Tokyo is a wonderful and amazing part of Japan to explore. But sometimes, the hustle and bustle of the city can get a bit overwhelming ?
But fear not my friends! Chiba is here to rescue you with its sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, its amazing theme parks, one of the best illumination events in the Kanto area and so much more. Chiba Prefecture is adjacent to Tokyo and easily accessible by train, making for a great place to go for an excursion! While perhaps being best known for being home to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea, did you know it also has beautiful beaches, mountainous regions and stunning parks? Dive into this article to explore the wonderful hidden gems waiting for you in Chiba ☺️
1. Enjoy an activity-filled family outing at Funabashi Andersen Park
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The Funabashi Andersen Park (also known as H.C. Andersen Park) ranks #3 among Japanese theme parks and #10 among Asian theme parks, according to TripAdvisor! There are five different zones in the park: Wanpaku Kingdom Park, Fairy Tale Hill Zone, Children’s Art Museum Zone, Castle of Flowers Zone and Nature Experience Zone.
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In Wanpaku Kingdom Park, hop onto one of Japan's largest obstacle courses, enjoy the rolling lawns, ride a pony, or visit the small animal petting zoo. There are also mini putter golf, wacky bicycles, and a mini train as well, so there is no way your kids can get bored here! The Fairy Tale Hill recreates the countryside of Denmark, where the world-famous fairy tale author H.C. Andersen was in the 1800s, as well as a windmill, the symbol of the park.
Want some more hands-on experience? Experience textiles, ceramics, dyeing, and prints at the Children’s Art Museum Zone. At the Castle of Flowers Zone, enjoy the garden of four seasons on a hill while the kids explore the "Kid's Garden" with its artwork and playground equipment based on Andersen’s fairytales. And last but not least, venture through woodlands and wetlands and spot some rice terraces in the Nature Experience Zone!
Address: 525 Kanehoricho, Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture 274-0054
*Park hours are occasionally extended to 17:00 during summer break. Closed every Monday except for holidays.
Admission Cost: 900 yen (General Admission). For children, the cost will be between 100 yen (for infants and children below 4 years old) to 600 yen (for high school students with student ID)
2. Spot (more!) beautiful flowers at Sakura Furusato Square along with a Dutch windmill!
If you are a fan of flowers, then definitely add this location to your list! There are various flower festivals at this park and those are the best times to visit. The Sakura Tulip Festa is held in April every year, the Windmill Sunflower Garden is in July and the Sakura Cosmos Festa takes place in October. If seeing an abundant number of sunflowers, cosmos and tulips aren’t enough, there is also a Dutch-style building called "Sanka flower (Suka kana)" with a Dutch windmill as well!
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There is also a 24-section shared garden where you can enjoy Dutch and Netherland gardens throughout the year while walking through a stunning path created by the calm breeze, similar to the Netherlands.
Address: 2714 Usuida, Sakura, Chiba Prefecture 285-0861
Hours: 9am-5pm every day but windmill operation time varies so please check their website ahead of your visit
Admission Cost: Free
3. Visit one of the three best winter illuminations in the Kanto area - Tokyo German Village!
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The Country Farm Tokyo German Village is a theme park, which is 27 times larger than Tokyo Dome! There are 5 different areas: a pond; field area and restaurant; kid's playground; an amusement facility area; and a farming area. And let’s not forget to include the endless number of flower gardens which include daffodils, roses and moss phlox. In winter, this area showcases one of the three largest illumination events in the Kanto area!
Among the facilities are ponds which have boating services, waterside park, roller coaster, sled hill, archery, trampoline and the list goes on an on! There is also an arcade and various other amusement park type rides including a Ferris wheel where if you are lucky, you can spot the famous Mt. Fuji! There is also a greenhouse, a gold field, and a huge farm where kids can go pet and run around with pigs, goats and rabbits among others.
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In winter, this area showcases one of the three largest illumination events in the Kanto area!
About 2 million LED lights will decorate the winter sky along with music and animation and of course food stalls! Every year, there is a different theme for the light up. This event takes place from the middle of November to the end of March so definitely go check it out! But don't worry, even if you miss the light show, you can still explore the beautiful grounds of the village. There's also a petting zoo that will a be great hit with the kids!
Address: 419 Nagayoshi, Sodegaura, Chiba Prefecture 299-0204
Hours: 16:00 to 20:00 (Last entry 19:30) | Illumination event only takes place from middle of November to March 31st but the rest of the facilities are open year-round
Admission Cost: 1500 yen for parking | No car entry: 500 yen per person.
4. Watch stunning scenery from the Sotobo train line and utilize the perks of Seishun 18 Special Railway Pass
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If you want to escape to a slower paced and relaxing environment, then hop on the Sotobo train line which will give you a nice view of rural Japanese life in the Boso Peninsula which is famous for its picturesque beaches and seasonal flower gardens. The Sotobo Line runs through fields of rice and flowers, then along the Pacific Ocean with its royal blue watercolour, ending in Kamogawa, a beach town with a beautiful national park. It’s such a majestic view and definitely not one to miss!
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Now, if you want to just enjoy the view on this train and hop on and off at an unlimited number of stations that spike your curiosity, then the Seishun 18 seasonal Japan Railway train pass is a very cheap option to take. It gives you access to unlimited rides on local and rapid trains on the Japan Railway (JR line) all over Japan! The ticket includes five tickets worth 2,370 yen per ticket that you can either use for five different days or split up for use by up to five people.
My husband and I used this pass to travel from Hiroshima to Tokyo during one of our winter vacations and it was totally worth it! We were able to stop and get out at any station that was of interest to us and resume our journey whenever we liked. And the best part was it was so cheap considering other modes of travel. The pass is available only during certain time periods so definitely plan ahead if you want to utilize it!
5. Surf on the second longest beach in Japan: Kujukuri Beach!
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In summer, head to Kujukuri beach as it is one of the best surfing spots in all of Japan and of course offers many other water sports. You can also feel winds from the Pacific Ocean in some parts of the beach and this also allows for the magnificent waves that surfers love.
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The beach is so long that you won’t be able to cover all of it one go! There is an endless horizon to the east and pine forest-topped cliffs to the west. At the northern edge, there is Cape Inubo, which offers stunning panoramic views of the ocean and a historic old lighthouse.
If you want to get a lazy, local feel, with funky surfer restaurants and fresh seafood, then this is the place to go! There are many other facilities on the beach including free showers so there is literally no excuse not to visit this stunning beach close so close to the city.
Address: Katakai, Sanbu-gun Kujukuri-machi, Chiba
6. Experience rural Japan at JR Chitose station
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If you are a fan of traditional Japanese houses and farming grounds, then definitely head to this place and take a walk around the area without a specific destination in mind. You will see a typical Japanese rural landscape that is so serene, beautiful and simple. It is the best place to rest your mind and enjoy a chit chat with the locals as they are super friendly and love to share their daily routines with tourists.
Last year, my husband and I visited this area and really enjoyed mingling with the locals that we came across while were exploring - we were so amazed at how welcoming they were.
And you can’t have a rural scene without farms, so if you are intrigued by rice fields, then you must visit this location as well to see the beautiful paddy fields that are everywhere but just keep in mind to go during the right season!
7. Mount Nokogiri
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Mount Nokogiriyama (which translates to Sawtooth Mountain) is named after a traditional Japanese saw, thanks to its interesting rock formations jutting out from it. This mountain holds a strong significance for the area, having been a quarry for stone excavation since the Edo period!
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You can take an easy hike to the top, or alternatively, there's also a cable car line going up the mountain which you could opt for too! Either way, you'll be awarded with some of the most amazing views of Chiba from the top. Don't miss the iconic Hell View observation point, set on a piece of rock jutting out, giving a view straight down from the mountain. There's also an ancient temple and giant Buddha statue carved in the mountain that you can explore in the area.
8. Sakura Castle Park
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Japan has no shortage of traditional-style castles, and Chiba is home to a fair number of them! But one that stands out has to be the ruins of Sakura Castle, located amidst a park filled with lush greenery and ponds. The castle dates back to the 17th century and illustrates vestiges of the period's splendour.
The park and the castle are most known for being one of the best places in Chiba to view cherry blossoms when they are in season - it's a popular place for a picnic too!
Address: Japan, 〒285-0017 Chiba, Sakura, Jonaicho
Opening Hours: 9am - 5pm daily
Now that you have some idea about these hidden gems in Chiba, I hope you do check them out! There is really something for everyone at all of these locations as they offer an endless number of unique activities, plenty of outdoor time and will be the best adventures to share with your loved ones!