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3 Amazing Historical Day trips from Tokyo | Tokyo Weekend Trips

If you love traditional Japanese architecture, buying traditional handmade crafts, visiting temples and shrines or all of the above, then here are 3 places you can add to your list of weekend activities! 


Narita - Naritasan Shinshoji Temple

Everyone knows about Narita airport, but did you know the city of Narita has a series of temples with a sando (road leading up to temple) which is almost 1km long, lined with 150 shops and restaurants? 

How to get there
⌲ From Aoto station, take the Keisei Line (Rapid-Limited Express), and it will take  you to Keisei-Narita station in just 48 minutes. 
⌲ From Tokyo Station, take the Sobu Line (Rapid for Narita), and it will take you to JR Narita Station in 1hr 10mins

After you get to one of the Narita stations, head North and walk along Omotesando Street. You will recognize which is the right road leading to the temple since both sides are lined with traditional shops. Here are a few spots that I recommend:
  • Iwakura: souvenir shop (high quality traditional items such as Omamori, bells, and phone cases with beautiful traditional patterns)
  • Narugeya Pottery なるげや陶器: pottery shop (sake glasses, lucky cats, plates, bowls, and Japanese style fans
  • Sake Store Choumeisen 長命泉
  • Souvenir Shop Kyomasu: traditional paper umbrellas, kimonos, traditional masks of all types (kitsune, tengu etc), koinobori, traditional dolls, magnets, trinkets... etc 
  • Hankyu Dojo: Japanese Archery experience hall
  • Kuninoya 国乃家: really nice restaurant that has tatami floor seating serving soba and sashimi sets. 

 








When you eventually get to the gate of Naritasan Shinshoji Temple, you'll see a lot of outdoor stalls which you typically see in matsuri. They have stalls selling cotton candy, dried fruit, and other stalls have small games you can win prizes at. 

Heading up the stairs you'll see a very large open space and Shinshoji Temple straight ahead. But the whole Naritasan Park area has 5 or more temples. You can grab a pamphlet at the entrance, it has a map and will show you what the Goshuin looks like for each temple. Towards the west there is a round plaza area, there you will find an azalea hill, daisies and nemophila on display. 

Continuing north up more stairs you'll eventually see a pagoda. That's the up most temple area. South of there is a fountain and a quiet forest area with a pond, river, and waterfall. Head towards the waterfall, and follow the steps back up and you'll return to where you started. 

A note for those with young children, if you have a stroller, shopping at the sando will be fine, but the entire area within the temple grounds are full of stairs. The forest is covered in dirt so it will be difficult to navigate. I would suggest to leave the stroller at ground level and use a carrier. 


  

 

Kawagoe - Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine

Kawagoe Ichiban Gai Street is a 400m long road lined with Edo-period kurazukuri (warehouse style) buildings. You can find all kinds of shops selling treats, Japanese crafts, and tons of restaurants. Look for Donguri Republic which is the Ghibli shop, there's a wooden totoro and bus stop sign in front. Also find the Starbucks which is in a traditional edo-period style architecture. You'll also want to head west to "Kashiya Yokocho". In English it's translated to Candy Street, but they sell traditional snacks such as taiyaki, and traditional Japanese toys, decorations for the house and so on. 

At the very end, you'll get to Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine in the north. There you will find lots of colorful fish in baskets. Those are called "Tai" fish like the tai in taiyaki. Inside these fish are slips of omikuji tucked in, which are fortune papers that tell  you about your luck. This Shrine has fishing rods for you to catch the fish so this is fun especially if you are visiting with kids. Also head to the back to see their rows of ema (wooden wish plaques) hung in a tunnel like structure. In summer they will replace that tunnel with wind chimes. 

⌲ From Ikebukuro Station, take the Tobu-Tojo Line (Express) for 7 stops and it will take you to Kawagoeshi Station in 33mins

 

 



 



Shibamata - Taishakuten Temple

Shibamata is famous for "Tora-San" which is a fictional character in a very popular TV series from the 1970s. They filmed a lot of the series here in this stretch of edo-period style houses. It really takes you back in time, especially with the toy shop. It has tons of super nostalgic toys in there. I've blogged about Shibamata in detail already and you can read more here: http://www.arielland.com/2021/02/shibamata-tokyo-weekend-walks.html


⌲ Take the Keisei Line to Keisei Takasago, then transfer for 1 stop to Shibamata Station on the Keisei-Kanamachi Line 

As usual, never stop exploring! I hope this blog post helped you find your next weekend adventure. 






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