Situated in the eastern part of the Kanto region, Ibaraki Prefecture, with its capital city Mito, is a treasure trove of history, nature, and culture. Known for its scenic beauty, delectable natto (fermented soybeans), and the mesmerizing Kairakuen Garden, Ibaraki is a land where time seems to move a little slower, beckoning travelers to take a moment to savor its offerings. This guide delves deep into the myriad experiences awaiting visitors to this lesser-explored gem of Japan.
Ibaraki, bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the east, is characterized by its expansive coastlines, vast plains, and gentle mountain ranges. Its proximity to Tokyo makes it an excellent choice for both day trips and extended stays for those wanting to escape the urban hustle and bustle.
Mito – The Cultural and Historical Hub:
Mito city is not just the administrative capital of Ibaraki but also its heart, historically and culturally. One of its most renowned attractions, the Kairakuen Garden, is among Japan’s top three gardens. Created in the 19th century by the local lord Tokugawa Nariaki, Kairakuen is especially famous for its plum blossom festival in early spring, drawing crowds with over 3,000 plum trees of various varieties bursting into colors.
But Mito is not just about its gardens. It’s also home to the Kodokan School, once the largest han school during the Edo period, where samurai learned Confucian principles, martial arts, and academics. Today, visitors can walk through the serene grounds and feel the weight of history around them.
Ibaraki’s fertile lands and coastal waters ensure a bounty of fresh produce and seafood. While natto, a divisive delicacy due to its strong flavor and sticky texture, is synonymous with Ibaraki, there’s a rich culinary tapestry to explore. Mito’s gyoza (dumplings) are famous throughout Japan, and the fresh seafood, especially the flounder and sardines, are a must-try.
The Fukuroda Falls in Daigo town, cascading down in four stages, offers a mesmerizing sight, particularly during autumn when surrounded by the golden hues of the season. Meanwhile, the Oarai Beach, with its iconic Isosaki Shrine and torii gate standing against the waves, promises serenity and captivating sunrises.
Events and Festivals:
Beyond its natural beauty and historical sites, Ibaraki is alive with events throughout the year. The Mito Komon Festival in summer celebrates the legendary Edo period figure with parades and lively performances. And if you’re around in winter, don’t miss the Mount Tsukuba Shrine’s Setsubun Festival, where the age-old traditions of driving out evil spirits and welcoming spring are observed with fervor.
Art and Modern Attractions:
For art enthusiasts, the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Hitachi is a haven. This cutting-edge facility showcases the works of both Japanese and international artists. Meanwhile, the Tsukuba Science City, dotted with research institutions, universities, and corporate labs, is a testament to Ibaraki’s forward-looking stance.
Ibaraki, with Mito at its heart, offers a blend of history, nature, and modernity. Whether you’re soaking in the tranquility of its gardens, relishing its culinary delights, or immersing yourself in its vibrant festivals, Ibaraki promises memories that will linger long after the journey has ended.
To get the most out of your visit, immerse yourself in the rhythms of this tranquil prefecture, interact with the locals, and let Ibaraki’s charms slowly unfold before you. Welcome to Ibaraki – a journey of discovery awaits!
Ibaraki City Guide: A Brief History Of Ibaraki (Mito), Japan
Ibaraki, with the thriving city of Mito at its helm, is a location that intertwines ancient legacies with significant moments of modern Japanese history. Its geographic proximity to Tokyo, yet its distinct cultural and historical identity, makes it a unique spot for travelers keen on delving deeper into the historical fabric of Japan.
Prehistoric and Ancient Times:
The history of Ibaraki dates back to prehistoric times. Archaeological sites in the region have yielded artifacts, suggesting that the area was inhabited as far back as the Jomon period (c. 14,000-300 BCE). Ancient burial mounds from the subsequent Yayoi period show the growing sophistication and complexity of the communities.
Heian to Kamakura Period (794-1333):
During the Heian period, Ibaraki was not yet known by its present name but was part of the larger Hitachi Province. As the political center shifted to Kamakura in the subsequent Kamakura period, the area saw increased militarization, with samurai clans, including the prominent Ashikaga clan, exerting control over parts of the region.
Muromachi Period (1336-1573):
The Muromachi period witnessed the rise and dominance of shogunates, and Ibaraki’s strategic coastal location became of immense significance. The region experienced several battles and skirmishes, as daimyo (feudal lords) jostled for power.
Edo Period (1603-1868):
Perhaps the most defining era for Mito, and by extension Ibaraki, is the Edo period. The Tokugawa shogunate, which centralized power in Japan, designated Mito as one of the three ‘Tokugawa Family Branches.’ The Mito domain was ruled by the Mito-Tokugawa clan, and this association brought significant development, prestige, and prosperity to the area.
It was during this period that Mito’s most renowned lord, Tokugawa Nariaki, commissioned the creation of the beautiful Kairakuen Garden. Moreover, the Mito domain also fostered the development of the Kodokan School, an institution that became pivotal in the propagation of the Mito School of thought. This intellectual movement, known for the doctrine of “Revere the Emperor, Expel the Barbarians,” played a crucial role in the lead up to the Meiji Restoration.
Meiji Period (1868-1912) and Beyond:
Post the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate and the onset of the Meiji era, Japan underwent rapid modernization and industrialization. The city of Mito and the larger Ibaraki prefecture saw infrastructural development, and the establishment of modern industries. The region’s abundant natural resources, particularly its mineral deposits, played a crucial role in its modern economic history.
The 20th Century and World War II saw Ibaraki and Mito play roles in Japan’s broader narrative. Post-war recovery led to significant industrial and infrastructural expansion, positioning Ibaraki as a crucial link between the urban dynamism of Tokyo and the northern provinces of Japan.
Today, while Ibaraki stands as a symbol of modern advancements, especially in the spheres of science with institutions in Tsukuba Science City, it remains deeply tethered to its historical roots. The legacy of the Tokugawa clan, the ancient shrines dotting its landscapes, and its centuries-old festivals make Ibaraki a rich tapestry of tales waiting to be discovered by the discerning traveler.
When one walks the streets of Mito, visits the ancient sites, or enjoys the modern amenities of Ibaraki, they are not just witnessing a location but engaging with centuries of history, evolution, and cultural significance. Welcome to Ibaraki – where every corner has a story to tell.
source: Giselle Sees Japan on YouTube
Top 44 Things To Do in Ibaraki, Japan For Visitors
Ibaraki Prefecture, with its blend of historical, natural, and modern attractions, offers a wide array of experiences for travelers. Here are the top 44 things to do when you visit this gem in the Kanto region:
- Kairakuen Garden: Visit one of Japan’s top three gardens, especially during the plum blossom festival in spring, when over 3,000 plum trees erupt in color.
- Fukuroda Falls: Marvel at the grandeur of these falls in Daigo town, which flow in four stunning stages.
- Oarai Isosaki Shrine: This iconic shrine, with its torii gate standing against the Pacific waves, promises serenity and mesmerizing sunrises.
- Hitachi Seaside Park: Experience the seasonal blooms, from blue nemophila in spring to red kochia in autumn.
- Mito’s Kodokan School: Walk through this historical site where samurai once studied and learn about its influence during the Edo period.
- Ryujin Big Suspension Bridge: Test your bravery by crossing this 375-meter-long bridge, and enjoy the panoramic views below.
- Mt. Tsukuba: Hike or take the cable car up this famed mountain, which offers spectacular views and is rich in mythology.
- Kasama Inari Shrine: This historic shrine, known for its pottery, offers a serene atmosphere amidst old cedar trees.
- Ibaraki Nature Museum: A great spot for families to learn about the region’s natural history and ecology.
- Aqua World Oarai Aquarium: Encounter marine life from around the world, especially from the Pacific Rim.
- Tsukuba Expo Center: Dive into the wonders of science and astronomy at this interactive center.
- Kasama Pottery: Discover the artistic side of Ibaraki by exploring pottery workshops and studios in Kasama.
- Ushiku Daibutsu: Visit one of the tallest Buddha statues in the world, standing at 120 meters.
- Tsukuba Space Center: Tour the heart of Japan’s space exploration endeavors and see real rockets and space equipment.
- Ibaraki Prefectural Museum of History: Trace the historical journey of the region from ancient to modern times.
- Kitayama Park: A family-friendly location with beautiful cherry blossoms in spring.
- Chateau Kamiya: Savor some local wine and tour the historic building in Ushiku.
- Cycling Lake Kasumigaura: Rent a bike and tour around Japan’s second-largest lake.
- Mito Komon Festival: Experience this summer event celebrating the legendary figure with parades and performances.
- Suigo Sawara Aquatic Botanical Garden: Explore the floating gardens and witness the vibrant lotus blooms.
- Hitachi Furusato Village: Immerse yourself in local farming practices and even participate in some hands-on activities.
- Tsuchiura Fireworks Competition: Experience one of Japan’s most famous fireworks displays, held annually in October.
- Art Tower Mito: Admire contemporary art and enjoy concerts in this unique architectural marvel.
- Sawara Historic District: Travel back in time in this canal town, once a crucial transport hub.
- Kabuki at the Mito Komon Theatre: Watch traditional Kabuki performances in Mito.
- Ibaraki Ceramic Art Museum: Explore the rich ceramic traditions of the region.
- Mito’s Gyoza Street: Savor the famous gyoza of Mito, with numerous shops offering their unique twist.
- Oarai Sun Beach: Relax on this sandy beach or indulge in water sports.
- Go Caving in the Abukuma Caves: Delve into the depths of these limestone caves and witness stunning stalactites and stalagmites.
- Amabiki Kannon Temple: Visit this temple, famed for its healing powers and spiritual significance.
- Try Natto: Brave Ibaraki’s most famous and divisive dish – the fermented soybeans.
- Museum of Modern Art, Ibaraki: Appreciate art from both Japanese and international artists.
- Ibaraki Botanical Garden: Explore over 3,000 plant species in this vast garden.
- Oarai Marine Tower: Get a panoramic view of the town and the Pacific Ocean from this observation tower.
- Ibaraki Flower Park: Enjoy seasonal flowers throughout the year, from tulips to roses.
- Doho Park: A multi-purpose park with a zoo, amusement rides, and cultural facilities.
- Okukuji Valley: Soak in the natural beauty, especially during autumn when the leaves change colors.
- Visit Local Onsens: Relax in the many hot springs dotted around the region.
- Naka River: Try river activities like rafting during the warmer months.
- Tsuchiura Castle Ruins: Walk amidst the historic ruins of this Edo-period castle.
- Yuki Tsumugi Traditional Industry Center: Learn about the traditional silk fabric craftsmanship of the region.
- Join the Natto Festival: Held in Mito, join in the celebrations of Ibaraki’s famous food.
- Oarai Golf Club: Play a round of golf while enjoying views of the Pacific.
- Shopping in Mito: Browse through traditional shops and modern malls for souvenirs and local crafts.
With its combination of nature, history, culture, and modernity, Ibaraki promises an enriching journey for all visitors. Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or a foodie, Ibaraki has something special in store for you.
source: Sharmeleon on YouTube
What To Eat and Drink in Ibaraki (Mito), Japan
Ibaraki Prefecture, with Mito as its heart, is a treasure trove of culinary delights that captivate both locals and visitors. The region’s rich agricultural heritage, coupled with its coastal proximity, yields a diverse array of dishes and beverages. Let’s journey through the flavors of Ibaraki:
1. Natto (Fermented Soybeans):
- Overview: Natto, the most emblematic food of Ibaraki, is fermented soybeans known for its sticky, stringy texture and distinct aroma.
- Tasting Notes: Its strong flavor can be an acquired taste for many, but it’s packed with nutrients.
- Serving Suggestions: Typically served over rice and often accompanied by soy sauce, mustard, and green onions.
2. Mito Gyoza (Dumplings):
- Overview: Mito’s version of the popular Japanese dumpling is renowned throughout the country.
- Tasting Notes: Crispy on the outside with flavorful fillings, usually a mix of minced pork, cabbage, garlic, and ginger.
- Serving Suggestions: Best enjoyed with soy sauce and a touch of chili oil.
3. Anko Nabe (Anglerfish Hot Pot):
- Overview: A winter delicacy, this hot pot uses anglerfish, a deep-sea fish.
- Tasting Notes: The rich broth, combined with the unique taste of anglerfish and accompanying vegetables, creates a hearty dish.
- Serving Suggestions: Often served with ponzu sauce and enjoyed as a communal meal.
4. Hitachi Beef:
- Overview: A local variety of Wagyu beef, Hitachi beef is known for its marbling and tenderness.
- Tasting Notes: The melt-in-the-mouth texture, combined with a rich beefy flavor, makes it a sought-after delicacy.
- Serving Suggestions: Can be enjoyed as steaks, in hot pots, or as sushi.
5. Ayu (Sweetfish):
- Overview: A freshwater fish, ayu is especially popular in summer.
- Tasting Notes: Its sweet and delicate flesh is a treat for seafood enthusiasts.
- Serving Suggestions: Often grilled with salt or served in a clear soup.
6. Ibaraki Sake:
- Overview: Ibaraki’s natural water sources and rice production make it an ideal location for sake brewing.
- Tasting Notes: Depending on the brand and variety, you’ll find floral, fruity, and umami notes in Ibaraki sake.
- Serving Suggestions: Can be enjoyed chilled or warmed, depending on the type and personal preference.
7. Melon Bread from Nakaminato:
- Overview: A local version of the popular melon bread, but with actual melon puree.
- Tasting Notes: A sweet, soft bread with a hint of melon flavor and a crispy cookie crust.
- Serving Suggestions: Best enjoyed fresh from the bakery, perhaps with a cup of tea.
8. Local Craft Beers:
- Overview: With the rise in craft beer popularity, Ibaraki has seen several microbreweries spring up.
- Tasting Notes: Ranges from light, crisp pilsners to rich, dark stouts, each with its unique flavors.
- Serving Suggestions: Enjoyed cold, often paired with local snacks or dishes.
9. Oysters from Hinuma Lake:
- Overview: The brackish waters of Hinuma Lake produce delectable oysters.
- Tasting Notes: Plump, juicy, with a briny flavor profile.
- Serving Suggestions: Can be eaten raw, grilled, or added to dishes like pasta.
10. Chestnuts from Kokaigawa:
- Overview: Ibaraki is known for its sweet and creamy chestnuts.
- Tasting Notes: They have a nutty sweetness and a creamy texture.
- Serving Suggestions: Often used in sweets, roasted as snacks, or incorporated into dishes.
Beverages and Local Drinks:
- Ibaraki Green Tea: The region produces quality green tea with a slightly sweet and vegetal flavor.
- Mito Umeshu: A type of plum wine, it has a balance of sweetness and tartness, often enjoyed as an aperitif or after dinner.
Ibaraki’s culinary landscape is a reflection of its geography, history, and the dedication of its producers. From the pungent aroma of natto to the delicate flavors of freshly grilled ayu, the prefecture offers a gastronomic journey that captivates and surprises. Whether you’re a food enthusiast seeking the next delightful flavor or someone who enjoys the occasional culinary indulgence, Ibaraki’s diverse food and drink offerings promise an unforgettable experience. So, next time you’re in Mito or anywhere in Ibaraki, be sure to savor these flavors and immerse yourself in the local food culture.
source: Best Places to Eat on YouTube
Top Restaurants In Ibaraki (Mito), Japan
The culinary landscape of Mito in Ibaraki Prefecture is a delightful blend of traditional flavors and modern twists. From traditional izakayas to fine-dining establishments, here’s a detailed guide to some of the top restaurants in the area:
1. Hitachi no Kuni Kairakuen Restaurant
- Overview: Located near the famous Kairakuen Garden, this restaurant offers a dining experience combined with breathtaking views.
- Signature Dishes: Regional specialties like natto, Hitachi beef dishes, and fresh seafood from the local coast.
- Ambience: Traditional Japanese, with tatami seating and views of the garden, especially enchanting during plum blossom season.
2. Sakanaya Dojo Mito Ekimae
- Overview: A seafood haven, known for serving the freshest catches of the day.
- Signature Dishes: Assorted sashimi platters, grilled fish, and seasonal seafood dishes.
- Ambience: Casual and lively, often bustling with locals and tourists alike.
- Overview: A celebrated restaurant specializing in eel (unagi) dishes, a favorite in the region.
- Signature Dishes: Hitsumabushi (grilled eel on rice) and Kabayaki (broiled eel with a sweet soy glaze).
- Ambience: Traditional Japanese with a warm, welcoming vibe.
4. Gyoza no Ohsho Mito
- Overview: Part of a famous chain, this restaurant in Mito stands out for its delectable gyoza and other Chinese-inspired dishes.
- Signature Dishes: Pan-fried gyoza, fried rice, and an assortment of noodle dishes.
- Ambience: Casual, making it ideal for quick bites and family outings.
- Overview: A hidden gem offering kaiseki (traditional multi-course) dining.
- Signature Dishes: Seasonal kaiseki menus that change with the availability of ingredients.
- Ambience: Elegant and serene, providing a traditional Japanese dining experience.
- Overview: This sushi restaurant is known for its expertise in crafting exquisite sushi and sashimi.
- Signature Dishes: Omakase (chef’s choice) sushi sets, where the chef selects the best fish of the day.
- Ambience: Minimalist, with a sushi counter that allows diners to watch the chefs at work.
7. Ibaraki Bussankan Natto Kitchen
- Overview: A unique restaurant dedicated to Ibaraki’s famed dish, natto.
- Signature Dishes: Various natto-based dishes, from traditional bowls to innovative fusion dishes.
- Ambience: Modern with a touch of traditional elements, catering to both natto enthusiasts and curious diners.
- Overview: A renowned establishment offering authentic Korean cuisine.
- Signature Dishes: Bulgogi, bibimbap, and various Korean stews.
- Ambience: Cozy and vibrant, with Korean decor elements.
9. Saryo Itoen
- Overview: A teahouse and restaurant known for its traditional tea and Japanese sweets.
- Signature Dishes: Matcha (green tea) with traditional Japanese confectioneries and light seasonal meals.
- Ambience: Tranquil with views of a beautiful garden, perfect for a relaxing afternoon.
10. Steak House Pound Mito
- Overview: A premium steakhouse showcasing the best of Hitachi beef.
- Signature Dishes: Various cuts of Hitachi beef steaks, grilled to perfection.
- Ambience: Elegant and refined, catering to those seeking a fine-dining experience.
Mito, being the heart of Ibaraki Prefecture, offers a plethora of dining options that resonate with the region’s rich agricultural and marine resources. Each restaurant in the city tells a story, whether it’s about a time-honored tradition, a cherished ingredient, or a culinary innovation. For visitors, each meal becomes not just a gastronomic delight but a journey through the culture and spirit of Ibaraki. Whether you’re seeking a traditional Japanese kaiseki experience or the comfort of perfectly grilled Hitachi beef, Mito’s vibrant restaurant scene promises to satiate your palate and leave you with cherished memories.
source: Tokyo Creative Travel on YouTube
Tours For Visitors To Ibaraki (Mito), Japan
Ibaraki, with Mito at its core, is a destination rich in history, culture, natural beauty, and culinary wonders. To experience the breadth of what Ibaraki has to offer, consider one of the following tours, each crafted to offer a unique perspective of this beautiful prefecture:
1. Historical Mito Tour:
- Description: Delve into the historical significance of Mito, including its role during the Edo period.
- Kodokan: The largest han school during the Edo period.
- Kairakuen Garden: One of the Three Great Gardens of Japan, famous for its plum blossoms.
- Ibaraki Prefectural Museum of History: Offers insights into the region’s past.
2. Nature and Scenic Tour:
- Description: Explore Ibaraki’s natural landscapes, from lakes to mountains to the sea.
- Fukuroda Falls: Known as one of Japan’s three most beautiful waterfalls.
- Hitachi Seaside Park: Celebrated for its blue nemophila flowers and seasonal blooms.
- Mount Tsukuba: A double-peaked mountain with panoramic views of the region.
3. Ibaraki Culinary Tour:
- Description: Dive deep into the flavors of Ibaraki, visiting local producers and tasting regional specialties.
- Natto Factory Visit: Experience the production process of this iconic dish.
- Sake Brewery Tour: Understand the intricate sake-making process with tastings.
- Local Fish Market: Explore the fresh catch of the day and perhaps participate in a seafood preparation workshop.
4. Coastal Ibaraki Tour:
- Description: A journey through Ibaraki’s stunning coastline, featuring cliffs, beaches, and local fishing communities.
- Oarai Beach: A popular spot with vast sandy shores.
- Oarai Isosaki Shrine: Known for its torii gate standing in the ocean.
- Nakaminato Fish Market: A bustling market known for its fresh seafood.
5. Art and Culture Tour:
- Description: Explore the artistic and cultural nuances of Ibaraki.
- Ibaraki Prefectural Museum of Modern Art: Showcasing contemporary art and local artists.
- Mito Arts Foundation: A hub for performing arts in the region.
- Traditional Crafts Workshop: Experience hands-on activities like pottery or textile weaving, guided by local artisans.
6. Agricultural Ibaraki Tour:
- Description: Understand the agricultural heart of Ibaraki by visiting farms and participating in harvests.
- Melon Farming: Visit a local farm, learn about melon cultivation, and taste fresh melons.
- Rice Paddy Experience: Plant or harvest rice depending on the season.
- Green Tea Plantation: Walk through tea fields and partake in a traditional tea ceremony.
7. Spiritual Ibaraki Tour:
- Description: A tour dedicated to the spiritual sites and practices in the region.
- Kashima Jingu Shrine: One of the oldest Shinto shrines in Japan.
- Osaki Shrine: A tranquil spot surrounded by ancient trees.
- Zen Meditation Session: Experience tranquility at a local temple.
8. Adventure and Sports Tour:
- Description: For thrill-seekers and those wanting an adrenaline rush.
- Paragliding Over Mount Tsukuba: Experience breathtaking views.
- Cycling Tours: Cycle through scenic routes, including coastal paths.
- Fishing Trips: Charter a local boat and try your hand at deep-sea fishing.
Ibaraki, a blend of the old and new, nature and culture, adventure and tranquility, promises varied experiences for every traveler. Guided tours are an excellent way to delve deeper into specific aspects of the region, whether it’s the history echoing through the streets of Mito or the fresh breeze of the Pacific Ocean. Engaging with local guides and experts further enriches the journey, allowing visitors to forge a connection with the heart and soul of Ibaraki. Each tour, carefully curated and detailed, becomes a chapter in a traveler’s tale, weaving memories that last a lifetime.
source: Travel By 3 Girls on YouTube
Ibaraki Accommodations Guide: Hotels, Guesthouses and Hostels
Nestled in the Kanto region of Japan, Ibaraki offers a rich tapestry of experiences for travelers, and finding the right place to stay is pivotal to one’s journey. Whether you prefer the luxury of a top-tier hotel, the charm of a traditional guesthouse, or the camaraderie of a hostel, Ibaraki’s accommodations cater to all. Here’s a detailed guide to help you decide where to rest your head:
- Hotel Terrace The Garden Mito:
- Description: Located in the heart of Mito, this hotel offers a blend of modern luxury and traditional aesthetics.
- Facilities: On-site restaurants, spa services, gym, and concierge service.
- Nearby Attractions: Kairakuen Garden and the Ibaraki Prefectural Museum of History.
- Daiwa Roynet Hotel Mito:
- Description: A renowned chain, known for its impeccable service and modern amenities.
- Facilities: In-house restaurant, free Wi-Fi, and laundry services.
- Nearby Attractions: Mito Art Tower and Mito Station.
- APA Hotel Mito-Ekimae:
- Description: Conveniently located and perfect for business travelers or short stays.
- Facilities: On-site restaurant, free Wi-Fi, and modern conveniences.
- Nearby Attractions: A short walk from Mito Station and close to shopping districts.
- Hotel Route-Inn Mitsukaido Ekimae:
- Description: A comfortable hotel, ideal for those traveling around Ibaraki.
- Facilities: Complimentary breakfast, public bath, and free parking.
- Nearby Attractions: Yuki Shrine and some local parks.
Traditional Guesthouses (Ryokan):
- Kashima Honkan:
- Description: A traditional Japanese ryokan that offers an authentic experience.
- Facilities: Tatami rooms, public baths, and traditional kaiseki meals.
- Nearby Attractions: Kashima Jingu Shrine and Kashima Soccer Stadium.
- Omoide Romankan:
- Description: Located amidst nature, this ryokan is a serene escape.
- Facilities: Hot spring baths, local cuisine, and views of surrounding landscapes.
- Nearby Attractions: Close to Mount Tsukuba and its associated shrines.
Hostels and Budget Accommodations:
- Mito Guesthouse Kazenoto:
- Description: A cozy, backpacker-friendly guesthouse.
- Facilities: Shared kitchen, common lounge, and free Wi-Fi.
- Nearby Attractions: Close to major Mito attractions and transportation hubs.
- Tsukuba Guesthouse:
- Description: A vibrant and social hostel, perfect for solo travelers and groups.
- Facilities: Shared rooms, kitchen facilities, and a common lounge area.
- Nearby Attractions: A short distance from Tsukuba University and Mount Tsukuba.
- Farm Stay in Ibaraki:
- Description: Experience local life by staying on a working farm.
- Facilities: Basic amenities, farm tours, and fresh farm-to-table meals.
- Nearby Attractions: Depending on the farm’s location, attractions will vary but often include local parks, temples, and natural sights.
Ibaraki’s accommodations are as diverse as its attractions. The key to a memorable stay lies in aligning your preferences with the type of experience you seek. Whether you’re immersing yourself in the luxurious comforts of a hotel, experiencing the age-old traditions of a ryokan, or bonding with fellow travelers in a hostel, Ibaraki promises a home away from home. Remember to consider factors like proximity to attractions, the type of experience you want (traditional vs. modern), and your budget. With a bit of research and this guide in hand, you’re sure to find the perfect spot to rest, rejuvenate, and gear up for the next day’s adventures.
source: Samuel and Audrey on YouTube
Day Trips From Ibaraki (Mito), Japan
Ibaraki’s central location in the Kanto region makes it an excellent base for day trips to surrounding areas. From ancient temples to bustling metropolises, the attractions within a few hours of Mito are both diverse and captivating. Here are some detailed day trip suggestions to consider:
- Overview: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Nikko boasts majestic temples, shrines, and national parks.
- Main Attractions:
- Toshogu Shrine: A lavishly decorated shrine and mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu.
- Kegon Falls: One of Japan’s highest waterfalls.
- Lake Chuzenji: A scenic lake at the foot of Mount Nantai.
- Getting There: Take a train from Mito to Utsunomiya and then transfer to the Nikko Line. The journey is approximately 2-2.5 hours.
- Overview: The capital city of Japan, Tokyo offers an endless array of modern attractions, shopping, dining, and cultural experiences.
- Main Attractions:
- Asakusa & Senso-ji Temple: The oldest temple in Tokyo.
- Shibuya Crossing: The world’s busiest pedestrian crossing.
- Tokyo Skytree: Japan’s tallest structure offering panoramic city views.
- Getting There: Direct trains run from Mito to Tokyo Station. The journey typically takes around 1.5 hours.
- Overview: Home to one of the world’s tallest statues, the Ushiku Daibutsu.
- Main Attractions:
- Ushiku Daibutsu: This bronze statue of Buddha is a sight to behold, complete with an observation deck offering views of the surrounding landscape.
- Getting There: A direct train from Mito to Ushiku followed by a bus ride will get you there in about 1 hour.
- Overview: Known for the Tsukuba Science City and Mount Tsukuba.
- Main Attractions:
- Mount Tsukuba: Hike or take the cable car to the peak for magnificent views.
- Tsukuba Expo Center: A science museum with a planetarium.
- Getting There: Direct trains run from Mito to Tsukuba. The journey is around 1 hour.
- Overview: A coastal town known for its temples, shrines, and the iconic Great Buddha.
- Main Attractions:
- Kotoku-in: The temple of the Great Buddha.
- Hasedera Temple: Offers stunning views of the town and sea.
- Komachi Dori: A bustling street with shops, cafes, and eateries.
- Getting There: Take a train from Mito to Yokohama, and then transfer to the Yokosuka Line to Kamakura. The trip will take around 2-2.5 hours.
- Overview: Famous for its pottery and traditional crafts.
- Main Attractions:
- Mashiko Sankokan Museum: Displays the works of Shoji Hamada, a National Living Treasure.
- Various Pottery Studios and Shops: Witness the artistry and purchase unique ceramic pieces.
- Getting There: Trains from Mito to Utsunomiya, followed by a transfer to the Moka Line to Mashiko. The journey is roughly 2 hours.
- Overview: Once an independent city, now a part of Ibaraki, Hitachi is known for its seaside views and rich history.
- Main Attractions:
- Hitachi Seaside Park: Famous for its seasonal flowers, especially the blue nemophila.
- Kamine Park: Offers panoramic views of the city and a zoo.
- Getting There: Direct trains run from Mito to Hitachi. The journey typically takes less than an hour.
- Overview: Japan’s second-largest city, Yokohama has a stunning port, historic buildings, and vibrant neighborhoods.
- Main Attractions:
- Minato Mirai 21: A futuristic waterfront district with the Landmark Tower, museums, and shopping centers.
- Yokohama Chinatown: The largest Chinatown in Japan with numerous eateries and shops.
- Sankeien Garden: A traditional Japanese garden showcasing seasonal beauty.
- Getting There: Trains from Mito to Tokyo, then a transfer to the Yokohama Line. Total travel time is around 2 hours.
- Overview: Located in the neighboring Chiba Prefecture, Choshi is a coastal city renowned for its fishing history and soy sauce production.
- Main Attractions:
- Inubosaki Lighthouse: Offers panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean.
- Choshi Electric Railway: A scenic ride showcasing coastal and rural views.
- Soy Sauce Museums: Delve into the centuries-old art of soy sauce making.
- Getting There: Multiple train transfers might be required, usually via Narita or Chiba, with a total journey of about 3 hours.
- Overview: The second-largest lake in Japan, it offers a serene escape from urban landscapes.
- Main Attractions:
- Lakeside Activities: Enjoy fishing, boating, or simply relax by the shores.
- Kasumigaura Park: Ideal for picnics and offers beautiful views of the lake.
- Annual Festivals: Including the Kasumigaura Marathon and fireworks festivals.
- Getting There: Direct trains or buses run from Mito to Tsuchiura or other lakeside towns. The journey is usually about 1 hour.
- Overview: Best known for Narita International Airport, this town offers more than just flight connections, boasting rich cultural heritage.
- Main Attractions:
- Naritasan Shinshoji Temple: An impressive temple complex with a serene park and pagodas.
- Narita Traditional Streets: Enjoy local shops, eateries, and experience old-world charm.
- Museum of Aeronautical Sciences: Dive into the world of aviation with interactive exhibits.
- Getting There: Trains from Mito to Narita, with potential transfers depending on the route. The journey takes around 1.5 to 2 hours.
- Overview: Located in Tochigi Prefecture, Ashikaga is renowned for its wisteria flowers and ancient school.
- Main Attractions:
- Ashikaga Flower Park: Famous for its mesmerizing wisteria trees, especially during the spring bloom.
- Ashikaga Gakko: Japan’s oldest school, reflecting traditional architectural aesthetics.
- Orihime Shrine: A picturesque shrine known for its historical significance.
- Getting There: Take a train from Mito to Oyama and then transfer to the Ryomo Line to Ashikaga. The trip usually takes about 2 hours.
- Overview: Often referred to as “Little Edo”, Sawara retains its historical charm with well-preserved canals and buildings.
- Main Attractions:
- Historic Streets of Sawara: Wander through Edo-era streets lined with traditional houses and stores.
- Boat Tours: Enjoy scenic rides on traditional boats through the town’s historic canals.
- Katori Jingu: A revered shrine nestled amidst lush greenery.
- Getting There: Multiple train transfers might be required, typically via Narita. The journey can be about 2 to 2.5 hours.
- Overview: A favorite hot spring destination with captivating views of Mount Fuji.
- Main Attractions:
- Owakudani: A volcanic valley with sulfurous fumes and hot springs.
- Lake Ashi: A scenic lake offering boat rides with views of Mount Fuji.
- Hakone Open-Air Museum: An expansive museum displaying outdoor sculptures.
- Getting There: Trains from Mito to Tokyo, followed by a transfer to the Odakyu Line to Hakone. The entire trip may take about 3 hours.
- Overview: A landlocked prefecture known for its mountains, hot springs, and outdoor activities.
- Main Attractions:
- Kusatsu Onsen: One of Japan’s most famous hot spring resorts.
- Takasaki: Home to the Daruma doll and the majestic Byakue Kannon statue.
- Minakami: A haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering activities like rafting and hiking.
- Getting There: Depending on the destination within Gunma, travelers might opt for trains through Takasaki or Maebashi. Journey durations vary but generally fall between 2 to 3 hours.
Ibaraki’s strategic location means you’re never far from some of Japan’s most cherished sites. Whether you’re in the mood for the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, the spiritual aura of Nikko, or the artistic atmosphere of Mashiko, day trips from Mito open a realm of possibilities. Each destination offers its unique charm and can provide a contrasting experience to the tranquility and heritage of Ibaraki, making your overall trip well-rounded and fulfilling.
source: Currently Hannah on YouTube
Ibaraki Transportation Guide
The prefecture of Ibaraki, with Mito as its capital, is well-connected to other parts of Japan through a network of railways, highways, buses, and even an airport. For visitors hoping to explore Ibaraki’s many attractions or for those considering onward travels, understanding the transportation system can be immensely beneficial. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help navigate the transportation options in Ibaraki.
a. JR Joban Line:
- Overview: One of the primary rail lines connecting Ibaraki to Tokyo and the northern Tohoku region.
- Main Stations in Ibaraki: Mito, Tsuchiura, Ushiku, Katsuta, and Hitachi.
- Connections: Links Tokyo’s Ueno Station to Iwaki in Fukushima, making it a vital corridor for travel.
b. JR Mito Line:
- Overview: A branch line primarily serving the western part of Ibaraki.
- Main Stations: Mito, Naka, and Kamisugaya.
- Connections: Connects Oyama in Tochigi Prefecture with Tomobe, passing through Mito.
c. Tsukuba Express (TX):
- Overview: Connects Akihabara in Tokyo with Tsukuba in Ibaraki.
- Stations in Ibaraki: Moriya and Tsukuba.
- Features: Known for its speed and efficiency, it’s a great option for those looking to visit Tsukuba Science City or Mount Tsukuba.
a. Local Buses:
- Operators: Kanto Railway, Ibaraki Kotsu, and other local companies.
- Coverage: Extensive network covering areas not served by trains, including tourist spots and remote locations.
- Features: IC cards like Suica and PASMO can be used on many local buses.
b. Long-Distance Buses:
- Operators: Various companies including JR Bus and Willer Express.
- Destinations: Major cities like Tokyo, Yokohama, Sendai, and even Osaka.
- Features: Offers an alternative to trains, often with comfortable seating and amenities. Reservation may be necessary.
- Joban Expressway: Links Tokyo to the northeastern parts of Japan, passing through western Ibaraki.
- Ken-O Expressway: A ring road serving the outskirts of Tokyo and connecting with Ibaraki’s southern regions.
- Features: Tolls apply on these expressways. Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) cards make the payment process smoother.
b. National Highways:
- Coverage: Numerous national highways crisscross the prefecture, including Route 6, Route 50, and Route 354.
- Features: No tolls, but they can be busier and slower than expressways.
Ibaraki Airport (IBR):
- Location: Located in Omitama, it’s Ibaraki’s primary airport.
- Domestic Flights: Connects to cities like Sapporo, Fukuoka, and Kobe.
- International Flights: Limited routes to destinations in China, South Korea, and Southeast Asia.
- Features: A smaller and less crowded alternative to Tokyo’s major airports. Shuttle buses link the airport with Mito and other cities.
a. Rental Services:
- Availability: Many major stations, including Mito, offer bicycle rentals.
- Features: A great way to explore the city centers, parks, and local attractions at one’s own pace.
a. Major Operators: Nippon Rent-A-Car, Toyota Rent-A-Car, and Orix Rent-A-Car, among others.
- Features: Offers flexibility for those wanting to explore off-the-beaten-path locations or travel at their own pace.
- Note: International travelers should ensure they have a valid International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in Japan.
Tips and Recommendations:
- IC Cards: Investing in rechargeable IC cards like Suica or PASMO can streamline the payment process across various transportation modes.
- Japan Rail Pass: For visitors planning extensive travels, consider the Japan Rail Pass for unlimited travel on JR lines.
- Apps: Utilize navigation apps like Google Maps or HyperDia to plan routes efficiently.
Ibaraki’s transportation infrastructure is both comprehensive and efficient, ensuring that residents and tourists alike can move about seamlessly. Whether you’re exploring the rich tapestry of local attractions or venturing out to neighboring regions, understanding Ibaraki’s transport options will enhance your travel experience manifold.
source: Japan Walk [Together Walk] on YouTube
Ibaraki 1 Day Travel Itinerary
When it comes to soaking in the culture, history, and natural beauty of Ibaraki in just one day, efficient planning is key. This itinerary showcases a blend of modern attractions, natural wonders, and historical landmarks to ensure a well-rounded and fulfilling experience in Ibaraki.
1. Kairakuen Garden (Mito):
- Time: 9:00 AM – 10:30 AM
- Overview: One of Japan’s three Great Gardens, Kairakuen boasts a vast collection of plum trees, scenic walking paths, and a traditional bamboo grove.
- What to Do: Enjoy a peaceful morning walk amidst the verdant surroundings. If visiting in February or March, the plum blossom festival offers an ethereal experience. Also, explore Kobuntei, a traditional Japanese residence within the garden offering panoramic views.
2. Lake Senba:
- Time: 10:45 AM – 11:30 AM
- Overview: Adjacent to Kairakuen, this picturesque lake offers pedal boats and a lovely promenade.
- What to Do: Enjoy a leisurely walk or pedal boat ride. Feed the ducks or sit on one of the benches to relax and soak in the views.
3. Mito Station Area:
- Time: 12:00 PM – 1:15 PM
- Overview: The area around Mito Station is bustling with various restaurants and cafes.
- Recommendation: Try a local specialty such as “Mito natto”, fermented soybeans, which might be an acquired taste but is deeply rooted in the region’s culinary tradition.
4. Ibaraki Prefectural Museum of History:
- Time: 1:45 PM – 3:00 PM
- Overview: A gateway into the rich tapestry of Ibaraki’s past, this museum houses artifacts, displays, and interactive exhibitions.
- What to Do: Explore exhibits spanning from prehistoric to modern times. Check out any temporary exhibits or events that might be ongoing.
5. Hitachi Seaside Park:
- Time: 3:45 PM – 5:15 PM
- Overview: Located in the city of Hitachi, this vast park is celebrated for its seasonal flowers, especially the blue nemophila (“baby blue eyes”) and kochia bushes.
- What to Do: Roam the various gardens, each offering a different theme and seasonal attraction. The park is vast, so a rental bicycle might be a good option to cover more ground.
6. Oarai Isosaki Shrine & Oarai Beach:
- Time: 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM
- Overview: This Shinto shrine, located on the coast, is known for its unique Torii gate standing in the sea.
- What to Do: Wander through the shrine premises, soaking in the spiritual ambiance. As dusk approaches, head to Oarai Beach for a mesmerizing sunset view with the Torii gate in the backdrop.
7. Oarai Town:
- Time: 8:00 PM – 9:30 PM
- Overview: The town offers a plethora of dining options, many specializing in fresh seafood due to its coastal location.
- Recommendation: Opt for a traditional izakaya or a seafood restaurant to savor the freshest catch of the day. Grilled fish, sushi, and sashimi are a must-try.
Concluding the Day:
Return to Mito Station: By 10:30 PM, considering the train schedules, you should be heading back to Mito. The train ride offers a moment to reflect on the day’s adventures and experiences.
- Transportation: Efficient use of trains and buses is key. Ensure you check the schedules in advance. Using an IC card like Suica or PASMO can streamline the payment process.
- Attire: Wear comfortable shoes as there’ll be quite a bit of walking.
- Camera: Ibaraki’s diverse attractions offer numerous photo opportunities, so ensure your camera or phone is charged.
Whether you’re wandering through serene gardens, delving into history, or enjoying the coastal charm, this itinerary ensures you capture the essence of Ibaraki in a single day. Enjoy your journey!
source: Ketravel on YouTube
Ibaraki 3-4 Days Travel Itinerary
Ibaraki Prefecture is located in the Kanto region of Japan and is known for its beautiful natural landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and delicious local foods. Here’s a detailed 3-4 days travel itinerary for Ibaraki:
Day 1: Mito City – The Capital of Ibaraki
- Kairakuen Garden:
- Start your day early by visiting one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan.
- Best time: In February and March, the plum trees bloom, turning the garden into a sea of pink and white.
- Features: Bamboo groves, a traditional Japanese tea house, and Senba Lake.
- Kodokan School:
- A historic clan school that was one of the largest during the Edo period.
- Offers a glimpse into Japan’s educational system from centuries ago.
- Lunch at Mito Station:
- Try some local dishes, like natto (fermented soybeans) if you’re adventurous.
- Art Tower Mito:
- A contemporary arts complex and architectural wonder. Check their schedule for concerts and performances.
- Dinner in Mito City:
- Find a local izakaya (Japanese tavern) for a range of local dishes.
Day 2: Nature & History in Northern Ibaraki
- Fukuroda Falls:
- Located in Daigo, it’s one of Japan’s three most beautiful waterfalls. Best viewed during autumn when leaves change color, but also stunning in winter when it sometimes freezes.
- Ryujin Big Suspension Bridge:
- Great for panoramic views of the Ryujin Gorge, especially during the autumn foliage.
- Lunch in Daigo:
- Local eateries offer dishes like river fish and wild vegetables.
- Hitachi Seaside Park:
- A vast park known for seasonal flower blooms. The blue nemophila in spring and red kochia in autumn are especially breathtaking.
- Dinner back in Mito City.
Day 3: Coastal Ibaraki & Oarai
- Oarai Isosaki Shrine:
- A beautiful seaside shrine with a torii gate that stands in the ocean.
- Aquaworld Oarai Aquarium:
- Experience marine life from Ibaraki and around the world. The shark exhibit is a highlight.
- Lunch in Oarai:
- Enjoy fresh seafood, especially sushi and sashimi.
- Oarai Sun Beach:
- Depending on the season, you can swim, sunbathe, or just enjoy the view.
- Dinner in Oarai or Mito:
- Again, the seafood here is a must-try.
Day 4: Central Ibaraki – Tradition & Science
- Kasama Inari Shrine:
- Located in Kasama, it’s one of the major Inari shrines in Japan. Nearby, there are also pottery workshops where you can experience the craft.
- Tsukuba Space Center:
- Get a closer look at Japan’s space research. They have English-speaking guides, but it’s best to book in advance.
- Lunch in Tsukuba:
- Tsukuba is a modern city with a range of dining options.
- Mount Tsukuba:
- You can hike or take a cable car. The dual peaks are known as “Male” and “Female,” and the view from the top is panoramic.
- Dinner in Tsukuba or Mito.
- Travel: Renting a car might be more convenient, but Ibaraki is also accessible via train and bus.
- Stay: Consider a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) for at least one night to experience traditional hospitality.
- Food: Ibaraki’s seafood, especially flounder and anchovy, is a must-try. Also, you can’t leave without trying the local natto!
Enjoy your trip to Ibaraki!
source: AjMillen Domingo on YouTube
Ibaraki 1 Week Travel Itinerary
A week in Ibaraki offers the perfect opportunity to delve deeper into its natural wonders, cultural gems, and unique culinary experiences. Here’s a detailed 7-day travel itinerary for Ibaraki:
Day 1: Mito City – Dive into History and Culture
- Kairakuen Garden:
- Begin with a morning stroll in this historic garden, particularly famous for its plum blossoms during spring.
- Kodokan School:
- Experience the education ambiance from the Edo period.
- Lunch at Mito Station:
- Delight your palate with natto rolls, a famous local delicacy.
- Ibaraki Prefectural Museum of History:
- Learn about the rich history of the region.
- Explore Mito’s culinary scene at a traditional izakaya.
Day 2: Northern Ibaraki – Majestic Nature
- Fukuroda Falls:
- Revel in the beauty of these stunning cascades.
- Ryujin Big Suspension Bridge:
- Feel the thrill while you capture panoramic views of the gorge below.
- Lunch in Daigo:
- Enjoy local dishes made with fresh river fish.
- Hanazono Lake:
- A serene spot for rowing or simply enjoying the view.
- Dinner in Daigo.
Day 3: Explore the Coast – Oarai and Nakaminato
- Oarai Isosaki Shrine:
- Marvel at the oceanic backdrop of this spiritual site.
- Aquaworld Oarai Aquarium.
- Lunch in Oarai:
- Relish fresh seafood dishes.
- Nakaminato Fish Market:
- Experience the lively atmosphere and get a taste of the day’s catch.
- Dinner: Try regional specialties like ankou (anglerfish) hotpot.
Day 4: Cultural Dive – Kasama and Ishioka
- Kasama Inari Shrine.
- Kasama Geijutsu no Mori Park:
- An ideal place for pottery enthusiasts.
- Lunch in Kasama.
- Ishioka City Museum:
- Discover the city’s history and folklore.
- Dinner in Ishioka.
Day 5: Science and Nature – Tsukuba
- Tsukuba Space Center:
- Dive into Japan’s astronomical advancements.
- Mount Tsukuba:
- Spend your afternoon hiking, and enjoy the sunset views from the peak.
- Lunch on the mountain.
- Cyberdyne Studio:
- Delve into futuristic robotic technologies.
- Dinner in Tsukuba City.
Day 6: Discovering Traditional Craftsmanship
- Mashiko Town:
- Visit pottery studios and get hands-on experience.
- Lunch in Mashiko:
- Enjoy local dishes and freshly brewed sake.
- Ibaraki Ceramic Art Museum.
- Evening return to Mito.
Day 7: Relax and Recap
- Ibaraki Prefectural Museum of Modern Art, Mito:
- Immerse yourself in contemporary art.
- Mito’s shopping streets:
- Buy souvenirs and relish local snacks.
- Lunch in a downtown café.
- Lake Senba:
- A leisurely afternoon stroll or boat ride.
- Farewell dinner in Mito: Savor a kaiseki meal, celebrating Ibaraki’s finest ingredients.
- Travel: While renting a car offers flexibility, Ibaraki’s rail network, especially the Joban Line, is convenient for many destinations.
- Stay: Consider staying in different areas: ryokans in Daigo, business hotels in Tsukuba, and traditional guesthouses in Mito.
- Food: Apart from natto, try other local delicacies like chestnut rice in Kasama or sweet potato desserts in various towns.
Enjoy a comprehensive and immersive experience in Ibaraki!
Is Ibaraki A Safe City To Visit?
Let’s explore the safety of visiting Ibaraki in greater detail:
- Low Crime Rates: Japan boasts one of the lowest crime rates in the world. Ibaraki, like most parts of Japan, experiences very low levels of violent crime. Instances of pickpocketing or theft are rare, especially when compared to many Western cities.
- Polite Culture: The Japanese cultural ethos revolves around respect and politeness. Visitors often remark about the helpfulness and courtesy they experience from locals, even in situations where there might be a language barrier.
- Earthquakes and Tsunamis: Japan is located in a seismically active region. While buildings and infrastructure are designed to be earthquake-resistant, it’s essential for visitors to be aware of safety protocols, such as “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” during shaking. Coastal areas in Ibaraki, like other parts of Japan, also have designated evacuation routes in case of tsunamis.
- Typhoons: These are seasonal and can bring heavy rain and strong winds. While they can disrupt travel plans, Japan’s infrastructure is built to handle such weather conditions. It’s a good idea to check the weather forecast and advisories if you’re traveling during typhoon season.
- Left-hand Traffic: Japan drives on the left. Especially if you’re from a country with right-hand traffic, take extra caution when crossing streets or if you decide to drive.
- Public Transport: It’s punctual, clean, and safe. Train stations and bus stops usually have clear English signs, making it easier for tourists to navigate.
Health and Hygiene:
- Medical Facilities: Japan has an advanced healthcare system. In case of illness or injury, there are clinics and hospitals equipped with modern facilities. However, it’s always good to have travel insurance, as medical treatment can be expensive for non-residents.
- Cleanliness: Japan is known for its cleanliness. Public spaces, including restrooms, are generally kept very clean. This contributes to a low risk of diseases commonly associated with unsanitary conditions.
While not a safety concern per se, being aware of and respecting local customs and behaviors ensures a pleasant experience for tourists and locals alike. Simple gestures, such as not raising one’s voice in public places, removing shoes when entering someone’s home, or proper etiquette when visiting shrines and temples, go a long way in fostering mutual respect.
Ibaraki Prefecture is a safe destination for tourists. As with any place, it’s always wise to stay aware of your surroundings, especially if you’re in unfamiliar territory. Basic precautions, like not leaving belongings unattended or avoiding poorly lit areas at night, are good practices anywhere in the world. Overall, Ibaraki offers a blend of natural beauty, historical sites, and cultural experiences with the backdrop of Japanese safety and hospitality.
When Is The Best Time To Visit Ibaraki (Mito)?
Ibaraki Prefecture, with its capital city Mito, offers various attractions throughout the year. The best time to visit largely depends on the kind of experience you’re seeking. Let’s break down the best times to visit Ibaraki (Mito) according to the seasons and the attractions each season offers:
1. Spring (March to May):
- Plum Blossom Season: One of the most prominent features of Mito is the Kairakuen Garden, known as one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan. While many associate Japan with cherry blossoms, Kairakuen is renowned for its plum trees. In late February to March, these trees burst into bloom, painting the garden in shades of pink, white, and red. The Mito Plum Festival is held during this period, drawing numerous visitors.
- Cherry Blossoms: By late March to early April, cherry blossoms begin to bloom, offering picturesque landscapes. Parks and riverbanks are popular spots for hanami (cherry blossom viewing parties).
- Weather: Spring in Ibaraki is mild and temperate, although it can be chilly in early March. Rainfall is moderate.
2. Summer (June to August):
- Beaches and Coastal Activities: Ibaraki’s coastline, especially areas like Oarai, becomes a destination for beachgoers in the summer. It’s an ideal time for sunbathing, swimming, and other marine activities.
- Festivals: Summer is also the season for various local festivals and fireworks displays. The atmosphere is vibrant, and you can experience the traditional side of Japan.
- Weather: Summers in Ibaraki can be hot and humid, with temperatures often exceeding 30°C (86°F). June is typically the rainy season, so expect frequent showers and a high level of humidity.
3. Autumn (September to November):
- Fall Foliage: As the temperatures begin to drop, Ibaraki’s landscapes transform into brilliant hues of red, orange, and yellow. Areas around Mount Tsukuba and Fukuroda Falls become particularly scenic with their autumnal colors.
- Harvest Season: Autumn is a time for harvesting various fruits and vegetables. It’s an excellent opportunity to taste fresh local produce, such as chestnuts, sweet potatoes, and grapes.
- Weather: The weather is cool and comfortable, making it ideal for outdoor activities and sightseeing.
4. Winter (December to February):
- Ibaraki Winter Illuminations: Various locations in Ibaraki, including Mito, feature winter illuminations, creating enchanting nightscapes with twinkling lights.
- Weather: Winters are relatively mild in Ibaraki compared to Japan’s northern regions. Snowfall is infrequent but possible. Temperatures can drop to around 0°C (32°F) or slightly below, especially in January.
- If you’re keen on avoiding crowds, it might be best to skip the peak tourist seasons, such as the plum and cherry blossom seasons in spring. Instead, consider visiting in the shoulder months like late April or early October.
- Always check local event calendars as there might be specific festivals, exhibitions, or events that align with your interests.
In conclusion, the best time to visit Ibaraki (Mito) depends on your preferences. Whether it’s the blooms of spring, the warmth of summer, the colors of autumn, or the tranquility of winter, Ibaraki has something to offer in every season.
Top Festivals and Events in Ibaraki (Mito)
Ibaraki, with its capital Mito, is a region steeped in tradition and culture. Throughout the year, various festivals and events reflect its rich heritage and the changing seasons. Here’s a detailed look at some of the top festivals and events in Ibaraki, particularly in Mito:
1. Mito Plum Festival (Mito Ume Matsuri)
- When: Late February to March
- Where: Kairakuen Garden, Mito
- Details: As one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan, Kairakuen becomes a hotspot during the plum blossom season. Over 3,000 plum trees bloom in a spectacular display of colors. The festival features traditional music performances, local food stalls, and a vibrant atmosphere as visitors throng to witness the beauty of the blossoms.
2. Mito Komon Festival
- When: Early August
- Where: Mito City Center
- Details: Celebrating Mito’s famous historical figure, Mito Komon, this festival sees a grand parade featuring the elderly hero and his two samurai retainers. Dancers, taiko drummers, and floats create a lively ambiance, and it’s a chance to delve into the local history.
3. Oarai Isozaki Shrine Ocean Festival (Oarai Kaijo Festival)
- When: Mid-July
- Where: Oarai Town (southeast of Mito)
- Details: This Shinto festival is a spectacular marine event. A massive mikoshi (portable shrine) is carried into the ocean as a form of purification. With fireworks, music, and dance, it’s a beautiful blend of spiritual significance and festive celebration.
4. Mito’s Natto Festival
- When: Mid-July
- Where: Mito City
- Details: Ibaraki, especially Mito, is famous for its natto (fermented soybeans). This festival celebrates the unique dish with natto-eating competitions, cooking demonstrations, and stalls offering various natto-based dishes.
5. Kasama Pottery Festival
- When: Golden Week (Late April to Early May) and early November
- Where: Kasama (north of Mito)
- Details: Kasama is renowned for its pottery. During the festival, potters from the region display and sell their creations. There are also pottery workshops, traditional performances, and local foods to enjoy.
6. Tsukuba Festival
- When: Early August
- Where: Tsukuba City (southwest of Mito)
- Details: Celebrating the region’s culture, this festival includes parades, dance performances, and a significant emphasis on local traditions. With a backdrop of Mount Tsukuba, it’s both scenic and culturally enriching.
7. Ibaraki Nature Museum’s Special Exhibitions
- When: Varies (depending on the exhibition)
- Where: Bando City (west of Mito)
- Details: This museum offers various special exhibitions throughout the year, focusing on the natural history of the region. It’s an insightful event for those keen on learning more about Ibaraki’s biodiversity.
8. Tsuchiura All Japan Fireworks Competition
- When: Early October
- Where: Tsuchiura City (southwest of Mito)
- Details: One of Japan’s most prestigious fireworks competitions, this event sees pyrotechnic artists from across the country showcasing their creations. The night sky comes alive with colorful and intricate fireworks displays.
- Accommodations: Festivals tend to draw many visitors, so it’s a good idea to book accommodations in advance, especially if you’re visiting during a major event.
- Transportation: Public transport might be busier during festivals. Planning your transit and being aware of potential delays or route changes will ensure smoother travel.
- Etiquette: Remember to respect local customs and traditions, especially during religious or cultural events.
In essence, Ibaraki’s festivals provide a vibrant glimpse into the prefecture’s heritage, traditions, and seasonal beauty. Each event offers a unique experience, making any time a good time to explore the region’s cultural richness.
Ibaraki Shopping Guide and Souvenir List
When visiting Ibaraki, shopping can be a delightful experience, not just for the items you can buy but also for the insight it provides into local culture, traditions, and artistry. Here’s a comprehensive guide on where to shop and what to buy in Ibaraki:
- Mito’s Shopping Streets: The capital city of Ibaraki, Mito, has several shopping streets and arcades. Places like Herbis Plaza and Mito Station vicinity offer a range of shops from traditional to modern.
- Tsukuba: As a city with a mix of international influence and local charm, Tsukuba has shopping malls such as Tsukuba Creo Square and AEON Mall Tsukuba. They offer both international brands and local specialty shops.
- Kasama: Known for its pottery, the town has the Kasama Craft Hills where you can find various pottery studios and shops.
- Hitachi: The city offers shopping streets with a mix of traditional shops and modern department stores.
- Natto: Ibaraki, especially Mito, is famous for its natto (fermented soybeans). You can purchase high-quality natto as a unique culinary souvenir. They come in various packagings, some specifically designed for travelers.
- Kasama Ware: The pottery from Kasama is famous throughout Japan. With both traditional and contemporary designs, a piece of Kasama ware—be it a teacup, plate, or vase—makes for a cherished souvenir.
- Hitachi Beef: Renowned for its quality and taste, Hitachi Beef is a luxurious delicacy. While carrying fresh beef isn’t practical, you can find products like beef jerky or vacuum-sealed cooked dishes to take home.
- Local Sake: Ibaraki has several sake breweries. Bottles of this Japanese rice wine, especially those from well-known breweries, are fantastic souvenirs for alcohol connoisseurs.
- Crafts from Fukuroda Falls: The area around Fukuroda Falls has shops selling handmade crafts, jewelry, and trinkets that reflect the beauty of one of Japan’s most famous waterfalls.
- Ushiku Daibutsu Souvenirs: Near the giant Buddha statue in Ushiku, there are shops where you can buy Buddha-themed souvenirs, from small figurines to themed stationery.
- Traditional Sweets: Ibaraki has its array of traditional Japanese sweets. Items like anmitsu (jelly dessert) and manju (sweet buns) packed in beautiful boxes make for delightful gifts.
- Seafood Products: Coastal areas in Ibaraki, like Oarai, offer various seafood products. Dried fish, seaweed, and other marine products packed for travel are available in local markets.
- Local Markets: Always keep an eye out for local markets or seasonal fairs. They often have unique items that aren’t available in typical stores.
- Customs Restrictions: If you’re traveling internationally, be aware of customs regulations, especially for food products.
- Ask for Wrapping: Japanese shops often offer exquisite gift wrapping, even for smaller items. If you’re buying souvenirs as gifts, don’t hesitate to ask for them to be wrapped.
- Tax-Free Shopping: Many larger shops offer tax-free shopping for tourists. Carry your passport and check for participating stores to avail of this benefit.
Shopping in Ibaraki provides an opportunity to dive deep into local culture and traditions. From handmade pottery to unique food products, the prefecture offers a wealth of memorable souvenirs to cherish or gift.
source: Samuel and Audrey on YouTube
Where To Visit After Your Trip To Ibaraki (Mito)?
After spending a delightful time in Ibaraki, there are numerous destinations within reasonable proximity that you might consider for your next stop. Depending on your interests and the type of experience you’re looking for, here are some detailed suggestions on where to visit after Ibaraki (Mito):
- About: The bustling capital of Japan is a juxtaposition of ultramodern skyscrapers and traditional temples. With its innumerable attractions, Tokyo is a world unto itself.
- What to Do: Explore districts like Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Akihabara. Visit the Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Disneyland, and historic sites like the Meiji Shrine and Asakusa’s Senso-ji Temple. Savor world-class cuisine, shop in high-end districts, or indulge in the nightlife.
- Travel: Mito to Tokyo is approximately a 1.5-hour train journey.
- About: Nestled in the mountains of Tochigi Prefecture, Nikko is a city known for its historically significant temples and beautiful national parks.
- What to Do: Explore the Toshogu Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Enjoy the scenic beauty of Kegon Falls and Lake Chuzenji. Visit during autumn to experience breathtaking fall foliage.
- Travel: From Mito, you can reach Nikko in around 2 hours by train.
- About: Located to the east of Tokyo, Chiba offers a mix of urban attractions and natural beauty. It’s also the location of Narita International Airport.
- What to Do: Visit Naritasan Shinshoji Temple, explore the Makuhari Messe for events or conventions, and enjoy the coastal areas, especially Kujukuri Beach.
- Travel: Mito to Chiba is roughly a 2-hour train ride.
- About: Japan’s second-largest city, Yokohama lies south of Tokyo. It’s a port city with a rich history and a modern, cosmopolitan vibe.
- What to Do: Explore the Landmark Tower, visit the Sankeien Garden, and stroll along Yokohama Chinatown. The Yokohama Museum of Art and the Cup Noodles Museum are also popular attractions.
- Travel: From Mito, you can reach Yokohama in about 2 hours by train.
- About: Located to the north of Ibaraki, Fukushima offers a combination of cultural experiences and natural beauty.
- What to Do: Visit Tsuruga Castle in Aizuwakamatsu, relax in the various onsen (hot spring) towns, and explore the Bandai-Asahi National Park.
- Travel: Mito to Fukushima City takes around 2 hours by train.
- About: Although it’s part of Ibaraki Prefecture, if you’ve centered your trip around Mito, you might have missed Tsukuba. It’s known for its science city vibe and the prominent Mount Tsukuba.
- What to Do: Hike or take the cable car up Mount Tsukuba, explore the Tsukuba Space Center, and enjoy the botanical gardens.
- Travel: Mito to Tsukuba is approximately a 1-hour train ride.
- About: North of Tokyo, Saitama Prefecture offers attractions ranging from traditional to modern.
- What to Do: Explore the city of Kawagoe with its Edo-period buildings, visit the Railway Museum, and enjoy nature at the Musashi Kyuryo National Government Park.
- Travel: Mito to Saitama takes around 1.5 to 2 hours by train.
- About: Located in Kanagawa Prefecture, Hakone is a popular hot spring destination with stunning views of Mount Fuji and a rich history. It’s a top choice for those seeking relaxation and scenic beauty.
- What to Do: Relax in one of the many onsen (hot springs), explore the Hakone Open-Air Museum, take a cruise on Lake Ashi, and enjoy the Hakone Ropeway for panoramic views. The Hakone Shrine, hidden amidst the forest, is also a must-visit.
- Travel: From Mito, you can reach Hakone in about 3 hours by train.
- About: Once the political center of medieval Japan, Kamakura is filled with temples, shrines, and the iconic Great Buddha statue.
- What to Do: Visit the Kotoku-in Temple to see the Great Buddha, stroll the grounds of the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, and enjoy the beaches. Kamakura also has beautiful hiking trails that connect its many temples.
- Travel: A train journey from Mito to Kamakura takes around 2 to 2.5 hours.
- About: Located in Nagano Prefecture, Matsumoto offers a blend of cultural and natural attractions.
- What to Do: Matsumoto Castle is one of Japan’s most famous and historic castles. Explore the Nakamachi Street for its well-preserved traditional buildings, and visit the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum for Japanese woodblock prints. Also, you can access the Japanese Alps for hiking and stunning vistas.
- Travel: Mito to Matsumoto takes around 4 hours by train.
- About: North of Ibaraki, Gunma Prefecture is known for its mountains, hot springs, and beautiful scenery.
- What to Do: Enjoy the hot springs in Kusatsu, visit the Tomioka Silk Mill (a UNESCO World Heritage site), and explore the Minakami area for outdoor activities like whitewater rafting and hiking.
- Travel: A train journey from Mito to Gunma’s main cities can take anywhere from 2 to 3 hours.
- About: Located in the northern part of Tochigi Prefecture, Nasu is known for its highlands, hot springs, and the Nasu Imperial Villa.
- What to Do: Hike the trails of Mount Nasu, relax in Nasu Onsen, and visit the Nasu World Monkey Park. The Nasu Safari Park is an attraction for families.
- Travel: Mito to Nasu can be done in just over 1 hour by train.
- About: The capital city of Miyagi Prefecture, Sendai is often referred to as the “City of Trees”. It combines urban conveniences with a touch of nature.
- What to Do: Explore the ruins of Sendai Castle, shop along Jozenji Street, and enjoy the beautiful Zuihoden Mausoleum. Don’t miss the Sendai Tanabata Festival if you visit in August. Nearby, the scenic Matsushima Bay offers boat tours showcasing hundreds of pine-clad islands.
- Travel: A train ride from Mito to Sendai takes around 2.5 to 3 hours.
- About: The capital of Tochigi Prefecture, Utsunomiya, is often recognized for its delicious gyoza (dumplings).
- What to Do: Besides trying gyoza at various spots, visit the Utsunomiya Castle ruins park, Oya History Museum, and explore the stunning Oya stone quarries. The nearby Nikko National Park offers beautiful landscapes and historical sites.
- Travel: Mito to Utsunomiya is just over an hour by train.
15. Izu Peninsula:
- About: A popular coastal destination in Shizuoka Prefecture, the Izu Peninsula offers hot springs, beautiful coastlines, and mountainous terrain.
- What to Do: Take a dip in the onsen towns of Atami, Ito, and Shuzenji. Explore the Jogasaki Coast, visit the Izu Granpal Park for flower displays, and enjoy the local seafood delicacies.
- Travel: From Mito, the journey to the Izu Peninsula can take around 3 to 4 hours by train.
- About: Japan’s fourth-largest city, Nagoya, is a hub of manufacturing and shipping.
- What to Do: Explore Nagoya Castle, Osu Kannon Temple, and the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology. For shopping and dining, Sakae district is perfect.
- Travel: Mito to Nagoya takes around 3 to 4 hours by train.
- About: Located on the west coast of Honshu, Kanazawa is known for its districts, art museums, and regional handicrafts.
- What to Do: Visit the Kenrokuen Garden, one of Japan’s top three gardens. Explore the Nagamachi samurai district, and don’t forget to experience the Omicho Market for local foods.
- Travel: Traveling from Mito to Kanazawa can take around 4 to 5 hours by train.
- About: Close to Ibaraki, Tochigi offers an array of cultural experiences and natural attractions.
- What to Do: See Japan’s largest lavenders at the Ashikaga Flower Park and explore the Edo wonderland in Nikko, a theme park showcasing life in the Edo period.
- Travel: A quick train ride from Mito, you can reach Tochigi in just over an hour.
- About: Located at the northern tip of Japan’s main island, Honshu, Aomori is known for its apple orchards, deep winters, and vibrant Nebuta Festival.
- What to Do: Experience the Aomori Nebuta Festival if visiting in August. Explore the Aomori Museum of Art, visit the Sannai-Maruyama archaeological site, and don’t miss the A-Factory for a taste of Aomori’s famous apples and cider.
- Travel: Mito to Aomori by train can take around 4 to 5 hours.
- About: Famous for cherries, hot springs, and mountains, Yamagata offers a rich cultural experience.
- What to Do: Relax in the famous hot springs of Zao Onsen and Ginzan Onsen. During winter, Zao Onsen also becomes a popular ski resort. Visit Yamadera Temple, built into the mountainside, and try the local specialty, Yamagata beef.
- Travel: A train journey from Mito to Yamagata takes about 3 to 4 hours.
- About: While not necessarily the first choice for many international tourists, Tottori offers some unique attractions.
- What to Do: Explore the Tottori Sand Dunes, Japan’s only large dune system. Visit the Sand Museum, where artists create intricate sculptures using sand. For mythology enthusiasts, the Mizuki Shigeru Road, dedicated to the manga artist Mizuki Shigeru and his creations based on Japanese folklore, is a treat.
- Travel: Mito to Tottori is around 5 to 6 hours by train.
- About: Located on the Sea of Japan coast, Niigata is famous for its rice, sake, and coastal landscapes.
- What to Do: Taste the region’s renowned sake at local breweries, visit the Northern Culture Museum for a look into Niigata’s history, and explore Sado Island, known for its gold mines and traditional Noh performances.
- Travel: The journey from Mito to Niigata by train takes about 3 to 4 hours.
- About: On the island of Hokkaido, Hakodate is a port city known for its stunning nighttime views, fresh seafood, and historical architecture.
- What to Do: Head to Mount Hakodate for panoramic views of the city, especially during the evening. Visit the morning market for fresh seafood, and explore the Motomachi area with its sloping streets and historical churches.
- Travel: Mito to Hakodate requires a longer journey, taking around 5 to 7 hours by train, but the scenic views along the way make it worthwhile.
- About: A port city in the Kansai region, Kobe is known for its beef, sake, and the beautiful Rokko Mountain range.
- What to Do: Taste the world-famous Kobe beef in local restaurants, visit the sake breweries in the Nada district, and take the Rokko Cable Car for stunning views over the city and Osaka Bay.
- Travel: Mito to Kobe by train can take around 4 to 5 hours.
- Rail Pass: If you’re traveling through multiple cities, consider getting a Japan Rail Pass to save on transportation costs.
- Luggage: Some train stations offer luggage forwarding services, which can be convenient if you’re moving with a lot of baggage.
- Local Festivals: Always check the local event calendar of the place you’re visiting next. There might be festivals, events, or seasonal attractions that you wouldn’t want to miss.
In conclusion, Japan’s efficient transportation network makes it easy to move from Ibaraki to a multitude of fascinating destinations. Whether you’re looking for urban energy, historical charm, or natural beauty, there’s something nearby to cater to every interest.
Ibaraki Travel Guide: Final Thoughts
Situated in the Kanto region of Japan, Ibaraki Prefecture is a harmonious blend of natural beauty, historical significance, and contemporary vibrancy. This verdant region, often overshadowed by its more illustrious neighbors, offers travelers a serene escape, rich cultural experiences, and a genuine taste of local Japanese life.
A Natural Haven
One of Ibaraki’s primary draws is its untamed natural beauty. From the coastal charm of the Oarai beaches to the lush expanses of the Hitachi Seaside Park and Fukuroda Falls, nature enthusiasts have plenty to admire and explore. The vast expanse of Lake Kasumigaura offers a tranquil retreat and serves as a testament to the prefecture’s bountiful landscape.
Historical and Cultural Significance
Ibaraki is not just about scenic vistas. The region is steeped in history, which can be witnessed in cities like Mito. The Kairaku-en Garden, considered one of Japan’s three great gardens, speaks volumes of the bygone era, especially during plum blossom season when it becomes a vivid tableau of colors.
Moreover, the region’s local festivals, like the Mito Komon Festival, allow visitors to immerse themselves in Ibaraki’s rich cultural traditions. The myriad of temples and shrines scattered throughout the prefecture serve as both spiritual havens and historical markers.
The prefecture’s coastal location ensures that seafood, especially flounder and anago (conger eel), is fresh and of premium quality. The region’s fertile lands produce delectable fruits like melons and chestnuts. Natto, fermented soybeans, which might be an acquired taste for some, is a regional specialty and a must-try for the adventurous palate.
Ease of Access
Given its proximity to Tokyo, Ibaraki is surprisingly accessible, making it an ideal destination for those wishing to escape the hustle and bustle of the metropolis. The efficient railway system and well-maintained roads ensure that getting around within the prefecture is hassle-free, allowing tourists to explore even the more remote areas with ease.
Visiting Ibaraki is not just about sightseeing; it’s about experiencing a way of life. The warmth of the locals, the tranquil pace of life, and the genuine experiences away from the tourist-heavy spots make for a memorable journey. It’s a place where traditional Japan seamlessly blends with modernity without losing its inherent charm.
In a country as diverse and rich in experiences as Japan, Ibaraki stands out as a region that offers authenticity. It beckons travelers with its unspoiled landscapes, invites them with its history, and ensures they stay captivated with its local flavors and traditions. Whether you’re a first-time traveler to Japan or a seasoned explorer, Ibaraki promises a refreshing perspective, reiterating that there’s always more to discover in the Land of the Rising Sun. It’s an invitation to journey off the beaten path, and every moment spent here feels like a cherished memory in the making.