The lush fields of Ibaraki stretch their arms out to welcome you to enjoy their flowers, forests, and shores. Heading north east of Tokyo, it takes about two hours by car to reach the heart of this prefecture. Crossing the border, the differences between here and from where you came will astound you. The flatlands of Ibaraki contrast the rest of Japan due to the naturally rich soils, which make this place the breadbasket of the nation. Ibaraki provides most of Japan’s melons, for example. In the north, mountains border the farmlands, and lakes spot the region creating a truly unique landscape for your enjoyment.
The Fukuroda Waterfall of Daigo, Ibaraki in the Summer
The Fukuroda Falls fill the Taki River below. The water flows down from a height of 120 meters (400 feet) down and across four tiers 73 meters (240 feet) wide, which makes this waterfall one of the most sought-after destinations in Japan. Each season offers its own exclusive experience including fiery leaves in autumn and ice climbing on the frozen streams in winter. Along with Nachi Fall in Wakayama Prefecture and Kegon Fall in Tochigi Prefecture, these three great falls look more like cloth fluttering down than water. I felt dizzy climbing the stairs to each viewing tiers (opting not to take the available elevators) and the whooshing of the falls followed me across the suspension bridge. From the top, I felt extremely calm, and my head and sight realigned thanks to the effervescent presence of the falls.
The View of Kanto Plain from Mount Tsukuba at Night
According to legend, a deity landed on Mt. Fuji and asked to stay for the night. Proud Mt. Fuji refused the god, but humble Mt. Tsukuba, of Tsukuba City, welcomed the guest. As a result, Mt. Fuji’s slopes are cold and barren, while Mt. Tsukuba bursts with vegetation.
You can reach Mt. Tsukuba’s summits by hiking the 877 meters (2877 feet) in a 2-hour summit, or by taking the ropeway or the cable car. If you reach Mt. Tsukuba by bus, get off at the Tsukubasan Jinja Iriguchi stop and take the cable car. For visitors coming by car, we recommend taking the ropeway.
Mt. Tsukuba famously has two peaks, Mt. Nantai-san and Mt. Nyotai-san, which represent a married couple. Shintoists seek blessings for marital bliss, and each season gives a different face of the mountain. Late winter, early spring, and fall, the milder seasons for outdoor excursions, provide the most spectacular views. From mid-February to mid-March, Mt. Tsukuba heralds the arrival of spring as over 30 varieties of plum trees burst in bloom. From the end of September to November, crimson and gold autumn leaves paint the slopes in a magnificent display.
A Young Man Bungee Jumps from the Ryujin Suspension Bridge in the Spring
The Ryujin Bridge stretches 375 meters (1230 feet) to connect the two sides of this gorge in Hitachiota City. The Ryujin river curves through the valleys like the dragon said to have lived here long ago. Historical sites like Higashi Kanasa Shrine pepper the national park below, and ancient, traditional festivals take place throughout the year.
Hiking trails ranging in beginner and advanced levels circle around Ryujin river in the off seasons for festivals. Each trail exceeds 5 km (3 miles) and offers visitors a chance to take in the rocky courses of legend, brilliant virgin forests, and the promenade by the clear lakes.
Festival Goers Enjoy a Field of Iris
One of Ibaraki’s oldest traditions takes place in Itako City. As the Iris bloom in June, wedding season starts and the Suigo-Itako Ayame Festival opens. During this time, brides don traditional wedding gowns and board yomeiri boats. They cross the river in front of spectators to meet their husbands on the other side. The flower festivals of Ibaraki have attracted visitors from all over the world in recent years. The rich soils of Ibaraki don't only make famous sites but also famous food and arts.
Ibaraki’s famed dried sweet potatoes (Hoshi Imo) make the perfect souvenir to share with friends and family back home. Ibaraki’s ability to grow and ship potatoes and other crops goes unmatched by most parts of Japan. You can experience rural lifestyles in more immersive situations, like staying on a farm and helping with the harvest. Or, in an hour by paying a flat fee to pick and eat as much fruit from orchards and vineyards as you like. Fish and seafood fill the nearby shores. Homecooked Anglerfish Hot-Pot, a favorite amongst locals in winter, filled with Ibaraki vegetables makes the perfect dinner during your stay here.
A Pottery Artist Creates a New Piece
Kagami Crystal Glass
The handmade ceramics of Kasama, Ibaraki top the art world in Japan. Kasama holds a festival every year for local artists to sell their wares during Golden Week (April 29 - May 5), and Japanese people from as far as Hokkaido and Okinawa attend. The highly sought after Kagami Crystal, although made as far back as the Edo period by individuals, only became more available to the public when Ibaraki opened the first factory for mass production.
I hope this short highlight of Ibaraki’s natural, man-made, and historical features has moved you to want to delve deeper into this wonderful prefecture. For a more in-depth look at things to do, see, and eat in Ibaraki, check out our other blogs on this wonderful place!