….what culture, what an experience…the city looks so interesting.

      October 14, 2014 at 5:26 pm (10 years ago)

      Yeah, they were pretty ordinary. But we braved them anyway 🙂

  11. Tanasia @ Green Global Travel
    April 4, 2016 at 11:10 am (8 years ago)

    Looks like an amazing place to visit! The food serves at the Kiku-ya restaurant looks delicious as well.

  12. Danushi @ House in Tillford
    January 18, 2017 at 8:05 pm (7 years ago)

    I just left Japan and did not even think to explore Narita! Looks like I missed out! Thanks for sharing

      January 19, 2017 at 4:05 pm (7 years ago)

      It’s a stunning spot. I went back twice!


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Hey, I’m Aleney! A mum, award-winning travel writer, magazine editor and gallivanting glutton. He’s Raff, the “boy” in boyeatsworld, and a fearless foodie, adventurer and eco-warrior. Along with his all-singing, all-dancing, all-adventurous sister, Sugarpuff, we’re exploring the world’s colour, culture and cuisine on a food safari for the junior set.

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