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Exploring Ibaraki

This week on Exploring Japan, we return to the northern part of Kanto with Ibaraki Prefecture.

Ibaraki Prefecture is in the northeastern part of the Kanto region, and it’s mostly flat with many lakes.  It’s on the Pacific Ocean, so there are many beaches that are popular for surfing.  The population is 2,964,141.  The capital of Ibaraki is Mito.  The 5 largest cities are:

  1. Mito (265,993)
  2. Tsukuba (217,315)
  3. Hitachi (189,956)
  4. Hitachinaka (157,060)
  5. Tsuchiura (144,399)

The population of Ibaraki is fairly stable, though some cities are decreasing in population.  Others, such as Tsukuba, are growing quickly.  Ibaraki is also often mispronounced as Ibaragi.  I hear it all the time.  But it is Ibaraki.


Sakasai Castle is in Bando city, and is a rather recent reconstruction.  Apparently, it’s a pretty nice looking reconstruction, though not terribly impressive as far as size goes.  But it seems interesting.  Also, it isn’t easy to access.

Tsuchiura Castle in Tsuchiura doesn’t have much, but there is a gate still remaining.

Kasama Castle in Kasama has a couple gates and a turret remaining, but not much else.  However, it seems that some money has been allocated to do a survey of the castle grounds.

Ibaraki surprisingly has very little left in terms of castles.  Most have been almost completely destroyed.


In J League soccer, there are 2 teams in Ibaraki.  They are Kashima Antlers in Kashima and Mito HollyHock in Mito.

Things to see and do

Ibaraki always seems to me to have few things to see and do.  I know about Mt. Tsukuba, which I’ve wanted to hike up, but that’s about it.  But there is more!

Mito, the capital city, has a lot of historic sites.  It’s home to the Mito Domain, with the very influential Tokugawa Mitsukuni (or Mito Komon) as the daimyo.  There’s a very well-known samurai drama on TV in Japan about him.  In Mito, there’s a Mito Komon Festival. Kairakuen Garden is one of Japan’s top 3 gardens, and is the major sight in the city.  It includes the Kobuntei, historic samurai residences, as well as Tokiwa Shrine.  In the shrine, there’s a small museum called the Giretsukan.  Mito Arts Foundation has a tower that commemorates the city’s 100th anniversary. The Tokugawa Art Museum houses art from the clan’s collection.

Kashima city is famous for its Kashima Shrine.

Tsukuba is known for its mountain, Mt. Tsukuba, which you can hike.  At the foot of the hiking path and cable car station is Tsukuba Shrine.  Along the way to the top of the mountain, there’s a large stone Buddha, but it’s on one of the longer trails.  At the top of the cable car, there are several shops and restaurants, while the summit is a short hike away.  The twin summit has a shrine and a frog-shaped rock.  In the city, you can visit the Tsukuba Space Center, which has free tours.  I really want to see that! Tsukuba city is a planned city that was designed to focus on scientific research, a project called Tsukuba Science City.


Probably the most famous food to come out of Ibaraki is natto, sticky and smelly fermented soy beans.  It’s popular in the Kanto region, but not so popular elsewhere in Japan.

Have you visited Ibaraki?  What else would you recommend?

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