Many travellers have had Tokyo and Osaka on their minds but one interesting prefecture located just next to Tokyo is quite undiscovered which is the Chiba Prefecture. Located on the east coast of Honshu Island, this area offers visitors a unique journey to explore the coastline, forest and mountains that are well received by outdoor and nature lovers.
If you should also know, the main international Narita airport is located in the Chiba Prefecture, and so is Tokyo Disneyland. However, most people tend to associate the two places with the main Tokyo city area, and in this article, I will share more information about what you can do around here.
Overall, it is recommended that visitors rent a car and self-drive yourself around Chiba Prefecture as this way, you can get to experience more things to see and do. Also, you require an international driving license for this, or you can travel by local train around here. Let us get on with the list below.
The cable car up to the mountains. Photo Wikipedia.
Visit Nokogiri Yama Mountain
One of the must-visit places in Chiba is no other than the Nokogiri Mountains, where you can ride a cable car to the peak of the mountain that stands at 330 meters above sea level. It is here where you can get some awesome views of Tokyo Bay, Mount Fuji and the surrounding areas, but best on a clear day.
The mountain is also called Sawteeth Mountain due to the direct translation and jagged characteristics. At the peak, there is a Japanese restaurant and a beautiful observation deck for visitors. For those who prefer to hike up, you can do so with a 100-minute trek while enjoying the mountain scenery. One more stop here is the Nihonji Temple which offers a unique 31-meter high Buddha statue.
Nokogiri Yama Mountain
Address: Nokogiri Yama Ropeway, 4052-1 Kanaya Futtsu-shi, Chiba.
Tel: 0439 69 2314
Train From Tokyo Station, take the Sazanami Special Express train to Hamakanaya Station.
Yoro Valley in autumn colours. Photo Wikipedia.
Visit Yoro Valley
Known simply as Yoro Valley, this is one of the highest-rated nature and landscape destinations in Chiba, and best visited during the spring, summer and autumn season. Those who love hiking, trekking, the wilderness and outdoors should visit this incredibly beautiful valley. It is also called the Yoro Keikoku Valley
You can find the Awamata no Taki Waterfall which is the largest in Chiba, basic wildlife and birds, a lot of flora, camping sites and multiple Japanese onsen here. There are public hot spring complexes and also private onsen nearby.
One unique feature found here is the black hot spring, which has attracted many people to come and see. A number of locals tend to come here camping and also for picnics during the summer and autumn.
Yoro Keikoku Valley
Address: Yoro Keikoku Valley, Chiba Prefecture, Japan
Website: Yoro Keikoku Valley
The Naritasan Shinshoji Temple area. Photo Wikipedia.
Visit Naritasan Shinshoji Temple and Monzen-machi Road
This temple and road are well-known among visitors as one of the must-visit places in the Narita area near the international airport. Called Naritasan Kongo-oin Jingo Shinshoji, visitors will explore the old Edo city streets before making their way to the Naritasan Shinshoji temple that is visited by over 10 million people each year. Local Japanese come to this temple for granting prayers related to success in business and finding love.
Along the streets of Monzen-machi in Narita. Photo Wikipedia.
The Monzen-machi area is along the main road area and was a town that was built around the temple. You can find over 150 shops selling all sorts of things, including speciality restaurants serving a unique eel dish. The fun part about this old Edo town is walking around and simply exploring the area. Best time to visit is just about any time.
Naritasan Shinshoji Temple and Monzen-machi Road
Address: 1 Narita, Narita-shi, Chiba
The rice terrace paddy fields in Chiba. Photo Wikipedia.
Explore Oyama Senmaida Paddy Fields
The only ride terrace paddy fields in Japan are grown here and many visitors come here just to see them before and during the harvest period. One of the best times is from the end of October till early January when the paddy fields are lit even at night. Photographers love this place especially during the sunset and for visitors, this is one of Japan’s true and original rice cultivation using only rainwater. Oyama Senmaida is not to be missed if you love landscapes and the outdoors here in the Kamogawa area.
Oyama Senmaida Paddy Fields
Address:: 540 Hiratsuka, Kamogawa-shi, Chiba.
Tel: 04 7093 3800
The beautiful Kujukuri Beach in Chiba.
Swim at Kujukuri Beach
For beach lovers, Kujukuri Beach the main beach to explore in Chiba as this stunning beach stretches for a whopping 66km from Gyobu Cape in Asahi to Taito Cape in Isumi. The coastline here is dotted with numerous resort and public beach areas, suitable for just about anyone. Come summer and this beach becomes a local and tourist magnet, with thousands of people seen along the coastline.
Apart from a beach visit or picnic, visitors can indulge in multiple beach and water sports like surfing, snorkelling, scuba diving and also jet-skiing. Along some of the popular areas, you can also find cafes and restaurants that provide stunning scenery. When you visit here, look out for the local Japanese cuisine which is the grilled clam or Hamaguri and also a local favourite fish over rice called Shirasu Don.
Address: Kujukuri-machi, Sanbu-gun, Chiba
The Kamogawa Sea World entrance. Photo Wikipedia.
Experience the Marine Life at Kamogawa Sea World
For those travelling with a family, the Kamogawa Sea World is an alternative towards visiting Disney Sea. The beauty of this attraction is that the water theme park and aquarium is located just in front of the wide-open Pacific Ocean. Indulge yourself with the live ocean shows that have dolphins and killer whales while seeing unique sea lions and beluga whales in their own aquariums.
The Kamogawa Sea World houses over 11,000 ocean and river animals from 800 species that live in exhibits that mimic their natural habitats. Entrance fee for adults is ¥2,800 and children at ¥1,400. Be prepared to spend at least half a day here if you plan to visit, and do go in the morning when they open.
Kamogawa Sea World
Address: 1464-18 Higashi-cho, Kamogawa-shi, Chiba
The beautiful autumn colours seen at the Hondoji Temple.
Visit the Hondoji Temple in Matsudo During Fall
If you are planning to visit Tokyo or Chiba in autumn, the Hondoji Temple in Matsudo is one of the top three places to witness the supreme colours of the Japanese Autumn. The place gets really crowded with not tourists, but photographers from all over Japan. Therefore, if you are into photography, this is one of the best places to catch autumn in Japan with a beautiful Shinto temple background.
The flowers start blooming in late-February all the way till fall, hence anytime from February till October is a great time to visit the Hondoji Temple. Of course, during early April, the Sakura flower or cherry blossom is one of the peak periods for photographers and also local tourists.
The common temple grounds during autumn. Photo Wikipedia Japan.
Apart from the main temple, the area surrounding it is huge, hence walking around is recommended when you visit here and hours are set from 8.00 AM till 5.00 PM. Make sure you have your comfortable walking shoes on when you visit here.
Address: Hondo-ji Temple, 63 Hiraga, Matsudo-shi, Chiba
Tel: 047 346 2121
Access: From Tokyo Station, take the Joban line to Kita-Kogane Station and walk 10 minutes to the temple.
The catchy words of Onjuku on the beach here.
Visit Onjuku Beach and Town
Onjuku Town and beach has a nice history as in the year 1609, a Spanish galleon ran ashore on the beach here and the locals who lived here cared for the sailors and captain. Ever since then, there has been a mild Spanish influence found here. Even a monolith is found in the town area wearing a sombrero hat.
A beach will always be a beach, it’s just that this one holds some interesting history and the town of Onjuku offers much more than just a beach. I would highly recommend spending a night here in Onjuku and exploring the town area. You can also visit the Tsukinosabakukinenkanmae Information Center which offers assistance about the area.
A surfer on the beach heading out for a sunset surf.
Onjuku comes with a long coastline and there are numerous beaches where surfing and kite-surfing is the main attraction for beach-lovers. Beginners can take lessons from various surfing schools found along the popular beaches here. For those who know how to surf, you can also rent surfboards from the same schools, where some of them speak multiple languages.
Onjuku Beach and Town
Address: Isumi District, Onjuku-machi, Chiba Prefecture
Kominato Railway uses old steam engines for their tourist’s journeys. Photo Kominato Railway.
Take the Kominato Railway
One of the must-do things in Japan is to take one of their scenic train journeys and in Chiba, the Kominato Railway is the one to experience. The vintage steam engine trains are best experienced at any time of the year, but it is said that during the spring and autumn season are the best times. This is purely due to the beautiful foliage that can be seen along your journey.
Kominato Railway offers a couple of different train experiences and you can choose which ones suit you and also during which season you visit. I strongly recommend trying the Boso Satoyama Torocco which is the old steam train. Prices are reasonable while train rides are less than two hours long.
On board the Kaiseki Cuisine Train. Photo Kominato Railway.
One of the unique features of the Kominato Railway is the different kinds of services offered in terms of train rides. They have a special ‘Kaiseki Cuisine Train’ where visitors can experience dining authentic Japanese cuisine on board the train, and a ‘Night Beer Train’ where packages include free flow of beer and snacks on a night journey.
Address: 2-1-11 Goichuonishi, Ichihara-shi, Chiba
A map showing the location of the Chiba Prefecture in Japan.
How to Go to Chiba?
To get to the Chiba Prefecture, you can easily fly in via international airlines that land in Narita International Airport. From the airport, you can travel via trains, buses or even rent a car and self-drive around Chiba.
If you are coming from Tokyo, there are the express trains or even the bullet train (Shinkansen) that travels from Tokyo Station into Chiba City and other cities or towns around the prefecture.
The journey via normal train or bus varies from a couple of hours till around three hours, and this depends on where you want to go to. To fully experience Chiba, one needs to stay overnight or two nights in the prefecture and move around.