08 Jun 2015

On a budget? Thinking of visiting Chiba? Or, just simply looking for things to do close to the airport? then look no further, as we've carefully selected the top four free attractions in the area around Narita Airport. Here, you can enjoy your final days in Japan before you disembark, or take a memorable day trip to the Chiba area:

Sakura-no-Yama Park

Four Free Sights in Chiba

(image by flickr.com)

Sakura-no-Yama of Narita City is a park situated on a small hill to the north of a 4000-meter runway at Narita Airport. It’s popular for being able to see the departure and arrival of airplanes at close range. You can also enjoy the rare sights of seeing the moment when the tires of a plane at takeoff tuck into the fuselage with the white steam coming off the wings. You will feel like cheering when the plane goes over your head as it roars by. It’s also spectacular when a plane approaches for arrival close enough so that you can almost touch it. Being able to see all kinds of planes is just one of the attractions. 73 airline companies service Narita Airport involving 91 cities overseas and 11 cities within Japan for a total of 102 cities. It’s also fun to take photos of jumbo jets and airbuses and foreign airplanes with their colorful bodies and unique designs along with the flowers throughout the four seasons. In the lush green park, 350 cherry trees are planted and with the multicolored flower fields, they are visited by many people in the spring.  

Admission: Free

Guidebook from Planetyze about Sakura-no-Yama Park
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Sakura-no-Yama Park
Tours of Sakura-no-Yama Park

Naritasan Park

Four Free Sights in Chiba

(image by flickr.com)

Naritasan Park is a garden in a hilly area at the back of the Great Main Hall of Shinsho-ji Temple. It is a resting area for visitors with a Western-style garden, 3 ponds, a waterfall and other features. Inside the park is the Naritasan Calligraphy Museum which exhibits works and information dating from the late Edo Era to the present day. Furthermore, to the side of the museum is a suikinkutsu (buried earthen jar) which is a feature of Japanese garden ornamentation from the Edo Era. The water overflows from the hollows in the bedrock and the sound from it dripping into the jar echoes in all four directions.  

Naritasan Park has created a landscape filled with spirit only found in a Japanese garden that spans the four seasons. Established in 1928, the trees of the park that have lived for more than 80 years have grown wonderfully and are approaching maturity. In spring, there are the cherry blossoms but in addition, there are the approximately 500 red plum and white plum trees that average around 50 years of age. Annually for 2 weeks from late February, there is a plum blossom festival held with events also happening on the weekends. Starting from traditional musical performances featuring shamisen, koto and other Japanese instruments, you can also partake in the tea ceremony and have a drink of amazake for free. During the season when the fall colors are out in November, about 250 trees including maple, oak and gingko are painted in red and yellow, and they are reflected on the surface of the 3 ponds in the park. 10,000 visitors a day come for the Autumn Colors Festival. Tea ceremonies are held in the park teahouse, Sekishoan, and anyone can participate for free. People trying the tea ceremony for the first time are more than welcome, so you will want to take advantage of the opportunity by all means. The musical performances are held at the Ukimido gazebo over Ryuuchi Pond where you can listen to the beautiful tones of instruments such as the koto, shakuhachi and erhu.

Admission: Free

Guidebook from Planetyze about Naritasan Park
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Naritasan Park
Tours of Naritasan Park

Sawara

Four Free Sights in Chiba

(image by flickr.com)

Located in northern Chiba Prefecture, Sawara flourished from the old days as a riverside town. Old merchant houses line the streets along the Katori Highway and the Ono River which runs from north to south through the town, and it is a place that overflows with Japanese spirit with so many movies and dramas being filmed there. It is also an area that is connected to Tadataka Ino who created Japan’s first actual survey map. With this legacy of historical scenery and the pursuit of building a town to bring this legacy alive, it was selected as an Important Preservation District for a Group of Traditional Buildings for the first time in the Kanto region. There are many merchant houses whose family-run businesses have been passed down from long ago, and the area has been praised as a “living townscape.” 

There has been a movement to make the town of Sawara into a virtual museum under the management of the Sawara Wives’ Association created from the wives of merchant houses. It comes off as a “whole town museum”. The 42 shops display the old tools, lifestyles, traditional tastes and techniques, collections and the proud treasures of all the families to impress visitors. Besides the permanent displays that are shown all year long, there is the Hina Meguri doll festival in March, the Gogatsu Ningyo Meguri festival in May and the Oshogatsu Kazari festival during New Year’s. There is the Sawara Grand Festival which is designated as a National Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property. A huge festival backed by 300 years of history, it occurs twice a year as a summer festival in July and as an autumn festival in October. On the gorgeous dashi floats in the event that is one of the three big float festivals in the Kanto region, there are profound sculptures and large dolls 4m in height decorating them. The spiritual and rhythmical melody that differs from anything played by an ordinary Japanese orchestra is handled by the Sawara Bayashi, one of Japan’s 3 great musical bands.  

Admission: Free

Guidebook from Planetyze about Sawara 
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Sawara 
Tours of Sawara 

Narita-san Omotesando

Four Free Sights in Chiba

(image by flickr.com)

Narita-san Omotesando is the closest place to the airport where the good old days of Japan remain. It is said that the area is the most tourist-friendly place for a taste of Japan in English due to the large number of foreign visitors. The first thing you notice as you walk along the street is the great number of establishments selling eel. Eel has been a Narita delicacy since the Edo Era. Eel cuisine has been popular due to its high nutritional value, its ability to energize people making the long journey away from Edo and the proximity to the habitat of the eel.

Just past the middle of the street is Kawatoyo where you can see staff filleting eel at the storefront. Walking through that smoky sweet aroma is also one of the things to look forward to. Nagomi-no-Yoneya, an establishment opened in 1899 dealing in kuri-yokan (chestnut bean jelly) also runs a yokan museum at the back. The yokan with added fortune slips is quite unique. Elsewhere, there is the Saheiji Kawamura Store which has the famous Teppo-zuke pickles, the lone sake brewery on the street, Chomeisen, and other shops which have many of the most famous products in Japan. Furthermore, there are buildings which have existed since their construction in the Edo Era and which are still operating in the forms of the Onoya Inn and the Mitsuhashi Pharmacy both of which have been designated as Narita City Tangible Cultural Properties. Just strolling along the old street is enjoyable in itself. Halfway on the street to the left is the Narita Tourist Center which is recommended to get information on the area.  

Admission: Free

Guidebook from Planetyze about Narita-san Omotesando
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Narita-san Omotesando
Tours of Narita-san Omotesando

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