Narita Station

 

Narita Station is a railway station on the Narita Line in Narita, Chiba Prefecture, a short distance from Narita International Airport.

 

Narita Tourist Pavilion (Narita kanko-kan)

 

Narita Tourist Pavilion, or Narita kanko-kan as it is locally known, is located a short walking distance from Narita Station. The Pavilion is actually a tourist information center and is said to be the largest such center in Japan to use the latest media.

 

The first floor of the building provides information on Narita. All the information – history, geography, places of interest, etc. – is presented in a unique way using new and latest media. On the second floor are various exhibits showing different aspects of Japanese traditions and cultures. Every Thursday tourists can also experience the Japanese tea ceremony here. This is a great experience – tourists sit on the floor on a red carpet, watch the ceremony, then have tea and sweets while listening to Koto music in the background. After the ceremony, visitors try on kimonos and other Japanese clothing and have their photos taken. The third floor of the Pavilion takes you back to the Edo period. As you reach the floor, you are greeted with the sounds of Kabuki wooden clappers. The displays here include temples and shrines built as they were during the Edo times, floats which are paraded during the Gion Festival, and many other things from the rich cultural past of Edo. The place where the floats are exhibited has a large five sided screen, on which audio-visual presentations of the Festival are constantly played.

 

The Narita Tourist Pavilion is open every day except Mondays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (October through May) and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (June through September). Admission is free.

 

Right in front of Narita Tourist Pavilion, is the famous and very popular Naritasan Shinshoji Temple.

 

Naritasan Shinshoji Temple

 

Naritasan Shinshoji Temple is a large and popular temple complex located not far from Narita Airport. The complex consists of the main temple and several other buildings, both old and new, related to the temple itself. The whole complex plus the area around it, is together known as Temple Town.

 

The Temple was originally built by Priest Kanjo in the year 940 around the sacred statue of Buddhist deity Fudo Myoo. The statue is said to have been carved and consecrated by Kobo Daishi (774-835), the founder of the Shingon Sect. The story goes that the statue was carved at the request of Emperor Saga and was originally enshrined at Takaosan Jingoji Temple in Kyoto, the then capital of Japan. In the year 939, when Tairanomasakado led a revolt against Emperor Suzaku, the Emperor asked Priest Kanjo to perform a rite to suppress the revolt. Following the orders, the Priest took the image to the area and performed a 3-week Goma rite. On the final day of the rite, on February 14, 940, the revolt was miraculously suppressed. On completing his duty, Priest Kanjo proceeded to return to Kyoto with the image, but statue wouldn't move. Then the Priest heard an oracle – “My wish has not been fulfilled. I wish to stay here forever and relieve innumerable people from suffering”. When the Emperor heard about the oracle, he ordered a temple to be built around the image – and so Naritasan Shinshoji Temple was built.

 

Naritasan Shinshoji Temple, a Buddhist Shingon Sect temple, is situated within Monzen Machi area, or Temple Town as it is often called. The approach to the temple area is just as interesting as the temple itself. This approach is a street that runs from Narita Station to the temple grounds. There are shops on both sides of this street, which is called Omotesando. These shops, some of which are more than 100 years old, sell almost everything from traditional crafts to Chinese medicines and local sweets. There are also some noodle shops and restaurants, some that cater exclusively to tourists. Along the narrow side streets are large three-storey wooden houses, hotels, and warehouses, reminiscent of the olden days.

 

At the end of this road are Naritasan Shinshoji Temple grounds. As you enter the main gate, there is a pathway that leads to a small market square. The stores here sell local knick-knacks and souvenirs. A little ahead is a flight of stone steps. As you climb the steps, on the left is Korin-kaku Hall . It is here that the Goma rite is practiced. This is an important rite that is performed several times a day and anyone can attend. The idea behind the rite is to pray to Fudo Myoo, the Fire God. During the ceremony, Guma sticks are burnt in fire – the fire symbolizing the wisdom of Fudo Myoo, and the sticks the earthly desires. Burning the sticks symbolizes attaining a higher level of spiritual wisdom by getting rid of earthly passions.

At the top of the flight of steps is Niomon Gate , a large gate with a big lantern hanging from it. The lantern, called O-chochin , has an inscription that says “Fish Market”. This is because since the Edo times, it has been a tradition that the lantern is donated by the fish market. The present lantern was donated in 1968. Niomon Gate has been named National Property Treasure by the government. After passing through this gate, there is another flight of steps. At the top of these steps is the large main hall ( Dai-hon-do ) of the Temple where stands the original statue of the deity Fudo-myoo. On either side are additional smaller halls.

 

In front of the main hall is Shakado Hall , also a National Treasure. Shakado Hall, built in 1858, used to be the main hall before it was shiftd to Dai-hon-do. The main attractions here are the image of Shaka-nyorai (the founder of Japanese Buddhism), and the 24 carved reliefs known as “24-koh”, or 24 thoughts. To the left of the main hall is a path that leads to Daito Pagoda . Built in 1984, this awe-inspiring 3-storied Pagoda symbolizes the doctrines of the Shingon-mikkyo sect. What makes the pagoda very attractive are its beautifully carved and brightly painted rafters. To the right of the pagoda is Issaikyo-do Hall . Inside this hall there is a small dark room that has a spinning wheel. They say that if you spin this wheel 3 times, your wish will come true.

 

A little further up is Komyodo Hall , which is also a National Treasure. Built in 1701, Komyodo Hall was the main hall before Shakado Hall. It is dedicated to Dainichi Buddha. To the right of Komyodo Hall is Kiyotaki-gongen Shrine , behind which is an inner shrine called Oku-no-in . On the right side of Kiyotaki-gongen is a flight of steps, on the top of which is a beautiful waterfall. Beyond this waterfall is Naritasan Park.

 

Naritasan Park

 

Naritasan Park is a beautiful luscious park situated behind the temple buildings. Officially opened in 1928, the park, covering an area of 165,000 m?, is a beautiful blend of both Japanese and Western styles. There are paths meandering through the lush green grass for visitors to stroll on. There are lots of plum and cherry trees rendering the place further beauty, especially in spring when the trees are full of blossoms. In the middle of the park are three lovely ponds.

 

Beside one of these ponds is a museum - the Naritasan Calligraphy Museum . On display here are about 250 calligraphy masterpieces, some dating back to the Yedo Period (1603-1867). There are also several items detailing the history of Japanese calligraphy. The Museum is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

 

At the edge of the park on the temple side is another museum – the Naritasan Reiko-kan . This museum was built in 1984 after the Tibetan Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, offered a Mass here. All the materials on display in this museum are related to the history of Naritasan Shinshoji Temple and the area surrounding it. On display are items ranging from precious manuscripts and archeological finds to ethnographical artifacts and natural history exhibits.
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