How to Spend One Day in Chiba
Being a rural area close to Tokyo, Chiba prefecture often gets overlooked. For most, it usually pops onto the radar for two reasons: 1.) Tokyo Disney. Yup, Tokyo Disney isn’t actually located in Tokyo…it’s in Chiba and 2.) Narita International Airport. Although we are avid Disney fans and we never pass up an opportunity to hang with Mickey and his magical crew, Chiba is more than just an amusement park and a place to enter and exit Japan.
You can easily spend a full-day in the lush countrysides along the eastern coast of Tokyo Bay exploring and (for the most part) steering clear of the heavily beaten tourist path. The southwestern/south central portions of the peninsula in particular are absolutely beautiful. *This itinerary is best suited for those who have access to a vehicle. Everything described is accessible by public transport, but it would take significantly longer.
1. Travel to Chiba Prefecture
Chiba seems like a world away from the busy streets of Tokyo, but in reality it’s only about 80 minutes. Coming from Yokosuka, it’s about 1.5 hours (if you use the Aqualine which cuts underneath the bay) or 2 hours 15 minutes if you go the long way around to avoid tolls. Once you cross the bay, you will be greeted with lush mountains, winding roads, and beautiful coastlines on your way to Tateyama at the southern tip.
2. Visit Tsunerakuzan Mantoku Temple
Unlike many temples in Japan, Tsunerakuzan Mantoku does not have a main hall, but rather a very large reclining Buddha (the position in which the Buddha entered nirvana) nestled within a sea of greenery. At 16meters in length it is ~1/3 the size of the one located inside Wat Pho in Bangkok, Thailand, but regardless, this 30 ton bronze statue is still massive! Although youthful (built in 1982), this stop will certainly make you pause just to take it all in.
Being non-Japanese speaking foreigners and not Buddhist we were a bit confused on the proper protocol. Luckily the kind woman at the gate entrance explained through hand gestures what we were supposed to do. First, light the incense sticks and place them in the box in front of theBuddha. Next, follow the rectangular loop winding your way up until you reach the Buddha’s feet (i.e. circle the Buddha three times). Then bow, place your hands on the feet, and then pray. It is said that if you complete this ritual, you’re prayer will be heard.
- Hours: 0900 – 1700 (during winter the temple closes at 1600)
- Admission: 500yen/Adult, 400yen/University/High School Students, 100yen/Junior High School Students, 400yen/Senior Citizens (over 65years old)
- Parking: There is a free lot located at the bottom of a paved path that you may park in. Then just wind your way up following the paved path lined with bamboo. There you will find the temple, tucked away behind the trees.
3. Stroll the coast around Nojimazaki
From Tsunerakuzan Mantoku Temple head to the southern most tip of the Boso Peninsula where you’ll find Nojimazaki Lighthouse. Completed in 1870 by the Meiji Government, this lighthouse has historically been very important with the flow of ships into/out of Tokyo Bay. It was one of the first western style lighthouses built in Japan after the treaty of Edo opened the country to more western influence. Unfortunately, due to the destruction caused by the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, the original lighthouse had to be rebuilt.
As you walk towards the lighthouse you’ll see a lovely promenade. It takes you on a little stroll along the rugged coast, complete with some wonderful views. Afterwards you can head up into the lighthouse if you desire a larger panoramic picture of the area.
On our way back to the car, we strolled by the Shinto shrine, Itsukushima. It’s fairly small, but if you explore just a bit you’ll also stumble upon a smaller shrine dedicated to fertility complete with a very large carved wooden penis. Well, wasn’t expecting that! Our 5-year-old son thought it was a telescope, so yes…we just left it at that!
- Hours: 0900 – 1600 (October – April), 0900 – 1630 (May – September)
- Admission: 200yen/Junior High School Students and over
4. Visit Tateyama Castle in Shiroyama Park
A short drive away from the lighthouse will take you to Shiroyama Park where you’ll find Tateyama Castle perched on top of a large hill. The original castle was built during the 16th century, however was rebuilt in the 1980s. Halfway up the hill to the castle, you will find Hakkenden Museum, which is a history and folk museum dedicated to the way people lived and worked during the period.
- Hours: 0900 – 1645, closed on Mondays (or the Tuesday when a public holiday falls on a Monday) and December 29 – January 3
- Admission: 300yen/Adult, 150yen/Elementary through High School Students
- Parking: Free
5. Visit Daifukuji
Gake-no-Kannon (also known as Daifukuji) is a gorgeous temple built into a cliff. Founded in 717, the temple was used originally to pray for safety on the seas and a good catch by fisherman. Like many very old structures in Japan, it has been destroyed many times in the past by fire, earthquakes, and other natural disasters. The red main building you see today dates back to the 1920s, but recently underwent renovation. The view from the balcony in front of the temple overlooks the entire city and sea, which is well worth the short stair climb!
- Hours: 0800 – 1700 Monday through Sunday
- Admission: Free
- Parking: Free
6. Climb Mt. Nokogiri
End your day by hiking up lush Nokogiriyama, catching some ridiculous views from across Tokyo Bay and by exploring the grounds of Nihonji! This hike nails it when it comes to blending natural beauty with Japan’s rich spiritual past. We grade this hike as “easy” and think its perfection for families. Hop on over to our “Hiking Mt. Nokogiri” post for all the details.
- Hours: Daily, 0800 – 1800
- Ropeway: Runs every 15 minutes from 0900 – 1700 (February 16 – November 15) and 0900- 1600 (November 16 – February 15).
- Admission: 500yen/Adult (one way), 930yen/Adult (round trip), 250yen/Child (one way), 450yen/Child (roundtrip)
- Parking: Free lot at the bottom of the Nokogiriyama Ropeway
- Hours: 0800 – 1700
- Admission: 600yen/Adult (12yo and up), 400yen/Child (6 – 11yo)
7. Goodnight, Chiba