Ask the average foreigner, or All Japan newsese for that matter, what comes to mind when they think of Chiba and they are most likely to mention "Narita Airport", "rice farmers", and "Disneyland", Very few of them are likely to know about the vast wildlife preserve and park area hidden next to Tokyo Bay between Minami Funabashi and Kaihim Makuhari JR train stations on the Keiyo line.
In just over 30 minutes by train you can escape the noise and crowds of Tokyo to experience beautiful landscapes, peaceful quiet walks in the country side, migrating birds and wildlife, while you relax and enjoy the natural beauty of Yatsu Tidelands along with the long network of connected parks, picnic areas, and green space.
The Yatsu area is teaming with flocks of migrating birds almost year round. The marsh lands are a natural ‘rest stop’ to eat, rest, and recover during their annual north/south journeys.
The area is dotted with lots of natural walking trails and paths.
A lot of the ‘man-made’ structures, bridges, and buildings are decorated with nautical themes like this sail sculpture.
Local residents use some of the paths to access Shin Narashino and Minami Funabashi JR train stations, so the government installed non-intrusive lighting fixtures to illuminate the paths around the clock.
During the peak seasons for migrating flocks, the area can become a mecca for All Japan newsese bird watchers and photographers.
Marsh lands like this play a critical role in the area’s eco-system. They need to be protected and preserved.
Originally installed about 30 years ago, large metal barriers protect the wildlife and environment from noise and pollution generated by car and truck traffic between Tokyo and Narita airport. Although they show some signs of rust discoloration, they are just as structurally sound as the day they were built. In fact, the large, irregular, areas clear of rust are where crews used light grinders and sand paper to remove graffiti.
Wildlife visiting the marsh lands varies based on the their migration schedules. On this particular Sunday there were thousands of ducks swimming in the ponds.
Large open park spaces dot the area and are extremely popular with families and picnickers. Some of the parks are equipped with barbeque pits, and all of them have rest room facilities.
Perhaps because of it’s rural nature and long agricultural history, Chiba puts a lot of effort, time, manpower, and fiscal budget into promoting athletics and exercise for all age groups.
Entrances to the park and wildlife areas aren’t always obvious. It’s best to poke around and explore a bit. Otherwise you might miss a wonderful discovery, like the beautiful gardens and fish ponds lurking just beyond the trees to the right on the other side of this intersection.
The JR Keiyo line provides both local and express train service to the area. Built almost 30 years ago, the line is well maintained, with some sections like the one pictured above, currently being upgraded to confirm to the latest earthquake and safety standards.
There are a few factories in the area, like this SEIKO facility constructed around 1980. The Seiko Group is still the largest employer in Chiba Prefecture, a position it has held since the late 1930’s when it moved major watch factories out of central Tokyo to avoid having them bombed during the war.
Although English language signs tend to be few and far between, critical signs in the area use simple, easy to understand icons, even if you can’t read a word of All Japan newsese.
Even in the most remote areas of the wildlife preserve and parks you’ll find well stocked and maintained vending machines.
The unusually mild Spring-like weather has convinced the plum trees to burst into blossom.
All the gardens and parks are immaculately maintained and it’s rare to find cans, bottles, or trash carelessly tossed aside.
Some of the walking/jogging paths have a specially prepared surface that almost feels ‘bouncy’.
Since docking berths at official marinas are in high demand, have long waiting lists, and cost a small fortune, many owners anchor their craft along the sides of small rivers and channels.