While Tokyo-ites love to take jabs at us for being country bumpkins, I consider myself a proud Chiba “ken-min” (prefectural citizen.)
I’ve currently lived in Japan for a bit over three years, and that entire time has been spent living in Chiba, although I’ve worked for more than two of those years in the heart of Tokyo. I do not think it would be an exaggeration to say that most foreigners who are or will be working in Tokyo have not even given a second thought to Chiba, but in particular if you’re on a budget, or are not a huge fan of the hustle and bustle, it’s really worth considering.
I’d like to introduce three different cities in western Chiba, all popular commuter towns and wonderful areas in their own right. I’ll start with more of an urban vibe, then move into less…. Tokyo-ish areas. First, allow me to introduce Funabashi.
Funabashi is a port city to the east of Tokyo Disneyland (which is also in Chiba, ironically), and has common access to both the Chuo-Sobu line and Tozai line, some of the most popular and convenient lines on the east-west routes. On the Chuo-Sobu Line you can go eastward to Chiba City, or all the way out west to Kichijoji and Mitaka directly! On the Tozai Line you can go from Nishi-Funabashi straight to Nakano on the west edge of the 23 Wards.
In addition to convenient transportation and shopping options at the main Funabashi Station, a quick ride to Minami-Funabashi expands your options even more. There’s a huge LalaPort mall there, with all the restaurants and shops your heart could desire. In particular, I am a fan of the movie theater there, along with the restaurant Eggs ‘n Things. Despite the well-known deliciousness of egg sandwiches from convenience stores in Japan, actual egg dishes here often leave much to be desired. The Eggs Benedict from Eggs ‘n Things is always a good choice, though a tad expensive!
My favorite part about Minami-Funabashi is that there’s an Ikea. I’m not sure how many of you reading this will feel the same, but if you’re anything like me, you love Ikea. And yet, you’ve probably actually bought very few things there. Ikea (a Swedish furniture store that is basically a huge showroom with a food court, if you aren’t aware) is definitely one of my favorite stores, just in general. It’s fun to look around the different rooms and imagine what you want your dream house to look like. Also, it’s hard to beat the Swedish meatballs!
Moving on, the second area I would like to introduce is Kashiwa City. We’ll be migrating from southwest Chiba up to the northwest. Chiba is quite similar to Funabashi in a lot of ways, with its main draw being easy access to Tokyo with a decently urbanized center. Right at the main Kashiwa Station we have the Takashimaya Station Mall, which has all of your shopping needs.
A short walk across the plaza outside the station will bring you to Bic Camera, and then you can go down to the main shopping street. The Bic Camera in Kashiwa is probably my favorite electronics store, simply because it’s so spacious and has so many different things. There’s a section specifically for alcohol and a huge toy section on the top floor too!
Kashiwa is also on the JR Joban Line, which will bring you directly to popular Tokyo office spots like Otemachi and Shin-Ochanomizu. Of course, from there you can take a quick transfer to another area if need be as well. While it can take 40-50ish minutes to get into the heart of the city, Kashiwa is far enough out that you can basically sit the whole ride. You can use that commute time to look at your phone or read a book!
Of course, rental costs are going to be much better than Tokyo. For example, here is the outside of a 1K at Kashiwa Station, for only ¥32,000!
Even crazier is that it’s only a 7 minute walk to the main Kashiwa Station. If you’re looking for a budget option and are fine with a bit longer of a commute, Kashiwa is a great option to consider. Please click here to check our current availability in Kashiwa City, and if you like anything, inquire right on the listing page!
The further you get out from the main station area, the more countryside the city becomes. There’s a lot of parks and wildlife nearby. One park that runs northwest of Kashiwa Station has a large river, which is very popular for walks. It’s surprisingly full of wildlife, and you can often see turtles, koi, and intimidating large birds which I am unable to identify.
Lastly, I’d like to introduce Matsudo. Matsudo is a bit of a smaller town vibe, although you still have all the access you need to shops and restaurants. In fact, although neither Kashiwa nor Matsudo beat Funabashi in terms of shops, I would say that Matsudo has better options than Kashiwa. It actually has a Sukiya, for one thing! Although Kashiwa recently got Burger King… Anyway, that’s beside the point.
Matsudo is also on the Joban Line, but around 15 minutes closer to Tokyo. That makes it a great option for those looking for a balance between commute time and price, however by the time the train gets to Matsudo (it starts from the northern side of Chiba), you’re unlikely to get a seat. You’ll need to weigh if you care more about time, or more about sitting. I personally fall into the latter category.
One good thing about Matsudo is that it’s less densely packed compared to Funabashi, Kashiwa, and of course Tokyo. You have a lot more space for walking, riding your bike, or even car if that’s your chosen mode of transportation. Speaking casually, I would describe it as a place with a very “comfy” vibe. It’s a really good balance of having everything you need right around where you live, but not also being overly crowded.
Moving onto apartments, despite being closer to Tokyo, Matsudo’s prices are relatively competitive with Kashiwa. There are two main factors I would attribute to this: 1. The main city buildings being pretty short, and thus less “urbanized,” and 2. The common inability to sit on the train by the time it gets to Matsudo.
When people are looking for apartments in Tokyo with a mid-range budget, it isn’t common to be shocked by how old some of the properties can be. Well, if you’re willing to fork up similar amounts of cash for an area in Chiba, you can usually get something not only much newer, but larger as well.
For a direct example, here is the outside of a 2020 built unit in Matsudo, just 10 minutes from the main Matsudo Station, and 25 square meters for only ¥63,000 a month.
If you compare this pricing with Tokyo, it’s really easy to see why this is a good deal. For a full list of properties to look through in Matsudo, please click here!
I hope from introducing these three cities, you will at least consider Chiba as an option in the future. Whether or not it makes sense to live here depends on a lot of factors, including what sort of areas you like to live in, where you work, and budget. But for a lot of people, I think Chiba is a great option that they don’t even realize is out there!
Nathan works for the GaijinPot Housing Service, helping foreigners find their home in Japan. He’s American and has lived in Japan for about three years. Read Nathan’s self-intro to find out what brought him here!
Lead image: Nathan