Nuts About Chiba! Exploring Chiba, Peanuts, and Setsubun Culture

Nuts About Chiba! Exploring Chiba, Peanuts, and Setsubun Culture

Have you been to Chiba Prefecture (千葉県)? Located in the Kanto Region and neighbouring Tokyo on its east, perhaps, unknowingly, you have already stepped foot into Chiba Prefecture. If you have ever taken a flight from Narita Airport (成田空港), or enjoyed the rides at Tokyo Disneyland (東京ディズニーランド), or attended a concert at Makuhari Messe (幕張メッセ), did you know that these are all in Chiba Prefecture?

 

Chiba: Getaways Galore

Due to its proximity to Tokyo, and boasting both seaside and inland natural beauty, Chiba is home to plenty of easy getaways and convenient day trips.

 

Mother Farm

Mother Farm
Mother Farm | Photo by photoAC

One of Chiba’s most popular attractions, especially for families, is Mother Farm (マザー牧場 Mazā Bokujō). Offering a breathtaking view of the surrounding landscape, this wide and vast 250-hectare (2.5 million square metres!) farm combines elements of a farm and a small amusement park. From picking fruits year-round, to feeding alpacas, riding horses, watching a parade of 150 sheep or watching piglets race, Mother Farm offers numerous fun activities for the whole family. There are also restaurants and cafes dishing out farm-fresh food

 

Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea

Disney fun in Tokyo!
Enjoy fun for all ages at Tokyo DisneySea. | Photo by Carissa Loh

Next, beloved by children and adults alike, despite their names, Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea are not located in Tokyo, but in Chiba! Located in Maihama (舞浜), an area bordering the Tokyo Metropolitan Area, Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea are some of the country's most popular attractions. If you have been to either of them, then you have already explored a part of Chiba Prefecture.

 

Boso Peninsula

B.B.BASE at a platform of a train station
B.B.BASE, a train for those wanting to enjoy cycling at the Boso Peninsula. | Photo by Carissa Loh

A large section of Chiba Prefecture is the Bōsō Peninsula (房総半島), which faces the Pacific Ocean on one side and Tokyo Bay on the other. This area offers beautiful seaside views, and is a popular spot for going cycling. There is even a special train connecting Tokyo with the Boso Peninsula―the B.B.BASE―that allows cyclists to bring their bicycles on board.

 

Naritasan Shinshōji

Naritasan
Naritasan Shinshoji is one of the most visited temples during the New Year | Photo by photoAC

Not far from Narita Airport, Naritasan Shinshōji (成田山新勝寺) is a popular Buddhist Temple that welcomes over 3 million hatsumōde (初詣 first shrine/temple visit of the year) visitors a year on 13 January alone. 

 

Naritasan Omotesando Shopping Street
Naritasan Omotesando | Photo by photoAC

The walking path from Narita Station (成田駅) to the temple, known as Omotesandō (表参道), is lined with bustling shops and restaurants, so you can easily spend a few hours exploring the street and temple complex.

Head over to Dawn’s article on more charms of Chiba!

 

Chiba: Japan’s Peanut Powerhouse

A farmer harvesting peanuts in Chiba
Freshly harvested peanuts | Photo by photoAC

Other being home to many quick day trips just a stone’s throw away from Tokyo, Chiba Prefecture is most known for its peanuts, known as pīnatsu (ピーナツ) or rakkasei (落花生). Did you know? In 2022, Chiba Prefecture accounted for a whopping 85% of total peanut production in Japan, producing 14,900 tonnes of peanuts!

 

Peanut snacks

Nuts about Peanuts!
Peanuts, a tasty snack | Photo by photoAC

While you can enjoy peanuts on their own, salted or seasoned, they can be even tastier and more enjoyable when paired with other elements like rice crackers or nuts, and many popular and beloved snacks in Japan feature peanuts.

 

Kaki-no-tane

Kaki no Tane is a popular Japanese snack
Kaki-no-tane, a beloved peanut snack | Photo by ぱくたそ

Have you heard of Kaki-no-tane (柿の種)? This best-selling, timeless favourite is often eaten as a snack with beer. Made up of salted peanuts and crescent-shaped senbei (煎餅 rice crackers) baked in soy sauce, Kaki-no-tane gets its name from the crescent shape, which resembles the seed (種 tane) of a persimmon (柿 kaki).

 

Kaki no tane with beer
Kaki-no-tane are often enjoyed with beer | Photo by photoAC

Fun facts: Kaki-no-tane is also called kaki-pī, with “” being short for pīnatsu. There is even a special day, 10 October, designated as Kaki-no-tane Day (柿の種の日 Kaki-no-tane-no-Hi), as the crescent-shaped rice crackers resemble “1” while the peanuts resemble “0”.

 

Peanuts Monaka

Peanut monoka
Peanuts Monaka make a great gift | Photo by photoAC (left) and Carissa Loh (right)

If you visit Chiba Prefecture, don't leave without getting yourself and your friends some Peanuts Monaka (ぽーなっつ最中) as a souvenir. Monaka is a type of Japanese wafer, and Peanuts Monaka features a delicious filling that's a mixture of red bean paste with sweet peanut paste, sandwiched between cute peanut-shaped wafer shells. Even the boxes that the snacks are sold in are peanut-shaped.

 

Setsubun: Celebrating the arrival of spring

It's almost February and guess what is coming soon? Literally meaning "seasonal division", Setsubun (節分) is the day before the first day of spring (立春 risshun), and is usually celebrated on 3 or 4 February. This day celebrates the beginning of spring, and certain traditions are observed to drive away evil spirits and welcome good fortune.

 

Mamemaki: Bean-throwing

Throw beans to drive away evil.
Throw beans to drive away evil | Photo by photoAC

The main ritual observed during Setsubun is mamemaki (豆撒き), the throwing of beans out the door or at a person dressed up as demons (鬼 oni). Mame (豆 bean) sounds like mametsu (魔滅), which means “destroying evil”, and beans are believed to be effective in warding off demons, like how garlic is believed to repel vampires. 

 

Peanuts, tools for mamemaki
Peanuts, tools for mamemaki | Photo by photoAC

Depending on the region, locals either throw soybeans or peanuts to drive away the evil. Can you guess which they use in Chiba?

 

Ehomaki: Auspicious direction rolls

Ehōmaki is a whole uncut sushi roll meant to be eaten for luck
Eat ehōmaki
to pray for luck. | Photo by photoAC

To welcome good fortune in the coming spring, on Setsubun people will face the designated auspicious direction for the year and eat ehōmaki (恵方巻), a whole uncut sushi roll, that has a name that literally means "auspicious direction roll". In 2024, the auspicious direction is east northeast. 

Don’t worry if you don’t have time or culinary skills to make your own ehōmaki. Around the Setsubun period, you can easily find them being sold in supermarkets and convenience stores.

 

Go Nuts for Japanese Snacks from JAPAN RAIL CLUB’!

Usher in the arrival of early spring with JAPAN RAIL CLUB’s January Omiyage Snack Box! This month’s box includes two Chiba peanut snacks—the famous Peanut Prince snack (ピーナツ王子) as well as Chiiba-kun Sweet Peanut Rice Crackers (チーバくん スイーツピーナツ揚げあまくち仕立て), straight from the land of peanuts itself!

There’s no better way to discover the charms of one’s prefecture than with a variety of local snacks. Sign up today with the promo code "ICHIGO10" to enjoy 10% discount all subscription plans—it’s time to go nuts for Japanese snacks!

Meet the author

Carissa Loh

Having visited all 47 prefectures of Japan, Carissa's next goal in life is to ride all of Japan's sightseeing trains and climb all its 100 Famous Mountains. Sounds like a dream? Check back in 50 years.

Hungry for more?

Get on track with our monthly offerings of exclusive snacks from all over Japan!

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