Situated on the southern part of the Boso Peninsula in Chiba Prefecture is a small, unhurried city that is virtually unknown to foreigners, called Tateyama. Located just two hours from Tokyo, with average temperatures hovering around 60°F and a coastline stretching nearly 20 miles, the city is a renowned mecca for marine sports and a popular beach destination for Tokyoites. Compared to the beaches of Kanagawa, Tateyama’s brown sand beaches are less crowded and cleaner. Its underwater world is just as amazing with its precious resources of coral and abundance of umihotaru (sea fireflies), which emit a mysterious blue light at night.
The economy of Tateyama is based on commercial fishing, horticulture and summer tourism. Consequently, the city is one of the best spots for fresh and delicious seafood. Also due to its warm climate, don’t be surprised to see flower fields alive with color during the month of January!
There are several festivals worth seeing in Tateyama. The Tateyama Fireworks Festival held every August is the premier summer event. During the festival, the night skies over Hojo Beach are lit up with 10,000 fireworks for nearly two hours and there is simultaneous salsa dancing put on by local community groups along the beach. In September, the 2-day Yawata Matsuri brings together neighborhoods as they compete with one another in taiko drumming and costume design. The mikoshi (portable shrine) and floats travel up and down between Tateyama Station and the Hachiman Shrine under the hot summer sun during the day and at night they are illuminated by lantern light. On the third Sunday of every October, Tateyama stages the Nanso Satomi Matsuri, a festival that recreates the battle which took place during Japan’s Sengoku period or the Warring States period. The battle follows a procession of warriors representing the Satomi clan marching from Tateyama Station to Shiroyama Park.
Located at the top of Shiroyama Park is Tateyama Castle, which offers magnificent views of the bay and surrounding areas from its upper viewing balcony. On a clear day, you can glimpse a view of Mount Fuji.
Tateyama Castle is one of four castles in Chiba Prefecture. It was originally constructed in 1580 by Yoshitomo Satomi and underwent restoration in 1982. The castle currently houses the Hakkenden Museum. The exhibits are all dedicated to the 106 volume novel by Kyokutei Bakin, called Nanso Satomi Hakkenden (Legend of the Eight Dog Warriors). The story is very popular and has been widely adapted into movies, television shows, video games, manga and anime series. Please note that taking photos inside the museum is strictly prohibited.
Also within Shiroyama Park, you will find the Tateyama Municpal Museum, Peacock Aviary and a Japanese Garden/Teahouse. There are also several paths lined with azalea, camellia, ume (plum), cherry blossom trees and sculptures.
The Sunosaki Lighthouse is another area with great views. Placed into service in 1919, the lighthouse still helps vessels entering the Uraga Channel and Tokyo Bay. The locals have planted nano hana (rapseed) plants around the lighthouse and the scenery is particularly beautiful when the bright yellow plants are in full bloom.
For those of you who are avid World War II buffs, a visit to Cape Taibusa Misaki Park is a must. During the war this area served as a Japanese Army base with bunkers and pillboxes constructed to protect the bay in the event of an Allied assault. Although most defense fortifications were dismantled during the postwar occupation of Japan, this site survived and several emplacements are still there, providing an instant history lesson for visitors.
From Cape Taibusa Misaki Park, travel to the Akayama Underground Tunnels and see the largest surviving air raid shelters in Japan. The tunnels, which stretch approximately one mile were used by Tateyama’s Naval Air Force as shelters during the end of the Pacific War when the American air raids were intensifying. The tunnels were officially opened to the public in 2004.
Tateyama is full of charm and a great place to catch your breath from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo!
The city is accessible from Tokyo via the Keiyo Expressway. There are also 3-4 limited express trains which run between Tokyo Station and Tateyama Station daily.
Hojo Beach at sunset
Yawata Matsuri (Yawatanmachi)
Nanso Satomi Matsuri (*)
Cape Taibusa Misaki Park web page: http://taibusa-misaki.jp/
Tateyama web page: http://www.city.tateyama.chiba.jp/en/index.html
(*) Photos courtesy of the Tateyama City Hall, Mayor's Public Office, Planning Division