Tokyobling's Blog

Sawara City Canals – Chiba Prefecture

Posted in Places by tokyobling on July 16, 2015

On the north eastern corner of Chiba Prefecture, very close to Ibaraki Prefecture, you find the historic little city of Sawara (佐原市), about 100km east of Tokyo and 27km east of Narita Airport. The town grew into existence in the 17th century after one of the grand infrastructure programs of the first Tokugawa shogun Ieyasu came into fruition: the diversion of Tone river, the second longest river in Japan. Instead of flowing through Edo the 60 year program was to send the river east diverting it to the Pacific Ocean in northern Chiba. The new river turned the fertile land in the area into prime agricultural land while at the same time establishing the river as an express route for agricultural products from the north east to the center of Edo. The grand spot on the middle of one of the most important river trade routes of the country made turned the town rich and prosperous.

The town has managed to preserve some of the old merchant quarters and city canals from the Edo period almost as it was back then and it is now one of the three “Koedo” or Little-Edo towns in the Kanto area. One of the main tourist attractions is the boat ride through the city canal, which is surprisingly enjoyable for the shortness of the ride. The photos I took does absolutely not do justice to the canal, which is really quite pretty. Not very photogenic though. The boat rides are 500 yen and the the boats are tiny flat bottomed craft run by a group of tiny old men and ladies.

Sawara Station (佐原駅) itself is unusually pretty for a standard JR station and the old town is fun to walk around and explore with lots of tiny restaurants and historic sake breweries. Sawara is a bit over two hours on the train from Tokyo or about an hour and a half on the bus from Tokyo station.

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4 Responses

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  1. Junko said, on July 17, 2015 at 12:22 am

    Wah, neat! It’s like Venice, but preserving the Japan-ness, unlike the recent imitation in China. The boat ride is so much cheaper than the gondola ride in Venice which costs €80 per 40 minutes. (It may be more now.) I would go there if I could stay longer in Japan.

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    • tokyobling said, on July 17, 2015 at 1:18 am

      Thank you! Yes, it is actually pretty cool. Some of the houses are just so beautiful. There were official tourist guides walking around greeting us Tokyo refugees, and they recommended me to visit again on a weekday with less people and more time to see the houses. I think what she meant was “come on a weekday, have the entire old town for yourself as we are far too far from Tokyo to attract attention!”. I think the best thing Venice could do would be to make the Gondola rides €8000 and scare of the excessive tourism. (^-^)

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  2. Junko said, on July 17, 2015 at 3:20 pm

    O how nice to have guides walking about to help you. Thanks for the info; if I get a chance to visit there, I’ll go on a weekday. Actually the locals are wanting regulations to limit the excessive number of tourists in Venice. Only those who can behave like normal human beings with courtesy should be allowed to visit.

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    • tokyobling said, on July 21, 2015 at 12:41 am

      On the other hand, on Weekdays I suspect that place might be almost too lonely! Coming from Tokyo that might be nice anyway. (^-^)
      I once met a man from Venice, I enjoy comparing his views on life with what I hear from people from Kyoto. Still that was 20 years ago, I assume tourism has increased since then!

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