Day-tripping in Tokyo's backyard
There’s a lot more to Japan’s international gateway than you might expect.
Landing at Narita International Airport just about sums up most visitors’ experience of Chiba prefecture, located approximately 60 kilometers east of central Tokyo, yet the region is full of little-known gems that make for a great day trip away from the city.
Chiba’s best known attraction is Tokyo Disney Resort. Made up of two theme parks; Tokyo Disneyland, catering to families and couples, and Tokyo DisneySea, geared more towards thrill-seekers and beer-drinkers, the resort is in Urayasu city about 30 minutes from central Tokyo. There’s also a heliport in Urayasu from where you can take a once-in-a-lifetime helicopter cruise over the city skyline.
Chiba is blessed with an attractive coastline that in the summer sees Tokyoites arriving in droves to enjoy the wide sandy beaches, high-quality surf and laid-back atmosphere on offer. July and August is when the beaches and surrounding towns really come alive. Bars, restaurants, shops and marine activities become widely available for the weekend urban crowds. The most popular beaches are Onjuku, Nakazato and Kujukuri-hama, though there’s plenty of room for exploration along Chiba’s 500-plus kilometer coastline.
For some great hiking, head to Nokogiriyama or “Saw mountain” which boasts spectacular cliff views overlooking Tokyo Bay. A ropeway takes you to the first of several panoramic lookout points, including the ironically photogenic Jigoku Nozoki or “Hell-view”, and there are several trails in and around the Nihon-ji temple and grounds.
If you have some time to kill around the airport, the Narita Shinshoji Temple is a historic temple complex in nearby Narita city. Narita Omotesando, a vibrant street with picturesque shops and restaurants winds all the way up to the temple grounds. In early July, the area draws hundreds of thousands of spectators to see its impressive float parade during the Narita Gion Matsuri.
Chiba is also big on golf, with a number of accessible courses scattered throughout the prefecture, some with English-speaking services.