Let us not get too carried away with a country with the most advanced technology in this world. When one gets too carried away, the individual is bound to want to stay longer than expected.
If it is not because of Adventure Japan, in collaboration with Chiba TV, I would not be here, dipping myself in this island country. My gratitude goes to everyone in both organisations who helped me to translate every single word and feed me everything raw and made me forget about “nasi lemak” and my usual cravings for “roti canai” breakfast – the trip was truly memorable since it offered me the chance to relish in Japanese legendary hospitality.
1. Fish and surf galore #WhenInChiba
Chiba to me is a place where I could settle down and be merry. A destination with a temperate climate that is neither too hot nor too cold is where everyone should be living with loved ones. The first place that my female Balinese travelling companion and I were taken to was to witness the fish auctions at the fishing port, Choshi. Compared to Malaysia’s loud and boisterous wet markets, the Japanese practices inaudible auctions; not a single soul shouted when bidding for the fish. The fishes being auctioned are grouped into small, huge and rare species with the support of a systematic machine. The bidder with tags on their caps carry papers and write their prices after checking the fish, then handed it to the sellers. The high quality fishes will be sent straight away to Tokyo at considerable price.
Location: Choshi Fishing Port, Chiba
We continued our exploration by going to Ichinoniya, Machi to look out for surfers. Adjacent to the sea, surf waves roll endlessly from the Pacific Ocean, and the Tsurugasaki beach is popular among local surfers, mainly from Tokyo. The strong current and waves made this beach as one of the surfing venues selected for Olympics 2020. Weekend usually is filled with over 100 surfers from different states, including foreign tourists to test their skills in riding the wave. Due to the swell, the beach is considered as the place suitable only for professionals and experts. There is also no shark spotted here ever since the place is identified as a surfing spot.
Location: Tsurugasaki Beach, Ichinoniya, Machi, Chiba
2. Sea animal lovers’ haven
Though I believe that marine life should remain in the wild, if I were required to see them in enclosures, Kamogawa Sea World would be the best place since it is not overly commercialised. When catching the shows, please invest in ponchos – though you might not be sitting in the marked splash zones, you might also get wet because the orcas make powerful splashes that even those outside splash zones are affected. Besides orcas, there are also shows by beluga whales, dolphins and sea lions, besides walruses, penguins, puffins, and other sea animals. We were wowed by the orca performance in the morning, but the performance in the evening was much better, probably because the orcas must had warmed up. The sea lion performance was cute too, even though it was conducted in Japanese and we couldn’t understand much of it. From the shows, we noticed that the trainers and their sea animals have strong loving bond.
Location: Kamogawa Sea World, Chiba
3. Where the land animals call home
To get to the Zoological Park, take the monorail to the zoo, which is itself a distinctive experience on its own, especially when travellers aboard one of the adorably themed trains.
The zoo itself is a collection of wide green spaces with arrays of enclosures around the edge. Everything is tucked away, making you feel that there’s the feeling of discovery as you go around corners. It was my first time getting so close with the king of the jungle, separated only by a glass panel. The lion is a male by the name of Alan and he is three years old. We learned that he is raised by humans, hence the half glass and half green enclosure was specifically built for him. He likes to stay next to the glass and roars to children. Another male lion in the enclosure is Toya. We also saw lemurs, meerkats, shoebilled stork, the standing red panda and primates. The chimpanzees even welcomed us by throwing leaves and jumping when called.
The public facilities at the zoo are excellent and there are ample seats for travellers to sit and have lunch, except that they need to initially tolerate long queues at the restaurants. The zoological park is generally beautiful, clean and nicely organised. It costs JPY500 per person per entry and can be easily accessed using the monorail, situated five minutes’ walk from the train station.
When watching these animals, you’ll find yourself amazed at the zookeepers’ sense of passion and commitment in taking care of the creatures under their care. There’s a great infographic display of “A day in the life of a zookeeper” that gives great insight on what a zookeeper’s daily duties entails and the kind of love and patience he or she needs to have in caring the animals.
Location: Zoological Park, Chiba Prefecture, Chiba City
4. Where the legendary samurai lived
I’d always been fascinated by the samurais, warriors who were almost inhumanly stoic and ever willing to wield their sword for their masters or slay anyone showing disrespect. Therefore, it was truly memorable for me when we visited to the collection of Samurai ancient residences in Izumi-Fumoto that makes you feel like you are being transported to the times when samurais ruled Japan. Founded more than 400 years ago, it took 30 years to level a hill and alter the river flow to create the samurai district. Stonewalls guarding the houses were built from mud reclaimed from the project and has changed little since. Though most of the houses are now private residences, three samurai residences (Takezoe, Saisho, Takemiya) remain open for public viewing. The rooms are filled with historic artefacts and furniture that re-creates the samurai’s living environment of the old time. Touring each house takes up to 30 minutes.
Location: Samurai House, Sakura, Miyakojimachi, Chiba
5. Japanese sweet potatoes help to keep wrinkles away
When travellers walk towards Share’s Kitchen in Narita City that sells sweet potatoes, they are bound to be welcomed by the titillating aroma that wafts in the air, making travellers salivate! It is not difficult to see why this cafe is popular: it has cute little snack bar, interesting antique oven, warm sweet potatoes, affordable prices and a charmingly hospitable owner. Sweet potatoes are nutritious and healthy because it is rich in fibre and vitamins.
Share’s Kitchen uses the sweet potatoes namely beniazuma (the normal yellowish in colour) and silksweet (the purple ones) are already sweet on their own without having to add any sugar. The potatoes need the whole summer to grow in the deep soil and then harvested. For better tasting potatoes, they need to be roasted only for one hour before being eaten. The smoky smell that clearly comes from being cooked in the special oven indicates they are ready; the skin peels off nicely, and the potatoes become moist and a tad mushy. These sweet potatoes are huge and their lingering aroma when roasted is enough to lure the passers-by to stop and buy them. The sweet potato is best to be eaten when they are piping hot. Travellers can also try out the various dishes, including decadent ice cream made from beniazuma and silksweet potatoes at Share’s Kitchen, which is sure to delight gourmands and foodies.
Location: Share’s Kitchen, 750-1Hanasaki-cho | Sawada Bldg. B1, Narita 286-0033, Chiba
6. Remembering The Cosmos Flowers
Often tourists come to Japan seeking sakura. Little that they know that Japan also boasts other types of beautiful flowers, one of them is cosmos, which can be found in Katori, Chiba prefecture. We believe that some of the most beautiful plants in the world are here.
Along the way to the cosmos farm, I enjoyed the view of the undulating terrain, bathed in bright sunshine that seems to wake the flowers up. Though the day was sunny, it was made pleasant by soothing breezes.
The environment at the farm is calm and peaceful. It is hard to believe that just across the water is a busy city. Travellers could see two completely different worlds located side by side. Bikes are absolutely the best way to explore the area.
The best time to visit Cosmos Farm is from the beginning of September until mid-October, where travellers would be able to see not just pink and white cosmos, but also yellow cosmos mixed with orange, grandly carpeting the entire area, turning it into a must-see spectacle. Though travellers may pluck cosmos as mementos, it is best to just pat them gently and encourage them to bloom all year round – I was told that the flowers can listen to humans…
Location: Cosmos Farm, Katori, Narita, Chiba
7. Daytrip to stunning views and rewarding hike
Mount Nokogiri Ropeway, Awa-Gun, was my first mountain in Japan.
Before visiting Mount Nokogiri Ropeway, travellers should firstly pack their own lunch and water since the vending machines charge a premium at this location; and secondly, be prepared to climb many paved and well maintained steps. The only ‘bushwalk’ pathway is from the Ropeway Station at the top of the mountain to the entrance of Nihonji Temple. The ascent can be quite strenuous since some of the steps are steep; however, travellers with moderate fitness will do just fine. It is recommended that travellers should wear suitable clothing and shoes because it can get sweaty when there is no wind. It takes around 30 minutes each way up and down. There are picnic tables, restrooms, vending machines and open green spaces, including one with the large Buddha carved on a side of Mount Nokogiri that offers a wonderful photo opportunity and nice stop for a meal. Many locals bring along their own bento sets and enjoy their lunch here.
From the top of Mount Nokogiri, travellers are rewarded with stunning views of the water and the valley below, including stone carvings on the sides of the mountain. Though I was drenched with sweat, the hike was well worth it.
Location: Mount Nokogiri, Chiba Prefecture, Futtsu, Chiba
Entrance fee: JPY600
Thank you Adventure Japan for turning my adventures in Chiba into reality – Chiba, I’ll be back!
For more info on Chiba, visit https://japan-chiba-guide.com/ and http://www.pref.chiba.lg.jp/english/tourist-guide.html
This article is included in Gaya Travel Magazine Issue 11.6/12.1 and 12.2. Read the magazine for free HERE.