An interesting side trip from Narita into the countryside is the historic center of Sawara. Sometimes called “Little Edo” for its well preserved Edo era buildings. The city thrived as a port for the export of rice. Only 30 minutes or so on the JR line, and a 7 minute walk from the train station, it makes a nice morning or afternoon trip. We arrived fairly early in the day, but even into the afternoon, there were only a handful of tourists wandering around which made it seem like a sight that was off the beaten path.
In the morning we walked the canal as boutique shops began to open. You can take a boat tour of the canal as well. There are some lovely temples in the town. We visited one called Jojoji, there was no one there but we walked around the very peaceful grounds.
Sawara seems to be known for making lots of cured and pickled seafood as well as red bean pastries and sweets. We ate a red bean cake that was baked into the shape of a fish!
The historic buildings of the town are marked by wooden signs in Japanese and English. Some are old kimono shops and other types of stores that still sell local wares. You can enter the residence of Mr. Ino Tadataka, a local who was famous for surveying and making maps of Japan. Get a free map at the tourist office outside the JR Sawara train station.
On the way back, we couldn’t resist going back to Yamato No Yu onsen, this time during the day. Since they switch sides of the bath house for men and women each day, it was still a new experience. My favorite type of tub they had was a small, one person, Hinoki bath that overflows when you sit in it. A truly indulgent sensation, especially after coming from California, where there is a severe drought. Highly recommend Yamato No Yu to relax after a long day of walking.