When you visit Tokyo, chances are that you’ll come in through Narita International Airport, one of two international entry points into Tokyo. If so, the first part of Tokyo you’ll set foot in is actually Chiba Prefecture. Home to Tokyo Disneyland, DisneySea, and Chiba Zoological Park, one of the largest zoological parks in the world, Chiba is full of activities and things to discover. Chiba is also famous for having Japan’s largest port, the Port of Chiba. It’s no wonder the prefecture is known as “Edo’s Pantry,” as Chiba ranks third in Japan for agricultural production, has a strong fishing industry, and is a major producer of soy sauce. So, during your trip to Japan, make sure to stay in Chiba awhile and try some local delicacies listed in this Chiba Food Guide, and get a taste of what the area has to offer.
1. Kashiya Nure Senbei
Senbei, or Japanese rice crackers, are a popular snack to munch on in Japan. One of Chiba’s largest cities, Choshi, is the birthplace of a special type of senbei called nure senbei. Nure senbei is truly a unique snack with a local flavor, made through a process that involves soaking the rice cracker in soy sauce. Among senbei, nure senbei are unique because of the texture. While senbei are usually crunchy and dry, nure senbei are tender and soft because they have been marinated in soy sauce. This scrumptious treat was pioneered by Kashiya around 1955, which is still a family-run senbei shop today, using only domestically-produced Japanese rice. This soft, soy sauce-soaked senbei is a famous local treat you must try when you visit Chiba.
2. Surugaya Unagi
If you’re in the mood for a traditional Japanese rice bowl, then make sure to go to Surugaya. This unagi eel restaurant is located right next to Naritasan Shinshoji Temple, one of the oldest temples in the Kanto area, established in 940. While Surugaya lacks variety in its menu options, the restaurant does one thing and does it well, providing amazing service and delicious unadon (unagi rice bowl). Surugaya is also one of the few restaurants in Japan to serve Kyosui eel, a luxurious delicacy, which is known for being soft and flavorful. Their main dish, fresh eel, is broiled over charcoal, covered in a sweet soy sauce, and served on a bed of rice. While a bit on the expensive side, this is one meal that you’ll want to treat yourself to when you’re in Chiba.
If you’re into spicy food, make sure to check out Ezawa, one of the best places to get tantanmen noodles in Tokyo. Located in Katsuura, a major port city in Chiba, Ezawa is constantly packed with people who are looking to get a taste of its specialty Katsuura tantanmen, as it is the founder of this unique style of noodles. Tantanmen is the Japanese version of the Chinese dandanmian, also known as “peddler’s noodles” due to its history an accessible street food in China. Priced at only 800 yen, Ezawa’s provides a tasty meal for cheap, keeping with the spirit of dandanmian. Chiba’s signature soy sauce has the starring role in Ezawa’s Katsuura tantanmen, providing a deep flavor that is complimented slow-burning spiciness of rayu, Japanese chili oil.
4. Bayashi Ramen
If you happen to be on a layover in Tokyo and are looking for a bite to eat, then what better meal to eat in Japan then ramen? Bayashi is located just fifteen minutes away from Narita International Airport and is often frequented by international flight crews, making it the perfect place to hang out as you wait for your flight. With a high number of foreigners that frequent Bayashi and staff who can understand English, it is a very foreigner-friendly ramen joint where you can find a mish-mash of people from around the world. While you’re here, you can look through the many binders of signatures they have here, many of which are from airline crew members. Though, the real reason that you’ll be here is the ramen which is some of the best in the area. They serve up large portions of ramen, like their popular Sichuan-style hot ramen, and they even have a yummy spicy vegetarian ramen option.
Edokko is known by Narita locals as one of the best places to get sushi in Japan. Like Bayashi Ramen, Eddoko is located close to the Narita International Airport, just a few minutes walk away from the Keisei-Narita Station, and would be the perfect spot to eat while on a layover in Tokyo. Famous for its very generously-sized toppings of fish, Edokko also has some of the freshest seafood that you can get around Tokyo. With only a few seats in-house, you are going to want to come early to get a spot, especially if you want to be seated at the counter to watch the chef at work. It is easy to overlook this hole-in-the-wall establishment, but this is one authentic sushi restaurant in Chiba you won’t want to miss.
Francisco is a student who is currently studying abroad in Japan. He enjoys walking around the streets of Tokyo and discovering great places to eat.