- For other places with the same name, see Ibaraki (disambiguation).
Ibaraki Prefecture (茨城県 Ibaraki-ken) is a prefecture in the Kanto region of Japan.
- 1 Mito — Famous for Kairakuen Garden and Lake Senba, also largest producer of natto (fermented soybean dish)
- Kashima — Famous for Kashima Jingu (Shrine) and the J-League Kashima Antlers FC.
- 2 Tsuchiura
- 3 Tsukuba — Home of Tsukuba University and the surrounding modern research town, and beautiful and historically significant Mount Tsukuba
Ibaraki is yearly ranked among Japanese nationals polled as the least attractive prefecture for tourism. Of course, there are fewer locations to "get away from it all" like would be possible in Okinawa, and fewer picturesque scenes of historical sites such as in Kyoto. However, there is a lot to offer visitors, domestic or foreign, who may have specific interest in the prefecture's strong points. Especially for people who are used to the heavy urbanization of the Tokyo area, the sports, nature, and shopping available in Ibaraki might be well worth the day trip for residents or tourists alike.
Like almost all parts of Japan, Ibaraki has unique linguistic quirks, especially amongst older people, but standard Japanese as spoken in Tokyo is the norm. Tsukuba has strong international connections and Mito is the prefecture hub, and so English speakers may find some support in these cities. Otherwise, English assistance in Ibaraki should be expected to be no better than what may be available in more rural parts of the country.
Opened in 2010, 1 Ibaraki Airport (IBR IATA) is in the city of Omitama, near the center of the prefecture and 40 minutes away from Mito by bus. Travelers arriving at the airport can take advantage of a ¥500 highway express bus to Tokyo station. The airport was planned as a low-cost alternative to the major airports of Tokyo (85 km and 1½ hours away). As of March 2016, the airport serves connections through budget airlines to 5 Japanese cities, 3 Chinese cities, Taiwan, Vietnam, and the Philippines. Prepaid SIM cards are available for sale at the airport. Taxis are available for all flight arrivals but it is an expensive fare to take one to any nearest major city or train station, especially with bus service coordinated with arrival flight times. Airport staff is courteous with some English and Chinese language ability. There is a duty-free gift shop, a small ramen restaurant, and Korean chain convenience store on-site. The store staff are not able to make change or give directions or other advice; please use the information counter.
If it can be more convenient for travel plans, it is strongly recommended to use Ibaraki Airport. On such a small scale, most passengers can enter the terminal, check-in, go through security, and be in the departure lobby in less than 10 minutes. All long-term parking is also free, so it is worth considering if an acquaintance is planning a car pick-up.
An easy and cheap way to get to the sights of Ibaraki is via the JR Kanto Highway bus. A number of buses leave from both Tokyo and Shinjuku Stations to many destinations in Ibaraki, some as often as 4 times per hour. While bus access to Ibaraki is convenient, often faster, cheaper, and easier than by train, bus transit within cities in Ibaraki is not close to as developed as in more major urban areas. The most major bus line operating between and within cities in Ibaraki uses its own "Ibappi" prepaid card that is not compatible with the nationwide rechargeable prepaid cards used for transportation on major train and bus lines. Cash should be prepared for bus use unless planning to reside in the area or wanting to have the Ibappi card as a souvenir.
There are no Shinkansen stations in Ibaraki, but the Joban Line has passed through Mito on its way to northern Tohoku (although after the 2011 earthquake, certain sections are in repair and so the last major city on this line is Iwaki; train travel from Mito to Sendai should be through Koriyama and local train service between Tokyo and Sendai should avoid Ibaraki). There is an express train called the "Fresh Hitachi" which links Ueno and the capital Mito in approx. 1 hour. Service using the Fresh Hitachi to extend to Sendai is planned to be re-introduced at some point after Joban line repairs in Fukushima are completed in 2019. The local Joban line takes just over 2 hours. The Tsukuba Express Line connects Tsukuba to Akihabara in downtown Tokyo in about 45 minutes.
- 1 Ushiku Daibutsu. A 120-m-tall statue of Buddha. It was built in 1993 to commemorate the birth of Shinran, founder of Jōdo Shinshū. It was the tallest statue in the world until 2008, when a few Buddhist statues in mainland Asia were constructed in response. ¥800 for adults.
- 2 Aqua World Oarai. One of the top aquariums in the country right on the ocean, and famous among aquariums for its sunfish. Dolphin show attendance is included in admission (you may get wet). There is a gift shop, a food stand including fresh sushi (perhaps the fate of unpopular attractions?) and free parking. Bus accessible from the nearest station. On site is a nice beach popular with swimmers and surfers but the sandy area is narrow and a bit rocky so sunbathing is not so popular. More spacious and picturesque beaches and a decent outlet shopping center are downshore.
- Oono Shiosai Hamanasu Park. In Kashima.
- 3 Hitachinaka Seaside Park. World-famous for its flower installations. It was developed as a theme park after the site narrowly missed out on being Japan's location to construct Disneyland. Has a small section of theme park rides, carnival games, a human maze, mini-golf, BMX course, and disc golf. The park is split to be about one-third amusement park, one-third sports park, and one-third nature park. Good for families especially, or anyone wanting to enjoy a variety of activities, but a little limited if only interested in one aspect of the park. For a short time each summer it is packed with tens of thousands attending one of Japan's largest rock music festivals. Different admission options and prices; ¥510 for parking.
- 4 Warp Station Edo. Backlot owned by Japanese public broadcaster NHK, used for the filming of their flagship Taiga dramas, which are annual year-long historical drama series that are broadcast every Sunday. Come here to see the outdoor sets depicting the Edo and Meiji periods.
Sports are a major draw for domestic travel. Ibaraki, being a coastal area, is a high-volume destination for sunbathers and surfers from all over Japan, mainly the Greater Tokyo area. Its beaches are clean, and have surfable waves nearly all year round. Most towns set up an official beach patrol/lifeguard station for the summer holiday season of late July/early August. Hirai and Oritsu Beaches and Kashima Kaihin Park in Kashima, Ootake Beach in Hokota and Oarai Sun Beach in Oarai are all very popular summer destinations. Spectator sports are plentiful, with teams in Japan's top leagues of soccer, basketball, and volleyball, and the prefecture boasts dozens of quality golf courses for play or for watching Japan Tour events. If the timing is right, you can catch a pro wrestling show from Hitachi Pro Wrestling, a group that puts on events (usually free) throughout Ibaraki and neighboring prefectures year-round.
Shopping is also popular, especially for day-trippers from metro Tokyo where high cost of land makes large shopping centers impossible. Residents of Tochigi and Fukushima will drive to Ibaraki's two CostCo outlets in Hitachinaka and Tsukuba. The Aeon shopping mall chain is ubiquitous in Ibaraki with large malls in Mito and Tsuchiura with reasonably sized shopping centers also in Tsukuba and Shimotsuma. (Mito's Aeon Mall was once the largest shopping center in Japan while Shimotsuma's is famous as "JUSCO" from the cult movie Shimotsuma Monogatari.) In Tsukuba city are the Iias and Lala Garden shopping centers, with Iias close to rivaling the larger Aeon malls in size. Mito's Keisei department store is a destination for people seeking luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Coach, and Tiffany. A large outlet mall is in Ami town, with view of the Ushiku Daibutsu. Hitachinaka city has the Fashion Cruise shopping center, adjacent to CostCo and to the Seaside Park. However, only the Mito shopping options are very easily accessed by train; other locations would need to be accessed by private car or by bus.
World-standard art and history museums are in Mito, Kasama, Kita-Ibaraki, and Tsukuba cities.
The local souvenirs ubiquitous in all parts of Japan are available in Ibaraki as well. Notable is Ibaraki's unofficial mascot character "Nebaaru-kun". Kame-Jirushi (亀印), headquartered in Mito city, is a popular maker of very good souvenir snacks and candies that are sold all over the prefecture.
Ibaraki is a major producer of natto (fermented beans). It is healthy and the locals eat it often for breakfast on rice. Many foreigners (and Japanese) find it too stinky to eat, though some quite like it. Asking your opinion of natto is a common topic of small talk with strangers — don't be afraid of offending someone if you don't like it, as it will likely earn a laugh either way. It is often the first thing asked after someone, Japanese or foreign, mentions being in Mito or Ibaraki.
Ibaraki is famous in Japan for its chestnuts and melons.
Tsukuba, due to its position as an international education and research hub for technology and space exploration, has among the highest percentage of foreign residents in the country. As a result, it is possible to find good restaurants of many styles, including Mexican, Iranian, and African cuisine.
Most towns have their share of chain and family owned Izakaya; Hitachinaka City is famous for its microbrewed Nest Beer.
- Fukushima Prefecture
- Tochigi Prefecture
- Gunma Prefecture (No border, but separated by only a few hundred meters)
- Saitama Prefecture
- Tokyo is less than 20 minutes from Ibaraki via closest stations on the Tsukuba Express line, and less than an hour from much of Ibaraki by train, bus, or car.
- Chiba Prefecture
- Ibaraki Airport has budget airline access to Sapporo, Kobe, Fukuoka, Okinawa, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hangzhou, and Taipei.