10 Best Things to Do in Ibaraki

Ibaraki Travel Guide: What to Do in Ibaraki Now

Ahh, Ibaraki Prefecture. At the forefront of one of the most polarizing famous Japanese specialties (any natto lovers out there?), the stronghold of the Mito clan, one of the branches of the Tokugawa family during the Edo period, and home to one of the most important cities in the whole country in terms of science due to the high concentration of scientific research facilities, among many more interesting things. Sitting on the northeastern side of the Kanto region and flanked by the Pacific Ocean on the eastern border, Ibaraki tends to fly under the radar for many foreign visitors to Japan, which is why I’m here to advocate for these awesome lands with a list of the Best things to do in Ibaraki!

1. Deplete Your Camera Batteries at Hitachi Seaside Park

Even if you’re not familiar with the name, chances are you’ve seen photos taken at Hitachi Seaside Park (国営ひたち海浜公園) in more than one travel guide. After all, this is one of the most photogenic locations in Japan, sporting carefully crafted flower gardens overlooking the Pacific Ocean, with different blooms that can be enjoyed year-round. A dreamy landscape that looks straight out of a fantasy creation, this is undoubtedly Ibaraki’s top touristic attraction and a great choice for a 1-day trip from Tokyo.

Check out more about Hitachi Seaside Park in the following articles.

2. Pay Respect to Japan’s Tallest Buddha Statue

We’re not here to discuss if bigger is better but at least, we can agree that size plays a part in being eye-catching. Such is the case of the bronze Amitabha Buddha in Ushiku city, known as Ushiku Great Buddha (牛久大仏). Since its construction in 1993 until 2008, its height of 120m ensured it had the title of the world’s tallest Buddha statue among its bragging rights. And although it’s been since relegated to 6th position in the world ranking, that doesn’t mean it’s not a sight to behold, even from afar. 

Ushiko Great Buddha official website: https://daibutu.net/

3. Go on a Relaxing Hike at Mt. Tsukuba

Ibaraki’s most famous mountain, Mt.Tsukuba (筑波山) is Ibaraki’s most famous mountain and is also regarded as one of Japan’s 100 most scenic mountains. It’s particularly known for its twin peaks, Mt. Nantai and Mt. Nyotai, meaning male and female peak respectively, which conveys a sacred meaning related to good fortunes in marriage for those who visit the shrines on each peak. And since we’re at it, we may as well stop by Mt. Tsukuba Shrine, one of the most important in Kanto. In any case, at roughly 870 meters high, it’s a very popular hiking destination because it’s not difficult at all (there’s also a cable car or ropeway if so is desired) and on a clear day, it’s possible to get great views of Tokyo and even Mt. Fuji.

▶ Mt. Tsukuba official website: https://mount-tsukuba.com/

▶ Mt. Tsukuba cablecar and ropeway official website: https://www.mt-tsukuba.com/global/en/

4. Take a peaceful stroll in Kairakuen

Japanese gardens remain a visitor classic for a reason. A tranquil stroll around one of these exquisitely designed spaces is a great pleasure that hardly grows old. More so if we’re talking about Kairakuen (偕楽園), one of the country’s three great gardens since it was built in 1842, and designated both as a National Historic Site and a National Place of Scenic Beauty in 1922. Its most notorious feature is its roughly 3,000 plum trees, creating a spectacular sight every February during plum blossom season.

▶ Kairakuen official website: https://ibaraki-kairakuen.jp/en/language/

5. Discover the mythical birthplace of Japan at Oarai Isosaki Shrine

A social media darling for its striking Kamiiso no Torii gate built on rocks on the sea, Oarai Isosaki Shrine (大洗磯前神社) has over 1,000 years of history since its foundation, believed by most to have been around the year 856. A remarkable longevity that’s probably influenced by the fact that legend has it that the deities Onamuchi no Mikoto and Sukunahikona no Mikoto, descended here and created Japan and the rest of the world. If the sanctity of such a place doesn’t overwhelm you, the beauty of the landscape probably might but that’s ok! 

▶ Oarai Isosaku Shrine official website: http://oarai-isosakijinja.or.jp/

6. Walk Under a Tunnel of Leaves at Hananuki Valley

Hananuki Valley (花貫渓谷) in Takahagi city, is a beautiful location with a deep and lush scenery over Hananuki River, framed by a 60 meters long suspended bridge. This is a wonderful spot for stunning views of this valley, particularly during the height of the autumn season when the tree branches that cover the bridge explode in fiery shades of red, turning the bridge itself into one of the main attractions. Granted, the beautiful scenery and all the different hiking trails of the area guarantee that this place is well worth a visit anytime regardless of the season.

▶ Practical information from Takahagi City’s official website: https://www.city.takahagi.ibaraki.jp/sp/page/page000012.html

7. Pick Seasonal Fruits in Ibaraki

It’s said that fruit tastes better when handpicked, which is probably why it’s a trending activity for urbanites in Japan chasing after the charms of the rural life coupled with the joy of eating some of the best available produce straight from the tree. Ibaraki is one of the top agricultural areas in Japan and as such, it’s often nicknamed “Tokyo’s Kitchen”, which is why it’s also one of the top destinations to pick seasonal fruits in idyllic and quaint farms as a leisure activity. Some of the most demanded fruits are grapes in summer, pears, and persimmons in autumn, and strawberries in winter. 

8. See some of Japan’s best Fireworks in Tsuchiura

Firework festivals are one of the most cherished activities in Japan and for good reason! Especially when pairing it with dressing in yukata, snacking delicious festival food, and having fun with friends while watching the sky light up at night with a variety of colors and shapes. If this is your cup of tea, you should know that Tsuchiura City in Ibaraki is where one of Japan’s three greatest fireworks festivals takes place. An annual tradition since 1925, around 60 fireworks companies from all over the country gather here in an attempt to outdo each other to the best of their abilities over the span of 2-3 hours. Bear in mind you’ll need to grab a spot early if you decide to come!

▶ Tsuchiura All Japan Fireworks Competition official website: https://www.tsuchiura-hanabi.jp/

9. Embark on a Tour of Sake Brewery

For sake lovers and foodie connoisseurs alike, Ibaraki is notorious for being home to 36 sake breweries as of 2022, the largest number within the Kanto Region. Far from being a coincidence, this congregation of alcoholic goodness is a product of the top-quality water found in Kinugawa and Tonegawa rivers, turning Ibaraki into a sake powerhouse that takes home a lot of prizes at the annual National New Sake Appraisal Association. Many of these breweries take pride in their craft and open their doors for visitors to see for themselves where the magic takes place. Some even allow tasting for an extra fee. Need I say more? 

▶ Ibaraki Sake Brewery Association official website: http://ibaraki-sake.or.jp/

10. Get an Adrenaline rush at Ryujin Bridge 

Not for the faint of heart, Ryujin Bridge (竜神大吊橋) is a 375 meters long suspended bridge and stands approximately 100 meters above the Ryujin Dam Reservoir. Overcoming vertigo will reward you with impressive panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes and the occasional chance of walking in the clouds when the mist in the area is thick enough. And if you feel like kicking the adrenaline up a notch, what about trying out Japan’s highest bungee jumping platform? However, no need to worry if wingless flights are not up your alley, you can still make the most of the area by checking out the nearby onsens or exploring to your heart’s content around the many hiking trails available.

▶ Ryujin Bridge official website: https://ohtsuribashi.ryujinkyo.jp/

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Ibaraki could be well considered one of Japan’s hidden jewels. Still reasonably close to Tokyo and full of impressive sights and experiences, it’s still unaffected by the woes of massive tourism that have started to affect some other famous Japanese locations during the past few years. But with so many interesting spots, it’s only a matter of time before Ibaraki is discovered by the spotlights! So I encourage you to take your chances and explore Ibaraki before the crowds take notice! 

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