Autumn Leaves in Ibaraki 2016

Autumn, the season of changing leaves, is finally upon us. Blessed with a diverse natural environment, there are many places in Ibaraki that you can visit to appreciate the colourful leaves of autumn.

Fukuroda Falls (Daigo)

01_fukuroda

One of the three great waterfalls in Japan, Fukuroda Falls is sometimes known as ‘Yodo no Taki’, a play on words that can be translated as either the four-tiered waterfall, referencing the four levels of the falls, or the four-time waterfall, as it is said that in order to appreciate their beauty, you must visit them in every season. There is parking on site as well as a store and vending machines. There are also a number of beautiful hiking trails in the area.

Trees: Maple, sawtooth oak
Best time to visit: Early to mid November
Recommended spots: The waterfall viewing tunnel, viewing platforms 1 & 2
Address: 3-19 Fukuroda, Daigo-machi, Kuji-gun, Ibaraki
Access: 10 minutes by bus from JR Fukuroda Station. Get off at Takimoto, it is ten minutes’ walk from there. If travelling by car, it is roughly 50 minutes from the Naka IC on the Joban Expressway.

Mt. Yamizo (Daigo)

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The highest peak in Ibaraki, Mt. Yamizo stands 1,022m tall and offers spectacular views of Tochigi and Fukushima Prefectures. At the summit you will find Yamizomine Shrine, Nichirinji Temple, and a virgin forest containing a variety of beech trees. Around the eighth station, you will find a group of springs from the Yamizo River.
Trees: Beech, Erman’s birch, Japanese oak, maple

Best time to visit: Late October – Early November
Recommended spots: Mt. Yamizo Viewing Platform
Address: Kaminomiya, Daigo-machi, Kuji-gun, Ibaraki
Access: 50 minutes by bus from JR Hitachi-Daigo Station. Get off at Jakechi (蛇穴) – it will take around 2.5 hours to reach the summit from there. By car, it is a 1 hour 50 minute drive from the Naka IC on the Joban Expressway.

Eigenji Temple (Daigo)

03_eigenji

Eigenji Temple is nicknamed the Maple Temple. As the name would suggest, the Japanese maple trees around the temple create a fantastic view as they turn brilliant shades of red when autumn arrives. Eigenji Temple is dedicated to Saraswati, the goddess of music, and its elevated location provides a splendid view of Daigo, allowing you to see all the autumn leaves in the town.

Trees: Japanese maple
Best time to visit: Mid November
Address: 1571 Daigo, Daigo-machi, Kuji-gun, Ibaraki
Access: 10 minutes’ walk from JR Hitachi-Daigo Station
Parking: 30 spaces at the temple. Temporary parking also available.

Mt. Nantai (Daigo)

04_nantai

Mt. Nantai is located in the south east of Daigo, and stands 654m tall. The northern and eastern slopes are quite gentle, while the western and southern sides are steep cliffs. Mt. Nantai has been a sacred places since ancient times, and is shrouded in a mysterious atmosphere. There are many hiking courses in the area that provide splendid views.

Trees: Maple, Japanese lacquer, Japanese oak
Best time to visit: Early to mid November
Recommended spots: Tsutsujigaoka Viewing Platform
Address: Saigane, Daigo-machi Kuji-gun, Ibaraki
Access: 60 minutes’ walk from JR Saigane Station. 50 minutes’ drive from the Naka IC on the Joban Expressway.
Parking: 5 free spaces

Okukuji Valley (Daigo)

05_okukuji

With the beautiful Okukuji River that flows through it offering splendid views along Route 118, Okukuji Valley is ideal for a leisurely drive. Mt. Yamatsuri, located in Okukuji Prefectural Natural Park among the southern-most peaks of Fukushima Prefecture offers splendid views from season to season. In particular, the changing leaves of late October to late November set the mountain ablaze with colour.

Trees: Keyaki, Japanese maple
Best time to visit: Early to mid November
Address: Daigo-machi, Okukuji-gun, Ibaraki
Access: 15 minutes’ walk from Hitachi-Daigo Station. Roughly 50 minutes’ drive along Route 118 from the Naka IC on the Joban Expressway.

Hanazono Gorge (Kitaibaraki)

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Hanazono Gorge is located upstream of the Hanazono River, and is part of the Hanazono Hananuki Prefectural Natural Park. During autumn red and yellow leaves fall from the trees and float down the river, creating another splendid piece of autumn scenery. At the bottom of the gorge you will find Hanazono Shrine. There are two hiking trails; the Nanatsu Taki Hiking Trail that begins behind Hanazono Shrine, and the Eizomuro Hiking Trail, located 15 minutes’ drive from Hanazono Gorge. On a sunny day, you can see Mt. Fuji.

Trees: Maple, Japanese maple
Best time to visit: Early to late November
Recommended spots: Shiro Waterfall
Address: Hanazono, Kitaibaraki, Ibaraki
Access: 30 minutes by taxi from JR Isohara Station, or 25 minutes’ drive from the Kita-Ibaraki IC on the Joban Expressway
Parking: 60 spaces

Sarugajo Gorge (Kitaibaraki)

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Sarugajo Gorge is located upsteam of Hanazono Gorge. It is said that the Satake clan, after being defeated in battle, survived after receiving walnuts, akebi, and sake from monkeys that gathered in the area. Sarugajo Gorge is renowned for the beauty of its numerous waterfalls, which include Hako Waterfall, Rakuun Waterfall, and Senen Waterfall (which translates to ‘the waterfall of 1000 monkeys!). Listening to the sound of flowing water while appreciating the beauty of the changing leaves is an autumn experience you shouldn’t miss.

Trees: Yamamomiji, maple, beech
Best time to visit: Late October – mid November
Recommended spots: Hako Waterfall, Rakuun Waterfall, Senen Waterfall
Address: Ogawa, Sekimoto-cho, Kitaibaraki, Ibaraki
Access: 40 minutes by car from JR Isohara Station. 35 minutes by car from the Kita-Ibaraki IC on the Joban Expressway

Hananuki Gorge (Takahagi)

08_hananuki

There are splendid views along the Hananuki River from the Hananuki Dam to Namerigafuchi and the Kotakizawa Camping Ground. The view from the Shiomidaki Suspension Bridge that stretches across the gorge is particularly spectacular, even more so in autumn when the trees that grow along the river and stretch over the bridge create a gorgeous tunnel of fall colours.

Trees: Japanese maple
Best time to visit: Mid to late November
Recommended spots: Shiomidaki Suspension Bridge
Address: Ono area, Takahagi, Ibaraki
Access: 25 minutes by taxi from Takahagi Station. 20 minutes by car from the Takahagi IC on the Joban Expressway.
Parking: During the autumn leaves season there is paid parking – 80 spaces for 500 yen per vehicle at the Hananuki Parking Lot and 40 spaces for 500 yen per vehicle at the Ono Parking Lot

Ryujin Suspension Bridge (Hitachiota)

09_ryujin

Ryujin Suspension Bridge is located in Okukuji Prefectural Natural Park, and is located 100m above Ryujin Dam, which dams the Ryujin River. It is a 375m long pedestrian bridge and offers unique panoramic views in every season. The bridge is open from 8:30am to 5pm and costs 310 yen (210 for children) to cross.

Trees: Maple, Japanese maple
Best time to visit: Mid to late November
Address: 2133-6 Kegano, Hitachiota, Ibaraki
Opening Hours: 8:30am – 5pm
Admission: Adults 310 yen, Children 210 yen
Access: 45 minute bus ride from JR Hitachiota Station. Get off at Ryujin Otsuribashi; it is 20 minutes’ walk from there. By car, it is 45 minutes from the Hitachiota IC on the Joban Expressway.
Parking: 200 spaces

Seizanso (Hitachiota)

10_seizanso

Seizanso is the retreat where the second daimyo of the Mito Domain, Mitsukuni Tokugawa, spent his twilight years, from 1691 until his passing in 1700. It is a simple, single-story house with a thatched roof. From the round window in the study, you can gaze out upon the artificial miniature hill and the pond, which is shaped like the Chinese character for heart. Here Mitsukuni Tokugawa supervised the editing of the Japanese history book known as the Dai Nihonshi.

Trees: Japanese maple, ginkgo, konara oak
Best time to visit: Mid to late November
Address: 590 Arajuku-cho, Hitachiota, Ibaraki
Opening Hours: 9am – 4pm (open every day during autumn leaves season)
Access: 5 minutes by taxi from JR Hitachiota Station. 30 minutes by car from the Hitachiminamiota IC
Parking: 70 spaces

Kagoiwa (Hitachiomiya)

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This cliff face on a mountain south of Mt. Nantai in Okukuji that towers over Yuzawa Gorge has been shaped by years of wind and rain to look like a basket weave, giving the area its name. The viewing platform at the summit provides a splendid view.

Trees: Japanese maple, Japanese lacquer tree, mountain ash
Best time to visit: Late October – Late November
Address: Hitachiomiya, Ibaraki
Access: 30 minutes by car from Yamagatajuku Station. 1 hour by car from the Naka IC on the Joban Expressway
Parking: 5 spaces

Gozenyama Prefectural Natural Park (Hitachiomiya)

14_gozenyama

The Gozenyama Prefectural Natural Park is a treasure trove of natural beauty. The view from the Naka River Bridge is reminiscent of Arashiyama in Kyoto, and is thus called the Arashiyama of Kanto. Autumn truly brings out the beauty of this region, as the leaves of the keyaki forest change and colour the landscape a variety of brilliant shades. There are over 100 varieties of mountain birds living in the park.

Trees: Keyaki, konara oak, evergreen oak
Best time to visit: Mid November – Early December
Recommended spots: Fujikura Waterfall, Belltower ruins
Address: Hitachiomiya, Ibaraki
Access: 60 minutes by bus from JR Mito Station. Roughly 25km by car from the Mito IC on the Joban Expressway
Parking: 100 spaces

Kairakuen (Mito)

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One of the three great gardens of Japan, Kairakuen was built by order of Nariaki Tokugawa, 9th daimyo of the Mito Domain, in July 1842.

Trees: Japanese maple
Best time to visit: Early to mid November
Address: 1-3-3 Tokiwa-cho, Mito, Ibaraki
Access: 15 minutes by bus from JR Mito Station. 20 minutes from the Mito IC on the Joban Expressway.

Ibaraki Prefectural Museum of History (Mito)

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The Ibaraki Prefectural Museum of History has permanent exhibits covering history from ancient to modern. There is also a traditional farm house from the Edo Period and a western-style school building from the Meiji Period that have been dismantled and reconstructed in the grounds of the museum. In November, when the leaves of the gingko trees begin to change, the museum holds the Museum Gingko Festival. With most events falling on weekends and public holidays, you can enjoy traditional Japanese music, tea ceremonies, and other activities that celebrate Japan’s history and culture.

Trees: Maple, Japanese maple, ginkgo
Best time to visit: Mid to late November
Address: 2-1-15 Midori-cho, Mito, Ibaraki
Hours: 9:30am -5pm (last entry 4:30pm, closed on Mondays)
Admission: Adults 150 yen, University Students 80 yen, school students, people over 70, and people with a physical disability certificate free
Access: 15 minutes from the Mito IC on the Joban Expressway
Parking: 127 spaces (3 spaces for persons with disabilities)

Kitayama Park (Kasama)

15_kitayama

In Kitayama Park, you can see the beauty of the seasons reflected in the lake that lies between the mountains. Take a walk through the park and be rejuvenated by its natural beauty. The park includes a viewing platform with 360 degree panoramic views, resting facilities, a camp ground, a barbeque area, and a roller slide. Spend time with your family and friends in this tranquil area.

Trees: Maple, Japanese maple
Best time to visit: Early to late November
Address: 1416-62 Taira-machi, Kasama, Ibaraki
Access: 20 minutes’ walk from JR Shishido Station. 5 minutes on Route 355 from the Tomobe IC on the Kita-Kanto Expressway. 20 minutes on Route 355 from the Iwama IC on the Joban Expressway.
Parking: Free

Mt. Sashiro (Kasama)

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Mt. Sashiro is a 15 minute walk from Kasama Inari Shrine. It stands 182m above sea level, and is located in the middle of the Kasama Basin. It is covered with thick forest. More than 100 varieties of plant life grow there, and it is sometimes called a natural botanical garden. The autumn leaves in the park at the foot of Mt. Sashiro are a sight to behold.

Trees: Japanese maple, ginkgo
Best time to visit: Early to late November
Recommended spots: The bell tower
Address: 1015-2 Kasama, Kasama, Ibaraki
Access: 5 minutes by car from JR Kasama Station. You can also take the Kasama Sightseeing bus from Tomobe Station and get off at Nichido Museum of Art. By car, it is 9 minutes from the Tomobe IC on the Kita-Kanto Expressway.
Parking: Available

Mt. Tsukuba (Tsukuba)

17_tsukuba

Mt. Tsukuba is sometimes called Shiho (the purple mountain) due to the colour it turns when the sunrise hits it. Over 1000 species of plant grow on its slopes, making it a treasure trove for botanists. Its hiking trails and cable car bring many visitors all year round. From the top, you can see autumn colours across the entire Kanto Plain.

Trees: Japanese ivy, oak, yamaurushi, Japanese maple
Best time to visit:  Early to late November
Recommended spots: Mt. Tsukuba Shrine, Mt. Tsukuba summit, Miyawaki Station in the Tsukuba cable car
Address: Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Ibaraki
Access: 40-50 minutes by direct shuttle bus from TX Tsukuba Station; get off at Tsukuba-san Jinja Iriguchi or Tsutsujigaoka. 55 minutes by bus from JR Tsuchiura Station; get off at the last stop Tsukuba-san Jinka Iriguchi. You can take another bus from there 6 minutes to Tsutsujigaoka. 40 minutes by car from the Tsuchiura-Kita IC on the Joban Expressway.

Sairenji Temple (Namegata)

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Sairenji Temple is an ancient Tendai sect temple said to have been built in 782. It contains a number of cultural assets. There is a Deva gate built in 1543 that was originally two stories high. In 1790 it was rebuilt to be the main temple gate and changed into a Deva gate. The big gingko tree in the grounds is a prefecturally-designated natural monument that is said to be 1000 years old. The autumn leaves are not to be missed.

Trees: Ginkgo
Best time to visit: Late November to early December
Address: 504 Sairenji, Namegata, Ibaraki
Access: From the Joban Expressway, take Route 355, go straight through the traffic lights at the Route 354 intersection and turn left into Sairenji in roughly 3km.
Parking: 100 free spaces

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