Tokyo’s calmer cousin.
Along Tokyo Bay sits Chiba City, the capital city of the prefecture it takes its name from. Despite it having a population of almost 1 million people, the city is not particularly well known. Its closeness to Tokyo makes it convenient with less of the crowds and expenses — whether you’re taking a weekend getaway to go see a concert or a day trip to chill in one of its expansive parks. There is lots to explore here.
Arriving at Chiba City
The biggest station is JR Chiba station, a stylish and modern hub only about 40 minutes from Tokyo station. You won’t have to go too far to explore the city because in addition to over 13 train lines, Chiba has its own monorail system. This suspended monorail, which is the world’s longest at 15.2 kilometers, is a fun and cheap way to get bird’s eye view of the city.
The station area has malls with stores for brand clothing, other goods (try Loft), and a number of cafes and restaurants. Some highlights include Beer O’Clock, which offers a hefty selection of modern craft beer and good eats. There’s also I Love Pizza, a neat homemade pizza shop with a 1950’s America aesthetic.
Everyone goes to Yoyogi park to see cherry blossoms, but if you’re looking ot skip the crowds, why not try one of Chiba’s spacious parks. The seaside Chiba Port Park has the elegant Chiba Port Tower and grassy knolls perfect to play frisbee or spreading out for a picnic.
It’s also a great place to host a cherry blossom viewing party in late March to April. Closer to Chiba station is Chiba Park where you can take in the fall colors with towering ginkgo trees bursting a golden yellow, or you can rent a rowboat to go around the lake. If you’re a flower lover, Aobanomori Park is for you. Yet another hotspot for cherry blossom viewing in the spring, the park also has sports facilities for tennis and baseball.
Sightseeing and entertainment
Beyond eye-catching greenspace, you can also venture out a little farther to Makuhari Messe in Kaihin Makurhari. Makuhari Messe is one of the largest convention centers in the Tokyo-Kanto area and hosts huge yearly events like the Tokyo Game Show in addition to other exhibitions and concerts from huge names such as Ariana Grande and Sakanaction.
Near the Messe is a number of fancy hotels and restaurants, as well as some shopping spots. An easily walkable area, its elevated walkways combined with the steel-and-glass architecture of almost all the buildings make the area feel like the upper-class zone of a cyberpunk dystopia. Also, Makuhari Messe is about a baseball throw away from the Chiba Marines baseball stadium, so you can take in a Japanese big league match up before you decide to leave town.
A few other attractions inculde:
Chiba Castle: This castle replica is not exactly a castle, but it is modeled after one and built on the grounds where Chiba Castle originally was. Nowadays, it is the Chiba Folklore Museum containing information and artifacts about the local history. Though English info here is quite limited, it’s great photo opportunity.
Harbor Circuit: If you feel like embracing your inner Vin Diesel, head to this indoor go-kart race track to let off some steam. (This place makes for a unique date spot, and don’t worry, you can get booze here, too!)
Survival Games/airsoft: Check out some cool outdoor airsoft fields in the city for those who want to delve into the fun and interesting subculture of survival games in Japan. Try SEALs (near the Chishirodaikita monorail station).
Chiba Zoo: Chiba Zoo has seven different areas of animals, but the biggest reason to go is that it is home to not just one but a whole family of adorable Red Pandas.
These are just a few highlights in the city, so to find even more, get out and explore!