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I had to migrate the blog suddenly and am still working to address some issues...

Come to Katsuura

A vermillion torii in the bay of Katsuura

How I ended up in Katsuura is a bit of a strange tale. The afternoon that I decided on a whim to go was a hectic Thursday. Exhausted to the core but also revved up by caffeine, I felt emasculated in the face of the deliverables that I had promised as a freelance marketer. Making my anxiety worse was the fact that I was dependent on others to get the job done. It would be one thing if it were just me but the tasks in front of me were something that the Japanese staff I was working alongside would need to do on my behalf. 

Teetering on the brink of complete burnout, I knew that I needed to step away from the situation for a minute. With the warning signs no longer something that I could ignore, I booked a seaside hotel in a location as far removed from central Tokyo as I could fathom. Even now, how I ultimately settled on Katsuura is a bit of a mystery to me. Memories from that day are a bit hazy but I think I remember seeing a picture of the tori above in my collection. That said, my little getaway was just what the doctor ordered.

If you’ve never heard of Katsuura before, I suspect that you’re not alone. Found on the southernmost tip of Chiba Prefecture’s Boso Peninsula, a place like Katsuura rarely welcomes international tourists. Heck, I doubt that many expats or even other Japanese people know of it. Still, if you’re looking for a homely, seaside getaway, I cannot more highly recommend visiting Katsuura. Sure, it’s not chock full of attractions like Japan’s former capital but the slower pace of life is exactly why one ought to visit.

Though I’d never recommend Katsuura to first time visitors to Japan, those of you who are interested in workations or longer stints in the country should consider coming down to this part of Chiba Prefecture. Additionally, Katsuura is also great for families who want to leisurely spend time relaxing at the beach instead of battling the crowds at major sightseeing spots. As you’ll see in the “Other Nearby Attractions” section at the end of this piece, there’s a lot for the kids to enjoy.

Anyway, if you need an urgent escape from the anxiety-inducing insanity of the modern world like I did or just want to get off of the beaten path, definitely consider a somewhere like Katsuura. I credit the hamlet with having helped me avoid what otherwise could have been an overwork-induced meltdown. 

How to Get There

A view of Moriya Beach in Katsuura on a clear day

As rural as Katsuura and this part of the Boso Peninsula are, it is surprisingly easy to get down to southern Chiba Prefecture. All you need to do is board one of a Wakashio limited express train that departs from Tokyo Station. In just around 90 minutes, these trains will take you all the way down to Katsuura. The total cost for the trip should come in at around 4,000 yen. As always, refer to Jorudan or a similar service for departure schedules.

Once you’re actually in Katsuura, access to the attractions becomes a little bit less convenient. Though it looks like there are options for buses, they are few and far between. Instead, I suggest that you instead opt to take it slow and meander about the town. It’s a good way to get some light exercise in while really savoring the vibe of this coastal fishing village. Alternatively, if you have a rental car, that too is a good way to get around.

In terms of accomodations, Katsuura actually has more options than you’d otherwise think given its location. From what I can gather, there are a number of decently posh hotels and ryokan to choose from that sit right by the seaside. Alternatively, you can do what I did and stay at Katsuura Mikazuki Inn. Located right by the station in the center of the city, this simple but classy facility is really all you need. They even have a restaurant on the first floor that is discounted for those lodging at the hotel.

What to See in Katsuura

Katsuura's famous morning market during summer

In case this isn’t immediately obvious, one does not come to Katsuura because of its attractions. Instead, the appeal of a seaside village such as this is the Japan countryside vibe. That said, this doesn't mean that Katsuura isn't without its host of allures. Below, I'll provide a list of some of the spots that I recommend those of you visiting check out...

  • Katsuura's Morning Market
    With a history of over 400 years, this regular gathering of vendors is often considered to be one of top three morning markets in Japan. All in all, around 80 vendors flock here to the city center to peddle produce such as seasonal fruits, fresh fish, etc. Most merchants are active from around 6 AM and are open until 11 AM when people start to pack up for the day. While the market does mean an early wake up, it's worth it to view the vendors goods!

  • Tomisaki Shrine
    This hilltop sanctuary is important to the town of Katsuura. Tomisaki Shrine is best known for its annual hina doll celebration. Each year, the shrine puts out an elaborate collection of dolls that are considered to be omens of good luck for the health of young girls. If you're in town when they are out, be sure to tag me in your photos. For what it's worth Tomisaki Shrine also has a pretty good view of the city as well as the morning market.

  • Torii on the Beach
    Within the confines of Katsuura, you'll find a collection of picturesque torii that are perfect for the Gram. To be frank, I am pretty sure this is what got me to come to Katsuura in the first place. Note that the two archways that I suggest you check out can be found at Moriya Beach and near the port, just off of the coast out in the ocean. This latter torii actually belongs to the aforementioned Tomisaki Shrine.

  • Katsuura Submarine Observation Tower
    Located around 60 meters off of the coast, this 24-meter-tall spire descends down into the Pacific Ocean. Those who enter inside will be able to observe an assortment of sea creatures as well as the ocean floor. Note that the Katsuura Submarine Observation Tower is actually part of a wider facility that includes a museum for aquatic critters as well as some exhibits on the regional fishing industry.

  • Hiking & Trekking
    There are a lot of routes available through the many oceanside cliffs in this part of Chiba Prefecture's mountainous Boso Peninsula. Though none of them are a real challenge per-say, nature enthusiasts may enjoy exploring the natural environments that can be found at the southernmost tip of Chiba Prefecture. While I didn't opt for a full fledged hike, I did meander about a lot while recovering in Katsuura and it was quite a charming walk.

  • Cape Hachiman
    Though it will require you to hoof it a good 15 minutes if you don't have a rental car, Cape Hachiman offers an amazing view of both the open ocean as well as Katsuura's main harbor. You'll also find many fishing boats passing by here as they travel out to sea. Note that there apparently used to be a small Japanese castle here in the days of yesteryear but only the foundation remains today.

This should really not come as a surprise but you can eat some truly excellent fish in Katsuura. Given that the area sits right by the sea, this should be really a given. What is less well known is that there is a daily auction that takes place at the pier. Alas, while I couldn't dig up any information, I suspect you need a guide or otherwise be a related party to observe it. Rather than watch the fish get auctioned off, it might be just easier to enjoy it at one of the many restaurants in the city.

Craving a menu with something other than seafood? Check out Hankaien! They have no  website to link to (but here is a Google Map in place of their site) but at this local favorite, you can eat some of the best wagyu that I've ever had. Seeing as I travel nonstop, this quite the statement. Moreover, the prices for the available cuts of national cow are amazing. For your information, you can expect to pay only around 6,000 yen per person.

Other Nearby Attractions

An epic view of Nokogiriyama's Jigoku Nozoku in Chiba Prefecture

As stated before, one does not come to Katsuura because of its attractions. Instead, the appeal of a seaside fishing village such as this is the local vibe. That said, this doesn't mean that Katsuura and the neighboring areas aren't without its host of allures. Below are some of the spots that I recommend those of you visiting check out. Note that you'll want access to a rental car if you stray too far from the city. Unless you're down for an extremely long march, public transportation is seriously lacking down here...

  • Kamogawa Sea World
    If you're going to come down to Katsuura, you really ought to also consider neighboring Kamogawa. This city is quite near to Katsuura and is home to Kamogawa Sea World. Here, you'll find all sorts of marine animals on site including some adorable orca whales. The aquarium also does a lot of research and is adamant about taking care of its critters. Check out the page linked above for more available information.

  • Oyama Senmaida
    This is actually the closest spot to central Tokyo where you can see one of these picturesque rice terraces. Originally only known to locals, the spot recently started to get some notoriety thanks to Instagram. Just do me a favor and be respectful as these fields aren’t just an “sightseeing spot” and are actually used to cultivate rice! Talk about one epic view though...

  • Kominatosan Tanjo-ji
    Allegedly, this Nichiren sect temple was the birthplace of the Buddhist monk Nichiren. Born in the year 1222, local folktales claim that for his birth, lotus flowers bloomed along the seashore, a large number of red snappers gathered in the sea, and water gushed out into the yard of his home. These miracles are all now immortalized at Kominatosan Tanjo-ji. Along with three other locations, the temple completes a Quadruplet of important Nichiren sect sites.

  • Nokogiriyama
    Around an hour and some change away from Katsuura you’ll find the oddly shaped mountain pictured above. Known as Nokogiriyama, the peak resembles the edge of a saw blade due to being used as a quarry site for decades. You can take a ropeway up and enjoy an amazing view. Nearby, you can also catch a ferry that will take you over to Kurihama on the other side of Tokyo Bay. This is a charming means of heading back and makes for an excellent way to close out the trip.

Until next time travelers...

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