Chiba Travel Guide: Attractions, Food Spots, Sceneries & More | CoolJapan

A 40-minute train ride from bustling Tokyo takes one to Chiba, a city that is best known for being home to Japan's famous Disney parks: Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea. Most people spend their time in these two world-renowned Disney theme parks without realising that Chiba is teeming with natural beauty and historical significance. For travellers who are fascinated with old-world charm and history, here are some interesting must-do activities in Chiba that will whisk you back to the glorious olden days of the Edo period. 

Relive nostalgia at Monzen-machi, an old temple town

People Walking On The Streets Of Monzen-machi

The picturesque streets of Monzen-machi. (Photo credit: na0905/CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr)

During the Edo Period, when pilgrimage was popular, the Japanese built quite a few "temple towns" near large shrines that catered to pilgrims and visitors passing through. These religious old towns, called Monzen-machi, were pretty much like any neighbourhood where one could find restaurants, accommodation inns and all types of product stores.

There are still some that exist, although more for tourism purposes now. A particularly well-maintained Monzen-machi can be found in Chiba, known as Naritasan Omotesando. This old town was developed around the historical Naritasan Shinshoji Temple and here, time seemed to have stood still. With its old wooden-structured shophouses, tiled sloping roofs and sliding doors, a stroll down the Monzen-machi road feels like a time warp.

Facade Of Naritasan Shinshoji

The Great Peace Pagoda of the Naritasan Shinshoji. (Photo credit: 三人日/CC BY-SA 4.0)

It is a unique experience to take a stroll along Naritasan Omotesando road and explore its many interesting shops. Far from being forgotten, this old temple road now boasts over 150 shops selling delectable street snacks, traditional local crafts, and restaurants that specialise in Chiba’s famed Unagi.

The quaint street ends at the impressive Naritasan Shinshoji Temple that has a history of more than 1,000 years. It is a hugely popular shrine and many Japanese come here to pray for business success and finding love. Even if you do not practise Buddhism, it is still a beautiful spot where you can soak in its tranquil atmosphere and take some incredible pictures.

Hands-on traditional arts and cultural activities at Boso No Mura Museum

Recreated Streets Of Buso No Mura

The recreated old streets of Buso No Mura.

Calling all history and culture buffs! This open-air interactive Japanese museum will get you all excited. Unlike the typical museum that are filled with galleries of information, the Boso No Mura Museum engages visitors through interactive activities instead.

You do not need a vivid imagination to envisage that you are being transported back to ancient times. This experiential museum has recreated an entire town that is reminiscent of old Japan, complete with old houses, samurai residences, farmhouses and even a Kabuki performance stage.

The Boso No Mura museum is popular with local schools as it encourages children to be exposed to the Japanese traditions of yesteryears. At the same time, it is also a fantastic place for both local and foreign tourists to visit. There are so many fun activities to partake in: from making soba noodles and rolling sushi to the art of Ukiyo-e woodblock printing. You can also cosplay in traditional costumes such as a Kimono or pretend to be a Samurai for a day.

If you would like to take a breather from the exciting activities, the premise also consists of an indoor museum that contains precious archaeological relics excavated from various parts of the Boso peninsula region. Do not miss the restored bone fossil of the Naumann elephant, a species native to the Japanese archipelago that went extinct about 20,000 years ago.

Have a taste of history at a 300-Year-Old sake brewery

Off the beaten tourist track in Chiba is the small town of Shisui, which fascinatingly got its name from popular folklore about a well that mysteriously spurts out sake.

True to its name, in this picturesque quiet countryside, there is a sake brewery with a history that goes back three centuries. The linuma Honke Brewery is an important piece of cultural heritage in Chiba city. Not only does the structure feature authentic mud walls that were built in the Edo period, but there are also displays of historical sake-making tools inside as well.

The long-standing stellar reputation of linuma Honke Sake Brewery is testament to the family’s dedication to their craft. Passing on the business for generations, the baton is proudly run by the 16th generation of the family today. But the sake it produces is far from being old-fashioned and boring. The owners realised that it is important to innovate, especially in this 21st century where younger consumers prefer tastes that are exciting. With quality remaining as the top priority, Iinuma Honke’s sake is sophisticated, fun and delicious.

Travellers visiting Chiba should stop by and join the highly recommended brewery guided tour. This insider experience about the complex sake-making process will allow you to better appreciate and enjoy the sake tasting session afterwards.

Take a boat ride down the memory lanes of the charming Sawara Canal

Houses Near Sawara Canal

The historic Sawara Canal.

Your adventures in Chiba would not be complete without a traipse to Sawara, an Edo-period town steeped in history. Located in the rural town of Katori, Sawara is a small historic town that used to be a prosperous merchant trading hub for rice. This is all thanks to the Sawara Canal which played a vital role in the transportation of rice and other heavy goods during the Edo Period.

Today, the heritage town that flanks the historical canal has become affectionately known as Koedo or Little Edo. Obviously, the main attraction of Sawara is no longer rice trading. Instead, it is the evocative old-world vibes that lure visitors by the dozen. Stepping into Sawara town is like entering a beautiful painting of an old Edo town.

There are plenty of historical buildings and centuries-old warehouses that have withstood the test of time and still stand well-preserved for visitors to explore. However, one of the best ways to experience this nostalgic old town is to take a slow boat ride through the alluring Sawara Canal.

It is easy to find local boat tour operators along the canal who operate traditional flat-bottom boats that were once used by merchants in the Edo period. Step onto these historical boats from the past and traverse the Sawara Canal’s shallow waters while passing under the most charming old wooden bridges.