Tsukuba is a modern city built around the University of Tsukuba — one of the most respected public universities in Japan and home to two Nobel Prize winners and a cyclotron. The city is also located at the foot of Mount Tsukuba which offers scenic views, hiking, and lifts. The surrounding area is mostly agricultural.
You can also travel to Tsukuba by highway bus (高速バス) from Tokyo station's Yaesu south exit (八重洲南口). Most of the buses go to University of Tsukuba, but you can get off at Tsukuba Center, a bus hub located near the Tsukuba Express line station. The travel time is approx. 70 minutes at a cost of ¥1150 each way.
Japan Rail Passes (for trains) used to be valid on this and other JR highway bus routes, but as of April 2013 this has been discontinued.
Tsukuba is extremely accessible and well laid-out. The infrastructure consists of the Higashi-Ōdori (東大通り) on the east and the Nishi-Ōdori (西大通り) on the west, both major roadways running on either side of the university. The campus itself is connected to downtown via a system of bicycle paths and bridges, known as the Pedestrian Way, offering easy transit for university students.
Bicycle rental is available in front of the train station.
- Tsukuba Space Center, ☎ . 10AM-5PM. JAXA research center with free exhibits and guided tours five times daily. Facility includes exhibits on rockets, satellites, and Japan's involvement with the International Space Station. Free.
Tsukuba's main attraction for tourists is Mount Tsukuba, a double-peaked mountain with a lot of history. A well-marked "tour bus" drives from the Tsukuba Express Train Station to Tsukuba Shrine for 700 yen each way.
- Tsukuba Shrine - Notable for a huge bell and Nikko-style carvings, this shrine lies at the foot of the hiking path/cable car.
- Ascend Mount Tsukuba (筑波山) - There are several hiking paths up the mountain, the most direct of which will get you to the top in about an hour. However, the longest trail offers the most cultural sights, such as a large stone Buddha. The not so fit can take the cable car to the top for 500 yen.
- Tsukuba Summit - The terminus of the cable car features several restaurants, souvenir stores, and snack shops. The true summit of Nantai-san is a short additional hike. The twin summit of Nyotai-san boasts a dramatic granite formation, a small shrine, and the famous toad-shaped rock, Gama-ishi.
Tsukuba has many places for shopping such as LALA GARDEN, Q't, SEIBU, and so on. Lots of families or couples go there every weekend. Moreover, these shopping centers are large comparatively, so you can kill time when you don't have things to do.
A large shopping center, Iias, is one stop away (Kenkyuu Gakuen) on the Tsukuba Express line and offers three floors of stores and restaurants, including a large movie theatre and pet store.
- Right-On, Azuma 1-11. 10:00-21:00. Tsukuba is the flagship store of Right-On, a Japanese denim chain.
Tsukuba's local specialty is Gama Oil (ガマの油), an ointment that has existed since the Edo period.
Ton-Q is a great place to enjoy amazing tonkatsu and a bottle of beer. It is near the city center and the layout will remind you of a Denny's in the U.S.A.
West House has a 60 centimeters-high parfait (frozen dessert) for ¥3000, it is supposed to be enough to feed 10 people.
Many bars and izakaya (japanese-style pub) are located in Kuidaore district, which is near to a crossing of Kita-odori (北大通り) and Nishi-odori (西大通り).
- Dali, Amakubo 3-15-1 (Across the street from 7-11 convenience store at the Amakubo 3-chome bus stop on the Tsukuba University route). Lively past 7pm.
- Okura Frontier Hotel (オークラフロンティアホテル), Amakubo 1-1364-1 (Next to Tsukuba station), ☎ . Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 10:00. 11,500+ yen.
- Daiwa Roynet Hotel Tsukuba (ダイワロイネットホテルつくば), Azuma 1-5-7 (Next to Tsukuba Center, along Chuo-dori), ☎ . Check-in: 11:00, check-out: 14:00. 8,000+ yen.
- Tsukuba Kenshu Center (筑波研修センター), Amakubo 1-13-5 (take a bus no.10 or C10 from Tsukuba Center, get off at Medical Center Mae, walk 7 mins to east), ☎ . Check-in: 16:00, check-out: 10:00. 3,600+ yen.
- Tsukuba Sanso Youth Hostel (筑波山荘ユースホステル), Tsukuba 692 (take a bus to Tsukuba-san Jinja Iriguchi (筑波山神社入口), walk 5mins), ☎ . Located near the Tsukuba-san Shrine (筑波山神社) on Mt Tsukuba 2,940 yen.