How many times have you heard or uttered the phrase, 'There's nothing to do in Chiba.' Well, surprisingly, if you dig a little deeper, the area offers an abundance of nature and a taste of traditional Japanese life. Located just to the east of the Tokyo metropolitan area, the prefecture is surrounded by sea and rivers on all four sides, giving way to picturesque landscapes and the pick of quality produce. Within 90 minutes from Tokyo you can be wandering amongst lush rice fields or surfing sandy beaches. Here are our top ten things to do...
The ultimate Chiba top ten
Brown's Field Farm is run by US-born photojournalist Everett Kennedy Brown and his wife Deco Nakajima. At their Rice Terrace Café they serve up wholesome Japanese food prepared following the theory of macrobiotics. Choose from an all-vegan menu with a focus on fermentation including homemade miso, soy sauce, umeboshi (dried salt plums), amazake (fermented rice) and pickled vegetables. The farm's own unpolished organic rice is worth the visit alone. If you want to stay overnight, they offer cottage accommodation from ¥7,000 per person per night.
Contact: 1501-1 Kuwada, Misakicho, Isumi-shi, Chiba. 0470 87 4501. brownsfield-jp.com/cafe. Fri, Sat, Sun & hols 11am-5pm (last orders 4.30pm). From Tokyo Station, take the Sobu rapid train to Chiba Station, then change to the Sotobo line to Chojamachi Station.
Contact: 4-4-3 Kunugiyama, Kamagaya-shi, Chiba. kamagayasikankounougyoukumiai.info. 047 385 5071. 9am-5pm (Aug 25 to mid-Oct). ¥1,000, children aged 3 to 5 ¥600. From Tokyo Station, take the Joban line to Matsudo Station, then take the Shin-Keisei line to Kunugiyama Station, five minutes' walk.
Contact: 110 Noda, Noda-shi, Chiba. 04 7123 5136. kikkoman.com/en/shokuiku/factory.html. 9am-3pm, closed 4th Mon of the month & hols. Free entry. From Akihabara Station, take the Tsukuba Express to Nagareyama-Otaka-No-Mori, then take the Tobu Noda line to Nodashi Station, three minutes' walk.
Contact: Nokogiri Yama Ropeway, 4052-1 Kanaya Futtsu-shi, Chiba. 0439 69 2314. mt-nokogiri.co.jp/pc/p130000.php. Round trip ¥930, children aged 6 to 11 ¥450. From Tokyo Station, take the Sazanami special express train to Hamakanaya Station.
Kozaki is a small town located in the northeastern part of Chiba. What’s special about this little nook is that it has exceptionally high quality groundwater, which leads to the production of superior rice, which then translates to excellent sake. So much so that the annual Kozaki Sakagura Matsuri (Kozaki Sake Brewery Festival) attracts more than 30,000 visitors each year. One of the more interesting breweries in the area is Terada Honke. Using their own organically grown rice, Terada Honke has been brewing sake for more than 330 years. The sake is made according to the ancient Kimoto method, which relies on natural micro-organisms inhabiting the air to ferment the rice. The best time to visit is during the Kozaki Sakagura Matsuri, held every March. Several breweries in the area open their doors and the sake is free flowing.
Contact: 1964 Kozakihonshuku, Kozaki-machi, Katori-gun, Chiba. 0478 72 2221. teradahonke.co.jp/english.htm. Take the Sobu line to Sakura (Chiba) Station, then change to the Narita line (Sakura-Choshi) to Shimousa-Kozaki Station, 20 minutes' walk.
Oyama Senmaida are the only rice fields in Japan that are grown with only rainwater, and are known for their beautifully curved ridges. These patchwork-like paddies really are a sight to behold and represent the traditions of Japanese farming. To watch the sun set over 375 terraced fields, which form a kind of amphitheatre on the hillside of Kamogawa, is truly spectacular. The fields are also lit up after dark from mid-October through early January every year.
Contact: 540 Hiratsuka, Kamogawa-shi, Chiba. 04 7093 3800. Tourism info here. From Tokyo Station, take the Wakashio express train to Awa-Kamogawa Station. Then catch a bus bound for Hiratsuka Hongo Iki or Tokyowan Ferry Iki and get off at Kamanuma Bus Stop (about 30 minutes), then walk for about 20 minutes.