Akabane is another fun, charming small Japanese town in northwest Tokyo. A nice short day trip, it sits just south of Saitama Prefecture in northwest Tokyo. Its train station is the 1st stop on the JR Saikyo Line with other notable stops to the south: Itabashi, Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Omiya.
Be sure to check out the town square right outside Akabane Station. There are also very nice hotels right next to the station and even a western-style Denny’s. The lobby of the hotel Denny’s is in also has a 7-11 ATM which accepts some foreign bank + debit cards.
South of the East Exit – there’s also a large Family Mart here.
There’s even a Mister Donut at the east exit: leave the station and turn right – you can’t miss it.
Careful – this can get dangerous real fast.
There’s more usual western fast food, and coffee in the area. But the real treats are the fine dining restaurants located on the upper floors of buildings overlooking the square. Give any one of them a try:
There are 2 handy spots just to the north of the west exit: a bank of coin lockers where you can stash your stuff for a few bucks – and a free public WiFi spot. Go out of the west exit, turn left, cross the street, then turn left again. Cross the next intersection and immediately turn right – both the coin lockers + WiFi spot are just on your left.
After dark, visit Akabane Ichibangai alley – which dates back to the turn of the 20th century and survived World War 2 air raids intact. Locals pour into bars and tiny restaurants here. There’s an endless variety of local food.
Just across from the station is a long covered shopping arcade that is worth a look.
There’s a also a huge AEONBike bike shop on the side streets of Akabane around 35°46’46.24″ N 139°43’29.54″ E.
〒115-0045 Tokyo, Kita City, Akabane, 2 Chome−3−8
ダイエー赤羽店別館１F +81 3-3901-0701
Open until 9:00 PM
Department Stores + Arcades
There’s also a SEGA arcade, a UNIQLO and ABC Mart on the west side of the station.
One of the first Walmarts to open in Japan is to the east of the station – and they seem intent on putting traditional Japanese depatos such as Seiyu out of business.
It’s also easy to get lost in Akabane. There’s a long road which rings the town and if you walk far enough on it, you can almost end up at JR Jujo Station to the south.
Walk far enough east + south – you’ll end up in Jujo. It’s a good idea to have a cell phone or GPS device available at all times in case you get lost.
Some areas in Japan are finally starting to install bike lanes – something long overdue. This one is just to the south west of JR Akabane Station.
Akabane Ichibangai Shopping Street
Around 35°46’48.61″ N 139°43’15.73″ E is a rather short street called Akabane Ichibangai Shopping Street. It’s worth a quick look, but is a slightly older Shitamchi (old downtown) type of area. There’s also a massive Sports Authority right across the street.
Arakawa Iwabuchi-zeki Greenspace
If you’re willing to make the trek just a little north to the Arakawa River, around 35°47’17.31″ N 139°43’37.91″ E, there’s a huge open space called Arakawa Iwabuchi-zeki Greenspace. There are a lot of other parks nearby on the banks of the Arakawa River, including Arakawa Undō Park across the river, miles of walking trails, baseball parks, and even a huge nice BBQ park. The area is a popular spot for Hanami (fireworks) during festivals.
If you’re flying to Nartia Airport in Japan, you may want to consider staying over a few nights in Narita City just southwest of the airport.
Take the Keisei Line from the airport to Narita Station and get off.
There are 2 different lines + stations in Narita – the Keisei Line + the JR lines at the JR station. Both stations are within a few blocks of each other near the town square. Don’t get these confused with the stations at the airport. Narita City is actually a few miles southwest of the airport.
There are many good hotels in Narita City but we recommend APA Narita Ekimae – it’s 1 block from the station, very clean, quiet, and reasonably priced at around $65/night. You’ll see the word Ekimae at many hotels in Japan. It means “At the station”.
Just north of the airport is also the Narita View Hotel at around $50-60/night. Well worth the money + closer to the airport. Just keep in mind this option is outside the town of Narita itself so you’ll have to take the train into town to sightsee.
There are countless other quality hotels in the area. Use one of the online booking sites, but we recommend agoda.com.
Quick side trip @ Narita International: Nippon Origami Museum + Shop
If you’re not dead tired and are up for it, while still in the airport, check out the Nippon Origami Museum on the 3rd floor of Terminal 1. It’s an amazing little origami museum and it’s right nearby – or leave early on your return trip and check it out on your way back. Worth a stop.
Narita City itself is a charming old small town with lots to do.
There are stations for both JR trains and Keisei lines in the same block in the town square.
Step off the train from the aiport onto a local street and you’re instanly in small town Japan.
Unless you’re flying in from Asia, it’s likely your flight was long. You can rest in Narita City overnight, before heading back to the airport to catch the NE’X or Skyliner into Tokyo.
Just to the left of the JR Narita Station in the city square is the Narita City Tourist Information Office. There’s actually a lot to do in Narita City – including a nice museum. Also be sure to check out the impressive Narita City Hall.
View of business district in Narita City.The edge of the city hall is the sloped green-roofed bldg. on the left center in this photo.You can also walk a few miles down the main street shown above to the south and back for some nice exercise.
Entering Narita City Square from the south. Turn right here for Narita Omotosando. The JR Narita Station is out of frame to the left.
Narita City Square.APA Hotel is the small white bldg. in the distance to the left of the tall brown bldg. on the right.
JR Narita Station, right. The Narita Tourism Office is just to the left in the same building. Turn right at this light and go north here to get to the main shopping area. In the 3-story bldg. on the left there is a very nice and large Family Mart. Also, just to the left in the tall Skytown Narita, there is a cultural center, and various shops and other attractions.
Keisei Narita Station – take the Keisei Skyliner out of Narita International Airport and get off here.This is just across from the town square.
Narita City Hall
There’s a huge map of Narita City just next to the city hall.
Most hotels in Narita City are conveniently located. Easy to use convenience stores (conbini) and parking abound.
Eat like a king cheap out of conbini (convenience stores). A lot of the food is quite healthy such as cheap pre-made salads, lemon tea, and vegetable drinks. This entire meal only cost around 600¥ (about $6).
You can actaully have a great time in Narita City just walking around. Pick a street and just start walking to see what you’ll discover. If you’re up for getting a Japanese Driver’s License, you can even buy a brand new Honda scooter at local dealers for as little as $900, like the one shown below. The real attraction in Narita is the long shopping street just to the north of the town square. Nippon Wandering TV covered this street in the video shown at the end of this post. To get there go west from either station, into the city square, then turn right (north) immediately. There are all kinds of nice little shops along this street which are well worth a stroll.
Narita is full of simple + charming small homes such as this one.Note the typhoon shutters on the left side.
Narita City has plenty of old-school charm to keep you occupied – well worth a few days exploring.
Epic train tracks heading back to Narita International.Narita City Hall is just across the street to the right, out of frame.
NaritasanPark, International Cultural Center, Shinsho-ji Temple + Great Pagoda of Peace
If you’re feeling adventurous, walk one mile from Narita City Center on backstreets or just north of Naritasan Park to get to a large AEONshopping mall. There is also a street called Narita Omotesando on the way lined with lots of traditional shops + restaurants. You’ll have to map a route on foot on Google Earth from the city center to the mall. It’s not very far. The mall has a grocery, lots of shops and a nice bike shop called AEONBike. There are also buses to the mall. The mall actually has some fairly good food places as well including a Tully’s Coffee which has charge outlets for devices.
About 5 miles northwest of Narita City is the Boso no Mura Open Air Museum. This quaint little outdoor museum is a recreation of a small town in the Edo period. It’s well worth a look. There’s no direct way to get to it except by motor vehicle or on foot. It’s a bit of a hike – and it will be around 10 miles round trip. If you’re up for it, take the Narita Aijiki By-Pass road from Narita northwest. The road is narrow with no sidewalks so you’ll have to be careful due to motor vehicle traffic. To get there from Narita City Center, walk north to AEON Mall first, then head west down Narita Aijiki By-Pass road. You’ll have to map the route on Google Earth or an online map site.
About 6 miles south of Nartia City center is the Shisui Premium Outlets mall. This is a massive (and we mean huge) mall with hundreds of discount premium shops. It’s well worth a stop. If you don’t have motor vehicle access, your next best option is a bus, or taxi. If you don’t want to spring for those, a bike will work just fine. You could walk it on foot if you’re in shape, but you’ll have to take a slightly circular route south on Rt. 409, then west at Rt. 77, then back north on a side street. Total circular distance from Narita City is about 7 miles – so round-trip on foot would be quite a hike, but on a bicycle would be trivial. The outlet is @ 35°42’48.05″ N 140°17’38.28″ E. See the outlet’s site for a complete list of shops. Interestingly, the entire interior walkways of the complex have been mapped on Google Earth so you can also use that to get a view.
While trains are one of the easiest ways of getting from Narita during the day, they aren’t really an option late at night. The N’EX is $36, last leaves Terminal 1 at 9:44pm depositing you at Tokyo Station just under 60 min, and Ikebukuro at 11:09pm (which should give you enough time to transfer to a connecting train for you area, if it isn’t one of those).
N’EX Round Trip can be purchased from JR EAST Service Centers + JR Ticket Offices at Narita Terminals 1, 2·3. Purchase is not available outside Japan, we recommend buying the ticket immediately on arrival.
Adults $60-$70. Tickets are valid 14 days. Trains operate every 30 mins + take about an hour from Narita to Tokyo station. Use Ordinary Car reserved seats on Narita Express. A one-way ticket is valid for use on one limited express.
Narita Airport Transit + Stay Program + Free Guided Tours
What is the Narita Airport Transit & Stay Program?
Incredibly, there are free guided tours around Narita by the Narita Airport Transit + Stay Program. The program connects you with locals who know the area inside and out and are willing to show you around or help you reach your destination. What a great idea.
From the website:
“The Narita Airport Transit & Stay Program helps you do just that by offering a range of both guided and self-guided tours for travelers on a budget. Our English-speaking volunteer tour guides are completely free – you only need to cover personal expenses like transportation – letting you focus on the tour and not on your wallet.
If you have a layover of several hours at Narita Airport, or if you are staying at a hotel in the Narita area and are looking for a way to spend a half-day, don’t miss the opportunity to take part in one of these Japanese cultural experiences or to see the best sights around!”.
Footnote: T-CAT As a Cheap Return Alternative
Here’s a cheap travel hack for the return trip to Narita when you’re ready to leave Japan: Use the Tokyo City Air Terminal (aka T-CAT) bus service. This little -known bus service is way out on the east side of Tokyo right in the Metro Hanzomon Line’s Suitengumae (pronounced Sweet-ten-goo-may) Station. There is also First Cabin Suitengumae capsule hotel just 3 blocks down the street from T-CAT @ around $42/night. When you’re ready to return to Narita you could take the NE’X or Skyliner back, but the T-CAT bus service will shoot you there in silent comfortfor a mere $9. It also has busses to Haneda Airport.
To get to T-CAT, jump on the Metro Hanzomon Line down to Suitengumae Station, and take the City Air Terminal District Gate exit. You can also enter the station from the street. In fact, it’s only a few miles from Tokyo Station itself so you can even walk there from Tokyo Sta. – and see some sights along the way. You can also make reservations on T-CAT’s website in advance. It will save you about $12 compared to taking, say, Keisei Skyliner to Narita from Ueno.
Metro Hanzomon Line map. Suitengumae is roughly in the center (Z10), shown in red, and Otemachi Sta. is just 2 stops to the east at Z08. You can also take the line all the way to its western terminus @ Shibuya, shown on the far left, or Oshiagé/SKYTREE, its eastern terminus, shown on the far right.The Mitsukoshimae stop (Z09) is in Nihombashii just to the north + stops in the basement of the Mitsukoshi Depato (department store), which is well worth a look.
If you are on bike you can park your bike for up to 24 hrs. at the very nice Royal Park Hotel Nihonbashii just down the street for a few ¥. The lockers are outside on the east side, but the place is very safe + the hotel staff will even be willing to help you if you’re not staying there since it’s their bike park. You can lock your bike, jump a bus, or train, go where you need + return later for your bike. The hotel is at 35°40’54.88″ N 139°47’13.24″ E(2-1-1 Nihonbashi-Kakigara-cho, Chuo-ku, Tokyo). This here map shows roughly the relationship between all 3 places:
There is also another public outdoor bike locker on this route.
Be careful with Otemachi Sta. – it’s easy to get sucked into its labyrinth shopping malls + corridors which go on for miles inside + underground.
First Cabin Suitengumae is on the left tucked down this quiet residential side street.The main street, Etai-Dori is just to the right out of frame. Turn right on Etai-Dori and head a few blocks west to get to T-CAT.
First Cabin Suitengumae has a nice Lawson conbini just up the street. Step outside and turn right and you’ll be facing the street that takes you to T-CAT .There’s also a postal drop box here.
Welcome, dear traveler, to First Cabin‘s futuristic sleeping pods: