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Photo By: iStock/ Yasuji Fujimura
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Natto and nature in central Kanto

Full of interesting sights, Ibaraki prefecture should natto be underestimated.

Ibaraki Prefecture is Japan’s No. 1 producer and consumer of natto or fermented soybeans, a sticky and stinky staple of the national diet that has been baffling foreign tastebuds for centuries. But fermentation isn’t Ibaraki’s only attraction. It’s also the birthplace of aikido, the site of the seasonal Fukuroda Falls, one of the world’s biggest Buddhas and the highest bungee jump in the country. The eastern seashores are lined with great surfing spots. You can even catch an overnight ferry all the way to Hokkaido from Oarai.

Mito City

Photo by: iStock/ fannrei Close-up of nemophila flowers at Hitachi Seaside Park.

Just northeast of Tokyo, the prefectural capital of Mito City is best known for Kairaku-en Garden, rated in the top three most beautiful Japanese gardens. With more than 3,000 plum trees, it’s understandably a popular place to view the plum blossom as winter turns to spring, but it’s just as much of an enjoyable stroll around the tranquil hillside setting during the rest of the year.

The annual umeshu (plum wine) festival is a chance to sample this deliciously sweet beverage from brands across the country. Mito is also where you can get your fill, or not, of fermented soybeans in any of the friendly restaurants across the city which offer full-course natto meals.

Mount Tsukuba

Photo by: iStock/ helovi Take a breathtaking hike on Mount Tsukuba’s Shirakumobashi trail.

The breathtaking Fukuroda Falls in northernmost Ibaraki flow across tiered levels, transforming with the seasons. There are camping, fishing, hiking and hot springs in the surrounding region of Oto-Kuji too. Oarai is an attractive beach resort near the coast that draws big crowds in the summer. A little-known car ferry service runs from Oarai to Tomakomai in Hokkaido, taking about nine hours—a less traveled route between Honshu and the wild northern island.

For an odd but rewarding combination of hiking and science, head to Mount Tsukuba in the center of the prefecture. On the way up, visit the Tsukuba-san shrine to make offerings to the god of matchmaking and marital harmony. In the shadow of the mountain, the sprawling Tsukuba Science City is home to more than 200,000 researchers and students gathered together in the name of scientific discovery. Visit the Tsukuba Expo Center or the Tsukuba Space Center and tour the laboratories across the development.

Plan your trip to this low-key prefecture with the destinations below!

Places to visit

Ushiku Daibutsu in Ibaraki, Japan.

Ushiku Daibutsu (Buddha)

The tallest standing Buddha statue in Japan is hiding more than a few secrets.

Kairakuen Garden in Ibaraki Japan is known for its March plum blossom festival

Kairakuen Park

Plum pleasure.

hitachisHitachi Seaside Park in Ibarakieasidepark

Hitachi Seaside Park

Ibaraki’s horticultural highlight.

Aiki Shrine and Iwama Dojo in Ibaraki Prefecture

Aiki Shrine and Ibaraki Branch Dojo

Channel your spirit to become an aikido master at the very place the martial art was born.

Glamping in Ibaraki

Namegata Farmer’s Village

Go glamping and 'disco' strawberry picking at a farm north of Tokyo.

Kashima Soccer Stadium

Watch a J-Soccer league game at the home of the Kashima Antlers!

Yuki City Gallery of Traditional Arts and Crafts

A full immersion weaving experience.

Honba Yuki Tsumugi History Museum

Where the history of silk comes to life.

Kasama Craft Hills

Kasama Craft Hills

Get crafty in the Ibaraki hills at this pottery park.

Buckwheat field and Mount Tsukuba in the distance with its twin peaks.

Mount Tsukuba

As one old saying goes, “Fuji in the west, Tsukuba in the east.”

Shrine gateway on Oarai coast at sunrise, Ibaraki, Japan.

Oarai Isosaki Shrine

Let's get spiritual.

Oarai Sun Beach

Come soak up the sun at Ibaraki’s favorite summer getaway.

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