About IbarakiCIRs

We are an American, an Australian, a Frenchman, and a German, living in Ibaraki, Japan, and working for the Ibaraki Prefectural Government. We handle translation/interpreting, cultural presentations, and coordinating between Japan and the international community. We hope this blog will make living in Ibaraki easier, more comfortable, and more exciting for everyone and give those outside of Ibaraki a glimpse of the fun that is waiting for you here!

From Iwase to Itako – Exploring Ibaraki on the Tsukuba Kasumigaura Ring Ring Road

View of Mt. Tsukuba

The Tsukuba Ring Ring Road is well-known cycling track in the west of Ibaraki. It was once the Tsukuba Railway, which was discontinued in 1987 and eventually turned into a scenic cycling track stretching 40km from Iwase Station to Tsuchiura Station. Recently it was extended to join the road around Lake Kasumigaura and form the 180km Tsukuba Kasumigaura Ring Ring Road. With the extension of the cycling course, the Ibaraki Prefectural Government has teamed up with seven municipalities around Lake Kasumigaura (Tsuchiura, Ishioka, Tsukuba, Itako, Kasumigaura, Sakuragawa, and Namegata) to set up a bicycle rental system allowing you to rent bikes from one of seven locations and return them to any of the other locations. We rented cross bikes and cycled one of the most popular sections of the course – the old railway track.

FullSizeRender 6FullSizeRender 5

 

We set out from Iwase Station at around 10am. We were immediately given a preview of the scenery we would enjoy along the way – rolling fields, spring flowers, and distant mountains. Not long in we discovered an optional side trip of about 3km up to Amabiki Kanon Temple http://www.amabiki.or.jp/ – unfortunately, we didn’t have time to go the whole way, but if you want an extra challenge (the roads are quite steep) and are keen to see one of the most scenic temples in Ibaraki, this is definitely an accomplishable sidetrack from the main path. The road is marked quite clearly with signs so with the help of a map you shouldn’t have much difficulty finding it.

FullSizeRender 21FullSizeRender 18

 

Our first stop was in the Makabe Rest Area. The Ring Ring Road is punctuated by six rest areas between Iwase and Tsuchiura that were once stations on the Tsukuba Railway. Now they have seats, bathrooms, and some have pumps for your bike tires. When we reached the Makabe Rest Area we departed from the road once again to cycle through the old streets of Makabe, a castle town that was planned in the Sengoku period and completed in the Edo period. 99 buildings around the town have been designated as National Registered Cultural Properties. The town is renowned for its Hinamatsuri doll displays in February and March. There is a café called Hashimoto Coffee where you can drop in for a cuppa – unfortunately, it is closed on Tuesdays, which is the day we visited.

 

FullSizeRender 2 copy

As we continued along our path we drew closer and closer to Mt. Tsukuba. When we reached the Mt. Tsukuba Rest Area, we decided to veer off the track again in search of somewhere to eat and we found Maruchu, a soba restaurant. The food was delicious so I would definitely recommend it for lunch, but take care as the location of the store is not exactly where it says it is on google maps. If you head toward the google maps pin but turn left when you reach the street with a Lawson you will find it on the right side of the street.

 

After lunch, we powered along until we got to Tsuchiura. When we arrived in the city, we ventured off toward Lake Kasumigaura. Once you arrive at the lakeside you are treated to a beautiful view of the water. If you continue around the lake you have the option of visiting the Lake Kasumigaura Environmental Science Center, a museum and research centre on the northwestern side of the lake. Inside are a number of exhibits introducing the flora. fauna, and history around Lake Kasumigaura.

Finally, we headed back toward central Tsuchiura to return our bikes and have a well-earned ice cream before catching the train back to Mito. We explored just one section of the cycling path – there are many more recommended courses to check out. Whether you want a relaxed 10km course or a more intense 80km one (you could do the whole 180km if you’re up to it!), this well-serviced cycling course has something for everyone. Check out the information below and start planning your own adventure!

FullSizeRender 20

Bicycle Rental

Time: 9am – 4pm
Cost:
Road Bike: 2000 yen
Cross Bike/Mini Velo: 1500 yen
Child’s Bike: 500 yen

Recommended Courses

1. 80km Course
JR Iwase Station – JR Itako Station (approx. 6 hours)
2. 50km Course
JR Tsuchiura Station – JR Itako Station (approx. 4 hours)
3. 40km Course
JR Iwase Station – JR Tsuchiura Station (approx. 3 hours)
JR Iwase Station – TX Tsukuba Station (approx. 3 hours)
4. 10km Course
Explore the cutting edge technological city of Tsukuba and the historical city of Tsuchiura! TX Tsukuba Station – JR Tsuchiura Station (approx. 1 hour)
Websites
Tsukuba Kasumigaura Ring Ring Cycling Road Official Website http://www.rinrin-road.com/
Ibaraki Guide to the Tsukuba Kasumigaura Ring Ring Road (you can watch videos of the course and download maps!) http://www.ibarakiguide.jp/seasons/ring-ring-road.html

Locations to Pick up and Drop off Bikes

The hours listed refer to the opening hours of the facilities – pick up and drop off of bikes can be done every day between 9am – 4pm.

Sakuragawa
Iwase Station Square Takasago Ryokan
Hours: 9am -4pm (Closed during Obon and New Year’s)
Address: 174 Iwase, Sakuragawa
PH: 0296-75-2165

Tsuchiura
Lacus Marina
Hours: 9am – 5pm (closed Wednesdays from December – March)
Address: 2-13-6 Kawaguchi, Tsuchiura
PH: 0298-22-2437

Tsuchiura Machikado Kura Daitoku
Hours: 9am – 6pm (Closed on New Years Holiday)
Address: 1-3-16 Chuo, Tsuchiura
PH: 029-8242810

Ishioka
Nakamura Parking Lot
Hours: 8:30am – 5:15pm (closed weekends and public holidays)
Address: 425 Kitanemoto, Ishioka
PH: 0299-23-3399 (Ishioka Chiho Koiki Silver Jinzai Center)

Tsukuba
Tsukuba General Information Center
Hours: 8:30am – 6:30pm every day
Address: BiVi Tsukuba 1st Floor, 1-8-10 Azuma, Tsukuba
PH: 0298-79-5298

Kasumigaura
Hours: 9am – 5pm (closed Mondays except public holidays in which case it will be closed the following Tuesday)
Address: 4784 Saka, Kasumigaura
PH: 0298-40-9010

Namegata
Lake Kasumigaura Fureai Land
Hours: 9:30am – 4:30pm (closed Mondays except public holidays in which case it will be closed the following Tuesday. Closed over New Year’s)
Address: 1234 Tamatsukurikou, Namegata
PH: 0299-55-3927

Itako
Suigo Itako Tourism Association
Hours: 9am – 5pm every day
Address: 1-1-16 Ayame, Itako
PH: 0299-63-3154

How to Make a Booking

Note: If possible, please make reservations in Japanese. If you wish to book in English, please fax or email the information.

You must book three days in advance. Same day reservations will not be accepted unless there are extra bicycles available. Please note that Nakamura Parking Lot in Ishioka is reservation-only. Call, fax, or email the Lacus Marina Support Desk (details below) with the following information:

1. 氏名(グループの代表者。以下2~3同様)
Name (if you are a group, the name of one person in the group. Use the same person’s information for 2 and 3):
2. 住所及び郵便番号
Address (including post code):
3. 連絡先(携帯番号)
Contact Information (mobile phone):
4. ご利用日
Date of reservation:
5. 貸出施設及び予定時刻
Location and time you would like to collect the bikes:
6. 返却施設及び予定時刻
Location and time you will return the bikes:
7. 利用車種(台数)・ロードバイク( 台)・クロスバイク( 台)・ミニベロ( 台)
Type and number of bike(s):
Road Bike (Number of bikes you wish to reserve: )
Cross Bike (Number of bikes you wish to reserve: )
Mini Velo (Number of bikes you wish to reserve: )

There are a limited number of bikes available, so Lacus Marina will contact you to let you know if they can cater to your request after they receive it. Bikes can only be rented on a daily basis – you cannot keep them overnight.

On the day, pick up your bikes from the facility you designated. Make sure to bring some form of ID. You can also borrow a helmet free of charge (either child size, L, or M), but please understand if your size is unavailable.

Please return the bikes to the facility you designated by the time you designated.

Cancellations: Please contact the Support Desk by 4pm the day before your booking if you wish to cancel. If you are more than an hour late to pick up your bikes, your booking will be cancelled.

Caution

  • The bicycles all have a TS Mark sticker, insuring the rider with personal accident insurance and liability insurance
  • The bikes are not insured for theft or damage. If you leave the bike at any point make sure that you lock it
  • If you lose or damage the bike’s attachments (e.g. light), helmet, or key, or if they are stolen, you will have to pay for their replacement
  • Responsibility for accidents or theft that were not caused by the actions of the organisers will not be taken by the organisers
  • Please obey the traffic laws and cycling manners, and cycle safely
  • Please ensure that the tires, breaks, and gears are working correctly before you leave
  • If you are in an accident or if you have any trouble such as your bike breaking down, please call the Support Desk

Lacus Marina Cycling Support Desk
Hours: 9am – 5pm
Address: 2-13-6 Kawaguchi, Tsuchiura
PH: 0298-22-2437
FAX: 0298-26-2839
Email: info.cycle@lacusmarina.com
Website: http://www.lacusmarina.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lacusmarina.ibaraki

Ibaraki Botanical Garden Spring Festival

When: 9am – 4:30pm, May 3 – 7
Where: Ibaraki Botanical Garden (4589 To, Naka, Ibaraki)
Admission: Adults 300 yen, junior high school and younger and those over 70 free
Access: 10 minutes by taxi from Urizura Station on the JR Suigun Line
Website

20170503_harumatsuri

There are plenty of things to see and do at this five day festival! Plants, agricultural products, handicrafts, and food and drink will also be on sale in the gardens.

Events

Calanthe Orchid Exhibition (May 3 – 3pm May 6)
Mensore Okinawa Exhibition (April 22 – May 7)
Forest Concert (May 3 – 7, cancelled in poor weather)
Flower Seedling Present (First 200 people, 9am~, May 3 – May 7)
Forest Handicraft Square (200 yen, 10am – 2pm, May 3 – 7)
Wall Hanging Mini Shisa (Okinawa Lion Statue) Painting Workshop (200 yen, May 3 – May 7)
Coaster Making Workshop (10am – 3:30pm, May 3 – May 7)
Olden Day Games (10am – 3:30pm, May 3 – May 7)
Tropical Plant Quiz – First 200 people to answer correctly get a balloon yoyo (10am – 3:30pm, May 3 – May 7)
Spring Festival Workshop –moss terrarium, handicrafts using herbs, group planting, bread clay (500 yen, 9am, May 7)
Meet a Bird of Prey (1:30pm, May 3)

28th Annual Ryujin Gorge Carp Streamer Festival

When: April 29th (Sat.) to May 14th (Sun.)
Where: Ryujin Big Suspension Bridge
2133-6 Keganochō, Hitachiōta-shi, Ibaraki-ken 313-0351

Surrounded by dazzling green trees and with Ryujin Big Suspension Bridge in the center, about 1,000 carp streamers.

Price to cross the bridge:
Individual: ¥310 for adults, ¥210 for Elementary and Middle School Kids
Group of 30 people and up: ¥280 for adults, ¥190 for Elemetary and Middle School Kids
Free for elementary school kids on Children’s Day. (May 5th, Fri.)

Access:
By Car: About 40 minutes from the Hitachi Minami Ota IC and Naka IC of the Joban Expressway.
By Train: About 40 minutes by bus from Hitachi-Ota Station on the JR Suigun Line. Get off the bus at Ryujin Big Suspension Bridge Bus Stop (Ryujinotsuribashi).

 

36th Annual Kasama Himatsuri

When: April 29 – May 5, 9am – 5pm
Where: Kasama Geijutsu no Mori Park Event Square, Kasama (2345 Kasama)
Website

20170429_himatsuri

Head to Kasama during Golden Week for a pottery festival where over 200 ceramic artists, potteries, and local stores will gather in the beautiful Geijutsu no Mori Park to welcome customers to their stalls to see and buy their unique wares. The food and drink stalls are run by ceramic artists, and you will be able to enjoy a variety of unique dishes made using ceramic ware. There will also be a number of events, including a clay mask auction, a clay mask festival run by elementary school students, and a playground. Check out the PR video here.

Access

Bus Schedule

Kasama Station ⇔ Kasama Togei Daigakkou (5 mins walk from venue))
April 29, 30, May 3, 4, 5, Every 30 mins between 8:30am – 3pm from Kasama Station and 8:45 – 5pm from Kasama Togei Daigakkou.
Adults 100 yen, Children 50 yen

Weekday Bus (for May 1-2) (Kasama Station ⇔ Himatsuri Venue North Gate)
170 yen

Tomobe Station → Kasama Himatsuri Venue East Gate
April 29, 30 May 4, 5: Every 15 mins between 8:50am and 3pm
May 1-2: Every 30 mins between 8:50am and 3pm
May 3: Every 15 mins between 8:50am and 4:30pm
100 yen

Kasama Himatsuri Venue→Tomobe Station
April 29, 30 May 4, 5: Every 15 mins between 9:05am and 5:10pm
May 1-2: Every 30 mins between 9:05am and 5:10pm
May 3: Every 15 mins between 9:05am and 8:30pm (every 60-80 mins after 5:10pm)
100 yen

Events

Every Day

Coffee Cup Exhibition
Exhibition & Sale of Sake Cups & Cup Bags
Outdoor Tea Ceremony (choose your own cup)
Exhibition & Sale of Kasama Heat-Resistant Tableware & Pans
Inada Festival
Kids’ Land (Face painting, clay workshop, potter wheel experience, children’s play etc.)
Clay Mask Festival & Auction

Limited Time Events

Jazz Night
When: 6pm onwards, May 3rd
Where: Central Stage
Performers: B Train Jazz Orcherstra feat. Akiko Nakano, Akiko Nakajima Himatsuri Special Session

NEVA GIVE UP Live Performance
When: 3 – 4pm, May 4th
Where: Central Stage

Twilight Live
When: 4pm onwards, May 5th
Where: Central Stage
Performers: Aideko Shinya with DoDo, Torihai, Dodoittsu

Forest Stage Acoustic Live Performances

When: 1pm onwards, May 1 – 5
Where: Forest Stage
Performers:
May 1: Doremi Gakudan, Kasamaharo Acda#coda
May 2: Old Mountain Boys
May 3: yorry&salt, Lilly, Nakano Hiroki to Suteki na Henteko Dan
May 4: Moonshine, Lemon Head, Baby Factory, Sunny Mamas
May 5: Halo, Mikazuki Settodan

Nemophila Harmony

When: 9:30am – 5pm, April 22 – May 14 (7:30am – 5pm from April 29 – May 8)
Where: Hitachi Seaside Park (605-4 Onuma, Mawatari, Hitachinaka)
Video

20170422_nemophila

Spring is in full swing at Hitachi Seaside Park! Until April 21st, you can visit to see the tulips. Then, from April 22nd to May 14th, you can see the park’s famous nemophila flowers (also known as baby blue-eyes) covering 3.5 hectares on Miharashi Hill, creating an ethereal panorama of blue sky, blue sea, and blue flowers.

Nemophila are annuals that bloom from April to May. The nemophila used in Hitachi Seaside Park are of the Insignis Blue variety. Whilst they are in bloom until mid-May, after they blossom they begin to pale, so the best time to see them is during Golden Week.

Every year tens of thousands of people visit Hitachi Seaside Park to admire this rare sight. If there’s one thing you should see while you are in Ibaraki, it’s this!

Details

Admission
Adults (15+) – 410 yen
Seniors (65+) – 210 yen
Children (Elementary and Junior High School) – 80 yen
Infants (Under 6) – Free
*Free admission for elementary and junior high schoolers on May 5 and everyone on May 14

Access
20 minutes by foot from Ajigaura Station on the Hitachinaka Seaside Railway or 15 minutes by bus from JR Katsuta Station

Hitachi Oktoberfest 2017

When: April 26 – May 7 (Weekdays 3 – 9pm, Weekends & Public Holidays 12 – 9pm, Last Order 8:30pm)
Where: Shin Toshi Hiroba, Hitachi Civic Center (1-21-1 Saiwaicho, Hitachi)
Access: 3 minutes’ walk from Hitachi Station Chuo Exit
Admission: Free

20170426_oktoberfest
Oktoberfest is a German harvest festival that has been held in Munich since 1810. In the two weeks of the festival approximately 6.5 million people attend and 6 million cups of beer are consumed, leading the festival to be known as the world’s largest food festival. Around 10 years ago celebrations of the festival began to pop up around Japan, and it has been gaining popularity ever since.

At Hitachi Oktoberfest 2017 you can enjoy delicious local foods and German beer in the oceanside city of Hitachi as local musicians and performers provide entertainment. In order to reduce waste and broken glasses, you will be charged a 1000 yen glass fee with your first glass of beer, which will be returned to you when you return your glass. You can continue to use the same glass for refills.

There will be no parking available, so you are encouraged to come to the event by public transport.

Spring Canoeing in Ryujin Dam

When: March 18 – November 30
Where: Ryujin Dam – Inquire at Soba House Ruchin (2153-39 Shimotakakuracho, Hitachiota)
Website

20170318_canoe

Head to Ryujin Dam and enjoy canoeing through the beautiful Ryujin Gorge. Since the canoeing takes place in a dam you don’t need to worry about the current, and there are instructors to show you the ropes, so it is a great location for beginners.

There is a campsite nearby for those looking for a weekend away, and if you’re keen you can also try Japan’s highest bungy jump from Ryujin Big Suspension Bridge!

Courses

Half Day (90 minutes) 9:30~
Adult (junior high and above) 5000 yen, Elementary School Student 4000 yen

Beginner Course (30 minutes) 12:30~
Adult (junior high and above) 2500 yen, Elementary School Student 1500 yen

Regular Course (60 mins) 14:00~
Adult (junior high and above) 4200 yen, Elementary School Student 3200 yen

*Prices are subject to change
*Prices include sales tax and a 500 yen insurance fee
*Children taller than 130cm or in grade 4 or above of elementary school may have their own canoe. Children aged 4 to grade 3 of elementary school may share a canoe with a parent (they will still pay the same amount).
*Canoeing will be cancelled if the weather is deemed dangerous
*We may allow your pet into the canoe with you – please inquire using the other (その他) box in the registration form

What to Bring
Clothes and shoes that can get wet
Drink bottle
Towel
Change of clothing
Optional:
Sunglasses
Sunscreen
Long-sleeved shirt
Motion sickness medicine (for those who suffer from motion sickness)
Waterproof camera
Pocket tissues

Recommended Clothing
Quick dry or water-resistant clothing (t-shirt, bathing suit, three quarter length pants, etc.)
Inner: Long-sleeved shirt and pants
Outer: Rainwear, windbreaker, jersey, fleece

Register Here (deadline: 3pm the day before you wish to canoe. For later inquiries call 070-1271-0722)
*Japanese only

Inquiries: Storm Field Guide
TEL: 090-6505-2544
Address: 1151 Noguchi, Hitachiota
Website
*Japanese only