Explore Mito, Ibaraki – a Hidden Gem of Kanto

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Mito, Ibaraki at night, among the cherry blossoms.

Along with Chiba, Gunma or Saitama, Ibaraki prefecture is also a well-known tourist destination in the Kanto region. The best part of coming to Ibaraki is you can easily find attractive spots with scenic views and delicious specialties year-round. 

Here are some of the most popular spots of Ibaraki and the city’s best gourmet not to miss out!

Overview

Ibaraki Prefecture, formerly known as Hitachi Provinc, , is located in the northeast of Kanto region and just 100km from Tokyo. It’s one of the most popular tourist attractions around this area. The capital city of Ibaraki is Mito.

Thus, if you are in Ibaraki but “in the mood” to visit Tokyo or other nearby prefectures, you can sitll do so. The province has a mild climate. This makes Ibaraki an ideal spot to visit almost all year round. The best part about it is, there are so many things to enjoy both in and around Mito!

Popular Tourist Spots Near Mito, Ibaraki 

The World’s Largest Buddha Statue – Ushiku Daibutsu

The Great Buddha Ushiku Daibutsu is the world’s largest bronze Buddha, recorded by the Guinness Book of World Records in 1996. It is located in the southeast of Tsukuba, Ibaraki. It is 120 meters high, weighs 4,000 tons, assembled from 6,000 high strength tin bronze plates.  It’s even bigger than the one in Kamakura.

A picture of Ushiku Daibutsu, a very tall Buddha stature in a flower field. It's not too far from Mito, Ibaraki.
Ushiku Daibutsu is one of the tallest Buddha statues in the world, just an hour outside of Mito. Image via Shutterstock

The Great Buddha Ushiku Daibutsu was built within 10 years and has five floors. The highest floor (5th floor) of it is 85m high and visitors can enjoy the surrounding landscape from here.

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Hitachi Seaside Park

With an area of ​​more than 3.5 hectares, Hitachi Seaside Park is popular because it’s a year-round flower paradise. No matter what season you visit the park, there’s always a different kind of beauty for you to admire. 

Perhaps the most popular season would be spring because there will be canola, daffodils, tulips and especially nemophila (baby blue eyes). The nemophila flowers in full bloom will bless your eyes with an endless blue ocean that is splendid with the blue sky. 

A pictures of multiple overlapping flower gardens at Hitachi Seaside Park, just a half hour away fro mMito, Ibaraki.
Hitachi Seaside Park is a marvelus flower garden just a half hour away from Mito, Ibaraki. Image via Shutterstock

In summer, you’ll marvel over roses, cypresses, sunflowers, and kochia trees. Entering autumn, the green fields of kochia gradually turn into bright red. This creates a unique color contrast with the cosmos (butterfly flowers).

Fukuroda Falls

Fukuroda Falls, located in Daigomachi, Kuju District, is the third most beautiful waterfall in Japan. It has four floors with a height of 120 m and a width of 73 m. It looks like a white thread hanging across the jungle. 

A picture of Fukuroda Falls, against some autumn foliage.
Fukuroda Falls is over an hour away from Mito, Ibaraki, but it’s well worth the trip. Image via Shutterstock

Coming here, visitors will have the opportunity to relax with nature, majestic mountains and enjoy the fresh air. Possessing a unique beauty that cannot be found anywhere else, Fukuroda waterfall is the inspiration of many photographers.

Kairakuen Garden

Among the top three most beautiful gardens in Japan, Kairakuen Garden located in Mito City is also the second largest urban park in the world after New York’s Central Park. Also known as the Tokiwa Garden, this garden was originally a plum orchard belonging to Tokugawa Nariakira. 

Karaikuen Garden during springtime with plum blossoms.  It's right in the heart of Mito, Ibaraki.
Kairakuen Garden is one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan. Image via Shutterstock

Kairakuen is at its most beautiful in early spring, when the Mito Plum Festival is held annually from mid-February to late March with over 3,000 plum trees from 100 different varieties in bloom. Besides the well-known plum blossom, Kairakuen also changes its appearance according to the season. Standout flowers include crimson Kirishima rhododendron, bamboo forest, green cedar in summer, red maple and clover bushes in autumn.

As a part of Kairakuen, Lake Senba is known as the Oasis of Mito. It is famous for the swan viewing tour where you can see beautiful swans up close on boats. At night, the area around the lake is also illuminated with decorative lights. 

Ryujinkyo Suspension Bridge

Coming to Ibaraki in autumn, you can experience the autumn view on the Ryujinkyo Suspension Bridge, the bridge that crosses the Ryujin Dam with a length of 375 meters. This is the longest pedestrian bridge on Honshu Island.

A large, white suspension bridge in the mountains. It's only 30 minutes away from Mito, Ibaraki.
The Ryujin Suspension Bridge is just a half hour outside of Mito, Ibaraki. Image via Shutterstock

From here, you can see a lot of beautiful scenery. Especially the red leaf season from around the end of November, from the bridge, visitors can zoom in on the panoramic view of the majestic mountains and rivers of this place.

What to Eat in Ibaraki

Strawberry

Ibaraki Prefecture is one of Japan’s top agricultural provinces. Thus, visitors can enjoy a lot of delicious specialties but especially fruits such as strawberries, melons, nuts, pears, and many more fruits grown all year round.

A basket of bihg, lovely red strawberries.
Strawberries are a major speciality in Ibaraki. Image via Shutterstock

When it comes to the place where the most delicious strawberries in Japan, it is impossible not to mention Ibaraki. It’s home to two most delicious strawberries, Ibaraki-kiss and Hitachi-hime. If you happen to visit Ibaraki from around January to May, don’t forget to try out the strawberries picking experience here.

Anko Fish Hot Pot

Anko fish (aka monkfish or angler fish) hot pot is a dish that represents the culinary taste in winter of Ibaraki. It features a strange-shaped fish with a flat body, large head, and a tongue full of sharp teeth.

A picture of raw anko fish meat. It's very pink and light.
Anko fish is a speciality in Ibaraki often used in nabe pots. Image via Shutterstock

In contrast to the not so lovely appearance, anko fish tastes amazingly good and is rich in protein, collagen but low in fat. In particular, the best time for enjoying anko fish liver is from December to February every year.

Hitachi Beef

The characteristic of Hitachi beef is the red meat in the back, tenderloin, ribs, buttocks mixed with soft fat that is very popular among Japanese people.

Some slices of high-quality Hitachi beef. It's red and very marbled with fat.
Hitachi beef is one of the best types of wagyu in the world. Image via Shutterstock

Hitachi beef can be used as ingredients for many dishes: sukiyaki hot pot, steak, or shabu-shabu. Hitachi beef iis one of the most delicious and popular types of beef in Japan, so don’t miss out on any chance to taste Hitachi beef if you have been here.

Kaisendon – Ibaraki-style Sashimi 

Kaisendon has fresh ingredients caught on the day and thick slices along with the seasonal menu. It always leaves a deep impression on those who want to eat high quality seafood in large portions. It is also known as a sashimi rice bowl. It’s a delicacy that can be enjoyed in Ibaraki, especially Mito.

A bowl of kaisendon, which is sashimi on rice.  You can get it at many restaurants in Mito, Ibaraki.
Kaisendon is a very popular dish in Mito, Ibaraki. Image via Shutterstock

Hitachi Soba 

Hitachi soba is a nationwide famous brand of Soba noodles in Ibaraki Prefecture. With a unique aroma and taste, this soba noodle has a delicate and pure taste that cannot be found anywhere else.

A bowl of buckwheat soba with tsuyu on the side.  You should pick some up if you ever find yourself in Mito, Ibaraki!
Hitachi soba has a very unique taste. Image via Shutterstock

The right time for diners to enjoy Hitachi Soba noodles is in the fall after farmer harvest the fresh buckwheat. . You can experience making Soba noodles in many places in the prefecture. You can also enjoy the “Soba Matsuri” festival in autumn. 

Salted Fish Ice Cream

Japan is famous for mentaiko (salted fish eggs). However, salted fish eggs combined with ice cream might sound strange to many people. On the contrary, salted fish egg ice cream does not have any fishy smell, rather has a mild sweet taste. Salted fish eggs ice cream is sold at Mentaiko Park in Oarai town for 350 yen.

In addition, another popular ice cream in Ibaraki is chestnut ice cream. You can find it at Kasama Craft Hill rest area. Compared to mentaiko ice cream, chestnut ice cream is a more friendly choice for foreign visitors. This is because its rich scent of chestnut. If you have a chance to visit Kasama Craft Hills to experience making Kasama style Japanese ceramic and pottery, don’t forget to try out this well-known ice cream!

Ibaraki has so much impressive scenery and good food to offer all year round.

If you haven’t visited Ibaraki, don’t forget to drop by this beautiful city during your next visit to the Kanto area! Share with us about what places of Ibaraki you would like to see in the comment below!

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