A bit off the beaten path, Southern Chiba is a great place for an afternoon drive in winter. If you’d like to get away from the traffic and the pedestrians and the shops of Tokyo, Southern Chiba makes for a great day trip. If you don’t own a car or you can’t trick any of your Japanese friends into driving you there, there are local trains that take routes with rice fields on one side and the ocean on the other. Last weekend, my friends and I drove to Shirahama, Chikura, then Onjuku.
Shirahama, Chikura and Onjuku have a combined population of about 26,000. All relatively small but all of them have something that many towns don’t: warmish weather in the winter and a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean.
Flower fields in Chikura were what we were there for, as flowers there bloom a lot earlier than the rest of Japan. For about ￥500, you get a pair of shears and you can cut as many flowers as you wish. The flower fields are located next to the stony shore, so before or after your flower cutting excursion, you can take a stroll. There was a farmer’s market there, too.
Southern Chiba boasts of its fresh fish, and as we were there, of course we had to have fresh sashimi! There are several notable places in Shirahama, and I’m sure it would have been difficult to tell which was the best. There were several fresh fish markets and my friends stocked up on several kinds of fish.
Before home, we passed by Onjuku. Onjuku is a popular surfing destination. It is also known for a folk song called “Tsuki no Sabaku” (月の砂漠, A Desert in Moonlight). There was a museum about the folk song, which has a verse that goes:
The prince and princess on camels are traveling in the desert in the moonlight.
They are traveling far over the sand dune.
They are traveling silently on a moonlit night.
Where are they going?
It is a song Japanese students all learn in Music class. It seems the song has very romantic overtones and is liked by many. The melody and the Japanese lyrics can be found on this page.
To wrap up our little tour, we visited the camels by the desert shore. Thinking of the song, I did wonder where the prince and princess were headed…