Waiting for a flight in transit at an airport is an unwelcome burden for travelers. But at Narita International Airport, that spare time could become a memorable part of the journey.
The Narita Transit Program offers tourists who have plenty of layover time before flying out of Japan a short tour to get a taste of the country’s history and culture in the area around the airport.
Since starting up in March, it has gained popularity among overseas visitors passing through the airport.
Responding to demand among passengers seeking a way to utilize their layover, the transportation ministry and the airport teamed up to let them experience the country’s unique culture, said Kazuki Nozawa, a spokesman for Narita International Airport Corp.
Transit passengers at Narita can apply for the tour at a reception desk in the arrivals lobby of Terminals 1 and 2. Advanced reservations are also available.
Volunteer tour guides accompany passengers to sightseeing venues near the airport, such as Naritasan Shinshoji Temple in the city of Narita, which was founded more than 1,000 years ago, or to the unspoiled landscape in the countryside around the town of Tako. Visitors can also choose self-guided tours to go shopping at malls near the airport.
The tours, which last up to three hours and have no official limit for a group’s size, are free, though participants pay any personal expenses, including transportation costs and admission fees.
During its first month, the service attracted more than 100 groups of tourists, mainly from the United States, Canada and Southeast Asian countries. Thanks to word of mouth and social media, more visitors are gaining interest in the tour, Nozawa said.
“(With this program) we want temporary visitors at Narita International Airport to directly experience the sense of omotenashi (Japanese hospitality), which cannot be experienced just by passing through,” Nozawa said.
“Hopefully, they will come back to Japan again as our guest next time” if they gain an interest in the country’s unique culture, he said.