When the sizzling summer temperatures finally give way to the cool breezes of fall, Japan sighs in relief and its citizens gear up for another travel season. Historical documents record Japanese people enjoying kōyō (fall leaves) as far back as the 8th century; they scurry to the countryside to see the mountains, rivers, and parks encompassed by autumn foliage. But the maple trees aren’t the only things to turn from lush greens to glitzy golds and fiery scarlets.
Hitachi Seaside Park isn’t just one of the best places to go in Ibaraki Prefecture, but it’s also on our list of top recommended locations for enjoying autumn in Japan. The 350-hectare (865-acre) park holds flower festivals and displays throughout the year, but two seasons, in particular, stand out. In spring, 4.5 million Baby Blue Eyes (Nemophila) flowers bloom from the end of April to mid-May. Afterward, 32,000 Kochia (summer cypress or bassia scoparia) plants take their spot on Miharashi Hill.
The endless rows of 10-15 cm shrubs flourish into 70-80 cm tall luminous emerald pom poms through the summer. In August, the vast stretches of rolling hills are lit with twinkling lights at night. This is also the time when visitors from all over Kanto turn up for the “Rock in Japan” music festival. The three-day affair features Japanese pop and rock artists and has become one of the top events of its kind in the country.
In September, the cotton candy-like puffs begin to turn with the season and set Miharashi Hill on fire in a crimson wave. The pastel pink and purple heads of Cosmos blooms swing in time with the nearby Pacific Ocean winds and lead the way through the whimsical roads. Hitachi Seaside Park’s summer cypress, for their part, carpet the hillside in gradations of deep fuchsias and rubies in a veritable flower paradise.
When I saw the summer cypress for myself, the sky was, unfortunately, a bit overcast. However, the shrubs shined so brightly I didn’t miss the sun. Mid-October is generally the best time to see summer cypress in Hitachi Seaside Park, but weather conditions can affect the season. At the time of my attendance, I could still spot a few green patches here and there, but by the next day, the Ibaraki Sightseeing Facebook page posted pictures showing the fickle plants had become a brilliant shade of rose red.
It’s relatively easy to travel to Ibaraki Prefecture from Tokyo, but the trip takes a bit of time so you may want to plan to spend a day there. To get to Hitachi Seaside Park from Tokyo Station, take an express train to Katsuta Station. Hitachinaka City offers a shuttle bus to the park during the “Kochia Carnival” from September 15th to October 21st.
Bicycles are available for rent to explore the many acres of the park, or you can hop aboard the quaint Seaside Train. If you’re feeling famished at the end of the journey, food booths selling treats like Kochia-flavored ice cream pop up during the peak of the summer cypress. Or, you can treat yourself to lunch and a view at the onsite café in the Glass House. If you’re feeling adventurous and want to learn more about Ibaraki, the local mall Fashion Cruise Newport is just a 5-minute walk from the entrance of the park.
Hitachi Seaside Park’s summer cypress attracts visitors in droves and weekends can get somewhat crowded in mid-October. If you want to enjoy the park with less bustle, plan to go on a weekday when most people are at work.