Ibaraki once held the title of “least attractive prefecture in Japan” for several years in a row, a dubious “achievement” which is a tad unfair considering the understated charms that it has to offer.
Spanning over 6,000 square kilometres and bordering other famous locales such as Tochigi and Fukushima, Ibaraki is situated two hours north of Tokyo. From a sprawling seaside park to a torii that commands an arresting view of the Pacific Ocean, here are ten places to sightsee and eat to your heart’s content over a weekend in this coastal prefecture!
Where to go
1. Hitachi Seaside Park – Visit here for cAPTIVATING VIEWS OF THE NEMOPHILA HILL
Hitachi Seaside Park boasts an expansive range of flora spread out across 350 hectares. The blue nemophilia, which peaks from late April to mid May, is one of the park’s most iconic sights and one that visitors flock to after the sakura season.
Venture up Miharashi Hill in the spring for a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean, and take a stroll through the meandering nemophila fields whose baby blue tones are reminiscent of the sky. Come Fall, pretty-in-pink is the theme as the cosmos and red kokia take center stage.
Aside from that, you can also find plenty of other flora in bloom, including tulips and rapeseed. There is also a small amusement park located on the park’s premises, where you can enjoy various rides and attractions, such as a 100-meter-tall Ferris wheel.
Entrance to the park costs ¥450 per person, and it’s highly recommended that you arrive early in the day so you can have your fill of the seasonal food trucks, too!
Address: Japan, 〒312-0012 Ibaraki, Hitachinaka, Mawatari, 字大沼605-4
Nearest Station: Katsuta
Wednesday to Monday: 9.30am – 5pm
Tuesday: 9am – 5pm
Contact: +81 29 265 9001
2. Kamiiso No Torii – Watch the sunrise from the PACIFIC OCEAN
Witness the literal meaning of the phrase, “the sun rises in the east” at Kamiiso no Torii. This is one of Japan various iconic, waterfront torii that you must check out if you are in Ibaraki.
The gate, whose name translates to “gate of the upper shore”, offers arresting views of the Pacific Ocean. The crashing waves, jagged rocks, and magnitude of it all are truly awe-inspiring and captivating. Come at sunrise, and you could be rewarded with a spectacular sight.
Address: 8249-1 Isohamacho, Oarai, Higashiibaraki District, Ibaraki 311-1301, Japan
Nearest Station: Oarai
Contact: +81 29 267 2637
3. Oarai Isosaki Shrine – Pay tribute to mecha anime set in Oarai
Situated uphill from Kamiiso no Tori, a centuries-old shrine that was built in 856 and then rebuilt in 1690 after being destroyed in a war.
Here, you can also find hand-drawn tributes on various ema to Girls und Panzer, a mecha series set in Oarai. It’s also pretty common for anime to be set in smaller towns and prefectures in the hopes of driving tourism if the show takes off.
Address: 6890 Isohamacho, Oarai, Higashiibaraki District, Ibaraki 311-1301, Japan
Nearest Station: Oarai
Contact: +81 29 267 2637
4. Oarai Sun Beach – Go clam-digging at this breezy stretch
Unsurprisingly, Ibaraki is also home to a number of beaches with various marine sports and ocean scenery. Coming from a space-constrained area such as Singapore, where virtually every waterfront view is dotted with faraway buildings and ships, it was refreshing to see just stretches of water and sand.
Stretching southward from Oarai fishing port, Oarai Sun Beach is the biggest beach in the Kanto area, where you can dig for live clams. Because it’s barrier-free, it’s also wheelchair and handicapped-accessible, with free wheelchair rentals that are designed to go into the ocean.
Address: Japan, 〒311-1311 Ibaraki, Higashiibaraki District, Oarai, Onukicho, 地先
Contact: +81 29 267 5111
5. Hinuma Nature Park – Family-friendly park overlooking Kanamura, IBARAKI’S ONLY rAMSAR cONVENTION-REGISTERED WETLAND
While Ibaraki is known for its coastal sights, there are plenty of forest-filled areas to satisfy your inner adventurer. Hinuma Nature Park offers various walking trails that are easily accessible, as well as camping grounds and play areas for families with young children.
Come summertime, Hinuma Nature Park will be home to over 1,000 hydrangea bushes in full bloom. With free entry, this nature-filled place is worth a short drive over!
Address: 2263 Nakaishizaki, Ibaraki, Higashiibaraki District, Ibaraki 311-3124, Japan
Tuesday to Sunday: 9am – 5pm
Closed on Monday
Contact: +81 29 293 7441
6. Fukuroda Falls – 120-meter-tall cascading waterfall in Daigo
Escape to the north of Ibaraki and you will find yourself in Daigo, a remote town that is home to Fukuroda Falls. At 120 meters tall, this cascading waterfall consists of four tiers and is a sight to behold when surrounded by autumn foliage.
Even in other seasons, Fukuroda Falls is worth a visit as you can treat yourself to arresting views from various levels at a multi-level observation platform. From a close-up view of the base to picturesque shots from 50 meters above the ground, you can spend about an hour in utter serenity as you take in Mother Nature’s wonders.
Conclude your visit with a walk across the suspension bridge, where you can challenge yourself to another steep hiking trail to Namase Waterfall, which is widely considered to be the slightly removed fifth tier of the Fukuroda Falls system.
Address: 3-19 Fukuroda, Daigo, Kuji District, Ibaraki 319-3523, Japan
Opening Hours: 9am – 5pm daily
Nearest Station: Fukuroda
Contact: +81 295 72 4036
What to eat
1. Colk – Chic Japanese-European dining featuring local farm produce
Experience Ibaraki’s finest produce at Colk, a Japanese-European restaurant that changes its menu four times a year in line with the four seasons. Indulge in the multi-course meal which starts from ¥3,800 for five courses. The Chef’s Recommended Course offers 10 dishes for ¥11,000, including a decadent roast beef that is supposedly one of the restaurant’s more popular creations.
Address: 447-1 Kasaharacho, Mito, Ibaraki 310-0852, Japan
Wednesday to Sunday: 11.30am – 2.30pm, 6 – 10pm
Closed on Monday and Tuesday
Contact: +81 29 239 5502
2. TonQ Mito ChinabaとんかつとんQ 水戸千波店 – Cozy Tonkatsu Restaurant with two kinds of rice
Located a stone’s throw from Mito Plaza Hotel is TonQ Mito ChinabaとんかつとんQ 水戸千波店, a cozy tonkatsu restaurant that sees long queues around lunch and dinnertime.
The pork cutlets, which are made from Yamato pork which clinched the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Award in 2011, are a must-try. Along with the Yamato Pork Cut Ribs which features well-marinated ribs that go great with beer.
From April to June, seafood lovers can also enjoy the seasonal fried horse mackerel menu, featuring fish from Nagasaki prefecture. The fish is rich yet light, and melts perfectly in your mouth!
Browse more dishes on their online menu.
Address: 1999-5 Senbacho, Mito, Ibaraki 310-0851, Japan
Monday to Wednesday and Friday: 11am – 9pm
Saturday and Sunday: 11am – 10pm
Closed on Thursday
Contact: +81 29 243 1181
3.Yakiniku Yuten 焼肉 遊天 – Old-school yakiniku restaurant with tender beef tongue cuts
Yakiniku Yuten 焼肉 遊天 is an old-school restaurant known for its mouthwatering cuts of meat that are marinated with homemade sauces for that extra flavour. The restaurant is entirely floor seating, so be prepared for that full Japanese-style dining experience.
The beef is also sourced locally, with the beef tongue being the most recommended item on the menu. Aside from yakiniku, you can also sample various Korean dishes such as kimchi soup and stone-grilled bibimbap here.
Address: 5147-6 Nakane, Hitachinaka, Ibaraki 312-0011, Japan
Opening Hours: 5.30pm – 10pm daily
Contact: +81 29 275 8839
4. Uotome 魚留 – Unassuming seafood restaurant with limited seating
Our plans to check out Kachan no Mise JF were dashed by the snaking queue around the block. Fortunately, Uotome 魚留 was just around the corner and we were able to get in after a considerably shorter amount of time.
Dining at this seaside restaurant is a brisk and efficient affair. Each set is served with chawanmushi which is next-level with the amount of ingredients stuffed inside it, and a piece of fried pufferfish. The Shirasu Don wins extra points for its aesthetically-pleasing arrangement – I recommend adding a dash of soy sauce to the raw shirasu for extra flavour.
Address: 8253-24 Isohamacho, Oarai, Higashiibaraki District, Ibaraki 311-1301, Japan
Wednesday to Monday: 11am – 3pm
Closed on Tuesday
Contact: +81 29 267 5030
Ibaraki is a charming spot if you’re looking for a day or weekend trip outside the usual sakura spots. While most of these places are rather spread out and easier to access by car, it’s still possible to make a well-paced trip using public transport, albeit with a bit more planning and walking!