Ibaraki Nature Museum

Located in Ibaraki’s south west, Bando is a relatively small city with a population of around 56 thousand people. It is here you will find Ibaraki Nature Museum. Often called the museum park, it sits on 56 hectares of land encompassing thickets and a swamp where you can see some of the plants and animals you learned about inside the museum in their natural habitat. We were sad to only have a limited amount of time to explore the museum and surrounding area, as you could easily spend the whole day there. With new exhibits every few months, Ibaraki Nature Museum is a great place to visit for people of all ages and interests.

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Many exciting things will be happening in the museum this year to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its opening. Keep an eye out for the 20th anniversary exhibit that will pop up some time later this year. Until June 15, you can check out the amazing African exhibit ‘Messages from the Savanna – African Wildlife and its Conservation’. Last summer, two curators visited Zambia to do research for the exhibit – they took photos and collected many of the plant specimens that are on display. The purpose of the exhibit is to show the diversity of the savanna – although many people picture sweeping plains dotted with acacia and baobab trees where lions, elephants and rhinoceroses roam, savannas also include forests, mountains, and lakes, and a huge number of animal and plant varieties. Although it claims that it barely scratches the surface of the African wilderness, you will certainly leave knowing much more about it than when you entered.

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The entrance to the exhibit is a model of a house in Zambia, made based on photos taken by the curators during their visit. Upon stepping through the doorway you will be greeted with an incredible sight – around one hundred stuffed animals make up a huge display in the centre of the room, most of them some variety of antelope. Some of these specimens belong to Ibaraki Nature Museum, but many come from the Yoshimoto Collection held by the National Museum of Nature and Science. You can pick up a list at the door that will help you identify the names of the animals on display.

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I could write pages about this exhibit but I don’t want to spoil your chance to discover things for yourself when you visit. Some of the things you can learn about include savanna environments from around the world, the Masai, San, and Bantu peoples of Kenya, Namibia, and Zambia, the national parks of Africa, the plants and animals of various kinds of ecosystems found in Africa, and conservation efforts in Zambia and Kenya. There is a 20 year old baobab tree on display that is still in its juvenile stages despite its age, some live specimens including tarantulas and scorpions, and hundreds of leaf, seed, and flower samples collected by the curators during their 2013 research trip.

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The museum also has a number of fantastic permanent exhibits. They all contain interactive features, making them great fun for the young and young at heart. Test your knowledge through quizzes along the way, observe objects falling in a vacuum, adjust the frequency of a sound so see which animals can hear it – these are only a few of the cool activities you’ll find along the way. Learn about space in the Evolving Universe exhibit, take a journey through Earth’s history from its birth to the age of the dinosaurs, learn about life in different ecosystems, experience the motion and mechanics of life that can usually only be seen through a microscope, see how human beings and the environment are interrelated, and discover the varied natural world of the plants and animals of Ibaraki.

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When you’ve had your fill of the museum, take a stroll through the beautiful grounds to see Sugao Marsh, a bird sanctuary, a dragonfly pond, an insect sanctuary, a flower meadow, a grasshopper field, and much, much more. Ibaraki Nature Museum is a great day out and worth making multiple visits to.

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Ibaraki Nature Museum
Where: 700 Osaki, Bando, Ibaraki
Opening Hours: 9:30am – 5pm (last entry at 4:30pm) Closed Mondays (except when Monday is a national holiday, in which case closed the following Tuesday). Closed over New Years.
Admission:
Elementary & Junior High: ¥100
Senior High & University: ¥310
Adults: ¥510
*Additional charge for admission during special exhibitions

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2014 Cherry Blossom Festivals

Hanami season has arrived! Make sure you get to at least one of these events to appreciate the beauty of the cherry blossoms!

25th Annual Kamisu Cherry Blossom Festival

When: April 1 – 15
Where: Gonoike Park, Kamisu City

Head to Gonoike Park to enjoy the cherry blossoms. There will be lanterns in the evening from 6-10pm, allowing you to see the cherry blossoms in a different light. On April 5-6 there will be play equipment set up for kids to play on, and on April 6 there will be a Yosakoi performance.

52nd Annual Hitachi Cherry Blossom Festival

When: April 1 – 20
Where: Heiwa doori/Kamine Park/Juuou Panorama Park, Hitachi City

Illuminations:
Heiwa doori: 6 – 11pm
Kamine Park: 6 – 9:30pm
Juuou Panorama Park: Evening – 9pm

Events on Heiwa doori:
April 5 – Hitachi Furyumono (1, 4, 7pm), Taiko Performance, Independent Participants, Hitachi Dance Festival
April 6 – Hitachi Furyumono (1, 3pm), Mikoshi Parade, Taiko Performance, Independent Participants, Hitachi Dance Festival, Cherry Blossom Road Race
April 13 – Hitachi Style in Cherry Blossom Festival (Gourmet Event)

5th Annual Tatsunokuchi Cherry Blossom Festival

When: April 3 – 13
Where: Tatsunokuchi Shinsui Park, Hitachiomiya City

Enjoy 1.3km of Japanese lanterns among the cherry blossoms. They will be lit in the evening.

Illuminations: Sunset – 9pm

Events:
April 12 – Fireworks Display (7-7:30pm)

Illuminations will be cancelled if it rains. The fireworks display will occur the following day if it rains.

Fukuoka Dam Cherry Blossom Festival

When: April 4 – 8
Where: Fukuoka Dam Sakura Park, Tsukuba Mirai City

Walk along 1.8km of 550 cherry blossom trees lining the Kokaigawa River.

Events
April 5-6, 10am – 3pm, Sakura Namiki Chuo Park
Live performances from local stars, Yosakoi performances, amateur performances, and stalls selling food, drink, and local products.

Hitachiota Cherry Blossom Festival

When: April 4 – 13
Where: Nishiyama Park, Hitachiota
Illuminations: Sunset – 9pm

Enjoy 1500 cherry blossom trees in full bloom in Nishiyama Park

43rd Annual Shimotsuma Sanuma Marsh Cherry Blossom Festival

When: April 6, 9:30am onwards
Where: Sanuma Marsh, Shimotsuma

This one day festival is packed with attractions, from stalls selling food, drink, and local products to karaoke, a bingo contest, kids’ races, Taiko performances, and much, much more. Enjoy lanterns until 10pm and illuminations until 9pm during the evening while the cherry blossoms are in bloom.

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Tsumugi no Yakata

Yuki City in western Ibaraki is famous as the home of Yuki Silk (結城紬), a UNESCO Cultural Intangible Heritage. Yuki Silk has over two thousand years of history behind it, making it one of the oldest silk making styles in Japan. The techniques have been passed down through generations of Yuki residents and the style is still alive today, though sadly the number of practitioners has been decreasing over the years. At Tsumugi no Yakata, not only can you view the beautiful products that have been made with Yuki Silk, you can also learn about its history, see how the silk is made, and try making something yourself.

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Tsumugi no Yakata is made up of several buildings. One is a traditional Japanese house that has been remodeled into a museum, and inside you can find displays that explain the step by step process of making Yuki Silk, from spinning the thread to weaving the fabric. A number of beautiful garments are also on display, allowing you to appreciate the expert craftsmanship up close. There is a small store selling a number of items made with Yuki Silk – although many of them are quite pricey, there are a number of small things like coasters available for those who want a souvenir. After you learn about how much work goes into making Yuki Silk, you will understand the price tags.

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In a separate building, there are a number of looms set up so visitors can watch how Yuki Silk is made and have a go at making something for themselves. We decided to try the jibata, or ground loom, one of the oldest kinds of hand operated looms used to weave bolts of Yuki Silk. The operator becomes part of the machine in order to use it – a plank is placed against your lower back and a piece of fabric is wound around one of your feet and attached to the machine to maintain thread tension. Ten minutes of work was enough for me to form a great deal of respect for the artisans who spend 8 hours a day working at the loom. To produce the high quality silk used in Yuki Silk garments an enormous amount of skill and concentration is required. It can take over a year to weave enough silk for a single kimono.

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The lighter coloured fabric is the amount of progress I made after one hour. I also broke a string and the instructor had to fix it for me. This workshop will give you a much greater appreciation for the effort that goes into creating high quality silk.

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The second workshop we tried out was making a coaster. This was much quicker – it only took about 15 minutes to create a beautiful little hand woven coaster to take home with you. You were also allowed to pick the colour of the thread. The trick is to keep the length of each row of thread even so that the edges line up properly.

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There is also a tie-dyeing workshop available that we did not have time to check out when we visited, but you can design your own pattern and make a t-shirt or a shawl to take home. Tsumugi no Yakata is a great place to learn about an art that few of us know much about, and definitely worth a visit the next time you’re in the area.

Tsumugi no Yakata
12-2 Yuki, Yuki-shi, Ibaraki-ken
Opening Hours: 9:30am – 5pm daily (closed Tuesdays)
Cost: Entry is free, workshops are between 1000 and 3000 yen each
Free onsite parking available
Bookings and Information
TEL: 0296-33-5633
E-mail: tumuginoyakata@okujin.co.jp

Oarai Spring Festival Kairaku Festa

When: March 29 (1 – 8pm) March 30 (10am – 4pm)
Where: Lawn in front of Oarai Marine Tower and Oarai Shopping District

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There’s something for everyone at Kairaku Festa. Saturday afternoon kicks off with aptitude tests for piloting tanks from 1pm to 3pm in front of Oarai Marine Tower – something fans of the Girls und Panzer anime set in Oarai will surely be keen to check out. From 5:30 – 7 there will be a DJ playing popular anime songs (this may be changed closer to the date). The night will finish with a fireworks display from 7:30 – 8pm.

On Sunday you can enjoy a variety of events on the lawn in front of Oarai Marine Tower – there will be a Girls und Panzer talk show, a swordfish butchering display, and performances from Oarai’s local heroes Oarider and Araippe, Oarai High Schools Blue Hawks, and Oarai Elementary Brass Band. There will also be stalls selling food, drinks, and goods. Meanwhile in the shopping district, there will be a roleplaying game that everyone can participate in, a bus that you can draw on, and a Girls und Panzer quiz.

Those who want to cosplay Girls und Panzer characters are welcome to, but cosplay from other works is not permitted. It is okay to travel between the two areas of the festival, but make sure you obey traffic laws and behave appropriately. Long props are not permitted.