To me, the Japanese autumn season surely means it's time for chestnuts or "kuri." I spotted plenty of them while in Ōtaki, located in Southern Chiba.
In the town of 10,000 people is Ōtaki Prefectural Forest, where you can find chestnuts all over the many hiking trails. But, if you're only looking for the actual nut, you won't find too many. In fact, I had never seen what one looked like in nature until I visited there. The aesthetics of wild, unshelled chestnuts are drastically different from the smooth and rounded nuts themselves. They're spiky and almost look like little urchins you might find in the ocean.
Some of the actual creatures you'll find in the forest are frogs, spiders (eek!) and even some snakes along the peaceful trails of Ōtaki Forest. I had to be extra careful while taking in the scenery not to smack my face into a spider web. Let's just say I wasn't 100% successful, but that's all part of the fun!
Other than that, it's a beautiful place to hike in the fall weather. Ōtaki Forest has wooden cabins on site where one can camp comfortably. The cabins come with bedding and a futon, but you have to bring your own pillow. Additionally, they offer firewood, cooking utensils and grills. Each campsite has a fire pit, too. The site also has attendants who are on duty if any problems arise.
Next time, I am going to cook the chestnuts over the fire. I hear the best way to do it is to wrap them in wet paper or newspaper and then in tin foil. The wet newspaper keeps them from drying out. Then you can roast them over the open fire.