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att. Travel - Chiba
att. Travel - Chiba
You are here: att.JAPAN > Travel Guide > Chiba
att.JAPAN Issue 43, November 2008


Narita International Airport, a gateway to Japan, is located in Chiba Prefecture. Chiba is warm even in winter. Interesting sightseeing places are dotted throughout the prefecture. Here three tours are introduced, featuring history, soy sauce and nature.

 Historical Tour in Narita and Sawara
Narita developed as a temple town in front of Shinsho-ji Temple in Naritasan, which was established in the mid 10th century. In 1978, Narita International Airport was opened here. Since then, more and more foreign flight crews and tourists are seen in the town and more and more shops and places have become popular among foreigners. Narita Kankokan (°»Tourism Center°…) is located in front of the Shinsho-ji Temple. Tea ceremonies are held here in English every Thursday afternoon.

Sawara town also has a long history. In the Edo period (1603-1867), Sawara thrived as a commercial town. As an important distribution center for products shipped on the Tone River and its tributary, the Ono River, markets were held and merchants gathered in Sawara. Brewing of sake, soy sauce and miso were launched here in the Edo period and has continued down to the present day. Because it was a commercial town, the town had a free and energetic atmosphere, and the cultural level of heads of merchant families was high. Ino Tadataka (1745-1818), who created the first detailed and accurate maps of all Japan, was born in Kujukuri, Chiba Prefecture, and was adopted into the Ino Family that ran a brewery in Sawara. Impressive merchant houses and storehouses from more than 100 years ago still stand along the Ono River, which reminds visitors that Sawara was called °»Little Kyoto.°…

- Shinsho-ji Temple
This temple is the head temple of the Shingon sect of Buddhism. A total of 10 million people visit the temple including three million during the three days from January 1st through 3rd. An 800-meter approach continues from Narita Station to the Sanmon gate. The Narita Gion Matsuri festival takes place in early July every year and portable shrines and floats parade in the town. In the Edo period, the first Ichikawa Danjuro, who was a famous kabuki actor, prayed for a child at the temple and had his prayers answered. That°«s why he decided to use °»Narita-ya°… as his stage name.

- Suigo Sawara Dashi Kaikan (Float Museum)
The Sawara Festival takes place twice every year, in summer and autumn. Ten floats are paraded in summer and another 14 floats are displayed in autumn. Gorgeous floats decorated with large dolls are on display in this museum.

- Boat Tours in Sawara
Old buildings along the Ono River also can be seen from boats. Ino Tadataka lived for about 30 years in the old Ino Tadataka residence, of which the main building and shop are preserved. Nakamuraya store°«s building was built in 1855 and a building of the tsukudani (food boiled down in sweetened soy) food shop Shojo was built in 1832.

- Katori Jingu Shrine
This old shrine is said to have been originally established more than 2,600 years ago and it is one of the most venerable shrines in Japan along with Kashima Jingu Shrine in Kashima, Ibaraki Prefecture. As the god of war is enshrined within, many warlords and also the Imperial family worshipped at this shrine. Documents recording that warlords such as Minamoto no Yoritomo in the 12th century and Ashikaga Takauji in the 14th century donated money to the shrine are preserved. Sawara was also a temple town (shrine town) of Katori Jingu.

 Soy Sauce Tours in Noda and Choshi
Speaking of soy sauce, Noda and Choshi are famous places in Japan. However, soy sauce was originated in Wakayama Prefecture, western Japan. In the Kamakura Era, Zen monk Kakushin came back from training in China in the 13th century and became the chief priest of Saiho-ji Temple in Wakayama Prefecture. He taught locals how to make miso, a delicious preserved food, which he brought back from China. When local people ineptly made sloppy miso, with too much water, they tasted the top clear layer of liquid and found it was very delicious. This liquid is said to be the origin of soy sauce. The soy sauce called °»tamari shoyu°… was developed in western Japan, mainly favored by monks and warriors in Kyoto. Later, tamari shoyu was delivered to the Kanto area. Noda and Choshi flourished as production centers of soy sauce because they were close to Edo, which is now Tokyo, and thus had a huge population of consumers, and because water transportation on the Tone River was well developed,

The history of Noda soy sauce dates back to the mid-16th century when Iida Ichirobe in Noda made tamari shoyu for the Takeda family, powerful warlords of Yamanashi Prefecture. Some 90 years later, in the Edo period, a full-fledged soy sauce industry took root in Noda. Ingredients of soy sauce including soy beans, wheat and salt were delivered to Noda via the Edo and Tone rivers, and the humid climate was good for making soy sauce. The Takanashi and Mogi families, who founded a forerunner of the later Kikkoman Cooperation, launched their business in the 17th century.

Fishermen from Wakayama seeking good fishing grounds for sardines arrived at Choshi. Before long they were thriving thanks to bumper sardine catches, and people in Choshi started soy sauce businesses with the accumulated cash. Choshi was also a transshipment station of goods to Edo. With a fine climate that it is cool in summer and warm in winter and wonderful scenery, Choshi has long been a favorite place of many writers and artists. The New Year's earliest sunrise can be seen from Choshi.

- Kanto vs. Kansai
In the early Edo period, Kansai (western Japan) style flavor, which generally means blander than that of Kanto (around Edo), was favored and the tamari shoyu from Kansai was preferred. With time, as Edo food culture became more established, °»koikuchi shoyu,°… which is a thicker, richer soy sauce originated in Kanto, started to be produced. Koikuchi shoyu gradually began to be favored by people and the position of the two types was reversed in the late Edo period. The Tokubgawa government awarded the soy sauce produced in Kanto with the appellation °»supreme soy sauce°… in 1864. Noda Shoyu Company was founded in 1917 and later it changed the name to Kikkoman, becoming a leading company of the soy sauce industry and one which proudly continues to produce soy sauce, the all-purpose seasoning of Japan, down to the present day.

- Noda Soy Sauce Walking Tour
Noda is a kind of theme park of soy sauce. As a train approaches Nodashi Station on the Tobu Noda Line, the smell of soy sauce is wafted on the air. Large silos of Kikkoman can be seen from the station. The town is full of black board fences, brick soy sauce storehouses, and stately mansions of families who succeeded in the soy sauce business. Kikkoman Monoshiri Shoyu-kan, a museum, is in the site of the factory. It offers a wealth of knowledge about soy sauce including the production process and the history of soy sauce. Observation of a part of the factory is available. There is a castle-like building near the Edo River: this is Goyogura storehouse where soy sauce for the Imperial Household Agency is brewed. Seeing inside, alas, is not permitted. However, Rengagura, a storehouse made of brick, is available for viewing and a natural brewing process is used to produce soy sauce in this building. Tools actually used for soy sauce brewing and materials related to soy sauce are on display at Noda City Museum. There are also several rice cracker shops in the town.

- Soy Sauce Tours in Choshi
Riding on Choshi Dentetsu Railroad in Choshi is recommended. It runs through 6.4-km stretch with ten stations, including Nakanomachi Station where there are soy sauce factories, Ashikajima Station that is near bathing beaches and Inubo Station that is close to the lighthouse. Visitors can observe the actual manufacturing process and tanks at Yamasa Soy Sauce Factory. Old tools and containers used for soy sauce making in an earlier are on display at Higeta Soy Sauce Museum.

- Cape Inubozaki
Located at the east end of the Choshi Peninsula, jetting into the Pacific Ocean and surrounded on three sides by water, Cape Inubozaki offers a dynamic view of breaking waves at rock reefs. Inubozaki Lighthouse stands at the tip of the cape.?

 Grand Nature and Ocean
Tateyama is one of the most popular places in the southern part of Boso Peninsula and also a base for traveling around in southern Boso. Its shallow beachs with white sand makes it a popular bathing resort. The Satomi clan, who were made famous in °»Nanso Satomi Hakkenden°… (°»The Biographies of Eight Dogs°…), a popular novel written by Takizawa Bakin (1767-1848), contributed to the establishment and development of this area. Tateyama Castle was built by the ninth generation family head, Satomi Yoshiyasu (1573-1603). Tateyama has boasted a prosperous fishing industry from a long time ago, especially bonito fishing.?

From Tateyama to the °»Flower Line°…: Seasonal flowers such as tulips, rape blossoms, roses, carnations, stocks, irises, camellias, Chinese milk vetches, hydrangeas, and rosemaries can be seen throughout the year.

Katsuura and Kamogawa along the coastline are good places for leisure and offer picturesque scenery. Katsuura is one of the major fishing ports in Chiba Prefecture. It is a base for coastal as well as deep-sea fishing and especially bonito fishing is famous in this area. The irregular coastline creates a wealth of scenic spots. A morning market has been held for over 400 years. Kujukuri-hama is a 66-km arc-shaped stretch of seashore and has been well loved as a coastal resort from long ago. Now many surfers come to enjoy surfing.

As for inland areas, the Yoro River has eroded both its banks and created Yoro Canyon. This canyon is a popular place for ayu (sweetfish) fishing and hiking. Autumn leaves can be seen until early December, which is the latest in the Kanto area. Awamata Waterfall at the Yoro Canyon falls some 30 meters and is the largest waterfall in the Boso Peninsula. Chiba is a good place for outdoor activity lovers.

Useful ticket: °»Minami Boso furii kippu°… (Southern Boso free ticket) is useful when visiting from Tokyo and touring this area by train and bus. The admission fee is discounted at some facilities. Tickets are valid for three days from the date of purchase.

- Mount Nokogiri
This is a 329-meter rock mountain. Although it has hiking trails, visitors can easily reach the top by cable car if they wish. Views from the top are breathtaking. Jigoku-nozoki, or °»Look down at Hell,°… at the verge of a steep cliff is scarily thrilling. There are 1,553 stone Buddhist statues carved into strange-shaped rocks at Sengohyaku Rakan-do (°»One thousand and five hundred arhats street°…) in Nihon-dera Temple near the summit.

- Mother Ranch
Rape blossoms in spring and salvias and cosmoses in autumn are beautiful for sightseeing at this huge ranch. Visitors can enjoy a sheep shearing show, a grand sheep parade, cow milking and a piggy race. It also has accommodations for overnight stays.

- Flower Line
A 17-km long road from Sunosaki Lighthouse to Cape Nojima along the coast is known as Boso Flower Line. Thanks to the mild climate, flowers such as stocks, rape blossoms, calendulas, marguerites and poppies are in full bloom as early as in mid-December and tell of the arrival of spring before too long. The best season is from December to April.

- Kamogawa Sea World
Looking out on the Pacific Ocean, this is a marine park where visitors can see sea animals from all over the world. Performances by dolphins, killer whales, beluga whales (white whales), and sea lions are a must-see.

- Niemonjima Island
This island 4 km around just off the coast in the Pacific Ocean is the largest island in Chiba Prefecture. It has a legend that famous warlord Minamoto no Yoritomo, who was defeated in a battle, was given help by Niemon here in 1180. Since then, only the lineal descendants of Niemon only have continued living on the island. The current owner of the island is the 38th generation. Seeing historical spots and sea bathing can be enjoyed. It takes five minutes by boat from Futomi fishing port.

- Amatsu Kominato
Saint Nichiren, founder of the Nichiren Sect of Buddhism, was born in Amatsu Kominato and there are many old temples and places related to him and his legacy. According to a traditional story, in 1264, when Nichiren chanted a Buddhist sutra facing the sea, words of the chant appeared floating on the waves and numerous sea breams gathered to eat the words at Tai no Ura. Since then, local people have believed sea breams were incarnations of Nichiren and have fed and protected sea breams for more than 700 years. A pleasure cruise allows visitors to observe schools of sea bream swimming near the ocean surface, which is quite an unusual phenomenon because sea breams are deep-sea creatures by nature.

- Katsuura Undersea Observatory
An observation tower, which is 24.4 meter high and which has a depth of eight meters, stands off the western tip of Katsuura. It has 24 windows at a depth of six meters and allows visitors to observe sea creatures in the sea. The area around the tower is a marine park.

- Yoro Onsen
This is a representative spa in Chiba Prefecture. Natural gas began welling up near a private house in 1912 and a mineral spring was found at a well two years later. Most water is dark brown in color, but there are also clear and colorless water sources.

Chiba boasts delicious foods from mountains and sea. For example, bonito, iseebi (Japanese spiny lobster), abalone, turban shell, Japanese littleneck, sardine, peanuts, loquats, bamboo shoots, strawberries, and so on. °»Namero°… is a dish in which fresh flesh of horse mackerel or sardine is minced and mixed with miso, minced ginger and green onion. Its fresh ingredients make the dish delicious.

Chiba has various charms, such as historical towns, scenic beauty spots and tasty food. Why not visit ? its sure to be fun!

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Chiba Prefecture


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