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Explore the Area Around Narita Airport! 6 Must-See Spots in Chiba

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Arriving at Narita Airport? Don’t miss out on the fun by rushing to Tokyo! Stick around for some great Chiba sightseeing.



Does the name "Narita Airport" make you think of Tokyo? Then you might be surprised to learn that the airport isn't in Tokyo at all, but in the neighboring prefecture of Chiba! Only one of the two "Tokyo airports" is actually in the city itself, and the tens of thousands of travelers who pass through Narita Airport each day and continue straight to Tokyo are missing out! Narita Airport's location in the northern part of Chiba Prefecture is surrounded by smaller towns with a less urban feeling, making it a great place to travel and see the sights. On your way into Japan, or perhaps at the end of your trip, spend a night or two near the airport and enjoy the temples and shrines, the samurai history and ancient archeology, the traditional kimono and tea ceremony, and even the sake breweries found around Narita Airport in Chiba!

① Visiting Sakae



Start your trip with a blast from the past! In the town of Sakae is a unique open-air museum called Boso no Mura (房総のむら), where visitors can stroll the streets of an Edo era (1603-1868) village. The museum aims to recreate a neighborhood from the Boso Region, adding a little local flair, and the buildings are a collection of restored historical structures and newer reproductions. Visitors can choose to rent one of any number of costumes from the dedicated Cosplay Annex, to wear while exploring, making the experience feel a lot like stepping out of a time machine. Walk down the paths and admire the old-fashioned storefronts and houses while wearing a beautiful kimono, a traditional samurai outfit, or even a ninja costume!



If you want to dive into the past and get a little more hands-on, Boso no Mura offers a number of workshops for traditional crafts and other special experiences. Stop in at the spacious tea house for the chance to try a tea ceremony and sip on a fresh cup of matcha.



Or pick up a hammer at the blacksmith's and craft your own little iron letter opener to bring home as a keepsake!

Boso no Mura (房総のむら)
Ryukakuji, Sakae, Imba District, Chiba
Hours: 9:00 – 16:30
Cosplay Rentals: 10:00 – 15:00 / Returns: ~16:00
Official Website (jp)

② Visiting Katori



While Boso no Mura recreates the whole old-fashioned atmosphere of Edo era Japan, many of the buildings lining the Ono River in the Sawara area of Katori are the real thing, adding old-fashioned elegance to the stone-paved streets. Thanks to the pretty buildings, quaint bridges, and the boats sliding by on the water, Katori is another great option for trying on a kimono and taking some lovely snapshots (although dressing up in a ninja costume might be a little out of place, here).



The Ja-Ja Bridge (officially Toyohashi Bridge) has been stretched over this part of the water for almost 300 years, and not only has it carried people and goods from one side to the other, but also water! Water once flowed through the lower part of the bridge, from a cistern on one bank to the rice paddies on the opposite side. Every 30 minutes, the water overflows from inside the bridge and spills into the river, with a noise that supposedly sounds like "jaa jaa," hence the bridge's nickname. The whole spectacle looks like a small waterfall!



Don't miss a chance to visit Hana Kanmuri around the corner, during your trip to Sawara! This little cafe is full of antique furniture and china coffee cups, and the shaved ice comes piled over sweet red beans in a globe of snowy white and green matcha powder.

Hana Kanmuri (茶屋花冠本店)
I-1902-4 Sawara, Katori, Chiba
Official Website (jp)



This final stop in Katori is a famous one. Katori Shrine isn't just important in Chiba Prefecture―it's the head shrine of the 400-or-so Katori shrines all around the country, and it's also one of the oldest shrines in Japan. The founding of Katori Shrine predates Japanese written history! The main shrine buildings aren't quite so ancient, but the main building is old for a Japanese shrine, built in 1700! The unusual black coloring of the building gives it an especially striking appearance.

Katori Shrine (香取神宮)
1697-1 Katori, Chiba
Official Website (jp)

③ Visiting Sakura



The City of Sakura is a city of samurai, and reminders are still scattered around the city for samurai lovers to find and enjoy. Of particular interest is Bukeyashiki-dori, a street with three "bukeyashiki" (武家屋敷), samurai residences, lined up in a row and open to the public.



The three houses were all built late in the Edo period, but the size and construction varies, based on the rank and wealth of the original owners. Visitors can peek into the open doors and see historic artifacts and period furniture, arranged to look like they might have when the houses were really inhabited by local samurai of the Sakura domain.



If you'd like to spend the day as a samurai yourself, there are tours that let you dress up with a katana at your hip, stroll through the samurai house gardens and the nearby Hiyodorizaka bamboo grove while dressed to the nines, and even practice a little sword-fighting!

Sakura Bukeyashiki (佐倉武家屋)
57 Miyakojimachi, Sakura, Chiba
Official Website (jp)

④ Visiting Shisui



Shisui is home to the Iinuma Honke Brewery, which was started by the Iinuma family 400 years ago, on a somewhat smaller scale. Throughout the Edo period and in the years since, their sake brewing operations have grown from a local project to a prominent brewery nationwide, although the traditions still remain.



Nowadays visitors can see the huge sacks of rice piled outside the brewery buildings, ready to be gradually turned into an aromatic sake, and spend the afternoon at the Iinuma Honke brewery cafe, Shisui Magariya.

Iinuma Honke (飯沼本家)
106 Mabashi, Shisui, Imba District, Chiba
Shisui Magariya Hours: 10:00 – 18:00
Official Website (jp)

⑤ Visiting Shibayama



For travelers who like to see sights off the beaten path, Shibayama comes highly recommended. Despite being so close to Narita Airport that planes rush past overhead every few minutes, the sightseeing attractions in Shibayama are quiet and relaxed, with few other visitors around.



The dramatic Nio Gate at Shibayama Nioson Temple (芝山仁王尊観音教寺) was built in 1869, and the sweeping flared roof still leaves an impression on all who pass through. But these days, many visitors enter the temple from the parking lot on the other side of the grounds, instead laying eyes first on the main temple building or the three-storied pagoda.

Shibayama Nioson Temple (芝山仁王尊観音教寺)
298 Shibayama, Sambu District, Chiba
Official Website (jp)



Shibayama Nioson Temple is popular in part thanks to the gallery inside the temple buildings, displaying a collection of haniwa (はにわ)―terracotta figures once buried in ancient tombs from the Kofun period, more than 1,500 years ago. But just a few minutes drive from the temple is an even more comprehensive museum devoted to Kofun artifacts, with dozens of haniwa on display in all shapes and sizes. Not only will you see bearded little terracotta men and sturdy terracotta horses, but the museum also has displays on what life was like for people living in the area during Kofun-era Japan, including a reproduction of a small shelter.

Shibayama Kofun Haniwa Museum (芝山古墳・はにわ博物館)
438-1 Shibayama, Sambu District, Chiba
Hours: 9:00 – 16:30 (closed Mondays)
Official Website (jp)

⑥ Visiting Narita



That's right, Narita Airport is actually named after the city of Narita! But Narita has had its own claim to fame since long before the airport: Naritasan Shinshoji Temple.



Founded over a thousand years ago, the Naritasan Shinshoji Temple was fairly rural and unimportant for hundreds of years, before Edo (modern-day Tokyo) became the capital. When Tokugawa Ieyasu, one of the three unifiers of Japan, moved the government of Japan to Edo, it was the abbot at nearby Naritasan Shinshoji who convinced him to convert to Buddhism. 



These days, the temple is especially popular on New Year's day, when visitors come for hatsumode (初詣) and pray for the new year. If you visit on just a normal weekday, you'll miss the unbelievable crowds, but with a little good timing, you might be able to sit in on the monks' daily prayers.

Naritasan Shinshoji Temple (成田山新勝寺)
1 Narita, Narita, Chiba
Official Website (en)



With so many visitors coming to see the temple over the centuries, the street leading up to the entrance has grown to cater to the crowds, and the steep slope is now lined with quaint shops and restaurants. For a snack, don't miss the freshly-grilled senbei rice crackers (煎餅), covered in a soy-based sauce for a burst of flavor. But for lunch or dinner, the go-to meal is unagi (うなぎ, freshwater eel), which the region is famous for. The eels are butchered fresh and cooked over fiery grills while being dipped into a sweet sauce―leaving the meat flavorful and succulent, eaten over a bed of rice. If you're getting ready to leave Japan, a luxurious meal of unagi might just be the perfect way to finish off a great trip!

Exploring Northern Chiba



From ancient temples and terracotta figures, to glimpses of a more recent past, the area around Narita Airport has more history than you might think. So next time you're passing through Narita, don't forget to stop and stay a while!

For more info and updates from Japan, check Japankuru for new articles, and don't forget to follow us on twitter, instagram, and facebook!

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      Hokkaido (北海道) is the northernmost of the four main islands that make up Japan. The area is famous for Sapporo Beer, plus brewing and distilling in general, along with fantastic snow festivals and breathtaking national parks. Foodies should look for Hokkaido's famous potatoes, cantaloupe, dairy products, soup curry, and miso ramen!

    • Niki, in south-west Hokkaido, is about 30 minutes from Otaru. The small town is rich with natural resources, fresh water, and clean air, making it a thriving center for fruit farms. Cherries, tomatoes, and grapes are all cultivated in the area, and thanks to a growing local wine industry, it's quickly becoming a food and wine hotspot. Together with the neighboring town of Yoichi, it's a noted area for wine tourism.

    • Niseko is about two hours from New Chitose Airport, in the western part of Hokkaido. It's one of Japan's most noted winter resort areas, and a frequent destination for international visitors. That's all because of the super high-quality powder snow, which wins the hearts of beginners and experts alike, bringing them back for repeat visits. That's not all, though, it's also a great place to enjoy Hokkaido's culinary scene and some beautiful onsen (hot springs).

    • Otaru is in western Hokkaido, about 30 minutes from Sapporo Station. The city thrived around its busy harbor in the 19th and 20th centuries thanks to active trade and fishing, and the buildings remaining from that period are still popular attractions, centered around Otaru Canal. With its history as a center of fishing, it's no surprise that the area's fresh sushi is a must-try. Otaru has over 100 sushi shops, quite a few of which are lined up on Sushiya Dori (Sushi Street).

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    • Consisting of six prefectures, the Tohoku Region (東北地方) is up in the northeastern part of Japan's main island. It's the source of plenty of the nation's agriculture (which means great food), and packed with beautiful scenery. Explore the region's stunning mountains, lakes, and hot springs!

    • Akita Prefecture is on the Sea of Japan, in the northern reaches of Japan's northern Tohoku region. Akita has more officially registered important intangible culture assets than anywhere else in Japan, and to this day visitors can experience traditional culture throughout the prefecture, from the Oga Peninsula's Namahage (registered with UNESCO as a part of Japan's intangible cultural heritage), to the Tohoku top 3 Kanto Festival. Mysterious little spots like the Oyu Stone Circle Site and Ryu no Atama (Dragon's Head) are also worth a visit!

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      Tochigi Prefecture's capital is Utsunomiya, known for famous gyoza, and just an hour from Tokyo. The prefecture is full of nature-related sightseeing opportunities year-round, from the blooming of spring flowers to color fall foliage. Tochigi also has plenty of extremely well-known sightseeing destinations, like World Heritage Site Nikko Toshogu Shrine, Lake Chuzenji, and Ashikaga Flower Park―famous for expansive wisteria trellises. In recent years the mountain resort town of Nasu has also become a popular excursion, thanks in part to the local imperial villa. Tochigi is a beautiful place to enjoy the world around you.

    • Tokyo (東京) is Japan's busy capital, and the most populous metropolitan area in the world. While the city as a whole is quite modern, crowded with skyscrapers and bustling crowds, Tokyo also holds onto its traditional side in places like the Imperial Palace and Asakusa neighborhood. It's one of the world's top cities when it comes to culture, the arts, fashion, games, high-tech industries, transportation, and more.

    • The Chubu Region (中部地方) is located right in the center of Japan's main island, and consists of 9 prefectures: Aichi, Fukui, Gifu, Ishikawa, Nagano, Niigata, Shizuoka, Toyama, and Yamanashi. It's primarily famous for its mountains, as the region contains both Mt. Fuji and the Japanese Alps. The ski resorts in Niigata and Nagano also draw visitors from around the world, making it a popular winter destination.

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    • Aichi Prefecture sits in the center of the Japanese islands, and its capital city, Nagoya, is a center of politics, commerce, and culture. While Aichi is home to major industry, and is even the birthplace of Toyota cars, it's proximity to the sea and the mountains means it's also a place with beautiful natural scenery, like Saku Island, Koijigahama Beach, Mt. Horaiji. Often used a stage for major battles in Japanese history, Sengoku era commanders like Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu left their own footprints on Aichi, and historic buildings like Nagoya Castle, Inuyama Castle, and those in Meiji Mura are still around to tell the tale.

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    • SHIZUOKA

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      Shizuoka Prefecture is sandwiched between eastern and western Japan, giving the prefecture easy access to both Tokyo and Osaka. Not only is it known for beautiful natural attractions, with everything from Mount Fuji to Suruga Bay, Lake Hamanako, and Sumata Pass―Shizuoka's Izu Peninsula is known as a go-to spot for hot springs lovers, with famous onsen like Atami, Ito, Shimoda, Shuzenji, and Dogashima. Shizuoka attracts all kinds of travelers thanks to historic connections with the Tokugawa clan, the Oigawa Railway, fresh eel cuisine, Hamamatsu gyoza, and famously high-quality green tea.

    • Kansai (関西) is a region that includes Mie, Nara, Wakayama, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, and Shiga Prefectures. Kansai contained Japan's ancient capital for hundreds of years, and it's making a comeback as one of the most popular parts of Japan. Kyoto's temples and shrines, Osaka Castle, and the deer of Nara are all considered must-sees. Plus, the people of Kansai are especially friendly, making it a fun place to hang out.

    • Kyoto flourished as the capital of Japan between the years 794 and 1100, becoming a center for poilitics and culture, and to this day it's a great place for close encounters with Japanese history. The cobbled streets of Gion, the atmospheric road to Kiyomizudera Temple, Kinkakuji's golden walls and countless historic attractions, even Arashiyama's Togetsukyo Bridge―Kyoto is a place of many attractions. With new charms to experience throughout the seasons, travelers can't stop themselves from returning again and again.

    • Nara Prefecture's important history reaches back to 710, a time now called the Nara era, when it was once capital of Japan. Called "Heijo-kyo" during its time as a capital, it's said that nara was once the end of the silk road, leading it to flourish as a uniquely international region and produce important cultural properties of all kinds. To make the most of each season, travelers head to Nara Park, where the Nara deer who wander freely, or climb Mount Yoshino, a famous cherry blossom spot.

    • Osaka is known for friendly (and funny) people, but its history is nothing to laugh at, playing a major part in Toyotomi Hideyoshi's 16th century unification of Japan. Thanks to long years of economic activity, it's one of Japan's biggest cities, and Osaka's popular food culture earned it the nickname "The Kitchen of the Nation." To this day Osaka is the model of western Japan, and alongside historic structures like Osaka Castle, it also has major shopping malls like Umeda's Grand Front Osaka and Tennoji's Abeno Harukas. Osaka is a place to eat, eat, eat, with local specialties like takoyaki, okonomiyaki, and kushi-katsu, and for extra fun, it's home to Universal Studios Japan.

    • CHUGOKU

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      The Chugoku Region (中国地方) consists of five prefectures: Hiroshima, Okayama, Shimane, Tottori, and Yamaguchi. In Chugoku you’ll find the sand dunes of Tottori, and Hiroshima’s atomic bomb site, plus centers of ancient history like Grand Shrine of Izumo.

    • HIROSHIMA

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      Hiroshima Prefecture has everything, from world heritage sites to beautiful nature and delicious local cuisine, and it's either an hour and a half from Tokyo by plane, or four hours by train. Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island and the Atomic Bomb Dome, two Hiroshima UNESCO sites, are famous around the world, but in Japan it's also famous for food. Seafood from the Seto Inland Sea, especially oysters, Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, and Setouchi lemons are all popular, and the natural scenery alone is worth seeing.

    • SHIKOKU

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      On the other side of the Seto Inland Sea opposite Japan’s main island, Shikoku (四国) is a region made up of four prefectures: Ehime, Kagawa, Kochi, and Tokushima. The area is famous for its udon (in Kagawa), and the beautiful Dogo Onsen hot springs (in Ehime).

    • Kagawa Prefecture is on the northern part of the island of Shikoku, facing Japan's main island and the Seto Inland Sea. It's known for being the smallest prefecture in Japan, by area, but at the same time Kagawa is called the "Udon Prefecture" thanks to its famous sanuki udon. Aside from Kotohiragu Shrine and Ritsurin Garden, the prefecture's small islands are popular, and Kagawa is full of unique destinations, like Angel Road. They say that if you lay eyes on Zenigata Sunae, a huge Kagawa sand painting, you'll never have money troubles ever again.

    • Located in the most southwestern part of Japan, Kyushu (九州) is an island of 7 prefectures: Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Oita, Miyazaki, and Kagoshima. The island's unique culture has been influenced by Chinese and Dutch trade, along with missionaries coming in through Nagasaki's port. Modern-day travelers love the lush natural scenery and fresh food, plus the natural hot springs found all throughout the area (thanks to volcanic activity)!

    • FUKUOKA

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      Fukuoka Prefecture has the highest population on the southern island of Kyushu, with two major cities: Fukuoka and Kitakyushu. Thanks to growing transportation networks, Fukuoka is more accessible than ever, and so are the many local attractions. On top of historical spots like Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, travelers shouldn't miss Fukuoka's food scene, with motsu nabe (offal hotpot), mentaiko (spicy cod roe), and famous Hakata ramen―best eaten from a food stall in the Nakasu area of Hakata. Plus, it's full of all sorts of destinations for travelers, like trendy shopping centers, and the beautiful nature of Itoshima and Yanagawa.

    • KAGOSHIMA

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      Kagoshima Prefecture played a major role in Japan's modernization as a backdrop for famous historical figures like samurais Saigo Takamori and Okubo Toshimichi, who pushed Japan out of the Edo era and into the Meiji. Because of that, Sengan-en Garden is just one of many historical destinations, and when it comes to attractions Kagoshima has plenty: the active volcano of Sakurajima, popular hot springs Ibusuki Onsen and Kirishima Onsen, World Heritage Site Yakushima Island, even what Japan calls the "island closest to heaven," Amami Oshima. Kagoshima might be found on the very southernmost tip of the southern island of Kyushu, but there's plenty to see.

    • OKINAWA

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      The island chain of Okinawa (沖縄) makes up the southernmost tip of Japan, which is why it's also the most tropical area in the country. Thanks to a history of independence and totally distinct political and cultural events, Okinawa has a unique culture, and remnants of the Ryukyu Kingdom are still visible all over the islands. Food, language, traditional dress, it's all a little different! It's also said to be the birthplace of karate.

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