Get a Full Japanese Cultural Experience at Narita-san Shinsho-ji Temple
- History & Culture
Time Required: 3 hours
Minimum Budget: 500 yen
Meeting Time: 9:00 AM (Japan Time)
Guide Language: English
- Naritasan Shinshoji Temple
- Omotesando Street
- Sutra Copying Experience
- Famous Unagi Cuisine Restaurant
- Kimono Rental
- Goma Fire Ritual
- Tea Ceremony
With a history spanning over a thousand years, Naritasan Shinshoji Temple is a famous and popular destination for Buddhists and tourists alike. Its reputation for granting wishes and bestowing good luck first grew in the Edo Period, after the kabuki actor Ichikawa Danjuro prayed at the temple for a son who could become his heir, and the temple’s main deity of Ofudo-sama granted his wish in 1688. The characters in the name Shinshoji mean ‘new’ and ‘victory,’ and the temple is considered one of Japan’s most sacred places. Adjacent to the temple lies Naritasan Park, featuring a beautiful walking path, several ponds and a waterfall, and the impressive Great Peace Pagoda.
Narita’s Omotesando Street leads up to Naritasan Shinshoji Temple, and is lined with traditional shops where you can snack on hand-grilled rice crackers, taste saké, browse handicrafts, and more. In the Edo Period this was the last kilometer of the long pilgrimage route from the capital, and here tired pilgrims found inns at which to rest as well as numerous places to eat. One food reputed to provide a special energy boost is unagi, a grilled eel dish usually served over rice, and its popularity with visitors to Narita has led it to become a local specialty. Today you can choose from dozens of different unagi restaurants along Omotesando Street, including some at which you can watch the chefs prepare and grill the freshly caught eel.
Sutra Copying Experience
Called shakyo, sutra copying is a form of meditation not unlike the chanting of a sutra. At Narita you can try this unique experience at the Great Peace Pagoda located in Naritasan Park.Select from two different sutras: the ten-character Gohogo sutra (1000 yen, approximately 15 minutes required) or the Heart Sutra (2000 yen, between 1 and 2 hours required). Reservations are not necessary.
Famous Unagi Cuisine Restaurant
Locally caught unagi (freshwater eel) is grilled with a special sauce and served over white rice, and the delicacy’s reputation for being a good source of nutrition and stamina has made it a popular choice among visitors to Narita since the Edo Period. At this famous restaurant the eel is cleaned and prepared in open view, so if you like you can watch the chefs at work. Budget approximately 2500 to 5000 yen for a meal.
If you’ve ever worn kimono before you know that few other things bring so much authenticity to the Japanese experience. And if you haven’t ever worn a real kimono, the Edo Era atmosphere of Omotesando Street with its many traditional shops is perfect for the occasion. Kimono rental is available Wednesday through Friday, 10am to 3pm, at Machikado Fureaikan, located right off of Omotesando Street. Kimono can be worn by men, women and children, with a range of sizes fitting heights 100–180cm (39–71 inches) best. Cost is 800 yen per adult and 500 yen per child. Machikado Fureaikan is closed from the end of December to early January, mid-August, and during major Narita events.
Goma Fire Ritual
A daily tradition held since Naritasan Shinshoji Temple was founded in the 10th century, the Goma Fire ritual, also referred to as the Ogoma Kito prayer, calls upon the temple’s main deity of Ofudo-sama, the God of Fire, to grant worshipper’s wishes and protect them from bad luck. The ritual is held several times per day, lasts 20–30 minutes, and is free. Reservations are not required. Photography during the event is not permitted.
Every Thursday morning, free tea ceremony demonstrations are given with English explanations of the traditional customs and significance of many elements of this art form which dates back to the Heian Era. Held at the Narita Tourist Pavilion, located about halfway along Omotesando Street on the way to Naritasan Shinshoji Temple, this tea ceremony experience lets tourists enjoy hot matcha tea and small wagashi sweets in a tatami room while learning about the traditional Japanese tea ceremony in a relaxed environment. Schedule: Every Thursday from 10:30 to 11:30. Not held in January.