First and foremost, let us tell you that Chiba is definitely where the fun begins!
Being the home to Narita Airport, Chiba is the strategic international gateway into Japan. The prefecture is the closest destination for locals and foreigners to escape the bustling metropolitan life through its endless fun offerings like natural wonders, amusement parks, culture, heritage, shopping, and cuisine. Chiba is also blessed with mild climate all year long, suitable for growth of blooming flowers in most months of the year. Check out some of the attractions that travellers need to explore when in Chiba.
Stepping into the grounds of Nomizo Falls gives you the surreal feeling of entering a fantasy world portrayed in the popular animated film ‘Princess Mononoke’ created by Studio Ghibli. This beautiful waterfall has been uploaded on Instagram by hundreds of users due to its intriguing, mystical and otherworldly scenery. Many visitors, especially Instagrammers domestic and foreign, come to visit this place for photography and recreational activities.
There is an observatory called Sancho that looks towards Tokyo Bay where during a clear weather, Mount Fuji can be seen majestically standing across the sea. If you are up to it, you may also hike for 15 minutes to see the “Hundred-shaku Kannon“, a tall relief image of Kannon (Goddess of Mercy).
From there, about a 10-minute hike to the top, visitors can access a naturally formed viewing platform nicknamed “View of Hell” due to the sensation that visitors feel when being on the tip of the viewing platform.
Other than that, travellers may take a paved trek down the mountain to visit the 1,300-year old Nihonji Temple and witness the largest Ishidaibutsu, one of the greatest Buddha statues in Asia, including 1,500 other stone statues of Buddhist saints.
Tip: Travellers may access Nokogiri Mountain by walking about seven minutes from Hamakanaya station on JR Uchibo Line and take the ropeway to reach Sancho Observatory.
Also check out: Lake Hakkaku in Hokuso area, and Yoro Keikoku Valley in Minami Boso area.
This is a farm that has been transformed into an amusement park since 1962. It takes pride in its amazing farm shows featuring domesticated farm animals such as sheep, pigs, cows, horses, llama and even alpaca! Be sure to watch out for the cameos at the end of the shows. Not just that, travellers can bring their family to experience milking the cows, and petting guinea pigs and furry rabbits.
This farm also offers strawberry-picking between January and May; and blueberry-picking between July and August. The students and I were lucky because we had the opportunity to pick strawberries. Savouring the taste of freshly picked strawberries was indeed a memorable experience. The strawberries grown here are sweet and delicious.
Country Farm Tokyo German Village
A German Village in Japan? Yes, you heard it right. Country Farm Tokyo German Village is yet another theme park in Japan, located in Sodegaura. The highlight of this theme park during our visit was Winter Illuminations, played from the middle of November until end of March. However, prior to the Winter Illuminations Show in the evening, travellers are recommended to come earlier to catch the sunset because the view is just amazing!
Admission: JPY 1,200 per adult, JPY 800 per high or junior school student, JPY 600 per child
Open: 9:30 to 20:00 (last entry 19:30)
Kamogawa Sea World
Located in the southern area facing the Pacific Ocean is Kamogawa Sea World, a place to see exhibitions of both marine and river animals. The main concept of this theme park is “encountering the ocean world” with the belief that everyone should admire the beauty of marine and river life, as well as learn the importance of the sea ecosystem through exhibitions and performances.
There are four shows scheduled every day and they are performed by dolphins, sea lions, belugas and even orcas, the star of Kamagowa Sea World. Other than that, visitors can get up close and personal with the animals through interactive activities such as guided discovery tours, animal feeding sessions, pelican parade through the park, and a fun hands-on educational facility to learn about the sea ecology. This is a place suitable for families, especially those with school-going children.
Kamogawa Sea World is open every day from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., depending on season. Check out the website for more details. The entrance fee is considered one of the cheapest compared to other amusement parks in Japan at only JPY2,800 (MYR110) per person.
Also check out: RESOL Seimei-no-Mori Tarzania in Hokuso area, and Tokyo Disneyland in Chiba City area.
Culture and Heritage
Narita-san Shinshoji Temple
This temple is located very near to Narita Airport. Visitors can use either the JR Line or the Keisei Line to get to Narita Station, and then take an eight-minute walk to the temple through the bustling Omotesando day market, where various merchandises and street food are sold.
Narita-san Shinshoji Temple is famous in Japan, especially in Chiba. Its easy access from the airport and being synonymous with Kabuki were among the contributing factors to its popularity. It is usually packed with Buddhist worshippers and travellers from all over the world.
There are five buildings inside this temple that have been designated as important cultural properties. It is a must to check out the Daihondo or Great Main Hall where people come to worship the Shakyamuni Buddha.
Close to it is the Shakado Hall, which was built in 1858 and previously served as the original main hall before being moved to its current site to make way for the construction of the Great Main Hall. Travellers can also explore Komyodo Hall – built in 1701 to serve as the main hall before Shakado Hall – that now showcases middle Edo period artefacts, including Gakudo Hall next to it, where plaques and picture tablets from the Edo period are hanged and displayed. Travellers should then proceed to the Great Peace Pagoda for an amazing view of the temple grounds and the adjacent park.
Sawara was previously known as Koedo (small Edo city) because it was a small bustling town founded upon opportunities that arose from river transportation along Tone River and Ono River. Today, this Japan Heritage Site is conserved to capture unique Edo atmosphere comprising shops and homes housed within historical buildings. Because of this, Sawara has also been listed in the Michelin Green Guide for its quaint atmosphere and effort in preserving heritage.
Travellers may get an opportunity to dress up in kimono and walk along the Ono River to relive the nostalgic experience of being transported back to Edo period.
Other recommended activities in Sawara include boating along Ono River and cycling throughout the streets of Sawara. There are a lot of options for delicious food made locally that visitors can try.
Sawara is also located 45 minutes by train from JR Narita Airport Terminal 1 Station so it is suitable for a short getaway from the airport. Take the JR train from the terminal, make an exchange at Narita Station and get down at Sawara Station.
Also check out: Sakura City in Hokuso area, Choshi City, Chiba Prefectural Boso-no-Mura, Namikiri Fudo-in, Tateyama City Municipal Museum, and Daifukuji Temple in Minami Boso area.
Kamogawa Farm Home
One of the most important part of the student tour is experiencing local living at a private Farm House. The students were taken to Gorobe Farm House to experience ‘Dyeing with plant’ and ‘Making Chiba Sushi Roll’ for lunch.
The students have been taken into detailed steps on how to dye a handkerchief using colours naturally derived from plants. But the best activity was making the sushi roll because they were not like any other sushi, but requires thorough and delicate steps to produce an artistic sushi rolls. The students went on to prepare two patterns, which are both flowers.
The students were then taken on a tour around the house to see how traditional Japanese living looks like, especially the tatami flooring for sleeping ryokan-style and kotatsu, a low frame table covered by futon (heavy blanket) with a heat source underneath. At the end of the activities, we were served with sushi along with other dishes during lunch.
Also check out: The festivals in Chiba Prefecture such as Sakura Tulip Fiesta in April, Narita Gion Festival in July, Summer Grand Festival of Sawara in July, Makuhari Beach Fireworks Fiesta in August, Ohara Hadakan Festival in September, and Autumn Grand Festival of Sawara in October.
Eat in Chiba:
Wakamatsu Honten (famous for traditional eel cuisine) in Narita Park, and Sawara Chiyofuku in Sawara.
Shopping in Chiba:
Mitsui Outlet Park Kisarazu, MEGA Don Quixote Mall, and AEON Mall Makuharishintoshin
Hotel in Chiba:
Tokyo Bay Plaza Hotel in Kisarazu City, Hotel Mikazuki-Kamogawa in Kamogawa, and Hotel Port Plaza Chiba