Ibaraki is famous for its multiple natural parks and the largest bronze statue in the world, and one of the biggest Buddhist statues on the planet. If it is nature you are seeking, then head over to Kairaku-en Garden or to Fukuroda, the frozen waterfall. Here are our four Ibaraki attractions in detail:
(image by flickr.com)
The biggest memorial park in a metropolitan area, Ushiku Jouen is also a site for recreation and relaxation, and it is a tourist spot whose popularity has been rising as a Buddhist facility that can be enjoyed by the whole family. The Ushiku Daibutsu within the site is known as a giant Buddhist statue listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. It is an enlarged form of the Amithaba Buddha, and it measures 120m in height and it boasts its status as the world’s largest bronze statue. When you think of New York’s Statue of Liberty at 93m, it has a tremendous impact when you look up at the Ushiku Daibutsu. Since its completion in 1992, it has had a short history, but you can go inside it where you can experience the contemporary world of Buddhism which has meditated on various ideas.
Anyone can enter the statue which is divided into 5 levels. There is a space where the shakyo or copying of Buddhist sutras from the sermons of a priest can be done. Then on the 3rd floor, 3400 gold Buddha statues are arranged, and you can view the world of Buddhism expressing its idea of Heaven. From the observation platform at the Buddha’s chest area on the highest level at 85m, you can look out over the landscape of tranquil Ushiku with its fields spreading out, and on sunny days, you can even see Tokyo Sky Tree and even Mt. Fuji far off in the distance.
There are attractions for children within the park grounds. There is a petting zoo where you can feed and even touch small animals such as rabbits and squirrels. Also, a show featuring the traditional Japanese entertainment of sarumawashi (monkey acrobatics) is popular. In the fields right in front of the Ushiku Buddha, pretty flowers bloom everywhere in the spring and fall, and you can enjoy picking them. The sight of the Ushiku Buddha standing among fields of poppies and cosmos is a tranquil one.
Admission: Adult: ¥ 800 / Child: ¥ 400
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Ushiku Daibutsu
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Ushiku Daibutsu
- Tours of Ushiku Daibutsu
(image by flickr.com)
When the garden was established in 1842, visitors entered through the front gate instead of the current east gate, so they could understand the true quality of Kairaku-en by going through the front gate. Since visitors can enter the east gate from the closest station of JR Kairaku-en Station, you will want to get off at the preceding Mito Station and take the bus to the front gate. The theme of Kairaku-en Garden is “Yin and Yang”. Passing through the black front gate with its straw-thatched roof and through another shingled gate, there is the Osugimori (Big Cedar Wood) to your right and the Mousou Bamboo Forest to your left. Walking through the densely-growing forest, the serenity stands out even more. At the first fork on the path, looking down over the cliffs on the right, there is an oasis that floats out from the darkness.
There is a teahouse, Kobuntei, which uses the water from the Tougyokusen Spring. Nearby is an 800-year-old Taro cedar tree. It is a place where you will want to visit to hear the story about the long history for the clear spring. Head back to Osugimori after taking a break at Tougyokusen. In this area, there is a thick growth of kuma bamboo grass, and on the forest path which has been gently cooled by the green moss, you can feel a moment of serenity. Once you come to another fork on the path, head for Kobuntei. Kobuntei, which has been called “the excellent pavilion of the world”, is a hidden world that has been opened up. Constructed for poetry readings and tea parties, the view from the 3rd floor of the plum forest and Senba Lake is exquisite. In front of Kobuntei is Shibasaki-mon Gate. In this area is Kairaku-en’s biggest highlight, a place of changes in the positive and negative (yin and yang). Once you pass through the gate, there is a large plum forest which expands in front of you. On the right, there is a viewing plaza from where you can see Senba Lake. Vivid colors will be shown that will reveal a world that is different from any that you have seen before. This garden that skillfully features the positive and negative will lead visitors to a Japanese style of tranquility.
Admission: Adult: ¥ 200 / Child: ¥ 100
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Kairaku-en
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Kairaku-en
- Tours of Kairaku-en
(image by flickr.com)
Fukuroda Falls is located on the Taki River, a tributary of the Kuji River which flows from Ibaraki Prefecture into the Pacific Ocean. One characteristic of Fukuroda is the large 4-tiered rock face over which the water flows like a ribbon being pulled. It is from there that it was given its alternate name of Yodo (4 times) Falls, but according to one story, a legendary poet from the Heian Era, Saigyo, once remarked “One has to come and see the waterfall once every season to get a sense of its true character” as a form of praise which may also be the origin for the name. It is from its beauty that it was selected as one of the Three Great Waterfalls of Japan. The town of Daigo where the waterfall is located is in the middle of the mountains so it gets especially chilly in the winter. For that reason, the water that flows over the falls freezes and Fukuroda becomes a pure white ice fall which can be observed.
During the winter, there are events which include the lighting up of the falls, and the illumination of the suspension bridge in front of the observation point which create a wintry fairytale-like scene. Also the autumn colors at the falls and in the surrounding vicinity between early and mid-November are a highlight. The trees that turn red and gold during that time bring out the wonder of the falls. There are 2 ways to reach the observation point. The course that heads for the point by getting out of the tunnel is impressive for suddenly bringing the falls right in front of you, while the approach from the riverside walking path on the opposite side means that you can see the falls from a distance and it’s great for that leisurely stroll while enjoying the combination of the falls with the autumn colors. Along with being able to view the front of Fukuroda Falls from the observation point, there is another observation point 40m above the ground which can be accessed from behind via 2 elevators so that you can get a bird’s-eye view of the falls. If you’re good at walking, then taking the Tsukioreyama hiking course is also good. The 20-minute trip up to the top ensures a close view of Fukuroda Falls that can only be seen by the climbers.
Admission: Adult: ¥ 300 / Child: ¥ 150
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Fukuroda Falls
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Fukuroda Falls
- Tours of Fukuroda Falls
Hitachi Seaside Park
(image by flickr.com)
The park is about 110km north of Tokyo. Facing the Pacific Ocean, the sea breeze is very pleasant in the summer. The park is divided into 7 areas and each area has flowers that blossom all throughout the year. The nemophila which blooms in the Miharashi area is at its peak from late April to early May. On the huge 3.5ha Miharashi-no-Oka Hill which overlooks the Pacific, the 4.5 million blue blooms of the nemophila all open at once. The 360-degree view of this blue world of sky, sea and nemophila has a breathtaking beauty. In autumn, the kochia is famous. Known in Japanese as houkigusa, the fluffy red kochia is at its peak from late September to early October. As the greenery of summer slowly gives way to the colors of fall, it is this gradation from green to red that is charming. The kochia that has brilliantly changed color and painted Miharashi-no-Oka scarlet makes for superb scenery. In addition, there are the white and yellow spring daffodils and tulips, along with the sunflowers and lavender of summer, the cosmos of autumn and rape blossoms of winter, so the park can be enjoyed for its flora at any time.
The Pleasure Garden area is a hit with the kids, and in March 2015, 5 of the attractions got an extra boost. Next to the amusement park, there is a gigantic slide which has a diameter of 24m and a large snake-like facility spanning 400m with 19 items so that you can play there for the entire day. The park area is certainly huge so it’s good to make use of the rental bicycles or the Seaside Train to get around. During the year, there are several days which are free of admission so please check the website before making your way to the park.
Admission: Adult: ¥ 410 / Child: ¥ 80