The hills of Chiba are calling

By Charles Glover

When you think of wilderness hikes, Chiba isn’t usually the first place that comes to mind. But a relaxing nature experience — complete with trail walking, outdoor cooking and even camping — is just a short train ride east of Tokyo. In the hills of Uchiurayama, you can do all of these things on the cheap.

Uchiurayama Kenmin no Mori is located on the eastern side of Chiba peninsula, between Katsuura and Kamogawa. The 294-hectare preserve was set aside in 1970 to protect the regional habitat, while offering us humans a chance to enjoy the natural setting. The area enjoys a relatively mild year-round temperature, benefiting from the gulf stream. What makes Uchiurayama unique is that it offers a mountain-like terrain yet is close enough to the ocean to reap its warm benefits. Few places I know offer a good hike through a lush, isolated mountain trail, have a 360-meter gain in elevation, and provide scintillating ocean views. Amateur botanists will go gaga over the biodiversity, again thanks to Uchiurayama’s location.

The forest boasts four distinct and uniquely attractive seasons, though this fact alone hardly distinguishes it from many other Japanese nature spots. Yet in Uchiurayama, each season welcomes a new set of vegetative surprises, as well as a host of animals. Birders will be delighted for sure: finches, cranes and several species of duck. Every time I have been there, I have seen a new wild animal, be it a frog, deer or wild boar. What finally sold me on Uchiurayama, though, was the night I saw fireflies wisping and shimmering around. Magnificent.

There are several paved roads that make for easy hikes. There are also two hiking trails, and at least another two more that are soon to be refurbished. These are steep in places but worth the sweat. As the trail twists and turns up the gnarly ridge of a hill, the deep silence and subterranean feel of the paths give them an almost "Lord of the Rings" feel.

What Uchiurayama really has going for it is how well laid-out and user friendly it is. Easily accessible by train and car, the area is free to enter. There is a helpful visitor’s center where you can pick up a complimentary map and study a diorama of the area, giving you a clear idea what the hiking trails and facilities are all about. Nothing is very far from anything, yet the experience is designed to give the impression that your spot is your own little private slice of nature.

There are two separate campgrounds, with a total of 50 campsites that feature a cookhouse and communal wash-up area, toilets and showers. Each site also has its own fire pit. For those without camping equipment, rentals are possible.

If roughing it in a tent is not your thing, log cabins with air conditioning and a toilet are available for up to six adults (and as many kids as you can fit in). Still need more comfort? The visitor’s center is connected to the lodge, which has four Western and eight Japanese rooms, each with four- or six-person capacity.

The staff at Uchiurayama are friendly and helpful. You can sign up for and attend nature awareness seminars, star watching, and charcoal craft classes for kids. Many of these sessions are free, and if there is a charge, it’s just to cover materials. The classes are ideal for kids, and let mom and dad sit back and chill.

If you are a day-tripper, no worries — there’s still plenty to enjoy aside from the hiking and the classes. You can hang out in the lodge’s charcoal bath, check out the gymnasium, or even rent a tea ceremony cottage.

A picnic spot with a barbecue grill and cooking sheet can be rented for 1,500 yen. You can even arrange to buy food for the fire, and a small café serves up a fine bento. In other words, you can practically show up at Uchiurayama straight from the office, and everything will be sorted.

This article originally appeared in Metropolis magazine (

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I've been camping there quite a few times.

Nice place to set up a base camp when spending a weekend or more surfing.

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Long as they don't have eyes.

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Nessie -

Does Japan have hillbillies and mutants living in woods?

Don't make a "wrong turn"!

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fire pits sound good. BUt I live in the wops already on the other side of tokyo, oo but the conqueror said surf...ok I like it. What is th esurf like around there? clean water?

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Kamogawa and Katsuura are just a 20 minute drive in either direction. The waves fluctuate, but you can usually count on a 4-6 foot swell somewhere in the area. Check out alot of spots before you decide. There's only two main roads that run down the coastline so it's pretty easy to navigate.

Water quality at the beaches is pretty good. Visibility to 15feet on somedays less than 3feet after a storm or typhoon mucks it up. The campsite isn't too bad either, but I woudn't drink the river water. I've eaten fish that I caught out of it though, didn't have any problems after that.

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Sorry, the wave size "fluctuates".

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Sounds great!

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Another thing, don't go during "Golden Week" or "O-bon".

And don't curse my name if you are fool enough to do so.

Just kidding! The campsite itself is not that popular. It's also a large area so there are always some secluded spots. It's the traffic and crowded breaks that kill. Like I mentioned above; there are only 2 main roads running down the Chiba coastline.

A few years back, it took me 7hours to do a usally 2hour drive from Chiba to Kamogawa. I take my summer vacation a week after Obon now.

But if traffic jams don't make bug you, go for it.

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"Don't bug you" waht iis worng wityh me todsay!!!

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"The area enjoys a relatively mild year-round temperature, benefiting from the gulf stream."

The Gulf Stream reaches all the way around to Japan? That is news to me. Have the geography experts at JT made a new discovery?

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NOOOOO!!!! No more stories about southern Chiba. It's an industrial wasteland! Don't go there! In fact, look away, avert your eyes! There's nothing there that you want to see.

Why yes, I go there's for other reasons. Not to relax and get away from crowds. I go there because...I....uh...I collect industrial waste. That's it. Yep. No nature or crowd free parks and beaches in Southern Chiba.


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