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3-Day Model Trip Outline of the region / Ibaraki & Chiba

3-Day Model Trip Outline of the region / Ibaraki & Chiba /

Ibaraki is an important center of cutting-edge science while Chiba, where the Narita International Airport is located, serves as the gateway to Japan.

Ibaraki and Chiba, which are Tokyo's neighboring prefectures, are blessed with a mild climate and with abundant nature such as the sea and mountains. While Ibaraki has a flourishing agriculture, it is also a leading center for cutting-edge science and industries. Narita International Airport, which serves as the gateway to Japan, is located in Narita City in northern Chiba. Adjoining Tokyo, many large residential quarters have been developed in both prefectures for people commuting to Tokyo. The areas have a mild climate, and their cultures have been based on the sea.

Ibaraki

Pastoral landscapes remain in Ibaraki which is Japan's leading producer of melons

Ibaraki can be reached in a couple of hours from Tokyo. It extends from north to south along the Pacific, and has two main areas with contrasting features, namely the northern area which is ringed by mountains with rural landscapes, and the southern area with abundant rivers and Lake Kasumigaura which is the second largest lake in Japan.
The eastern area facing the Pacific Ocean is dotted with marine resorts. The Izura-kaigan Coast overlooking the rough waters of the Pacific has continued to captivate writers, artists and philosophers alike.

Ibaraki, which has a flourishing agriculture, is a leading area nationwide especially in the cultivation of fruit, and is the largest producer of melons in Japan. It is said that the extreme temperature difference and the well-drained soil are suited to melon cultivation. The center of melon production is the Hokota area, where you can experience melon-picking in June. Located near Hokota City are the Kashima-jingu Shrine with a long history, and the Iris Park with its spectacular 1 million iris plants of 500 species.

Mito where the Enlightened Lord resided during the Edo Period

Mito, where the Ibaraki Prefectural Government is located, used to be a castle town of the Mito Clan which exerted a strong influence during the Edo Period. In particular, the Enlightened Lord Tokugawa Mitsukuni (1628-1701) dedicated himself to arts and science, and compiled Dai Nihon-shi (The history of great Japan). "Mito Komon" (a historical drama in which misrule is corrected), which is familiar to all Japanese, is modeled after Mitsukuni, who apparently had a strong sense of curiosity, loved to drink wine, and was the first in Japan to taste gyoza dumplings, Chinese-style noodles called ramen, cheese, milk, and so on.

Even today, in the city of Mito, there remain various places linked with Mitsukuni such as Kairaku-en which is a garden renowned for its beautiful Japanese plum blossoms.

Mito is also famous for its natto. A food made by fermenting soy beans with bacillus natto, it is believed to have existed since ancient times. Although some people find the distinct texture and flavor unpleasant, natto has attracted much attention as a health food in recent years.

Appreciating traditional Japanese art crafts, textiles and pottery
Yuki Pongee
Kasama Ware

Yuki City, situated in western Ibaraki, is famous for its Yuki Tsumugi pongee which is a fabric woven with silk thread. It is thought to date back to ancient times, and improvements began to be made some 150 years ago in the textiles and threads used, leading to the Yuki Tsumugi with which we are familiar today. It is characterized by plain colors and patterns, and kimono made with this fabric is light and retains its shape. On Saturdays, Sundays and national holidays, you can experience weaving at the Traditional Craft Museum of the city (reservations required).

Walking along the streets of Yuki, you will also notice how traditional Japanese culture still prevails here as you come across sake breweries, stores selling all kinds of miso, and geta clog factories in this city.

If you are interested in pottery, we recommend visiting Kasama City. It is famous for its Kasama-yaki ware which was first created in the 18th century, and there are as many as 130 kilns within the city. Also, in Kasama, there is the Kasama Inari Taisha grand shrine which is one of the three major Inari shrines of Japan. The precincts of the shrine are colorfully adorned with Japanese wisteria in the spring and chrysanthemums in the autumn. The kiku-ningyo, which are dolls made with chrysanthemum flowers, are exquisite and overwhelming. The year 2007 marks the centennial of the chrysanthemum dolls.

Encountering Japan's cutting-edge science
Tsukuba Science City

Many of Japan's leading scientific research institutes are congregated in Tsukuba City. With the opening of the Tsukuba Express, Tsukuba can now be reached in less than 1 hour from Akihabara, Tokyo. This city is home to some 300 public and private research institutes, which organize Tsukuba science tours (reservations required) for visiting the state-of-the-art research institutes involved in space development, research on robots, and agrobiological studies. And by traveling just outside of the city center, you can reach Mt. Tsukuba-san which has been worshipped since ancient times as a mountain just as beautiful as Mt. Fuji. Tsukuba-san consists of two peaks, the male peak being Mt. Nantai-san (871 meters) and the female peak being Mt. Nyotai-san (877 meters). Some people call it "Shiho" ("Purple Peaks") because the color of the mountain changes in the morning sunlight and when the sun sets in early evening. Although the mountain is not particularly high, there are panoramic views of the surroundings from the summit. There are ropeways and cable cars, which make it popular for day hikes.

Chiba

Boso, a temperate region surrounded by the sea and rivers

Chiba is a unique prefecture in Japan for it is surrounded only by the sea and rivers. The greater part of the prefectural land is made up of Boso-hanto Peninsula which juts out into the Pacific Ocean and Tokyo Bay.

Facing the Pacific is the so-called "Sotobo" which literally means outer Boso, whereas the area facing Tokyo Bay is known as "Uchibo" signifying inner Boso. Fisheries are extensively carried out, and there are many places where you can enjoy marine sports.

The area facing the Pacific Ocean features the magnificent coastline of Kujukuri-hama Beach which stretches over 60 kilometers, and the beautiful views attracted many writers. Today, it is thronged with tourists in the summer coming to enjoy activities such as swimming, marine sports and dragnet fishing.

"Ri" is an old Japanese unit for distance, equivalent to 6 "cho" (1 "cho" is equivalent to approximately 109 meters). The name Kujukiri-hama (literally "Ninety-nine ri beach") is believed to have derived from Shogun Minamoto no Yoritomo (1147-1199) having erected an arrow every "ri" (654m) along the beach, with the total number of arrows amounting to 99.

Tateyama City, located on the southernmost tip of the peninsula, welcomes the spring season earlier than anywhere else in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Once in February, flowers of all colors start blossoming in the flower fields, and flowers begin to be gathered and strawberries harvested. The northern limit for the distribution of coral reefs, Okino-shima Island, and facilities where you can observe ocean sunfish from a boat, provide an exotic southern atmosphere.

Even though the Tokyo Bay area which is familiarly known as Uchibo has been heavily industrialized, the sea is calm with quiet waves suited to clam-digging at the beach and also fishing. Going a little farther, there are facilities where you can come into contact with unique animals such as "Mother Farm", "Zo-no-Kuni" ("Elephant Kingdom") and "Dacho-Okoku" ("Ostrich Kingdom").

Suigo: A riverside town that developed thanks to water transportation

Between the north of Chiba Prefecture and the south of Ibaraki Prefecture, there is an area called Suigo. Traditional streets and houses with fine landscapes on the water?fs edge extend along the banks of the Tone-gawa River which flows along the border between Chiba and Ibaraki prefectures. This area developed for its water transportation some 300 years ago during the Edo Period. Later, its role as a canal and for river transportation came to an end with the opening of railways and roads, and yet you can still catch glimpses of the former lifestyle of Japan such as houses built in the warehouse style as well as wedding ceremonies performed aboard small vessels.

A futuristic business town emerging in the Bay Area

Chiba Prefecture has developed as a residential quarter for people commuting to Tokyo. In particular, the area along Tokyo Bay has many huge shopping centers. Tokyo Disneyland, which opened in 1983, is also located in Urayasu City of the Bay Area.

Currently, a new business town project is underway, centered around Makuhari Messe which is one of the leading convention centers in Japan.