When I was wondering how to spend a few hours before taking the transit flight to Singapore from Narita, a bellman at Hotel Nikko Narita recommended me to take a three hour local tour by Narita Rainbow Tours. I said I didn't want to spend too much but the cost was something like 25 dollars per person, so instead of wondering around the hotel lobby, I took the tour.
It tunred out one of the most memorable tours I have ever taken; not so much for grand scale views and sceneries, but for profound understanding of the Japanese culture and history.
The highlight of the tour was the ritual at the temple, but preceding to that, we visited souvenir rows and old architectures around the temple ground. When you were explained stories behind, you naturally appreciate the value more, and the tour was a classic example of this case.
The ceremony is called "Goma", fire burning daily rite, held in front of Fudo-Myoo, also known as the Indignant Buddha. After coming out of the 15 minute service, I felt like having captured the essence of Japanese heart and mind deep rooted to her long history. The sensation was overwhelming and felt like I was spiritually reborn. By all means, I am not a religious person, but that doesn't mean anything once you enter the main hall of the temple and join the service.
Don't miss it when you happen to be in Narita for a few hours. Instead of spending leisure time just looking around the shopping center, it is worth while to feel the root of the Japanese culture, instead.
I don't know if the Rainbow Tours has a web site, but maybe you can google search with the key words like "Narita local tours", or "local tours in Narita". The guide was just superb in his expertise in the field. He could answer most of your questions in satisfactory (maybe more than that) way. He spoke almost near native English, lastly I wanted to add.
Strolling around the town of Narita, you will get a sense of what it is like to live here.
In the early mornings, school children walk to school, while in the afternoon and evenings, tourists start to appear around the area of the Narita-san temple and the nearby Omotesando (usually these tourists will be flying off the next morning, because Narita airport has something of a "curfew" due to local residents demands when the airport was built here)
Along the streets, you will find people's homes (town houses) interspersed between retail shops, ryokans (Japanese inns) and small restaurants. The streets were neat and tidy, very clean, and you could see little signs of many a house-proud owner, because spring flowers bloomed in little pots on many a window sill. There is no haphazard parking on the streets, and private cars were all parked within their own household compounds.
I noticed that the shop-keepers here took great pride in their shops and in their shop displays. Despite that the street outside was practically deserted and there were no customers inside the shop, the lady-owner came outside to re-arrange her display of wares and dusted and swept the pavement so that her storefront display looked bright and attractive. Due to her attentiveness, I decided to walk in to take a look.
Also a fond memory: Let me relate what happened at the souvenior shop where I had purchased a few items (see my shopping tips). The owner, an elderly Japanese gentleman, was in the midst of wrapping up my purchases with ordinary brown paper, when he stopped midway to ask me (in English) whether the mugs were for -gifts?- At my reply - Hei, Yes, the are- he immediately took greater care to wrap them up individually, and further marked them accordingly (each of them had a different design) and then he encased each with a piece of wrapping paper with a white background and red roses design. What can I say, I was totally taken in by his care and attention to detail.
The ceramic mugs not only survived the journey back home, but were received with great delight by my colleagues.