Get closer to Japan by realizing its root in simple explanation. Now, let's take a journey of Japanese culture!
Chiba prefecture is located east of Tokyo. It is the only prefecture in Japan without any mountains above 500m above sea level! Most people know of Narita International Airport and Tokyo Disney Resort, but is that all there is? Actually, it is a region full of delicious food and historic sites. Today, let's talk about some of the attractions of Chiba, the prefecture that is so often overlooked.
Chiba prefecture has an area of 5,156 ㎢ and a population of approximately 6.26 million. Most of the prefecture is covered by hills and plains. Located on a peninsula with a low average altitude and Pacific Ocean climate, overall, the area enjoys a temperate climate throughout the year.
The coastline is very long. On the north eastern side of the pacific coast, Kujukurihama beach extends over an area of 60km. Kujukurihama beach has been selected for both “Japan's 100 Best Beaches with White Sand and Blue Pine” and “Japan's 100 Most Beautiful Beaches”so it's a great place to relax and take a leisurely stroll as you enjoy the beautiful scenery. Chiba is also called a surfing mecca. There are many great spots suitable even for beginners, so give it a try!
In Kisarazu City, you can take the Tokyo Bay Aqua Line, which is a 9.5km undersea tunnel across Tokyo Bay that connects to the city of Kawasaki in Kanagawa prefecture. On the Kisarazu City side of the Aqua Line, the Aqua Bridge is approximately 4.4 km in length making it the longest in Japan, and the underwater tunnel is one of the longest in the world!
Every two years the Chiba Aqualine Marathon is held. Participants run where normally only cars are allowed so it is a popular event. Entrants are selected by lottery due to its popularity. Since it was last held in October 2018, your next chance may be in 2020?
Of course, 2020 is the year the Tokyo Olympics will be held! Chiba has four competition venues - fencing, wrestling, taekwondo and surfing, so these are also worth checking out. With Chiba attracting increasing attention recently, what kind of spots are popular with tourists? Here are 10 places we carefully selected!
1/ Tokyo Disneyland / DisneySea 2/ Ikspiari Shopping Mall
3/ Naritasan Shinshoji Temple 4/ Riverside Town: Sawara
5/ Chiba Prefectural Boso-no-Mura 6/ Mt. Nokogiri
7/ Kamogawa Seaworld 8/ Inubosaki lighthouse
9/ Yoro Gorge 10/ Country Farm Tokyo German Village
Perhaps this is the first time to hear of many of these places? “Riverside Town: Sawara” is called the “Little Edo of the Hokuso region”, an area characterized by its old Edo period townscape. It is a designated conservation area for historically important buildings with 13 National Historic Sites and Prefectural Designated Cultural Properties.
You can experience a realistic taste of Edo life at Chiba Prefectural Boso-no-Mura. While it is a reproduction of life in the old days, it is not merely a scenic backdrop! There are many affordable activities ranging from 150 yen that can be enjoyed amidst this historical townscape. Reservations are sometimes required and the variety of activities available depends on the day, so be sure to check before you go!
The outdoor obstacle course in Shimizu Park, Noda City, is hugely popular with children, especially in the holidays, and there are plenty of activities that adults can enjoy too. It's particularly famous for its cherry blossoms in spring and colorful leaves in autumn, but the scenery can be enjoyed all year round. Also, on the TripAdvisor website, Funabashi H.C.Andersen Park was ranked third on the list of the Top 10 Amusement Parks in Japan for 2015. It attracts many foreign tourists and since there are pamphlets available in Japanese / English / Chinese and Korean, it's definitely a place we can recommend!
After enjoying so many fun activities you will probably now be very hungry! Chiba is surrounded by sea on three sides so it's famous for its fresh seafood. It's home to fishing ports of all sizes but among them are three large fishing ports that boast the largest catches in Japan.
1/ Choshi Fishing Port 2/ Ohara Fishing Port 3/Katsuura Fishing Port
Each place has a unique feature - 1/ Choshi Fishing Port has the highest catches in Japan, 2/ Ohara Fishing Port holds the number one spot in Japan for the amount of lobster caught and 3/ Katsuura Fishing Port has the highest catch of Bonito in Japan.
At Fisheries Cooperative Direct Sales Stores, you can taste fishermen's cooking, sashimi set meals and seafood bowls all made with seafood freshly caught that very morning. We definitely recommend you try this at least once!! Next, some examples of Chiba's local cuisine.
1/ Namerō (tartare-style chopped fish)
2/ Sangayaki (grilled Namerō in the shape of a hamburger steak)
3/ Magocha (rice with soy-marinated tuna slices)
4/ Hakarime-don (rice topped with simmered eel)
5/ Iwashi no Gomazuke (pickled sardines)
6/ Futomaki zushi, (thick sushi roll)
7/ Katsuura tantanmen (Szechuan Ramen)
Is it your first time to hear many of these words? Numbers 1 through 5 are seafood dishes which were originally created to be eaten by fishermen on their boats or as a way to preserve large catches of fish, but these days they are popular snacks to have with a drink. Number 6, similar to Kintaroame, a candy that shows a face wherever you cut it, Futomaki zushi, also results in patterns when sliced and it is often served on special occasions. It dates back to around 1789 - 1801 - a sushi with a lot of history!
Number 7 is a local noodle dish. Tantanmen noodles are usually made with sesame seeds and sesame paste but Katsuura tantanmen has a soy sauce base and is topped with chili oil, red pepper, fried onions and ground pork. After working out in the cold sea, it developed as a dish to warm the ama (female divers) and fishermen, and it's also a regular menu item loved by locals.
Just at the point where you're beginning to feel full, let's look at some of Chiba's delicious sweets! Some of these stores are only in Chiba so they make great souvenirs.
1/ Peanuts Monaka (peanut-shaped Monaka shells filled with red bean paste and a sweet paste made from boiled peanuts)
2/ Rakkasei Pie (a pastry filled with Chiba peanuts)
3/ Biwa Jelly (jelly with an entire loquat in the middle)
4/ Nure Senbei (soft rice crackers)
5/ Tai Senbei (crackers in the shape of sea bream)
6/ Peanut Sabre
Chiba is the largest producer of peanuts in Japan so it is unique in Chiba to have so many peanut sweets! Making the best of the temperate climate, it is popular to go loquat, strawberry or blueberry picking. (Note this changes seasonally). Jelly and cream sweets and desserts that use these fruits are delicious and definitely worth a try.
Chiba is not far off from the center of Tokyo. As well as a downtown shopping district close to Tokyo, there are many other attractions such as the chance to experience country life in Satoyama and tasting fresh seafood from the ocean.
If you have only ever passed though before, next time stretch your legs and enjoy some time in Chiba!
It is my opinion and summary. Please acknowledge that there are various opinions.