If you are planning a sightseeing trip from Tokyo to Ibaraki, then the top five attractions on TripAdvisor will surely impress while you're there. A seaside park full of beautiful blossoming flowers, a stunning aquarium, a shrine that holds a magical rock that stops earthquakes, and one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan. All this and more on your Ibaraki trip:
1. 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
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Hitachi Seaside Park
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Hitachi Seaside Park
- Tours of Hitachi Seaside Park
2. Aqua World Oarai Aquarium
(image by commons.wikimedia.org)
One hour by train directly from Tokyo. The Kanto region’s largest aquarium is composed of 9 areas. In the Encounter Sea zone, there is the giant water tank that is the largest in the entire facility in which you can see the amazing sight of 20,000 fish representing 80 species from offshore Oarai. In the Seas of the World zone, you can see the sharks that are the symbol of the aquarium. Within this zone, you will want to focus on the common smooth-hound, the only shark of its type found only at this aquarium. In the Ocean Sunfish tank which is the largest of its type in the entire nation, several ocean sunfish are raised.
The aquarium also has a Museum zone that is not found in any other current aquarium in which there are numerous deeply interesting exhibits such as a model of a shark 4 meters in length, a model of the world’s largest ocean sunfish, and a specimen of a shark’s tooth. Another attractive feature is the many opportunities for interaction. There is the popular program of the 50-minute Exploration Tour at the Backyard of the aquarium. Separated into the 2 courses of General and Specialist, they are held 3 times a day. The numbered tickets that are distributed when the aquarium opens are given out on a first come, first serve system so you will want to come to the aquarium early.
Then, there is Kidsland which is popular with children. They can watch the 15-minute Fun Fact Fishing video which is shown 4 times a day and enjoyably learn about ocean life through experiments. At the Touching Pool where you will be able to get in touch with the animals, you can pick up creatures such as starfish and sea urchins. Doctor fish which nibble on the cuticles of people are raised here and once you place your hand into the water tank, it’s fun to see the fish close in and start nipping at your skin. You can also observe the Penguins’ Walk Time, and the Aqua Viewing is also popular for being able to chat with the divers in the water.
Admission: Adult: ¥ 1,850 / Child: ¥ 930
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Aqua World Oarai Aquarium
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Aqua World Oarai Aquarium
- Tours of Aqua World Oarai Aquarium
3. Kashima Shrine
(image by photozou.jp)
Since the Heian Era, only three shrines have had the venerable history to earn the top rank of “Jingu”: Ise Shrine, Katori Shrine and Kashima Shrine. Kashima Shrine is dedicated to Takemikazuchi-no-Ōkami, the most powerful patron god of the military arts and the god of victory. As the deity to subjugate the malevolent gods with his overwhelming strength, he generally offers good fortune in work and in life from his power and negotiating prowess. Also, Kashima Shrine is known as the eastern tip of the ley line that begins in Takachiho on the island of Kyushu and passes through Mt. Takano, Ise Shrine, Mt. Fuji, Meiji Shrine and the Imperial Palace. The expression “kashimadachi” which means “to set off on a journey” originated from samurai praying for safety at Kashima Shrine on their travels before beginning the journey.
Within the shrine, there are 4 spots which are said to be particularly potent. One is the area around the honden main shrine. Along with the honden, there is the ornate lacquered roumon tower gate which is one of the Three Great Tower Gates of Japan, the haiden prayer hall and the sacred tree which is around 1200 years old. Before visiting the honden, it is customary to visit Takafusa Shrine which is located in front of the haiden. The second power spot consists of the rear shrine and the path leading to it. The straight-line path from the grand torii gate to the rear shrine is the road to the wrathful spirits of the rear shrine from the honden’s peaceful spirits. While supporting the feelings toward your objective, the spirits add passion to your decisiveness and dynamism. The third power spot is the keystone. A magical rock that seals in earthquakes, it apparently suppresses a giant catfish that lurks underground, and the rock cannot be pulled out at all. There is also a keystone at Katori Shrine in Chiba Prefecture, which is said to press down on the catfish’s tail while the one at Kashima holds down the head. The fourth power spot is Mitarashi Pond. Seen to the left and below the rear shrine, clear water comes forth from a miraculous spring. Said to keep flowing even during droughts, soba noodles which are made with the spring water can be eaten at the tea house next to the pond.
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Kashima Shrine
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Kashima Shrine
- Tours of Kashima Shrine
4. Fukuroda Falls
(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
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