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Ibaraki Travel Guide So many things to do in every season

Learning about space and science tech at the JAXA Tsukuba Space Center or hiking around the majestic Fukuroda Falls, visiting a Kairakuen, a garden that was built to be enjoyed by all, a  rarity in the waning years of the Tokugawa Shogunate, apple picking or enjoying a traditional small town festival and onsen in scenic Daigo, so many things to do and see in Ibaraki prefecture.

Ibaraki Prefecture makes up a large portion of the northern area of the Kanto plain, some spots within 30 minutes of Tokyo. It’s easy to see that Ibaraki offers so many opportunities, no matter the season.


Things to do

Falls in Ibaraki Prefecture

Spend a day in the mountains and visit the highest point in Ibaraki, Mt. Yamizo. Make a weekend of it and after a day of hiking the beautiful trails, relax in the soothing outdoor baths of one of several onsen (hot springs) in the area. While you're in northern Ibaraki be sure to visit Fukuroda Falls, widely nown as one of Japan's three most picturesque waterfalls. It's often refers to as “yo-do-no-taki”, which  translates roughly as “four-times falls, which means that one needs to visit the waterfall once in each of the four seasons to truly appreciate its beauty. You’ll also find plenty of seasonal festivals throughout the year.

If you're looking for something a little more high speed, try the world famous Twin Ring Motegi motor sports complex, one of the stops on the world MotoGPTM tour. There are also weekly events at the Tsukuba Circuit in Shimotsuma.

On the cultural side, a visit to the world’s largest standing image of Buddha, and one of the three tallest statues in the world. Ushiku Daibutsu is located in the southern part of the prefecture near the famous Lake Kasumigaura, which is the second largest in Japan.

Flavors of Ibaraki

Natoo in a Cherry Blossom Bowl from Ibaraki

For the truly adventurous, Ibaraki’s capital city area around Mito is synonymous with Natto, the traditional fermented soybean preparation, which with its somewhat ambiguous origins, is considered a staple of traditional Japanese breakfast food. Visit the Takano Foods Natto Museum in Omitama to get the full experience. Okukuji Shamo is a variety of free range chicken highly prized in Ibaraki for its amazing flavor and low fat content. It can be found in many restaurants, particularly in the northern region of the prefecture, frequently served in nabe, (hot pot) or as yakitori (traditonal skewers) or karaage (Japanese style fried chicken) Ibaraki ranks second in Japan in agricultural products, and as such offers an amazing variety of seafood, top quality beef and pork, and so many  fresh fruits and vegetables, which are harvested throughout the year, many available as pick-your-own on the farms.  One popular place to do this is Kasumigaura orchard near the famous Lake Kasumigaura..

Events and Seasonal Happenings

Plum Blossom Festival Ibaraki

In Spring, visit any one of a number of local festivals like the plum blossom festival in Mito, or the Himatsuri pottery festival in Kasama.  In May (usually the third weekend) Daigo hosts the Ibaraki Yosakoi festival, one of the largest in the region, in the small town of less than 20,000.

Summer brings the Iris Festival in Itako with its 1 million iris plants of as many as 500 different varieties. Or take an escape from the heat at one of 18 swimming beaches along Ibaraki’s long pacific coastline.

Each year in fall, tour buses loaded with leaf peepers head to Ibaraki and spots like Ryujin Gorge, Fukuroda Falls, or Hananuki Gorge. JR East has even been known to schedule a special steam locomotive trains in the region for the viewing the stunning display of color.

What to Bring Back

In true Japanese fashion, you’ll want to take a little bit of Ibaraki with you. Visiting Japanese friends or and want to present something to your hosts, a sure bet is whatever fruit is in season. If you’re headed overseas then fresh items are likely not an option, but look for confections,  and other traditional products using the amazing produce from the area. And, for a truly local find you might try the Daigo Brewery for distinctive craft brews, or any one of the many sakes or wines from Ibaraki.

Photo: from Daigo Brewery

Where to Stay

A great escape to stay in Ibaraki might be Omoide Romankan in Daigo-machi. Situated on the river with natural hot spring baths from the nearby Fukuroda hot spring.  Another option is the Tsukuba Grand Hotel with it’s sweeping views of the entire Kanto Plain below from your own private onsen bath in your room, or as you soak in the outdoor bath.

Getting there

Ibaraki is literally just across the river from Tokyo but extends to the far northern reaches of the Kanto Area. So much history and a multitude of cultural destinations are within easy reach.  Many destinations are accessible by  the Ueno-Tokyo Line from Shinagawa/Tokyo/Ueno stations which merges directly to the Joban line. Express trains and local trains are frequent. Car rental is available near most larger stations.

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