While traveling from Singapore to Boston through Tokyo, I had a 3 hour layover in Narita Airport. Instead of going directly to the international transfer gate, I found it much more rewarding and enjoyable to spend the time in the Airport Terminal. Although it’s possible to leave the airport and go to Narita City (15 minutes away), I was looking to grab an authentic Japanese meal in one of the many restaurants in the terminal. [For a 4 hour layover, I might have explored Narita City a bit. Previously on my trip, I’ve also had a 7 hour layover when I was able to ventured into Tokyo City by taking the N’EX bullet train (~1 hour away). After arriving into Tokyo Station, there was enough time to explore Ginza, the imperial palace, and Tsukiji.].
From exiting the arrival gate to completing Japanese customs, it took about 30 minutes. That left me about 1.5 hours left to explore the terminal (to ensure a comfortable hour for security, customs, and boarding). Since I was flying on United, which is located in Terminal 1, I spent most of my time in that terminal. The Narita Airport Terminal 1 has 5 floors with a basement level.
When I first exited customs I was on the 2nd floor. Taking the escalator up, from floor 3-5, there were 3 floors of restaurants and shops to explore. On the 5th floor, there is even an outdoor observation deck where benches were arranged for visitors to relax and view the taxing, take-off, and landing of various airplanes.
While exploring the terminal for food, there was definitely a lot of options to choose from: ramen, soba, sushi, tempura, fast food, subway, etc. However, I was particularly craving for Omurice – a Japanese comfort dish that consists of an egg omelette wrapped around fried rice and laced with sweet tomato sauce on top. This can be found in Japanese “Western-style” diner-type restaurants. Thus, as soon as I saw what I wanted, I went to a restaurant called Royal Coffee Shop on the 4th floor.
Paired with a nice cold Ebisu, a Japanese malt beer, I ordered a cute little set plate of omurice, fried hamburger patty with gravy, shrimp tempura, and garden salad. This was a nice ~$15 USD meal that really hit the spot.
The decor and atmosphere of the Royal Coffee Shop was similar to what you would see at a family diner. It could be compared to a Denny’s or IHOP, but cleaner and with the great service that the Japanese is known for.
I would definitely recommend venturing out of the airport gate area if you have time to explore the terminal; if not for just the food, then for the observation deck and many boutique shops in the terminal. It would definitely give you a better taste of Japan without having to enter the city.