Situated largely on the Boso Peninsula just east of Tokyo, Chiba Prefecture draws thousands of tourists every year. Comprising a mash-up between old historic streets and buildings, and more modern constructions, Chiba brings together two powerful aesthetics. As such, it’s the perfect destination for tourists who want to see a little bit of everything Japan has to offer – both modern, and from the long ago. And surrounded, as it is, by water on all sides, the Chiba Prefecture often feels like stepping away from mainland Japan for a minute. Like visiting a secret new place altogether.
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Getting to Chiba from Tokyo
Part of what makes Chiba such a popular destination for tourists is its insane proximity to the Japanese capital. Depending on the chosen route, the distance from Chiba to Central Tokyo is roughly between 39 and 56 km. Chiba Prefecture is so close that it’s actually still situated within the Tokyo metropolitan area.
Chiba is also widely accessible from Central Tokyo. By far the easiest way to travel between the two is by rail, since the journey won’t take longer than 30-40 minutes. The train ride is also quite affordable, with ticket prices ranging between just $4 (Sobu Rapid Line, JR East) and $16 (Ltd Express Shiosai, Japan Railways Limited Express). If traveling with heavy luggage, it might be wise to avoid central Tokyo, and board the train at one of the less crowded train stations in Tokyo. Don’t worry, both cities boast over 100 stations each, so there’s plenty of choice!
Alternatively, you might choose to drive. Although this adds a couple of km to your overall journey, the trip itself won’t take more than 40 minutes.
If you prefer traveling by bus, you can exit the central Tokyo station, and take a Keisei bus to Chiba. By bus, the journey is slightly longer (at around 70-75 min), with bus tickets costing $9.
What’s Chiba famous for?
The reason why Chiba is considered so attractive by tourists is that it offers a little bit of everything. Here, you’ll find some of the largest shopping centers, not only in the Tokyo metropolitan area, but the whole of Japan. Shoppers get to enjoy LaLaport TOKYO BAY (the largest commercial facility in Japan), and Mitsui Outlet Park Kisarazu, which gathers the most stores in the area.
Chiba also attracts a lot of tourists for its food. Since it’s surrounded by water, Chiba has a strong focus on fish and seafood. It’s also garnered some acclaim for local takes on traditional dishes, like ramen.
No trip would be complete without some nice scenic spots that double as photo-ops. Chiba’s got those as well, with numerous fields and open spaces that allow you to admire nature. Here, you can visit Nokogiriyama, famous for its rocky cliff stretches surrounded by sea. Chiba is also the only place from where you can see Mt. Fuji over the water.
Chiba is also a hotspot for conferences, and official business events, as it’s easily accessible worldwide from two airports (Haneda Airport and Narita Airport).
Yet another reason to visit Chiba Prefecture is its proclivity toward hot springs (over 200 of them!). Whether you wish to soak in the healing waters to relieve stress or pain, or simply wish to partake in this ancient tradition, Chiba’s got what you need.
Chiba is broken down into six main areas:
- The Bay Area – convention and corporate facilities;
- The Hokuso Area – historic landscapes;
- The Kujukuri Area – water sports, seafood;
- The Minamiboso Area – fishing, seaside resorts, seafood;
- The Kazusa Area (Seaside) – scenic views, great for admiring autumn foliage or spring cherry blossom;
- The Tokatsu Area – strong agriculture.
Our 5 Favorite Chiba Dishes to Try
When in Chiba, eat like the locals. Sure, this might mean going digging for clams on the beach (very popular in Chiba). It might mean picking fresh strawberries, thanks to Chiba’s intense strawberry culture. It might also mean hitting up a nice restaurant specializing in local dishes. We figure it’d be a shame to visit this wonderful area of Japan, and miss out on an unforgettable culinary experience. So here’s what should be on your must-try list when you visit Chiba Prefecture.
Since Chiba is actually the largest peanut provider in the whole country, it’s not surprising that they’ve got a lot of peanut dishes. Chiba is actually responsible for supplying a whopping 76% of Japan’s peanut industry.
While you’re here, you might indulge in savoring some fresh peanuts, or try locally-made peanut tofu, or peanut ice cream. In Chiba, many restaurants and street food vendors offer a selection of peanut-centered dishes, so there’ll be no shortage of things to choose from.
Since Chiba is surrounded by water on all sides, it stands to reason they’ve developed more than their fair share of sea dishes over the years. Namero is actually a seafood dish created by local fishermen from the coastal Boso area.
Namero is typically made from sardines or horse mackerel (though in a pinch, any fish works). The meat is minced lightly, mixed with green onion, miso, perilla leaves, ginger (and seasoned with vinegar), then cooked.
3. Grilled Eel
Eel is extremely popular in Japan, as it is traditionally associated with curing several ailments (most notably tiredness). Grilled eel is a dish that’s been served ever since the Edo period, and has remained popular in Japan to this day. Nowhere more so than in Chiba Prefecture.
Here, you’ll come across numerous specialty eel restaurants, including some (like the Kawatoyo restaurant) that are more than 100 years old.
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4. Katsuura Tantanmen Noodles
Here’s a dish with a side of history to it. Katsuura Tantanmen Noodles were actually “invented” about fifty years ago, to warm up fishermen (and women) after a long day out at sea. This traditional dish continues going strong today. Basically, the noodles themselves are served in a special soy sauce, chili oil soup.
To get the full experience, savor the noodles with ground pork and chopped onion as traditional toppings.
If you’ve heard of kumquats, you might have a general idea of what we’re talking about. Loquats, or biwa as they’re locally known, are a traditional fruit specific to the Chiba Prefecture. These delicacy orange fruits have grown in the Minamiboso Bay region of Chiba for centuries.
Harvested in late spring - early summer, loquats can be enjoyed on their own (sold as a local delicacy), or as part of various dishes. Whether it’s a glass of loquat juice, a serving of loquat ice cream, or even roadside curry, make sure you try this unusual fruit at least once.
Speaking of great food, there are many more unique dishes and food you can enjoy in Japan. Visit our Ultimate Guide to Japanese Nabe and Guide to Okinawan Food and Cuisine if you are interested in the great food Japan has to offer!
Top 5 Things to Do In Chiba (During Your Day)
Chiba Prefecture is quite large, and so most of these activities will require at least a train change.
1. Namikiri Fudo-in (成東山 不動院 長勝寺)
Situated just a short walk away from JR Naruto Station, the Namikiri Fudo-In is an old temple that invites contemplation and tranquility. The road up here requires that you go up the stairs, and pass through the vermilion Nio-mon (Gate of Deva), before arriving at the bright red Hondo (Main Hall).
Every year, the temple draws thousands of visitors, looking for help with anything from matchmaking and love, to preventing dementia, and other ailments.
2. Tateyama Diving (館山市)
For adrenaline-seekers, Tateyama Port is a must-see stop, due to its underwater activities. For a unique experience, join one of the diving tours off the port, and swim alongside banks of goldfish, and zebra-patterned damselfish.
3. Kayak through the Boso waters (房総半島)
Kayaking is a big sport off the Boso Peninsula, and sea-lovers would do well not to miss this. Usually departing from the little coastal city of Katsuura, join a kayaking party to explore the waters, and see the beauty of the Boso Peninsula.
Alternatively, if you’re in Katsuura and have some time to spare, why not join a snorkeling class, and dive deep, to swim with the tuna.
4. Flower Fields of Shiramazu (白間津のお花畑)
Shiramazu is home to vast stretches of land filled to the brim with flowers. Here, you get to take photos, and even pick a nice bouquet, all while enjoying the sea breeze. The flower fields are particularly appealing, due to the contrast of their bright colors and the green-ish sea.
5. Nokogiriyama (鋸山, Jigoku Nozoki)
Literally translated as “peek into Hell”, Nokogiriyama no Jigoku Nozoki is a fantastic scenic spot in Chiba’s Nokogiriyama. Standing on the steep cliff-top will give you a view of the entire mountainous region.
Whether you come up here to visit one of the many Buddhist statues, take some amazing snaps, or simply spend some time in nature, it’s well worth the hike.
Top 5 Things to Do in Chiba (Nighttime Edition)
One common complaint that travelers will be familiar with is the lack of activities during the night-time. If you’re a party lover, then worry not, for Chiba has a bustling nightlife. But it also offers tourist attractions that are best visited at nighttime.
1. Country Farm Tokyo German Village (東京ドイツ村)
Listed as a Japan Nightscape Heritage, the Country Farm Tokyo German Village is a fascinating spot. Designed in such a way to replicate a traditional German village, this theme park is best known for its illumination displays. At night, everything (from the castles, to the flower displays) lights up, creating one of the most beautiful light shows in the Kanto region.
2. Egawa Kaigan (江川海岸)
Also known as Japan’s Salar de Uyuni (Uyuni salt lake), this scenic off-the-coast spot offers a unique view across hundreds of meters of tidal flat. During low tide, tourists and locals congregate at the Egawa Kaigan to dig for clams. At nighttime, you can observe the silhouettes of the nearby factories or the mysterious telephone poles going far out into the water. And if you can’t sleep, you might even hang around, and witness the amazing sunrise over the low water.
3. Umihotaru Parking Area (海ほたるPA)
Don’t let the name fool you. The Umihotaru Parking Area is so much more than just a place to park your car. The Parking Area (as well as the nearby highway) lights up at night, offering a surreal view. Speaking of, drive up to the 5th floor Observation Deck, and take in the silhouette of Tokyo Gate Bridge, or the Tokyo Tower.
4. I-link Town Ichikawa Observation Deck (アイ・リンクタウン展望施設)
Located just off the South Exit of the JR Ichikawa Station, the I-link Town Ichikawa is the place to go for, if you’re craving a good view. With an observation deck situated on the 45th floor of the West Tower, it allows you to enjoy a 360° panoramic view of the city at night. Take a glass elevator to the top, and enjoy jazz concerts up on the roof of one of the highest vantage points in the entire area.
5. Daikeien Amusement Park (大慶園)
If you’re looking to spice things up a bit during the small hours, why not visit the Daikeien Amusement Park? Situated at roughly 2 km from the Omachi Station, the Amusement Park is best visited by car/taxi during the night. Because yes, you can visit at any time you want, as the park is open 24/7, and offers over 1,000 games. Craving car races? Claw machines? Karaoke? Basketball courts? Daikeien Amusement Park has truly got it all.
Our Favorite Date Spots in Chiba
1. Chiba Port Tower (千葉ポートタワー)
The Chiba Port Tower is a popular date destination, since it’s considered a sacred spot for lovers. Explore the Promenade of Love, also called the Tenku no Enmusubi (matchmaking spot in the sky), on the 2nd floor of the Tower. Or simply sit up at the top, and take in the fabulous view, and why not, pose for a sweet couple selfie at the Tenshi no Hane (angel’s wings)?
2. Tarzania (ターザニア)
If you’re a couple who enjoys nature and sports, as well as a little rush of adrenaline, Tarzania is the way to go when planning the ideal date. Situated in the Chosei District, this immense nature adventure park features ziplines up to 445 meters long. Slide down the line, using a pulley system, while taking in the breathtaking forest.
3. Funabashi Andersen Park (ふなばしアンデルセン公園)
Another natural theme park worth visiting is the Funabashi Andersen Park, inspired largely by Northern European countries (particularly Denmark). A park with a little something for everyone, here you can visit the beautiful “Fairytale Hill Zone” for a stroll among the flowers in bloom. The park also features a forest obstacle course, an animal interaction area, and even a pond to take a romantic boat ride.
4. Nakanoshima Ohashi (千葉県木更津市・中の島大橋)
Last but not least, a visit to the Nakanoshima Ohashi should be considered carefully, since in Japan, this is regarded as a Holy place. Located in Kisarazu City, and accessible by train or car, this bridge stands tall at a whopping 25 m over the water. It’s the highest overhead walkway in Japan, and carries an interesting legend.
It is said that if a man crosses the bridge with his girlfriend on his back, they will get married. For this reason, Nakanoshima Ohashi is a popular place to declare your serious intentions to your lover, or in some cases, even propose.
Our favorite budget-friendly things to do in Chiba
While venturing through Japan is a source of tremendous fun, and some unforgettable memories, it can also become quite a pricey endeavor. This is why smart travelers will want to weave some budget-friendly activities into their trip schedule. This way, you’re still enjoying the best that the Chiba Prefecture has to offer, without completely depleting your funds.
1. Sakura Mushroom Garden (佐倉きのこ園)
The Sakura Mushroom Garden is a great attraction, especially if traveling with children, as it doubles as an educational activity. Entry to the Garden itself is free of charge, and visitors can pick as many mushrooms as they want, and even cook them in a dedicated barbecue area.
This is a great Chiba activity to do while on a budget, since you only have to pay for the mushrooms you’ve picked, so you’re paying both for the activity itself, and for the meal in one go.
Tip: If you want to pick larger, more robust mushrooms, we strongly suggest planning an early visit.
2. National Museum of Japanese History (国立歴史民俗博物館)
While not exactly free of charge, entry to the National Museum of Japanese History is a modest 600 yen for adults (under $5), and free for kids. Like the mushroom garden, it’s popular among families, as it’s a budget-friendly activity that also doubles as an educational trip.
Learn about Japan from 37,000 years ago, and observe the Edo Bridge Hirokoji Model, a 3D model of the Sakura town (where the museum is located) from the Edo period.
If there's one thing Japan doesn't lack, it's temples and shrines. If you are interested in visiting more of these fascinating historical sites, check out our Ultimate Guide to Shrines and Temples in Tokyo to find out more!
3. Herb Garden Pocket (デートプラン)
Choshi City is the place to go for all flower-lovers, thanks to its gorgeous Herb Garden by the Sea - Herb Garden Pocket. Spread across 5,500-square meters, this immense herb garden allows you to wander through fields of lavender (and other plants) free of charge. You can also pick flowers here, with 20 flowers costing a small sum of 300 yen ($2), and learn more about the complex history and uses of herbs in the area.
4. Hasunuma Park Children's Square (ビッグウェーブ)
Looking to budget a trip with small children? Look no further. This popular family destination offers a full-scale go-kart course, mini running track, and a mini train. While admission and parking are free, you will have to pay for the rides themselves, but the Square has lots of discount ticket options.
5. Isumi Poppo-no-Oka (いすみ市, 千葉県, 日本)
Accessible from the Isumi Railway that runs between Ohara Station and Kazusa-Nakano Station, this egg farm doubles as a vintage train exhibition. A particular point of interest is the fact that information and ticket offices, as well as the shop, are housed in old train cars. Of course, entry is free, which makes this a fun, educational, and budget-friendly visit.
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Cultural Events in Chiba
Attending cultural events locally is a great way to learn more about the area you’re visiting, and about Japan, in general. This will make your visit more immersive, and strengthen your ties with the places you’ve visited. If you like, you can time your visit to Chiba to incorporate some of these events, or maybe you’re lucky enough to catch one randomly while there.
1. Katsuura Big Hina Doll Festival (ビッグひな祭り)
Over 20 years old by this point, the festival began when the city received thousands of hina dolls as a gift from Katsuura Town. Every year, between February 25th and March 3rd, 30,000 hina dolls are used to decorate the steps of the Tomisaki Jinja Shrine, and create a fun, colorful atmosphere.
2. Noda Mikoshi Parade (野田みこしパレード)
First celebrated in 1990, to mark 40 years since the municipality was established, this parade has grown into a beloved summer tradition. Celebrated on July 27th, the parade sees several mikoshi, or portable shrines, transported through the streets of Noda, amid the cheers of the crowd. The grand finale comes when the mikoshi intersect at the heart of the town.
3. Yawata Machi (八幡町)
Spanning across more than a thousand years, the Yawatammachi is by far the oldest festival in Chiba. Held annually in the Awa region, the festival sports mikoshi, as well as more Western-style festival floats from nearby shrines. The festival is held in September, on the weekend right before the Respect for the Aged Day (Sept. 19th).
4. Urayasu Matsuri (浦安三社祭)
The Urayasu Sanja Reitaisai is actually a joint festival, celebrated by three separate shrines (in Urayasu City, Seiryu, Toyouke, and Inari Shrine) that began when numerous mikoshi were donated to the shrines. This festival is a little rarer, as it’s only celebrated once every four years (same as the Summer Olympics) between the 17th and 19th of June.
5. Matsudo City Cherry Blossom Festival (まつだ桜まつり)
Celebrated in early April every year, this particular festival is a great occasion to celebrate the cherry blossom season in Matsudo City. While the town is filled with the wonderfully colorful trees, the best place to celebrate is along the Tokiwadaira Sakura-dori (meaning "cherry blossom road"), a road that’s 3 km long, and lined with cherry blossom trees on either side.
Chiba offers no shortage of fun things to do, ranging from the adrenaline-filled to the spiritual. This Prefecture in the nook of Tokyo offers a little something for everyone, regardless if you’re traveling as a couple, family, or even a solo traveler.
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