More Than Just Disneyland! Exploring Hidden Gems in Every Corner of Chiba

More Than Just Disneyland! Exploring Hidden Gems in Every Corner of Chiba

Looking for a short getaway from the bustling crowds of Tokyo? Look no further than the prefecture of Chiba (千葉県). Contrary to the popular belief that “There is nothing much to see or do other than Tokyo Disneyland”, we'd like to disagree! Chiba Prefecture, just lying to the east of Tokyo, offers not only an abundance of spectacular nature, but also a glimpse of Japanese traditional life as you step foot into its well-preserved traditional towns and temples.

Rediscover the charms of Chiba with these six unique locations showcasing the best of Chiba’s hidden gems.

 

1. Funabashi: Funabashi H.C. Andersen Park

The iconic windmill at the HC Andersen Funabashi Park
©︎Adobe Stock

 

Ranked as the third most popular theme park in Japan, Funabashi Andersen Park (ふなばしアンデルセン公園) was launched in commemoration of Funabashi City being a sister city of Hans Christian Andersen’s hometown in Odense, Denmark. True to this, the overall layout and structures in the park draw inspiration from the author’s artworks and are reminiscent of Danish architecture.

Enjoy a delightful day in this unique theme park as you venture into the five different areas offered and engage in a wide variety of family-friendly attractions such as pony riding and mini golf! Combining both nature and art, the Fairy Tale Hill Zone recreates a picturesque rural scenery straight out of 1800s Denmark, while the Nature Experience Zone provides a pleasant walk through the woodlands and wetlands of the region, and for an even more immersive experience, consider taking a boat ride on the Pond of the Sun, and surround yourself with the breathtaking scenery.

Together with the changing seasons, you can also enjoy seasonal events such as the cherry blossom festival in spring and the sunflower festival in summer. For fans of the Danish poet, this is definitely a must-visit while you’re in Chiba.

 

2. Narita: Naritasan Shinsoji

Naritasan Shinshoji
©︎ Adobe Stock

 

Located not far away from Narita Airport in the city of Narita, Naritasan Shinsoji Temple (成田山新勝寺) is an excellent spot to visit for a glimpse of traditional Japanese infrastructure.

This temple is the largest Buddhist temple in Narita City and one of Japan’s oldest temples, built in the year 940 by Kobo Daishi, the founder of the Shingon Sect. As the area is rather vast, you can expect to spend around 3-4 hours just wandering around the grounds of Naritasan. Keep a lookout for the Great Pagoda of Peace, a three-storied pagoda built in Tahoto style, featuring architecture that is culturally important to Japanese history.

Leading to the temple is a lively shopping street, Omotesando (成田山表参道), where you can check out goods such as traditional crafts and souvenirs that have been sold to pilgrims and tourists alike since centuries ago. With many restaurants lined up along the shopping street, you can also have a taste of fresh barbecued eel, one of the delicacies offered around the area, before making your way into the sacred temple grounds. 

 

3. Sawara: Little Edo

Little Edo in Sawara
©︎ Adobe Stock

 

A former merchant town that thrived during the Edo Period, the historical canal city of Sawara along Ono River (小野川) boasts its status as "Little Edo" through its beautifully preserved traditional houses reminiscent of the 1600s. Offering a completely different landscape from modern Tokyo, you can return in time to the Edo Period by taking the sightseeing boat which brings you through the waterways that made the city a bustling transport hub in the past.

Lined along the river are rows of shophouses selling traditional souvenirs including snacks such as senbei, and crafts such as braided baskets and gorgeous paper umbrellas.

During the months of July and October, the town is also known for hosting the Sawara Grand Festival (佐原の大祭), one of the largest float festivals in the Kanto Region, with a history dating back 300 years ago. The floats are decorated with figurines, made by traditionally famous Edo and Meiji craftsmen, and are as huge as four meters in height. Together with the festive music in the background, these floats are then hoisted through the streets, bringing to life the practices of a flourishing past.

 

 

4. Katsuura: Katsuura Morning Market and Hina Matsuri

Dolls decorated as part of the Hina Matsuri Festival in early March in Katsuura City
©︎ Adobe Stock

 

For four centuries, the Katsuura Morning Market (勝浦朝市) of Katsuura City has remained as one of the biggest morning markets in Japan, boasting an exceptional range of freshly caught seafood from Katsuura Harbor (勝浦漁港). Although it opens daily with the exception of Wednesdays, the morning market becomes exceptionally lively during weekends, as the main street is filled with vendors selling all sorts of produce and customers looking for the best and freshest catch of the day.

One of the most famous delicacies in Katsuura includes the skipjack tuna, usually eaten raw and accompanied by a bowl of steaming white rice. Another local favorite would be the kinmedai red snapper (金目鯛), which can be enjoyed raw or over a sweet and savoury sauce.

Besides the morning market, you can also visit Tomisaki Shrine (遠見岬神社), which overlooks the town and is the location for the well-known Hina Matsuri (ひな祭り). The festival is held during March, where a staggering 1,800 dolls are made to adorn the 60 stone steps leading to Tomisaki Shrine, in hope of the healthy and peaceful growth of young girls–definitely a sight not to be missed.

 

5. Kamogawa: Kamogawa Sea World

Visitors in front of an aquarium tank at the Kamogawa Sea World
©︎ Adobe Stock

 

An aquarium located on the Boso Peninsula, Kamogawa Seaworld (鴨川シーワールド) is one of the most popular attractions in Chiba Prefecture. The outdoor marine park features over 10,000 marine creatures including orcas and beluga whales and presents three distinct zones modeled after their natural habitats.

The highlight of the live performances includes the popular orca shows, where audiences can expect to see the intelligent marine mammal perform tricks and jump elegantly in the air.

During these performances, audiences are also allowed to get up close and personal with the sea creatures. Besides being a family-friendly attraction, the aquarium is also an organization that is involved in marine research and preservation, where one can learn about the conservation of Japan’s aquatic bio environment.

After a day of meeting the sea creatures unique to the Boso Peninsula, you can also drop by the gift shop to pick up your very own orca stuffed toy or beluga whale keychain to gift your loved ones or simply as a memory of the fun-filled day.

 

6. Boso Peninsula: Mt. Nokogiri, Beaches and B.B.BASE

Boso Peninsula
©︎ Adobe Stock

 

Lying southeast of Tokyo, the Boso Peninsula (房総半島) provides many sightseeing spots with its vast expanse of nature and numerous beaches along its extensive shorelines. 

Explore its mountainous interior by heading to Mount Nokogiri (鋸山), where you might be able to catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji on a clear day. It was not only depicted as one of the “One Hundred Famous Views in the Various Provinces” by artist Utagawa Hiroshige II, but also home to one of largest Buddha statues in Japan. Here, you can visit Nihonji Temple (日本寺大仏), a Zen temple with a history of 1300 years, as well as the humongous daibutsu (大仏 Buddha statue) dating back to the 1700s. In the temple complex, there used to be 1500 smaller statues, but most had been lost over time and now, only approximately 500 of these smaller statues still remain. From the top of the mountain, you can also enjoy a panoramic view of Tokyo Bay which overlooks the boundless Pacific Ocean.

The beaches of Boso Peninsula, with the calmer waters and spectacular views, are also famous as surfing destinations all-year round, but especially during summer. Katakai Beach is one of the more popular surfing spots where you can have a taste of the local specialty, hamaguri clam, after a long day of surfing.

Besides surfing, you can also explore the peninsula with the B.B.BASE, a Joyful Train by JR East, which provides cyclists with the ease of travelling by train from Tokyo with the provision of specially-fitted bicycle racks, offering a more intimate and personalized experience on the peninsula. 

 

Experience the Charms of Chiba with JAPAN RAIL CLUB! 

Chiba snacks by JAPAN RAIL CLUB

Although often overshadowed by the popularity of its largest amusement park, the prefecture of Chiba is more than just a destination for thrilling rides and magical attractions. With not just picturesque sightseeing locations but also culturally significant traditional sites, this prefecture is unquestionably a must-visit for those seeking a day trip out of Tokyo.

As a way to introduce Japan's various regions via its wonderful array of snacks, you can have a taste of Chiba with JAPAN RAIL CLUB's Omiyage Snack Box! This January, we are featuring four well-loved snacks from Chiba, including the cute mascot-packaging Chiiba-kun Sweet Peanut Rice Crackers and Peanut Prince Original. These snacks will be shipped to you directly to your doorstep when you subscribe to the Snack Subscription Plan this month! Use this exclusive discount code "ICHIGO10" to unlock a special price for your subscription this 2024. Discover Chiba's gems with JAPAN RAIL CLUB today!

Meet the author

Dawn Sim

An avid lover of nature, photography, and Japanese literature, you will find Dawn (@oyakodawn) either lost in the midst of a historical pilgrimage route or in any local book cafes from the north all the way to the south of Japan. Dawn has lived in Kyoto for a year and still can’t get enough of its cultural and historical richness - not to mention the hipster cafes that serve to satisfy their coffee addiction!

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當提到日本的綠茶,大家都知道日本京都是茶文化的中心。 綠茶一開始是在西元9世紀,由幾個佛教僧侶從中國引進到日本的。在日本人的生活中,綠茶已經成為一種有著許多用途而且對人體健康的飲品。 作為日本文化的一部分,抹茶、煎茶和玉露等的綠茶品種也提供了多樣的口味選擇和體驗。例如傳統的日本茶道,不僅喝茶能帶來健康,茶道更成為了日本獨一無二的文化。

Sue Lynn Maker's Story

製茶故事:京都舞妓之茶本舖

當提到日本的綠茶,大家都知道日本京都是茶文化的中心。 綠茶一開始是在西元9世紀,由幾個佛教僧侶從中國引進到日本的。在日本人的生活中,綠茶已經成為一種有著許多用途而且對人體健康的飲品。 作為日本文化的一部分,抹茶、煎茶和玉露等的綠茶品種也提供了多樣的口味選擇和體驗。例如傳統的日本茶道,不僅喝茶能帶來健康,茶道更成為了日本獨一無二的文化。

Maker's Story: Gyokuro Tea from Kyoto by Maikonocha Honpo
Sue Lynn

Maker's Story: Gyokuro Tea from Kyoto by Maikon...

When it comes to green tea from Japan, Kyoto stands as the hub of tea culture. Originally introduced by returning Buddhist monks from their travels in China in the 9th...

Sue Lynn Food

Maker's Story: Gyokuro Tea from Kyoto by Maikon...

When it comes to green tea from Japan, Kyoto stands as the hub of tea...

Maker’s Story: Premium Matcha Products from Uji, Kyoto by Kyoeiseicha
Sue Lynn

Maker’s Story: Premium Matcha Products from Uji...

This May, JAPAN RAIL CLUB celebrates the joy that matcha brings to our lives with the special “So Much Matcha” Omiyage Snack Box. May marks the start of the traditional...

Sue Lynn Maker's Story

Maker’s Story: Premium Matcha Products from Uji...

This May, JAPAN RAIL CLUB celebrates the joy that matcha brings to our lives with...

綠之日快樂!一起來探索日本新綠季節中五個不能錯過的景點
Sue Lynn

綠之日快樂!一起來探索日本新綠季節中五個不能錯過的景點

在日本眾多節慶與珍貴傳統之中,有一個特別關於自然崇敬的慶典——綠之日。這個國定假日訂於每年五月四日,見證了日本與自然的深厚連結,也提醒人們欣賞這個70%都是山區的島國上,那些美麗的綠色景觀。

Carissa Loh Culture

綠之日快樂!一起來探索日本新綠季節中五個不能錯過的景點

在日本眾多節慶與珍貴傳統之中,有一個特別關於自然崇敬的慶典——綠之日。這個國定假日訂於每年五月四日,見證了日本與自然的深厚連結,也提醒人們欣賞這個70%都是山區的島國上,那些美麗的綠色景觀。

Happy Greenery Day: 5 Must-Visit Places to Explore During Japan's Shinryoku Season
Sue Lynn

Happy Greenery Day: 5 Must-Visit Places to Expl...

Nestled amongst Japan’s vibrant festivities and cherished traditions lies a celebration rooted in reverence for nature―Midori-no-Hi (みどりの日 Greenery Day). Observed annually on 4 May, this national holiday is a testament...

Carissa Loh Culture

Happy Greenery Day: 5 Must-Visit Places to Expl...

Nestled amongst Japan’s vibrant festivities and cherished traditions lies a celebration rooted in reverence for...

Fresh From Hokkaido: A Guide to Sapporo Central Wholesale Market
Sue Lynn

Fresh From Hokkaido: A Guide to Sapporo Central...

Hokkaido is Japan’s food paradise as the northernmost part of the country is the top producer of agricultural products and seafood: the vast lands covering Japan’s second largest island and...

Wendy Ng

Fresh From Hokkaido: A Guide to Sapporo Central...

Hokkaido is Japan’s food paradise as the northernmost part of the country is the top...

Nihon Sankei (日本三景): The Three Scenic Views of Japan
Sue Lynn

Nihon Sankei (日本三景): The Three Scenic Views of ...

Japan is an island nation that has always been known for its stunningly beautiful landscapes but even amongst these, there are three locations that rise above the others and are...

Dawn Sim Nature

Nihon Sankei (日本三景): The Three Scenic Views of ...

Japan is an island nation that has always been known for its stunningly beautiful landscapes...

Japan celebrates Golden Week between April 29 to May 5
Sue Lynn

Golden Week: Exploring Japan's Week-Long Festiv...

What is Golden Week? Golden Week (ゴールデンウィーク or 黄金週間 Ogon Shukan), recognised as one of Japan's most prominent and bustling holiday periods, usually spans from late April to early May...

Dawn Sim Culture

Golden Week: Exploring Japan's Week-Long Festiv...

What is Golden Week? Golden Week (ゴールデンウィーク or 黄金週間 Ogon Shukan), recognised as one of...

春暖花開:櫻花之外的六種當季花卉
Sue Lynn

春暖花開:櫻花之外的六種當季花卉

賞花的樂趣之一,就是它們轉瞬即逝的特性:花期每季只有幾天,但那短暫幾天卻難忘極了。來看看六種春天當季花卉,以及賞花最佳時機!

Carissa Loh Nature

春暖花開:櫻花之外的六種當季花卉

賞花的樂趣之一,就是它們轉瞬即逝的特性:花期每季只有幾天,但那短暫幾天卻難忘極了。來看看六種春天當季花卉,以及賞花最佳時機!

Spring Beginnings: 6 Seasonal Flowers Other Than Sakura
Sue Lynn

Spring Beginnings: 6 Seasonal Flowers Other Tha...

Flowers herald the beginning of spring, and in Japan, no flower is more synonymous with spring than the beloved cherry blossom (桜 sakura). However, other than these pretty, pink blossoms,...

Carissa Loh Nature

Spring Beginnings: 6 Seasonal Flowers Other Tha...

Flowers herald the beginning of spring, and in Japan, no flower is more synonymous with...

Spring Beginnings: 7 Things to Do in Japan in April and May
Sue Lynn

Spring Beginnings: 7 Things to Do in Japan in A...

Cherry blossoms, or sakura, are flowers symbolic of spring, often alluded to the promise of a new beginning in many Japanese literature. | Photo by Dawn Sim   A symbol...

Dawn Sim Spring

Spring Beginnings: 7 Things to Do in Japan in A...

Cherry blossoms, or sakura, are flowers symbolic of spring, often alluded to the promise of...

Spring Beginnings: 6 Must-Try Spring Foods in Japan
Sue Lynn

Spring Beginnings: 6 Must-Try Spring Foods in J...

Spring in Japan is a time for celebration as the season marks new beginnings. Other than the mesmerising cherry blossoms painting the landscape, spring is the best season to experience...

Wendy Ng Food

Spring Beginnings: 6 Must-Try Spring Foods in J...

Spring in Japan is a time for celebration as the season marks new beginnings. Other...

Spring Beginnings: 6 Must-Visit Spring Festivals in Japan
Sue Lynn

Spring Beginnings: 6 Must-Visit Spring Festival...

Photo by cyesuta (CC BY-SA 2.0)   Spring is a season of new beginnings, bringing with it beautiful flowers, comfortable temperatures, and a time of celebration. While most travellers head...

Carissa Loh Festival

Spring Beginnings: 6 Must-Visit Spring Festival...

Photo by cyesuta (CC BY-SA 2.0)   Spring is a season of new beginnings, bringing...

Castle Day (6 April): 10 Must-Visit Castles in Japan
Sue Lynn

Castle Day (6 April): 10 Must-Visit Castles in ...

Matsue Castle in spring. | Photo by 島根県観光連盟 Japan, a nation celebrated for its rich history and enduring cultural heritage, is particularly famous for its magnificent Japanese castles (お城 oshiro)....

Carissa Loh Culture

Castle Day (6 April): 10 Must-Visit Castles in ...

Matsue Castle in spring. | Photo by 島根県観光連盟 Japan, a nation celebrated for its rich...

Sakura Karinto and Marui Suzuki
Sue Lynn

Maker’s Story: Seasonal Karinto Snacks from Tok...

April marks the official arrival of spring in Japan, and one of the cherished traditions of celebrating this season is to enjoy “ohanami” (お花見)! Ohanami means “flower-viewing”, and this is...

Sue Lynn Maker's Story

Maker’s Story: Seasonal Karinto Snacks from Tok...

April marks the official arrival of spring in Japan, and one of the cherished traditions...

A Guide to Sakura in Tohoku: Best Cherry Blossom Viewing Spots in Northeast Japan
Sue Lynn

A Guide to Sakura in Tohoku: Best Cherry Blosso...

Hirosaki Castle Park | Photo by Aomori Prefecture Cherry blossoms or sakura (桜) herald the start of springtime in Japan. Spring is the prettiest and most enjoyable season with radiant...

Wendy Ng Spring

A Guide to Sakura in Tohoku: Best Cherry Blosso...

Hirosaki Castle Park | Photo by Aomori Prefecture Cherry blossoms or sakura (桜) herald the...

A Guide to Japanese Shochu: A Tasting Tour of Shochu Distilleries in Miyazaki
Sue Lynn

A Guide to Japanese Shochu: A Tasting Tour of S...

Shochu (焼酎) is one of the most consumed alcoholic beverages in Japan and the Japanese drink more shochu than sake. Considered to be Japan's national spirit, Shochu is gaining great...

Wendy Ng

A Guide to Japanese Shochu: A Tasting Tour of S...

Shochu (焼酎) is one of the most consumed alcoholic beverages in Japan and the Japanese...

Tohoku: A Tale of Tradition through its Cultural Icons
Sue Lynn

Tohoku: A Tale of Tradition through its Cultura...

Statues of the Namahage located in Oga Peninsula. | Photo by PhotoAC Steeped in tradition, Tohoku (東北), the northeastern part of Japan comprising of six prefectures – Aomori (青森), Akita...

Dawn Sim Culture

Tohoku: A Tale of Tradition through its Cultura...

Statues of the Namahage located in Oga Peninsula. | Photo by PhotoAC Steeped in tradition,...

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Try Food from Northeast Japan
Sue Lynn

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Try Food from North...

Japan is a food paradise and beyond the major cities and well-trodden travel routes, you can unearth more culinary treasures spread throughout the country if you venture into the less...

Wendy Ng Food

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Try Food from North...

Japan is a food paradise and beyond the major cities and well-trodden travel routes, you...

Sakura 2024: 5 Must-Visit Cherry Blossom Spots in Tokyo for Ohanami
Sue Lynn

Sakura 2024: 5 Must-Visit Cherry Blossom Spots ...

If you have visited Tokyo between late March and early April, then chances are you have witnessed the enchanting sight of cherry blossoms (桜 sakura) in full bloom. A cherry...

Carissa Loh Culture

Sakura 2024: 5 Must-Visit Cherry Blossom Spots ...

If you have visited Tokyo between late March and early April, then chances are you...

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Buy Souvenirs from Tohoku
Sue Lynn

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Buy Souvenirs from ...

Located on the north-eastern part of mainland Japan, Tohoku (東北) is made up of six prefectures, and is a treasure trove of beautiful nature and fascinating history. It’s a wonderful...

Carissa Loh Food

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Buy Souvenirs from ...

Located on the north-eastern part of mainland Japan, Tohoku (東北) is made up of six...

Omiyage Day (8 March): Exploring Japan's Souvenir & Gift-Giving Culture
Sue Lynn

Omiyage Day (8 March): Exploring Japan's Souven...

Have you heard of omiyage (お土産)? If you’ve been to Japan, then you have probably seen the colourful and beautifully packaged boxes of local confectionery filling the gift shops along...

Carissa Loh Culture

Omiyage Day (8 March): Exploring Japan's Souven...

Have you heard of omiyage (お土産)? If you’ve been to Japan, then you have probably...