Explore The Unexplored Areas: Tochigi, Ibaraki and Chiba

Chiba, Sawara town Travelling project

In 2020, Japan Wonder Travel was given a project by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) to promote 14 selected prefectures that have been affected by typhoons. We offered 20 internationals living in Japan, the opportunity to travel to several destinations and share their experiences while traveling and also after.

Prashant – Kanto Area (Tochigi, Ibaraki and Chiba)

Since school days I always enjoyed having deep dialogues with knowns and unknowns & making friends along the way by not being bounded by a group of friends. A seeker who has immense curiosity & an eagerness to keep learning and an active stage performer in various arts & cultural activities. I love exploring nature, historical facts, arts & culture, philosophies and spirituality. Thanks to Japan Wonder Travel & METI that I got a chance to go on my life’s first solo adventure with a bag pack, DSLR, phone with a power bank must and notebook & pen to write down my adventurous stories. The travel would cover eight towns starting from Hachioji to Chiba, Ibaraki and Tochigi for 3 night & 4 days and explore the unexplored places.

Day 1: Chiba prefecture

Chiba, Naritasan temple

My first destination was Narita San Shinshoji Temple a solemn and positive place with marvelous architecture. Near the entrance I had an encounter with Matsuda-san, an English guide who works dedicatedly and selflessly for the temple services. He was fluent in English and shared so many deep insights about esoteric Buddhism and his experiences of faith. He shared that everyday he comes to temple and pray to Buddha for long & healthy life and Buddha asks him that why do you need long life and his response would be – ‘To serve people and live for people’. Since many years he has been showing around foreigners selflessly to share about the culture, history and faith with immense pride.

Fortunately, the very same day they were also holding an annual cultural dance festival and serving free rice drink to commemorate an important day. I enjoyed the cultural activities, walking around with nature, lot of parks, fountain and many birds. I felt there were lot of similarities between Buddhism and Hinduism of India. Around the temple there is Omotesando market too which is famous for eel fish and I also loved freshly baked rice cakes served at many shops near the temple.

Soon I had to leave for Sawara Town for my next stop and experience the Edo Era. As I was travelling, the places were becoming more & more rural and people with less fashion and makeup on face. Once I reached Sawara, I felt the place was almost empty and I didn’t see many foreigners. I wanted to experience Koedo Sawara Sightseeing Boat but I was too late for it. I decided to have a walk and feel the vibes of town and explore its history and culture. I was truly mesmerised with those beautifully built, almost 200 years old infrastructure and shops displaying so many creative artistic pieces build of bamboo and beautiful paintings by localities.

The town had a great pride of Tadataka Inoh San, a land surveyor who created the first map of Japan by modern surveying techniques which was almost perfectly resembled the one created by the help of satellites & other contemporary methods. I was awestruck and met so many people who are living there as 5th or 6th generations and happy to be Sawaraians and do not settle in Tokyo. I went to an Italian restaurant and English speaking staff was very friendly and nice to even customise a vegetarian meal. At restaurant I met some locals who were so kind to offer free local drinks to me to celebrate my journey and their life’s first encounter to an Indian. I visited a café whose owner was truly passionate about coffee beans and I had my life’s best latte with chocolate cake which was damn oishi. 

I was bit tired and finally landed up at my hotel Route Inn which had very relaxing onsen and beautifully built rooms and only a two minute walk from the station. It was a perfect day with perfect food, people and night at hotel.

Day 2: Ibaraki prefecture

Next day, as I started my journey for Ibaraki prefecture from Sawara Station, I was told I couldn’t more use my Suica car anymore and had to take a ticket and train from platform no. 0, which I thought was very funny. The journey Sawara to Oarai was truly captivating & best ever with so many nature centric places full of crops, river, emptiness, mountains and forests. A ride which left me thoughtless for some moments and reflect how beautifully nature & life coexists. Once I arrived Isosaki Shrine I enjoyed the shrine with its’ amazing pacific ocean view.

Afterwards I went to see Oarai Ibaraki Aquarium which has the largest shark collection of Japan and its built around the ocean giving it totally a unique space. It has many interactive performances of dolphins and many aqua animals. In the afternoon I headed towards Mito to visit Kairakuen park which has lovely lake, ducks and a sun setting perfect evening. A silent town with relaxed life where people are enjoying themselves at ease.

Day 3: Ibaraki prefecture

Now the most exciting activity was awaiting for me, that is a pottery making experience in Kasama city, a town which holds a history of one of the finest potters back to Edo era since 1600s. The moment I reached Kasama Station, the town had a pin drop silence and nature all around. At the exit of the station there was a tourist information office. Based on their information I went to Geijutsu no mori park and had my life’s very first kasama yaki: pottery making experience. Initially, we had a learning session and I got my clay and place to get started. As I spend more time I felt the art requires lot of patience, care and love to build a utensil. First, I couldn’t make anything but slowly I made a plate, bowl and even flower pot for myself. After it was ready I chose my colours and decided to courier it to my house as a souvenir.

After Kasama I went to Oyama and walked around some parks and alongside a river and at night stayed at Tochigi station. The whole town was almost closed by 8pm, which was strange for me after living for 3 years in Tokyo but it felt so good that people live an early bird life in this city.

Day 4: Tochigi prefecture

The next morning I went to Kuranomachi Yuransen, a place where a npo is trying to save the legacy and history by explaining the significance of town’s history. They give a short ride of 20 minutes on boat while narrating a store with music & singing. I took multiple rides and loved their passion and simplicity. One can also buy food for ducks from the npo and serve it and enjoy the ducks moves and sounds too alongside travelling in boat. As I completed my tour I went to experience my life’s oldest temple visit Utsunomiya Nozawa Temple, a 1200 years old stone crafted statues which holds so much serenity and positivity at a spot as if one won’t feel like to leave it ever for a time being.

Soon all the adventures and travels were about to end and say goodbye with gratitude to all these enriching experiences. After all the trains, busses & long walk travels with no suica but unique experiences finally I took Shinkansen & was back to Tokyo in couple of hours. The connectivity of Shinkansen from any part of Japan is what hold its’ beauty of convenience of travel & feel safe. Thanks to Japan Wonder Travel I had such a lifetime experience of meeting so many beautiful people and experiencing a life of unexplored arenas with at its best beauty and full of fortification. I must say although one may feel there is a language barrier to travel certain places, Japan is a country where one will find someone or the other as being helpful or supportive whenever one needs it. A land of rising sun whose people welcome tourists with open arms and a heart to support in any way possible for best experience.

Hotels he stayed during the trip

We were very excited to work with Prashant-san, and all the other guests for this project, and will continue to do our best to promote the less known destinations as much as we can. Keep an eye on our Facebookpage and Instagram to find another project with us.
And of course, if you need any help to find hidden gems in Japan, Japan Wonder Travel will happily help you out.

Happy travelling!


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