JSPS Quarterly
No.30 2009 Winter Topics

Introducing Japan: Chiba

By Dr. Zoya Viktorovna Efimova

Chiba Prefecture in Japan

During my fellowship tenure, I have traveled with my family to a lot of places around Chiba. We have developed a close affinity for this wonderful green land with its vast rice paddies, emerald hills and scenic coastline. In Chiba, we have also discovered the love that the Japanese people have for their country—everything that’s beautiful, historical or interesting is treated with great care and local pride. I am happy to introduce this dear land to you.

Chiba Prefecture is located on the Boso Peninsula to the east of the Tokyo metropolitan area. It’s said that humans first inhabited the peninsula some 30,000 years ago. Shell mounds from the Jomon period show that about 10,000 years ago the shoreline on the bay side of the peninsula cut much deeper into the land than it does now. During the period of the Kamakura shogunate, the Chiba samurai clan wielded power on the Chiba side of the bay. Chiba Prefecture was officially established in 1873, after the Meiji Restoration. Nowadays, about six million people live in the prefecture, which is one of Japan’s largest industrial centers while ranking second in agricultural production as well.

Despite its name, the Tokyo Disney Resort is located inside Chiba Prefecture. There are also many other great sightseeing spots to enjoy.

If you should go to Narita Airport to greet or see off someone, I’d recommend that you spend a couple of hours visiting the Narita-san park and temple complex, located just a train stop or two away from the airport. From the station, a picturesque avenue takes you by souvenir shops and restaurants serving authentic Japanese cuisine and local delicacies, such as unagi-no-kabayaki (broiled eel), en route to the park. At the center of this awesome park is the ancient AD 940-constructed Buddhist temple called Shinsho-ji, “new victory temple,” said to commemorate the defeat of the Kanto samurai Taira no Masakado, who led a rebellion against the central government in Kyoto. Millions of people from all over Japan go there to pray during the festive New Years holiday. The place has amazing sites to enjoy in other seasons as well: The blooming of sakura and beating of the drum festival in the spring and the blazing red of maple leaves in the fall are a couple of examples.

This summer, we discovered for ourselves the beautiful old town of Sawara. At its center is preserved an Edo period environment, so you can enjoy walking down streets full of traditional charm or if you’re lucky you might stumble across a film crew shooting an historical drama. Sawara is also famous for its Iris Festival. Many romantic young couples who want an unusual wedding ceremony choose to hold it in these public gardens enveloped in blooming irises.

Chiba’s Pacific coast is dotted with many traditional fishing villages, such as Onjuku, Katsuura, Ohara and Kamogawa. Many people are attracted to this coast by its rugged cliffs and roaring breakers. Another feature of the area, which we really enjoy, is Kamogawa Sea World with its performances by dolphins, sea lions, and killer whales.

Another great sightseeing venue is Nokogiriyama, “saw-tooth mountain.” It features a sprawling Buddhist temple site built across the top and sides of the mountain and cut into its walls and cliffs. You can hike all the way up the mountain or take the “rope-way” to the top. One of the mountain’s highlights is its lookout point called Jigoku-nozoki, “peering down into hell,” a narrow rock platform jutting over a sheer cliff. From the peak, winding paths lead you through the woods and hollows to Nihon-ji temple, built in 725. As you proceed further, you will encounter throngs of stone rakan (arhats), Buddhist practitioners, each with a different face and peculiar expression. Within the temple precincts, there is the largest sitting Buddha statue in Japan.

I hope you will have a chance to come to Chiba some day and experience firsthand its wonders and beauties.

Performance during drum festival in Narita Newlyweds riding a boat during Iris Festival in Sawara Jigoku-nozoki lookout point
Performance during drum festival in Narita Newlyweds riding a boat during Iris
Festival in Sawara
Jigoku-nozoki lookout point

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JSPS Quarterly No.30 2009