Chiba is especially popular as it houses Japan’s most popular international airport, Narita Airport. The proximity of Chiba to Tokyo also makes it a great stop for tourists on the way to the renowned city. With a wide variety of attractions from mega malls to nature valleys, Chiba caters very much to almost everyone visiting. Read on to learn about the top things to do in Chiba Prefecture, Japan.
1. Interact with friendly monkeys and deers at the Chiba Zoological Park, which is perfect for families!
The zoological park houses its most iconic stars, red pandas! These red pandas alone account for a steady stream of visitors, in addition to many more species located in seven zones. The size of the zoological park alone requires a full day to explore fully. Start at the Zoological Hall, in proximity to the Main Gate. Make sure to plan your day to include feeding schedules in order to get the most out of your visit. The Zoological Hall features tropical animals and birds, with its most exotic animal being the two-toed sloths. These lazy creatures often garner the adoration of visitors, so do visit early to get a good viewing spot. Then, head over to the Small Animals Zone, where the hot stars of the zoo, red pandas Futa, Chichi, Meimei, Meita, Kuta, Mai, Mii, and Genta capture the attention of all. Some of these red pandas have even been featured on national television for tricks, so they are certainly not to be missed!
The remaining zones are the Steppe Zone, Children’s Zoo, Monkey Zone, Ancestors of Domestic Animals Zone, and Avian and Aquatic Zone. With such a wide variety, the zoological park is indeed value for money. Be sure to also capture the zoo’s main message on your visit there: the importance of conservation of wildlife.
Chiba Zoological Park
Address: 280 Minamotocho, Wakaba Ward, Chiba, Chiba Prefecture 264-0037, Japan
Website: Chiba Zoological Park (in Japanese)
2. Under the warm summer sun, you will be sure to fancy some local music at the Tone River in Chiba
Tone River Jam is a music festival that occurs annually in Chiba, alongside the Tone River. The warm summer heat makes for a great festival aura, complete with iced beer and booming speakers. If you’re looking for a detox from all the large-scale, corporate-sponsored festivals we’ve been seeing of late, the Tone River Jam is rustic and locally sourced. Since starting life in 2006 as an ‘oversized barbecue party’ with a single stage, Tone River Jam has expanded into a three-stage affair that nonetheless hasn’t lost its DIY ethos – and, yes, it’s still free to get in. The main stage lays it on heavy with the punk, but you can expect a wide variety of music elsewhere.
Tone River Jam
Address: 3 Akebonobashi, Kashiwa-shi, Chiba-ken 270-1451, Japan
Website: Tone River Jam (in Japanese)
3. Get your swimsuits on and your surfboards ready for a quick trip to the Onjuku Beach!
Onjuku is extremely unique as a rare amalgamation of Mexican and Japanese cultures. In 1609 a Spanish galleon named the San Francisco ran ashore near Onjuku and the surviving crew and captain were cared for by the Japanese women of the town. Thereby, a monolith stands in the middle of the small town, together with cute sombrero-wearing statues.
If you simply want to enjoy the beach without the hassle of your children, you can drop them off conveniently at the nearby water park. This certainly leaves you with some much needed self-relaxation time for surfing, banana boat-riding or tanning! To rent some surfboards, do head to the Flying Sumo Surf Company. They provide surfing equipment and instructors who can speak Korean, Japanese and English. Why not pick up surfing on this summer holiday in Onjuku?
Address: Isumi-gun, Onjuku-machi, Chiba Prefecture
4. Reconstructed every 20 years, the Katori Shrine is a must-see for its historical beauty
A Shinto shrine, the Katori Shrine is dedicated to Futsunushi no Mikoto, the protector of military men, and has been a popular and important shrine since the days of the samurai. This naturally brings about militaristic architecture and a solemnity to the shrine. Moreover, the shrine has a main festival here every year in mid April, thereby making the latter the best time to visit.
Despite the mention in the title that the shrine is reconstructed every 20 years, Katori’s oldest standing structures are its black painted main building and vermilion gate, which date from the year 1700. The shrine is also one of the oldest in Japan, so it is indeed a historical treasure.
Address: 1697-1 Katori, Chiba Prefecture 287-0017, Japan
Website: Katori Shrine (in Japanese)
5. Explore the magical Disneyland in Chiba, where the multiple rides and attractions are sure to amaze you
Ah, the iconic Disneyland. There is much said about it, but the slogan, “the happiest place in the world” stands out. This rings true for the Tokyo Disneyland too. Symbolized by the Cinderella Castle, Disneyland offers endless rides, parades and statues fashioned after Disney characters and movies. In general, Tokyo Disneyland seems a lot more spacious, cleaner and more efficient due to its extensive land mass and great planning. This makes it easy for guests to explore around and enjoy the varied views, food and rides.
The Tokyo Disneyland was, and is to this day, so popular with international and local tourists. Thereby, the accompanying Disneysea theme park was also created with an underwater theme. Be sure to also swing by Disneysea for the full magical experience!
Address: 1-1 Maihama, Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture 279-0031, Japan
Website: Tokyo Disneyland
6. Shop till you drop at the Chiba Lalaport, boasting over 460 shops in one of Japan's largest malls!
In the sweltering summer of Japan, a great place to escape into cool air conditioning would be the Chiba Lalaport. It boasts 540 stores and can accommodate 8,200 vehicles. Sectioned into three zones, pet-friendly LaLaport combines fashion, dining, and entertainment to a whole new level. Featuring must-visit local shops like Tokyu Hands and Mister Donut, you can be sure to find what your heart desires. There is also a fair share of international chains like Forever 21, Banana Republic and Starbucks if you fancy something familiar.
If you are getting into Asian teen fashion, Lalaport has a ‘Lala Popteen Land’ floor. Discover Japan’s fashion, accessories, and make-up, without the unforgiving heat and crowds as those in Harajuku.
Address: 2-1-1 Hama-cho, Funabashi City, Chiba, 273-8530
Website: Chiba Lalaport
7. Admire one of Japan's largest waterfalls at the Yoro Keioku Valley!
A magnificent geographical phenomena, the Yoro Keioku Valley is naturally carved over centuries by the Yoro River through the erosion of rock. Autumn augments the beauty of the valley, where the cherry blossoms mix with the brilliant yellows, reds and oranges of the falling leaves. Indeed, it is a seasonal sight that is longed for here in Japan. Do hike the valley to get an aerial view of the place. The pictures will definitely be worth it!
After a long hike, you can visit the several onsens. Relax in a hot natural mineral bath to soothe your muscles and unwind! The spring water here is naturally black, and is reportedly great for the skin. Furthermore, head up to Goriyaku Tei, a hot spring complex, which offers you a chance to prepare your own charcoal-grilled cuisine without the trouble of any preparation beyond a simple reservation.
Yoro Keioku Valley
Address: Yoro Keioku Valley, Chiba Prefecture, Japan
Website: Yoro Keioku Valley
8. Get an aerial view of the gorgeous Sawtooth Mountain via cable car or a good old hike!
Named Nokogiriyama in Japanese, the Sawtooth Mountain presents Japan’s largest stone Buddha, Daibutsu of Kamakura, at its peak. The mountain derives its epic name, which is endearingly reminiscent of old martial art novels and secret sects, from the scars of stone excavation for Tokyo’s Edo palaces. Due to the nature of the mountain being island-bound, the scenic ferry to the base of the mountain is recommended. Get on a ferry near the port at Keikyu Kurihama. Not only are you rewarded with a much cheaper fare than taking the train, the shorter journey is also enhanced by the gorgeous waves and wind on the refreshing sea. You can either choose to hike your way completely to the top, passing by an ancient temple on the way, or simply take a cable car to the top and visit the temple on your way down. Note that the cable car on the way up offers a superb view from the back window! So be sure to prepare your cameras for an aerial panoramic shot.
A key feature of Sawtooth Mountain is Hell’s View, a seeming geographical impossibility. Hell’s View is a rock jutting out over the mountain range below and gives you the illusion of free-falling off the peak. Now, doesn’t that make for some amazing photos and a great adrenaline rush?
Address: Mount Nokogiri, Kanaya, Futtsu, Chiba Prefecture 299-1861, Japan
Website: Sawtooth Mountain
9. Wander in the historical atmosphere of the Sakura Park and Castle
Sakura Park and Castle has ethereal cherry blossoms during the right seasons, befitting its romantic name. Covered with rich greenery, Sakura Castle Park extends to the ruins of Sakura Castle, which was built in 1610. While strolling in the park, you will find the Uba-ga-ike Pond, whose water surface reflects clearly the vibrant flowerbeds. Many picnic here under the Sakura flowers, so do grab some bentos and enjoy the breeze in the park. A tea-ceremony house is also present in the park, where many surrounding food vendors try to sell their snacks and wares. The takoyaki and ice cream is a must-try as quintessential tourist snacks!
Although the remains of the ancient castle moat are now dry, the vestiges of Sakura Castle indeed remind one of its former splendor in the Edo Period.
Sakura Park and Castle
Address: Kanyu-Mubanchi, Jonaicho, Sakura-city, Chiba
Website: Sakura Park and Castle
Chiba, a stop that holds a candle to the famed Tokyo
Although it may appear that Chiba pales in comparison to the vibrant and international Tokyo, it offers a perfect mix of gorgeous natural scenery and culture, with the high flying consumerism of Tokyo. It is indeed a prefecture with much to show its visitors.
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