20 Things to Do in Chiba Prefecture From the Classics to Hidden Gems
While Chiba Prefecture, which borders the city of Tokyo, is not the most well-known prefecture in Japan, it is steadily growing in popularity each year with tourists from overseas. It also has many charming sightseeing spots that enjoy a high amount of repeat visitors. This article will introduce 20 things to do among the many choices in Chiba Prefecture!
Where is Chiba Prefecture?
Chiba Prefecture is located in the southeastern portion of the Kanto region of Japan, bordering Ibaraki Prefecture to the north and the prefectures of Saitama and Tokyo to the west. While the prefecture can be broken up into many distinct areas, for the purposes of this article it will be divided into just two - north and south. The northern area is filled with a variety of attractions, from large-scale shopping malls to historical town districts, while the southern area is full of leisure facilities and scenic resort destinations. This article will showcase plenty of things to do for each area, so keep reading to find out more.
How to Get There
Chiba Prefecture can be reached quite easily from overseas, as it is the home to Narita Airport, Japan's representative gateway to the skies. When traveling from within Japan, it is best to travel by air from far-off places such as Hokkaido or Fukuoka, whereas traveling via shinkansen (bullet train) to Tokyo Station is the best option from places such as Nagoya or Osaka. Whether coming via the airport or Tokyo Station, you can then reach the various areas of Chiba by using local buses or trains. It is also common to travel via train or highway bus from other places in the Tokyo area. While it depends on where you are going, it will be possible to reach your destination in as little as 30 to 40 minutes, or as long as around 3 hours.
There are many historic sites in this area, such as Naritasan Shinshoji Temple, which has been visited by numerous temple goers ever since the Edo period (1603-1867), and traditional townscapes that preserve the old Edo atmosphere even to this day. At the same time, it is also home to many popular outlet parks and large-scale shopping malls where you can go to check up on the latest cutting-edge trends. Furthermore, it also has an international city vibe, due to the presence of Narita Airport and its related museums.
Visit Naritasan Shinshoji Temple and Monzen-machi Road
(Official name: Naritasan Kongo-oin Jingo Shinshoji)
Naritasan Shinshoji is a famous temple that is visited by over 10 million people each year, and is known for granting prayers related to success in business and finding love. In addition to the multiple holy buildings within the grounds, there are many other things to see such as gardens filled with lush nature and a calligraphy art museum.
After visiting the temple, the usual thing to do is visit the temple road area, which has flourished since the Edo period as a monzen-machi (town originally built around a temple or shrine). There are over 150 shops of various types, from restaurants that serve eel cuisine, Naritasan's specialty food, and fashionable cafes selling Japanese sweets, to Japanese variety shops that sell bamboo and wood crafts, and more. It's even fun to walk around aimlessly without buying anything!
Time Travel to Japan of the Past at Boso-no-Mura
This is an interactive museum where you can learn all about local history and culture. With merchant homes, samurai residences, and farmhouses from the Edo period all recreated down to the fine details, it truly feels like you have stepped back in time. Another highlight is the 300 to 400 types of demonstrations and hands-on activities that are carried out each year. From making and eating your own soba (buckwheat noodles) to learning how to make crafts with bamboo, you will be able to learn about traditional culture with all five senses. The ancient kofun (burial mounds) and the recent buildings that blend Japanese and Western styles are also must-sees!
Admission fee: (General) 300 JPY, (High school and university students) 150 JPY, (Middle school students and younger, or 65 years and older) free
Enjoy the Atmospheric Townscape of Sawara
The Sawara neighborhood of Katori City is a place where the atmosphere of the Edo period can still be strongly felt. The Ono River flows through Katori City, and the areas around the riverbanks used to thrive in old days because of water transportation, so the area was full of ryokan (Japanese-style inns) and shops. Nowadays, many of those old-style wooden buildings are being renovated and turned into hotels and dining establishments. There are many long-established shops that have been around since the Edo period, from sake (a kind of Japanese alcohol) breweries to general stores, and you can have a fun time shopping around for souvenirs. Also popular is the small sightseeing boat course called the Koedo Sawara Small Boat Trip that goes up and down the river. It's quite sophisticated to travel around such an atmospheric neighborhood from inside a boat!
Koedo-Sawara Small Boat Trip- Machinami Course Fee (course length: around 30 minutes): (Adult) 1,300 JPY, (Elementary school student) 700 JPY
Shop 'til You Drop at Shisui Premium Outlets
This is a popular outlet mall that is located right next to Narita Airport and can be accessed by direct bus from the airport or Tokyo Station. When additional stores open up at the end of September, 2018, there will be a total of 213 stores in this outlet. From a free telephone interpreting service available at all stores (supported languages: English, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, and Thai), to a Muslim prayer room and flight information screens showing departure and arrival times for Narita Airport, this outlet mall is well-equipped to meet the needs of visitors from all around the world.
Spend the Day at LaLaport Tokyo-Bay
LaLaport Tokyo-Bay is a shopping complex located just around 5 minutes on foot from Minami-Funabashi Station. In addition to clothing stores and restaurants, they also have character goods shops for Pokémon and Sanrio, play areas outfitted with trampolines and other equipment, a movie theater, and more, with around 440 establishments in total! From shopping to amusement, you can spend a whole day here. There are also shops that sell tax-exempt items, and there is a place for exchanging international currency on the first floor.
Try Out the Pilot Experience at the Museum of Aeronautical Sciences
The Museum of Aeronautical Sciences is a museum located adjacent to Narita Airport that specializes in exhibits related to aviation. Because the airport runway is so large, it's actually more convenient to access this museum via a bus from the airport terminal. The inside of the museum is full of various airplane-related exhibits, such as a real jumbo jet, various airplane parts, and a diorama of the airport. The DC-8 Simulator (100 JPY per seat), a training program used for pilots, is especially popular. This simulation allows you to try flying a plane through three flight courses over Shizuoka, Fukushima, and Tokyo.
Museum admission: (Adult) 500 JPY, (Middle and high school students) 300 JPY, (Children over 4 years old) 200 JPY
Take a Stroll around Sakura No Yama Park in Narita City
This hill-top park is located on the northern side of the 4,000m long runway of Narita Airport and is known as a great photo-taking location where you can snap photos of the close-by airplanes taking off and landing. You can see details such as the wheels retracting into the plane body and the white vapor that trails after the main wings, all while the thunderous sound of the airplanes roars above your head. Furthermore, this park is especially popular between the end of March and the beginning of April, when crowds of visitors come to see the blooming sakura (cherry blossom) flowers of around 250 sakura trees. The scenery of airplanes taking off toward the sky above beautiful sakura blossoms is quite photogenic.
Go Picking for Pears - Chiba's Local Specialty
Chiba Prefecture is surrounded by the ocean on three sides and enjoys a temperate climate, and is one of the places in Japan most famous for producing nashi (Japanese pear). Japanese pears are characterized by their round shape, sweet and sour taste, and juicy yet crispy texture. Between August and December, there are many places in Chiba where you can take part in nashi-gari (pear picking), which lets you taste fresh nashi just after they have been picked. There are various options, such as all-you-can-eat plans and places where you can buy pears by weight, with free tasting included. Famous spots for pear picking include Hatsusei Orchard in Matsudo City and Ishii Teru Orchard in Kamagaya City.
Fee (example): Hatsusei Orchard All-You-Can-Eat Plan - 1,000 JPY (incl. tax) per person, and other plans.
Go Swimming at Kujukuri Beach
Kujukuri Beach is a long coastal beach that stretches approximately 66km from Gyobu Cape in Asahi to Taito Cape in Isumi. It is a very popular beach, with many large sea resorts and easy access from the center of Tokyo. In addition to swimming in the summertime, this spot is popular year-round for other marine activities like surfing and riding on jet-skis. There is plenty to eat, from the local specialty of grilled hamaguri (common orient clam) to shirasu-don (a dish of whitebait over rice), and there are also many cafes that offer beautiful views of the ocean.
Enjoy the Gorgeous Ocean View from Cape Inubo
Cape Inubo is a coastal plateau that sits on the easternmost point of Choshi Peninsula. Reefs spread out from the bottom of the sheer cliffs, and the view of the ocean waves breaking against them is quite the dynamic sight. This spot is known as the first place in all of Japan to see the sunrise, excluding the peak of Mt. Fuji and some remote islands. There is also the white-walled Inubosaki Lighthouse, which is the symbol of this cape. It's 99 stairs to the top of this 31.57m high lighthouse, and the view from the top is spectacular (entrance fee: Adult - 200 JPY, Elementary school students and under - free). The area also has an aquarium and onsen (hot spring), so you can enjoy yourself in a variety of ways.
The southern portion of Chiba Prefecture, blessed with abundant nature and beautiful ocean scenery, is centered around resort areas with mild climates. In addition to popular, family-friendly locations like aquariums and farms, there are many other interesting things to see and do, such as visit the prefecture's only spot famous for fall foliage, ride a popular local train line called the Kominato Railway, try out a variety of marine and beach activities like ocean diving, and so much more.
Encounter Marine Life at Kamogawa Sea World
This is a popular aquarium that is located just in front of the wide-open Pacific Ocean. Here, you can encounter around 11,000 ocean and river animals from 800 species that live in exhibits that mimic their natural habitats. The highlight of this aquarium is its selection of live shows with a variety of ocean animals, from orca, the king of the ocean, to beluga whales and sea lions. These shows, in which the animals spray water into the air and do somersaults and other tricks in front of the ocean background, can be enjoyed heartily by anyone regardless of age. There are also activities that allow visitors to pet the animals.
Entrance fee: (Adults, including high school students) 2,800 JPY, (Children from 4 y.o. to middle school students) 1,400 JPY, (Seniors aged 65 and older) 2,200 JPY
Interact with Animals at Mother Farm
This popular farm is surrounded by beautiful, green nature and flowers that change each season. Here, you can enjoy interacting with the various cute animals that live on this huge farmland that is 2.5 million sq.m. in area. There are several events and shows to enjoy, such as duck parades, piglet races, and sheep shearing. There are also activities such as horse riding and milking cows. With a garden where you can try harvesting and eating various fruits and vegetables and a mini amusement park with go-karts and a ferris wheel, this is certainly a place where a family could spend an entire day.
Entrance fee (example): (General (middle school students and above)) 1,500 JPY, (Children from 4 y.o to 6th grade of elementary school) 800 JPY, and other pricing plans
Visit Yoro Keikoku Valley
Located upstream of the Yoro River, this valley is known as a famous place to view autumn foliage. From Awamata Waterfalls, which gently flows down a slanted rock face over a distance of 100m, to Konjin Waterfall, which drops around 35m in a scenic location behind a vermilion torii (Shinto arched gate), and others, there are many beautiful places to see in this area. In addition to hiking through the stunning natural landscape, you can also play or fish in the river, or have a barbecue! If you get tired from hiking or playing, you can stop by the nearby Yoro Onsen to relax in the hot baths.
Best time to see the autumn foliage: Late November to Early December
Visit Shimizu Keiryu Park to See the Scene of the Nomizo Waterfall and Kameiwa Cave
This scenic spot has become a topic of conversation recently due to its fairytale-like atmosphere. The sunlight shining through the opening of a cave onto the surface of the water forms a sideways heart shape with its own reflection, creating an image that has become quite popular recently on social media. Those who wish to take their own picture of this beautiful scene should know that the best time to go is during the early morning around March 20th or September 22nd. There are walking paths set up in the surroundings, and this area is also known for its fireflies in the summer and beautiful foliage in the autumn.
Take Pictures of the Egawa Coast
Located within Kisarazu City, which is famous for clam digging, you can find the Egawa Coast, a uniquely scenic spot where telephone poles are lined up in the middle of the ocean. In addition to being a location that is said to have inspired a scene in the famous anime film by Studio Ghibli "Spirited Away," it is also known as the "Uyuni Salt Flat of Japan" for its mirror-like surface at high tide, and is all-in-all a very popular spot for taking pictures to post on social media. The spot extends from the Clam Digging Association's parking lot (No.1 Paid Area and No.2 Paid Area) up to the coastline. Please note that the area of the cost where the telephone poles are lined up is actually off-limits to visitors!
Go Snorkeling at Okinoshima Beach
Okinoshima is the place to go if you want to enjoy some leisure time at the beach. This beach, which is part of Tateyama City, is actually an uninhabited island than can be reached by foot by crossing a sandbar from the mainland. From mid-July until mid-August, both sides of the roughly 200m long sandbar are opened up as beaches for swimming.
The crystal clear water that shines a marine blue in the sunlight is absolutely gorgeous! Because this area is within a bay, the waters are relatively calm and you don't have to worry about strong tides. Also, the ocean near this area is the northern border of a coral reef, so you should definitely go snorkeling to check it out!
Enjoy the Retro Feeling of the Kominato Railway
The Kominato Railway runs from Goi Station in Ichihara to Kazusa-Nakano Station in Otaki. What do you say to riding this retro train and leisurely enjoying the rural scenery that passes by? The scenery along the railway is particular famous in the spring, when sakura and rapeseed flowers are in bloom. There are also certain station buildings along the way that have illuminations set up during the lead-up to the sakura season from the end of March to mid-April, with the most famous among them being Itabu Station. You can also enjoy the magical view of the sakura blossoms and the train cars reflected in the water-filled rice fields.
There is also an old-fashioned steam locomotive-style train called the Satoyama Torocco that runs along a portion of the railway (additional 500 JPY per ride). There is an observation car with nowindows, so you can feel the invigorating feeling of the wind.
Feel Like a Deep-sea Diver at Katsuura Undersea Park's Undersea Observation Tower
The rias (sawtooth-shaped) coastline around the scenic Katsuura City's Ubara area is designated as a marine conservation reserve. Located 60m offshore in the center of this area, you will find the popular Undersea Observation Tower, which is 24.4m high and extends 8m below the surface of the water. If you descend down the spiral staircase to the bottom of the tower, you will find yourself in an observation room designed to look like the interior of a submarine. In this circular room, you can view the ocean floor and various types of marine life through the window which takes up the whole wall. Sometimes you can even see huge sharks! This is a simple way to feel like a deep-sea diver!
Admission: (Adults) 960 JPY, (Elementary or middle school students) 470 JPY, (Children 4 y.o. or over) 210 JPY
Watch the Fireworks Display in Kisarazu
The Kisarazu Port Festival takes place every year on August 14th and 15th, and the fireworks show it puts on for the finale of the festival is an absolute must-see! Roughly 10,000 fireworks are set off from Nakanoshima Bridge, the symbol of Kisarazu Port, creating a beautiful scene that lights up the sky.
The highlights of the fireworks display include the Chotoku-dai Starmine (a rapid-firing firework that is the largest in the Kanto region), and the Shakutama, which explodes in the shape of a flower. The paid seating area set up in Kisarazu Uchiminato Park is the best option for those who want to casually watch the firework display (reservations through ticketing agencies required). You can also enjoy of the fireworks display from places such as Kisarazu Shiohama Park and Azuma Park.
Challenge Yourself to Try a Chiba Specialty - Namero
Namero is probably the most famous local cuisine of the Boso Peninsula. This dish is said to have been originated by fishermen who prepared it with freshly-caught fish while still on the boat. It has a very simple preparation: just take some blue-backed fish such as mackerel or sardine and mince it with a kitchen knife along with green onions, miso (fermented soybean paste), ginger, and shiso (perilla leaf). "Nameru" means "to lick" in Japanese, and this dish is said to have derived its name for being so delicious that you will want to lick your plate clean. It also goes amazingly well with sake. Namero is served at sushi and seafood restaurants in the southern part of Chiba, so please give it a try if you have the chance!
As you can see, Chiba Prefecture has a lot of natural spots despite being a part of the Tokyo Metropolitan Area. By all means, go for a visit if you have the chance!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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