Chiba is undoubtedly most well-known for Tokyo Disney Resort and Narita Airport, but that is not all the prefecture, which borders Tokyo to the east, has to offer. Filled with nature and hidden gems, there’s plenty to explore if you’re willing to dig a little deeper. To get you started, here are three unique things to do in Chiba that are sure to add a little spice to your Instagram feed!
1. Nomizo Falls (濃溝の滝)/Kameiwa Cave (亀岩の洞窟)
This formerly little-known spot exploded to prominence after gaining Instagram fame for its mystical natural lighting. Between the early hours of 6:30am to 7:30am, morning sunlight filters through the cave hole to reflect on the water, creating a picturesque sight many liken to a Studio Ghibli scene.
To get the optimal angle of light (i.e. so that the reflection combines to create a sideways love heart), the best time of year to go is March or September. However, getting a glimpse of the sunlight streak also requires to conditions to be just right – it has to be a sunny morning, and you have to go between the early hours while the sun is still relatively low. If you come too late, like we did (arrived at around 8:20am), you’ll just be greeted by the sight of an ordinary hole.
While still pretty in its own way, without the mystical lighting it is hardly worth waking up at 4am and driving hours from Tokyo for. It’s also worth noting that the cave is not natural, but man-made. Apparently, it was dug around 350 years ago by farmers to supply water to rice paddies. The morning we went, there were men chainsawing through felled tree trunks so it seems the spot is still used by locals for various means. Fireflies can also be seen here in the summer, apparently.
Location: Kimitsu city, Chiba Prefecture. Details on how to get there available on the official city website (Japanese).
2. Kyoei/Mukoyama Tunnel (共栄・向山トンネル)
We stumbled across this moss green double decker tunnel while enjoying a foot spa, and it was easily my favourite spot of the day. Best of all it doesn’t rely on weather conditions or time of day, so you are guaranteed to be able to get your very own special shot! It’s also the least known of the spots on this list, so you can have the place to yourself a lot of the time.
Originally, it was just a normal tunnel with the top hole serving as the exit. But in the 1960s, another hole was dug out below in order to make connections to the road more convenient. Even after work on the new hole was completed, the top hole was not filled in, creating the two-storey tunnel we see now.
The other special thing about this tunnel is that the walls look just like grey concrete to the naked eye, but when viewed through a smartphone or camera lens, parts of it become slime green. This gives it a really cool eerie feel in photographs.
To make things confusing, this tunnel has two names: Up to 92 metres from the east side it is called Mukoyama Tunnel, but up to 23 metres from the west side it is called Kyoei Tunnel. But since almost everyone enters the tunnel from the east side, which is a few steps from the main road, it is more well known as Mukoyama Tunnel. Also next to the tunnel is a delicious French restaurant called La France run by an adorable Japanese obaasan and her family (presumably), so I highly recommend heading there for lunch after you’ve finished exploring!
Location: Yorokeikoku, Otaki town, Chiba Prefecture
3. Egawa Coast (江川海岸)
This location rose to fame on social media for its semblance to Salar de Uyuni – the famous salt flats in Bolivia which form a mirror of the sky. While that may be a bit of a stretch, if the conditions are right and the water is calm, the mirror image of electricity poles sticking out of Tokyo Bay is quite a sight.
The poles are actually built on a causeway which becomes completely submerged during high tide. The industrial coastline on the other side is Kanagawa Prefecture. Contrary to Nomizo Falls, the best time to get atmospheric shots for this spot is around sunset, or blue hour. Unfortunately, when we went it was a week or so after a massive typhoon had hit the Kanto region, and the winds were still gale-like. As such, the water was extremely choppy and it was difficult to get close to the coast without getting sprayed with salt water, let alone take a good shot.
The wind was so strong it had completely overturned this toll booth.
Location: Kisarazu city, Chiba Prefecture
It’s worth noting that because many regions in Chiba are rather rural and extremely off the beaten track, most of them lack public transport. So if you’re heading to explore any of the sights above, you’re best off renting a car or going with someone who can drive.
If you’re looking for some memorable day trips from Tokyo that are accessible by public transport, check out this post: 10 Must-Do Day Trips from Tokyo (Less Than 2 Hours Away!) . It includes another highly-recommended Chiba sight – Nokogiriyama (鋸山) aka “saw-tooth mountain”!