Inhabited by people since the pre-historic era, Makuhari is today a conference city that — thanks to its proximity to Tokyo — is highly regarded as a convenient site for holding various events and conferences. Makuhari lies in Chiba Prefecture, which has a land area of 5,156 sq. kilometers and a population of just over 6 million.
Home to Narita International Airport, Japan’s main aerial gateway to the world, Chiba is blessed by rich greenery and abundant marine resources. As such, the prefecture is keen to promote the image of a peninsula filled with greenery, and is working to develop ecotourism and agritourism by collaborating with the prefecture’s farmers and fishermen. This new trend in tourism is designed to offer an unforgettable, impactful experience to visitors, and the prefecture very much looks forward to attracting well-traveled tourists who are searching for something different.
Apart from such a trend, there are many things to see and do in and around the Makuhari area. Among them, probably the most popular has been — and still remains to be — Tokyo Disneyland and the adjacent Tokyo DisneySea. The former opened in April 1983, while the latter water-themed park opened in September 2001. Both men and women, young and old from around the globe, have loved the Tokyo Disney Resort as a whole over the years.
For those looking for bargains on brand-name goods, Mitsui Outlet Park Makuhari is not to be missed. This large outlet mall houses many famous makers and brands that sell their products at attractive outlet prices. Currently boasting 135 stores, some of the popular brands at the outlet park include Coach, John Smedley, agnes b., kate spade, Tommy Hilfiger, Bally, Lanvin, Samsonite, Nike, Tumi, Cole Haan, Puma, Diane von Furstenberg, Fred Perry and Gap.
H.C. Andersen Park
Funabashi H.C. Andersen Park, meanwhile, is a facility ranked extremely highly by Trip Advisor. Filled with flowers and seasonal greenery, this park — named for Danish author Hans Christian Andersen — allows both children and grown-ups alike to get out into the fresh air. They can experience pony rides, cuddle cute animals at a petting zoo, and try their hands at weaving, pottery and other creative activities. Eating there is also a delight, as there are stalls selling delicious gelato, Danish pastries and hamburgers, as well as a barbecue space for visitors to grill a meal to enjoy with the family. There is also a full-service restaurant available for a hearty sit-down meal.
Naritasan Shinshoji Temple
Of final mention are Naritasan Shinshoji Temple and the surrounding areas. Looking back on the history of Japan over 1,000 years ago, the 10th century was a time when Taira no Masakado rebelled against the Imperial family. He started a civil war in 939, announcing that he himself was the shinno (new emperor). Emperor Suzaku in Kyoto ordered the highest-ranking priest, Kancho, to do something about the situation. Kancho set sail from Osaka together with a holy statue of Acala the wisdom king, until finally arriving at the Boso Peninsula in what is today Chiba Prefecture.
Lighting a holy fire and praying for a cease-fire, Kancho was believed to defeat Masakado on his 21st, and final, day of prayer. Upon restoring peace in the Kanto area and Chiba, Kancho prepared to go back to Kyoto together with his Acala statue. Before he could do so, Kancho heard Acala’s oracle and found the figure immovable, and established the Naritasan Shinshoji Temple in its current location. All of these events took place toward the end of the first millennium.
Since then, the temple has been worshipped by many leaders and notable figures of the times, including Minamoto no Yoritomo and kabuki actor Ichikawa Danjuro. Fast-forward to 2017, the 12th Ichikawa Danjuro maintains belief in Naritasan Shinshoji Temple, and bears the name of Narita-ya for his kabuki performances.
Among the majestic buildings of the temple, several have been designated important cultural assets. This includes the 25-meter high Sanju no To (three-storied pagoda) that was built in 1712. Decorated with 16 arhat saint carvings, this tower is unique for incorporating rafters carved out of a single timber.
Another important cultural asset is Shakado. Built in 1858 from zelkova trees, Shakado was originally the main building of this temple. It enshrines the statue of Buddha and the four Bodhisattvas, and retains the architectural form of the late Edo era.
The much older Komyodo, also an important cultural asset, was built in 1701. With a cave hidden behind it that is seldom open to the public, this is a rare and valuable building from the mid-Edo era. Gakudo, constructed in 1861 and restored in 1986, is another important cultural asset, still retains the eye-catching ema votive picture tablets incorporating intricate etching motifs that were offered by Buddhists well over a century ago.
Naritasan Koen is the well-kept park area of the temple. Measuring a vast land area of 165,000 sq. meters, the landscape is dotted by stone monuments engraved with the poetry of such haiku masters as Matsuo Basho and Takahama Kyoshi. Together with a waterfall and three ponds, this park is filled with seasonal flowers, including plums, cherry blossoms, wisteria and chrysanthemums, as well as the red and gold changing leaves in autumn. During the festival season, tea ceremonies are held under the blooming flowers or the changing colors of the tree leaves, and tea is offered free of charge to visitors.
Another delight of visiting the vicinity is the Naritasan Omotesando main road of worship that leads right up to the temple. Stalls of all kinds line both sides of the road, selling lucky charms and small items that make ideal souvenirs.
Additionally, the delicious smell of char-grilled sweet soy sauce wafts from the 20 or so unagi (eel) restaurants, the temple’s specialty. According to the locals, the key to choosing the right dining spot is to go for a long-established eatery where the eel is grilled in front of customers.
For those with a sweet tooth, picking up a block of yokan red bean jelly is the way to go. According to those in the know, the most famous yokan confectioners in the neighborhood are Yoneya and Yanagiya. Both go back more than a century, and the yokan blocks make perfect gifts that go well with green tea.
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