Three into one

The wa­ter­side dis­tricts near Tokyo’s Narita air­port re­tain tra­di­tional charm and char­ac­ter

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & In­dul­gence - HE­LEN MCKEN­ZIE

EAST OF NARITA

THE so-called wa­ter­side (or river­side) dis­tricts that em­brace the cities of Itako, Ka­tori and Kashima are a well-kept se­cret among air­line crews and fre­quent trav­ellers to Narita in­ter­na­tional air­port.

The neigh­bour­ing cities, which ex­tend across Chiba and Ibaraki pre­fec­tures, of­fer a con­trast from the bus­tle and bright lights of Ja­pan’s ma­jor ur­ban cen­tres. In cen­turies past, the re­gion’s myr­iad wa­ter­ways car­ried sake wine and rice to old Edo (Tokyo), but to­day’s at­trac­tions in­clude boat trips on wil­low-fringed rivers and peace­ful shrines nes­tled in woods roamed by sa­cred deer.

From Narita air­port, I travel east by road through the rice-grow­ing low­lands of the Tone River re­gion for less than an hour to Itako City, my base for sev­eral nights. From here, I drive for less than 30 min­utes to reach places of in­ter­est, which are also ac­ces­si­ble by train. blos­som time dur­ing my visit, sadly, but I still en­joy the sym­me­try of the mag­nif­i­cent maple trees, which show their vivid red leaves in Novem­ber. The tem­ple was built in 1185 and its bell, which is clas­si­fied as a na­tional trea­sure, dates from 1330.

LIT­TLE EDO

THE his­toric quar­ter of Sawara in Ka­tori City feels like a movie set for a sa­mu­rai epic set in an­cient Edo. The Ono­gawa River me­an­ders through the cen­tre of the precinct, edged by el­e­gant wil­lows; shops in wooden her­itage build­ings line the cob­ble­stoned river­side street. In­side Naka­mu­raya Kan­butsu Ten, the wares are exquisitely wrapped and beau­ti­fully boxed. I imag­ine sweets and cho­co­late nes­tled in­side, but am told it’s smoked fish and sea­weed. I have to be prized out of Ue­daya Ara­mono Ten, where ce­ram­ics, tra­di­tional bam­boo home­wares and cook­ing equip­ment have been sold since 1759. For a tour of the area, or the city in gen­eral, con­sider a vol­un­teer guide from the Ka­tori In­ter­na­tional Friend­ship As­so­ci­a­tion. More: chiba-tour.jp; shimin10@city.ka­tori.lg.jp.

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