Situated north-east of Japan’s Kanto region and a 75-minute train journey from Tokyo, the Ibaraki prefecture is renowned for its natural beauty, anglerfish, sake (rice wine) and ceramics.
Kyosuke Tomita, assistant director at the Japan Local Government Agency – seconded from Ibaraki Prefectural Government – told me that the region’s parks and gardens are a major draw for both international and Japanese visitors, with the Hitachi Seaside Park among the most popular.
"Here, an estimated 4.5 million baby blue eyes flowers cover the ground as far as the eye can see. It’s one of the most breathtaking sights in the world," he said.
In October “boom grass” (Houki Gusa) turns the park’s hills from green to crimson, Tomita explained. The round shrubs, which look like cheerleaders’ pompoms, are not only stunning to look at but also “perfect for a game of hide and seek”.
Kairakuen Park in the prefecture’s capital of Mito is considered a highlight too. Ranked as one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan, the area is home to 100 species of plum tree, bamboo groves and cedars, and is just a short walk from Senba Lake.
Tomita recommends a visit to the Fukuroda Falls in Daigo in winter when the cascading waters freeze over. “This is one of the most popular attractions,” he enthused.
Sake is a big part of Ibaraki culture, and clients can learn about its history and production at the Kiuchi brewery. “This is a family-run business that has been operating for more than 200 years. Guests will be able to see how sake is made and learn about how the company is exploring new flavours by using traditional Japanese ingredients.”
Ibaraki’s kasama-yaki pottery heritage, which attracts ceramics students from all over Japan, should pique the interest of art lovers. Kasama-yaki ceramics are particularly desirable because they are crafted with clay that’s high in iron, meaning that when it’s fired it turns a soft brown colour.
"This pottery is unique to Ibaraki, so why not recommend your clients go there and have a go at making their own."
Seafood is another regional highlight, with anglerfish considered a delicacy – everything except the head is edible. In addition to gorging on this succulent deep-sea catch, clients can experience preparation and cooking demonstrations.
Anglerfish are high in flavour and low in calories, so they are healthy. And in November they become exceptionally large and delicious,” Tomita explained.
From its fairy-tale parks to stunning coastlines, as well as an opportunity to escape the crowds, Ibaraki is an intriguing destination for both first-time and veteran visitors to Japan.
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