“There’s a castle in Chiba!” is often the reaction of the Tokyo-ite folk I teach when the subject of castles occasionally pops up into conversation. I then confirm that there is indeed one and that I have been there a couple of times with the first trip being a long, long time ago during my initial time in Japan when I was working and living in Chiba. The two pictures below show the then and now with the first one shot in 2004.
When I joined N*va (the private English teaching company which famously collapsed in 2007) at the end of 2003, they provided me with a pamphlet explaining many things about life in Japan and one side of it featured a list of things to do in Chiba. It was a mix of interesting, desperate and just bizarre but Chiba-jo Castle proved to be of the former although some might say it falls into either of the other two categories!
The majority of this blog post was actually drafted well over a year ago and was intended as an entry under the TF Flashback banner but when I found out that it was close to the Fukuda Denshi Arena, I decided to revisit the castle en-route to see JEF United at home to Shimizu S-Pulse last month.
The castle doubles up as the Chiba Folk Museum and, sitting on a hilltop (without any moat), this picturesque place was constructed in 1967 on the former site of the Chiba Castle. Entrance is now free (it only used to be 60 yen anyway!) and on the second Saturday of each month you can try on a kimono and samurai armour from hundreds of years ago. Be aware that it is limited to fifteen people from 1:30 pm onwards.
There are five floors (09:00 – 17:00) and this time I decided to work my way down from top to bottom. The top floor is the observatory where you can see all of Chiba city and the one beneath that shows a recreation of a traditional Japanese home from the 1930’s.
The museum collects, preserves, researches and displays historical materials relating to the culture and history of Chiba city including samurai armour, helmets, katana (swords), firearms and various other tools and weapons.
Sadly the museum is really lacking in English information (although an English information sheet is available from the reception) and even in Japanese there isn’t too much about its design and history. What it does include though is some exhibits on the Chiba clan which ruled the area between the 12th and 16th centuries. Chibanosuke Tsunetane was the leader and responsible for uniting Japan under a military, feudal government. There is a statue of him at the top of the steps on the second floor.
This not-so famous castle featured in my ‘Top 10 Chiba Sights‘ post a couple of years ago and on Wednesday 11th August 2004 my friend Kerry (an American guy by the way) and I paid a visit to the place en-route to the beach. A week prior to that, we had gone all the way to Choshi; Chiba’s most easterly point, in search of a beach at Cape Inubosaki where it proceeded to start raining the minute we arrived on the beach. After a beer in the rain we gave up and went home vowing to get to a beach the following week.
After seeing Chiba-jo castle we tried to find a beach nearby (no idea which one or even if there is one in the vicinity of that port area!) but failed miserably and so went to Narita. No, not to the airport to get out of the country but to the town which is home to Narita-san Shinsho-ji temple complex, the towns major (only?) sight located at the foot of a pleasant downhill street lined with restaurants and shops.
After that we went to the Barge Inn pub which was owned (co-owned?) by Virgin boss Richard Branson with the name being a play on words relating to the Japanese pronunciation of his company. We had one beer in there at it’s sky high price and left as the service and attitude of the staff member who served us was poor.
Of course there are far more impressive castles in Japan but there aren’t too many close to Tokyo so if’ you do ever find yourself in the area then it’s worth seeking out though real castle aficionado’s would probably disagree! It’s address is 1-6-1 Inohana, Chuo-ku and takes about eight minutes on foot from Kencho-Mae Station on the Chibatoshi-Monorail or 13 minutes from Hon-Chiba station on the Sotobō Line.
Click here to see my ‘Top 10……Chiba Sights’
Click here to read ‘Tokyo Daytripper: Narita-San Shinshoji Temple