Welcome back to another installment of Backyard Tourism. As always, we’ll be taking a look at an often overlooked part of Japan in an attempt to prove that just about anywhere in this amazing country has potential. This time, I’ll be introducing Sakura City’s Hiyodori-zaka. Located but a mere stone’s throw away from Narita International Airport, this hidden gem makes for a great final addition to your time in Japan. Simply budget for a few extra hours before your flight to allow for transportation time and you’ll be all set to enjoy Sakura City and the Hiyodori-zaka.
What makes the Hiyodori-zaka worth visiting should be easy to grasp just by looking at the image above. Plainly put, Sakura City is home to an absolutely killer bamboo grove that can rival the likes of the ever-popular one in Kyoto’s Arashiyama. What’s more, thanks to its rather rural location, the Hiyodori-zaka is often completely devoid of other explorers. This means that you can easily snap amazing shots for the Gram without having to wait hours on end for people to move out of the frame.
While the Hiyodori-zaka is indeed the main draw in Sakura City, know that this part of Chiba Prefecture also boasts strong historical roots too. The region used to be a castle town during the Edo period (1603–1868) and much of this legacy can still be observed today. From the Sakura Castle Ruins to an impressive collection of samurai domiciles, there’s plenty for the history buffs out there. Even if you’re not itching for a new #OOTD shot to show off on Instagram, don’t sleep on Sakura next time you’re in Japan!
How to Get There
As alluded to already, Sakura City is located quite close to Narita International Airport. Because of this, most overseas visitors will only likely consider an excursion to this part of Chiba Prefecture as a first or final add-on to their time in Japan. Thankfully, the Hiyodori-zaka and the rest of Sakura’s draws are located not too far from the local train stations. During my visit for Tokyo Creative’s #HostTownRelay project, I was carted around in a rental car but from what I can tell, most spots can be easily accessed on foot too.
While you’ll need to opt out of using non-stop trains like the Narita Express, Sakura is actually on the way to Narita International Airport. The city can be accessed via a pair of stations that are serviced by JR East and Keisei Electric Railways respectively. Experience has shown that the latter is a bit more expedient but which station you use will ultimately come down to where you’re coming from. As always, just refer to Jorudan or a similar service to do the heavy lifting when it comes to calculating train schedules.
Note that you’ll definitely want to stash your suitcase somewhere if you’re going to be hoofing it around Sakura. Unfortunately due to my rental car usage, I cannot comment on whether or not there are any coin lockers big enough to store a suitcase. To be safe, you may want to consider shipping your luggage ahead to Narita International Airport. This way, you can explore Sakura and the Hiyodori-zaka unencumbered.
The Hiyodori-zaka & Other Allures
While the Hiyodori-zaka is the main appeal of Sakura, there’s a plethora of other amazing attractions to see too. The following catalog contains all the spots that I suggest you check out before heading on to Narita International Airport and your flight home. As always, I’ll include a link to a Google Map to help you get your bearings.
As mentioned, this slope is the reason you come to Sakura City. The bamboo-lined path used to be a lane by which samurai living in the vicinity would make their way to nearby Sakura Castle. While there are no longer warriors walking the Hiyodori-zaka, it is still nonetheless a beautiful spot to behold.
- Samurai Homes
Not far away from the Hiyodori-zaka, you’ll find a trio of authentic samurai domiciles that have been painstakingly preserved. The most spacious of the three will run you a few hundred yen to explore but the remaining pair are entirely free. Though located a bit far away, there’s also the gorgeous house and garden of the final feudal lord, Count Hotta, too.
- The Sakura Castle Ruins
The former foundation of Sakura Castle has been transformed into a charming and relaxing park. At its peak in spring when the cherry blossoms are out, the Sakura Castle Ruins are a great addition should the seasons work out for you. Be sure not to miss the traditionally-styled tea house on the grounds!
- National Museum of Japanese History
This amazing facility is found in the same park that rests on top of where Sakura Castle once stood. It is dedicated to the research and display of Japanese history and culture. Though Japan has some truly epic museums out there, this is one of the best that I’ve encountered during my travels across the length of the archipelago.
- Tsukamoto Art Museum
I personally can’t vouch for this one as I didn’t get a chance to pop inside but it seems like there’s a great museum out there for fans of Japanese blades. You’ll find it not too far from the Sakura Castle Ruins.
By the way, it makes sense to start at one of the dual stations in Sakura and then make your way to the other. This way, you don’t need to retrace your steps and can continue on to Narita International Airport.
Other Nearby Attractions
While most travelers looking for a final add on will likely be in an either/or situation, there’s actually a ton of miscellaneous allures around Narita International Airport. For example, there’s Sawara, A.K.A., “Little Edo,” which is depicted above. In fact, there are so many locations in this neck of the woods that I am going to opt to simply list out all of the previous pieces that I’ve done. Feel free to mix and match suggestions from the following list of other attractions in Chiba Prefecture.
- A Narita Layover Guide
A Quick, Authentic Taste of Japan
- Historic Sawara
A Hidden Gem in Chiba Near Narita
- Kashima Jingu
A Shrine in Ibaraki with a Hidden Legacy
- Katori Jingu
A Sacred Shrine in Homage to the Blade
Until next time travelers…