Get Cultured in Ibaraki, Japan

Ibaraki Prefecture (Ibaraki-Ken) is a Japanese Prefecture on the large island of Honshu. It is one of the seven prefectures within the Honshu’s Kanto region. It is composed of 32 cities which are namely Mito, (its capital), Bando, Chikusei, Hitachi, Hitachinaka, Hitachiomiya, Hitachiota, Hokota, Inashiki, Ishioka, Itako, Joso, Karmisu, Kasama, Kashima, Kasumigaura, Kitaibaraki, Koga, Moriya, Naka, Namegata, Omitama, Ryugasaki, Sakuragawa, Shimotsuma, Takahagi, Toride, Tsuchiura, Tsukuba, Tsukubamirai, Ushiku, and Yuki.

Ibaraki has several towns and villages in seven districts. Most of its 2,353.52 sq. mi of land is a flat plain with many lakes, however, its northernmost part is mountainous. 

As much as 15% of its land was designated as Natural Parks. They are Suigo-Tsukuba Quasi-National Park, plus nine other Prefectural Natural Parks. These parks exist under the Natural Parks Law by the Minister of the Environment, so their scenic beauty can be preserved and enjoyed.

Much of Ibaraki land has been cultivated for potatoes, cereals, and tobacco. It also yields coal, copper, petrochemicals, and electric machinery.

The History of Ibaraki, Japan

Ibaraki Prefecture was once known as Hitachi Province (sometimes called Joshu) until 1871 when it was renamed as Ibaraki.

Mito City grew and prospered around a Yoshida shrine during the Heian period (794-1185). Its first castle was built during the Kamakura period (1192-1333). The city fell in the hands of different feudal warlords during the 15th and 16th centuries. 

The Kasawara Aqueduct was constructed by Tokugawa Mitsukuni in 1663 and is still being used to this day. From 1603-1867, during the Edo (Tokugawa) period, Mito became a strategic commercial and cultural center because of its administrative and agrarian reforms. 

Its support of the secular imperial rule led to the smooth address of the Meiji Restoration in 1868. In 1889, the Mito Railway was opened to the public, and the city became a major transportation hub. Industrialization from furniture making and paper production prospered. New industries developed, like the manufacturing of electrical machinery, steel, iron, and chemicals.

20th Century Onwards

The City of Hitachi is the home of the worldwide famous brand of Hitachi. In 1920 the Hitachi Company (now Hitachi Ltd.) diversified into the production of machinery and electrical appliances. The company prospered on the account of its rapid recovery after the war.

On March 11, 2011, the prefecture was hit by a dreadful earthquake of magnitude 9.0 and it caused immense damage. The tsunami that followed added to the destruction even more, particularly in Hitachinaka and Kitaibaraki. 

Tsukuba City is the second largest city in Ibaraki Prefecture after Mito City. Important sights are the Tsukuba EXPO Center, the Doho Park, the Tsukubasan Shrine and Mount Tsukuba. 

The Airport of Ibaraki

Ibaraki Airport is both a public and a military airport. It is in the city of Omitama, Ibaraki Prefecture. As a civilian airport, it was intended to become a secondary airport for busy Tokyo. Haneda and Narita airports are other airports that also help decongest Tokyo airport. Demand for air travel rose dramatically in Japan and Ibaraki had great potential to this growing need. The airport is only 85 km north of Tokyo and 40 minutes away by bus from Mito City.

Airlines in Ibaraki Airport

Low-cost airlines like Fuji Dream Airlines, Jin Air, Skymark Airlines, Spring Airlines, Tigerair Taiwan, ANA and Vietnam Airlines all fly to Ibaraki Airport offering cheap flights and fares sold for a reasonable price. 

Ibaraki Airport won the Low-cost Airport Year Award from CAPA in 2011 for providing an airline responsive environment and supporting operations of low-cost airlines with outstanding service. One of its services is a non-stop bus to Tokyo for just 500 yen. It also offers 30 % less handling fee compared to other airports and it even has free parking for passengers to park their vehicles at the airport. 

For Military Purposes and Recreation

As a military airport, it serves as a military airbase for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) under the name of Hyakuri Air Base. The airport was once known as Hyakuri Airfield before 2010 when the airport opened its doors to civilian operations. Hyakuri Air Base is used as an aviation training ground and holds an annual air show in December featuring different displays of military aircraft and jet fighter planes. 

The Blue Impulse, which is an aerobatic demonstration team of the JASDF founded in 1960, also show their talents in the air show much to the delight of aviation photographers and enthusiasts. 

Your Quick Guide to Ibaraki: What to Do and See

There’s a vast amount of activities to do and sights to see to keep yourself busy while learning the culture and specialties this area in Japan can offer. Here are some of them.

Mito city is known for Kirakuen Gardens which is one of 3 of Japan’s most beautiful gardens. Kirakauen means “park to be enjoyed together” and this park was built in 1841 by Lord Tokugawa Nariaki not only for his enjoyment but also for the public. From late February through March, the 3000 different varieties of plum trees bloom.  Red, white, and pink blossoms, showing their full glory, will take your breath away. 

This meticulously landscaped garden is also where the Mito Plum Festival (Mito Ume Matsuri) is held just in time when the trees are in bloom. You can also stroll around the bamboo grove, the cedar woods and enter the kobuntei (a typical traditional Japanese building) where educational and recreational activities are held.

Ushiku Daibutsu in Ohtake, Hokota City is the largest Buddhist statue standing at 120 m tall. This impressive bronze statue, surrounded by beautiful flower gardens, is as tall as a building. It’s enormous and impressive in photos, but even more so in real life, making it a must-see on your list.

Hitachi Fudoki no Oka is an interesting open-air museum exhibiting historical dwellings from the Jomon to Edo periods of Japanese history. It is in Ishioka City, a 40-minute drive from Tsukuba. 

See the sea of blue flowers at Hitachi Seaside Park. Enjoy the unbelievably blue sea of nemophila fields that usually bloom in April- May. Take tons of pictures among the tulips and daffodils. 

Make a day trip and see the Fukuroda Falls and Hananuki Valley. The Falls is one of 3 top most beautiful falls of Japan. 

Take A Trip to the Beach

The eastern side of Ibaraki Prefecture faces the Pacific Ocean. The beaches that are in that entire coast have shallow waters and are not as crowded as the ones in or near Tokyo. The swimming months in Ibaraki are from July through August. 

Beach huts and rental shops open during beach season. They usually provide food and drinks, changing rooms, showers, and shaded resting areas. The tides are perfect for surfers and body boarders. There are lifeguards patrolling during summertime, and children are not allowed to enter the water unattended. 

Beaches in Ibaraki that you can check out include Kuji Beach, Ajgaura Beach, Oarai Sun Beach, Nikkawa Beach, and Hasaki Beach. All these beaches are accessible by car, while the only one that is closest to a train station by foot is Agigaura Beach, as it’s just a five-minute walk away.

Among all these beaches, the most popular one is Oarai Beach, as it is one of the largest in all of Ibaraki. If you’re the type to love shopping, then you’ll love this beach, because it’s right beside an outlet shopping mall called Resort Outlets Oarai, where you can go for some retail therapy, or a filling lunch/dinner.

What to Eat

  • Visit Onwa Tsukuba, just a short 10-minute drive south of Tsukuba station and find there the most delicious famous wagyu beef yakiniku. Onwa’s premium Kuroge Wagyu beef will melt in your mouth.  
  • In November, attend the Hitachi Aki Soba Festival Satoyama Fair in Hitachiota City. The Hitachi Aki Soba, or shinsoba, is a delicious, fragrant, and sweet soba of very high quality made from buckwheat crop and is found in Kanasagou. Sample shinsoba at the National Shinsoba Eat and Walk Corner from all over Japan and even try your hand at making your own soba.
  • Try the Kenchin Jiru, a soup accidentally invented by a monk. It is made of delicious tofu. 
  • Ibaraki is famous for its Monkfish. You must try the Ankou Nabe (Monkfish stew) and the Ankou no Dobu Jiru (a soup that contains all parts of the monkfish like its stomach, fins, liver, skin and more. 
  • Natto is the result of a process that ferments boiled or steamed soybeans, and Mito city is very famous for its premium quality natto. Find wara natto in many outlets all over the city. Mito natto is a very delicious and healthy kind of natto that one should not miss trying. 

Climate Report: What’s the Weather Like in Ibaraki?

Temperatures dip as low as -3C in January and climb as high as 29.6C in August. The summers mostly have cloudy skies, are short, warm, wet, and humid starting from June 29 to September 19. Winter weather can be very cold with clear skies starting from December 5, lasting until March 20. 

The most humid months are from June 11 to September 29. The longest time of daylight usually is on June 21 with 14 hours and 38 minutes. Rainfall happens throughout the year with September 23 recording the highest accumulation of 7.2 inches and January 1 recording the least rainfall at 1.4 inches only.

The Best Hotels around Ibaraki in Japan

  • The Mito Plaza Hotel at Senbacho, Mito, is rated as excellent. It offers free private parking, slippers, and bathrobes. 
  • The Daiwa Roynet Hotel Mito has a great location, as it is only a 2-minute walk to JR Mito train station. It's also connected to the COMBOX310 complex which features several restaurants 
  • The Okura Frontier Hotel in Tsukuba is another excellent hotel to stay for a night or more. It's a 10- minute walk from Tsukuba Train Station. It offers free wifi and a massage service. 
  • The Terrace Inn Katsuta at Hitachinaka is superb as convenience stores and dining places are just 5 minutes away. The Hitachi Seaside Park is only a 20-minute bus ride from the hotel. 
  • The Hotel Route Inn Hitachinaka in Hitachinaka is a great option for booking, as it offers free wifi, and the rooms are air-conditioned and are complete with refrigerators 
  • The Hotel Route Inn Koga Ekimae is clean, compact and reasonably priced. 
  • The Chisun Inn Tsuchiuraami has excellent reviews with affordable rate selections. It offers self-parking, has laundry facilities and free wifi. 

A Description of Ibaraki On the Map

Ibaraki Prefecture is between Tochigi Prefecture and the Pacific Ocean. On its north, you can find Fukushima Prefecture, while on its south is Chiba Prefecture. On its southwest border is Saitama Prefecture. It is situated in the northeast portion of Tokyo. You have the Tone River in the southern border.

Promote Tourism in Ibaraki; Visit This Beautiful Prefecture

Ibaraki, in general, is famous for its rich culture. From food (fresh natto, Kyowa’s sweet watermelons, Nishiibaraki region’s chestnuts), to martial arts (Aikido was founded by a Ueshiba Morihei, who hailed from Ibaraki), old architectural and historical wonders (several castle ruins), expertly crafted pottery and Shinto art, it’s a gem that isn’t as tapped as often as it should be.

It’s up to tourists to give it the hype and acclaim that it deserves while respecting the location’s background, resources, and capabilities. Spreading the right kind of information grabs the interest of others to come. Instead of visiting Tokyo or Osaka, try Ibaraki instead, to discover what else lies within Japan - beyond its technologically amped and industrial forefront.