English-speaking guides take guests to top sake breweries. // © 2013 City of Narita
Passengers in transit at Japan’s Narita Airport often find themselves with hours of free time and no idea how to spend it. However, the city of Narita has rolled out a convenient new solution, combining the area’s top attraction with Japan’s favorite recreational activity — sake tasting.
The new Japanese Sake Brewery Taxi, which launched Oct. 1, features a hybrid taxi/charter service operated by professional, English-speaking drivers. Several tours, ranging from four to six hours in length, are available and offer travelers an overview of the Narita area, as well as plenty of sake tastings.
Breweries included on the standard tour are the Chomeisen brewery and the Nabedana brewery. Chomeisen, which means “the fountain of longevity,” uses spring water so clean that it was reportedly used by area healers to cure illness. Nabedana, a family business for more than 19 generations, dates back to 1689 and is located on famed Omotesando Road, a historically preserved district popular for its local eateries.
The basic four-hour course — which costs $120 for up to four people or $170 for a van holding up to nine people — also includes a stop at Narita-san Temple, a 1,000-year-old temple with historic ties to Japan’s earliest Kabuki performers. The taxi also stops at Ryushoin Niomon-gate, a popular temple with expectant mothers; it is presided over by an 11-faced Buddha, known as the “god of longevity, child birth and child rearing.”
Visitors who prefer to combine sake tasting with shopping can take the 4½-hour course, which includes a stop at Shisui Premium Outlets, home to some 120 Japanese and international retail brands.
A six-hour course is also available and includes stops at three local breweries, as well as the Inoh Tadataka Museum. Geography geeks will be fascinated with the historic maps on display at this facility, which celebrates the life of Japan’s master cartographer, Inoh Tadataka, who set the standard for Japanese mapmaking in the early 1800s.
All sake brewery taxi rides originate and terminate at Narita International Airport as well as all local Narita hotels.