It’s time for ‘Japan by Prefecture‘ again! This is the series that aims to provide the highlights of each prefecture of Japan, along with my personal favourites and suggestions from readers. This week, we’re looking at Chiba Prefecture (千葉県).
Chiba Prefecture is part of the Kanto region (関東地方), just next toTokyo. The capital is Chiba City (千葉市). Although Chiba is perhaps not thought of as a number one tourist spot, the vast majority of visitors to Japan have been to Chiba, as it’s home to Narita International Airport (成田国際空港).
Narita (成田市) is an often overlooked city, but I actually loved my visit there in 2011. Narita is home to Narita-san Shinshoji (成田山新勝寺), an important Shingon Buddhist temple.
Built in the year 940, Narita-san Shinshoji was founded by Kancho Daisojo, a disciple of Kobo Daishi.
The complex is home to a number of buildings, and the street leading up to the temple is filled with interesting old-fashion omiyage (souvenir) shops selling rice crackers and sweets.
Japan Australia suggested Narita-san as something worth mentioning in last week’s comments, and also suggested a small town called Sawara (佐原). Sawara is often called ‘Little Edo’ because of its small district of preference and restored traditional Edo Period (1603 – 1868) buildings. A canal runs through the town and a number of bridges cross over it. One of the most notable bridges is the Ja Ja Bridge that produces a twice hourly waterfall into the canal below. Tours in flat bottomed boats operate along the canal – presumably watching out to avoid the water falling from Ja Ja Bridge!
There are some nice beaches in Chiba Prefecture, though more coastal than tropical. One popular beach town on the Boso Peninsula (房総半島), as suggested by Tokyo5, is Onjuku (御宿). Onjuku is particularly popular with surfers and Tokyoites wanting to escape for the weekend. Wikipedia tells me: “Until the 1960’s, the abalone diving was done by young women called “ama” who dove with no breathing apparatus, and bare-chested. You can see statue of an ama on the Onjuku station platform.”
Last year I visited Chiba to go to Nokogiri-yama (鋸山) and see the Nihon-ji Daibutsu (日本寺大仏). Celia also suggested Mount Nokogiri as a highlight of Chiba Prefecture, and I couldn’t agree more! Nokogiri-yama is an easy day trip from Tokyo, and if you like big Buddhas as I do, it’s a must.
If big Buddhas are your thing, Paul reminded me that there is also a more modern daibutsu in Futtsu (富津市) – the Tokyo Bay Kannon (東京湾観音). The Tokyo Bay Kannon, in Futtsu City, was constructed in 1961 and stands 56 metres tall. The statue was erected in memory of the war dead by a private donor. There are 314 steps inside the statue and visitors can climb up to get a view across the bay.
Finally, although most people would think of this as being an attraction of Tokyo, did you know that Tokyo Disney Resort (東京ディズニーリゾート) is actually in Chiba Prefecture too?
Although very close to central Tokyo, Tokyo Disney Resort is actually in Urayasu (浦安市), Chiba Prefecture. Tokyo Disney Resort opened in 1983 as a single theme park (Tokyo Disneyland) but is now a resort with two theme parks (Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea) plus hotels and a shopping complex. Tokyo Disneyland was the first Disney theme park to open outside of the US. I’ve been to Tokyo Disnyeland but have yet to go to DisneySea… it’s on my list!
The Omiyage Section
Chiba is another prefecture without any very famous souvenirs (or ‘omiyage’ / おみやげ). However, at Narita Airport you can buy all sorts of omiyage from all over Japan, just in case you forgot to buy something before you went to the airport! One character you will see on omiyage in Chiba is Funassyi (ふなっしー) – a pear-type macscot from Funabashi (船橋市), a city in Chiba. Despite being a bit of an odd mascot, Funassyi has risen to fame recently and even has its own shop in its hometown. Chiba has another character called Chiba-kun (チーバくん), which appears to be a red dog made out of the shape of the prefecture – he also appears on some omiyage and has his own shop near JR Chiba Station. In this shop, you can buy all sorts of goods associated with Chiba, which apparently includes peanut flavoured things and processed seafood products. Naturally Tokyo Disney Resort is also a top place to buy souvenirs!
Next week I will be writing about Tokyo (東京都). Have you been there? What’s good to eat there and what omiyage should I buy? What are the best sightseeing spots or hidden gems? Please do share your thoughts below, and join me next week for Japan by Prefecture!