CIR Diary

International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI 2018)

(*日本語は下にあります。)

On September 7th, we visited the Tsukuba International Convention Center where the 30th International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI 2018) was held.

The event is an annual international informatics competition where contestants from various countries come together and solve an array of computer science related problems and compete for a chance at a gold medal.

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The number of participants in this prestigious competition has been steadily increasing. This year’s IOI welcomed more than 900 participants representing 85 different countries. While the event is mostly focused on science, it also gives participants to enjoy multiple different cultures through their interactions with the other contestants and the staff.

According to the volunteer we talked to, most of the volunteers were exchange students from Tsukuba University, the rest is made of Japanese students and staff of companies around the area. Each of them was assigned to a team in respect to their mother language or a language they are skilled at. And the volunteer is in charge of showing their assigned team to the dormitory, food court, contest halls, as well as helping them get around in the city while providing interpretation. Of the couple volunteers we talked to, all of them were enthusiastic to share their experience with the foreign teams.

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“Showing the contestant teams around in Tsukuba city was really fun, it reminded me of my first culture shock after coming to Japan a few years ago. I made some great friends through this opportunity and we have made promises to meet again either in Japan or somewhere else in the world.”

“I felt very connected to be able to meet someone from my home country who lives in this city,” says one of the team member in regard to his assigned volunteer exchange student, “It gave me a sense of home while competing in a country I have never been to, and I was able to learn so much about the life here, makes me want to come back again in the future.”

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We had the opportunity to interview some of the contestants and staff to get their perspectives on the event and what brought them all the way here to Japan.

The Japanese national team was made of some of the most intelligent students one can ever meet, they are a little shy to speak at first, but when the topic is brought upon the contest itself, their eyes were filled with joy and excitement. They complimented each other on their respective results in different sessions and expressed how amazed they were by the talent of other foreign teams.

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“You never know how big the world, and how many greater people are out there until you really compete with them.” says the Japanese contestant Inoue Wataru, “I see them, just like regular students, and I didn’t expect how amazing they are when sitting in front of the screen.” Inoue Wataru won personal score of 6th place in the entire contest, we must say he is being overly humble with his words, as we felt the exact same about him and his teammates.

The Chinese contestants were no doubt the best in their team effort, all of the four members won the gold medal with personal results of 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 23rd place. Unlike the other teams who dressed very casually, they came to the event in matching suits and ties. However, when confronted about this, they laughed and replied with a blush. “Our coach teacher said that we should wear suits because Japan values those who dress formally to international events such as this one, so we thought we should follow the culture here. But turns out we are the most formally dressed, teams from the other countries just wore shorts and t-shirts like they would if they work in silicon valley.”

They explained to us the very strict selection process of contestants from China, the 4 of them were chosen through 3 stages of intensive selection tests and training camp, out of over 2000 students who signed up from schools all over China.

DSC_9403Finally, we were able to talk to the legend himself Benjamin Qi. Before attending the event, we had no idea who he was but once we arrived at the venue, he was all everyone talked about. “Have you met Benjamin Qi?!”, “We call him BenQ”, “His talent is out of this world”.

When we met Benjamin, he came out of an elevator and suddenly all the contestants had their heads turned towards him. “Oh, he’s here! He’s here! That’s BenQ!” That’s when we knew we had to make find out why this particular competitor was so famous.

 

As far as the first impression goes, Benjamin seemed like just any other regular high school student. One could not have imagined that he was one of the leading programmers of his age group. When asked about his fame at the event he was very humble about it and said he wasn’t a fan of all the attention. Benjamin Qi is a high school student from Princeton, the United States who made a name for himself at this event by achieving a perfect score on a problem that lasted for 5 hours. A feat no one has to come to achieve up until this year’s Olympiad. Benjamin gained interest in computer science while in 8th grade.

DSC_9411He said he self-studied until he entered high school where he took classes on the subject. To secure a spot at this year’s IOI 2018, Benjamin participated in a 6-day long competition in North Carolina where he and other high schoolers went head-to-head to become one of the United States’ representatives at the event. As the for the event, Benjamin noted that it was a fantastic opportunity to put his skills to the test as well as great exposure to a variety of global cultures. Benjamin won 2018 IOI personal best with 4 perfect scores and a big percentage gap with the 2nd place winner.

In the end, we realized that we were only merely taking a slight peek under the curtains, the world of informatics and how important these skills are to the future society is unable to be valued.

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We live in a world where words such as “geeks” and “nerds” are still widely used as insults and mocking to people who have different interests than the so-called “majority”. It is sad to see students being bullied at school and called names because their talents are not being understood by the ignorant mass. However, the nerd discrimination is bound to disappear as leading figures like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk who are bringing significant changes to the world through technology. We hope that one day, the contestants will shine on the world stage with their great talent in informatics and the skills to push our society forward.

 

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This is the first time the IOI is hosted in Japan, and Tsukuba city was selected to be its hosting venue. The city of Tsukuba is also known as the Tsukuba Science City, it is now the most significant science technology accumulation site in the country, where more than 300 public and private institutions and enterprises are located. Many foreign researchers and exchange students who seek for high-level experiences and opportunities gather in Tsukuba. The city also offers various services in multi-language to support the living of foreign residents. While its foreign residents give back to the community by doing volunteer works, representing Tsukuba and acting as the bridge between this city they live in and the world.

2018

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From left: CIR Cedric (USA), CIR Gloria (Canada)

 

 

(日本語訳)

9月7日水曜日に,私たちは,「国際情報オリンピック(IOI)」の取材のため,つくば国際会議場を訪れました。

このイベントは,毎年開催され,数理情報科学を競うため各国からつくば市に集まった競技者は,数多くの情報科学に関する問題を解き,金メダル獲得を目指します。

この名誉ある競技会には,85の国を代表する900名以上の競技者が参加し,その数は年々増加しています。イベントでは,科学に焦点があてられる一方で,競技者の皆さんは,他の競技者やスタッフの方々との交流を通じ,多様な文化に触れているようです。

この大会を支えるボランティアのお話によると,彼らの殆どは,筑波大学の学生とのことでしたが,他の大学の学生や会社関係者も参加しています。ボランティアは,自身の母国語とチームメンバーが話す言語と同じか,あるいは,日常的にその言語を理解できるレベルにある場合,当該チームに割り当てられ,宿舎や食事場所,競技場への案内や通訳をしながら,市内の紹介も行います。皆さん,外国から来たチームと積極的に交流していました。

「競技者をつくば市にご案内することはとても楽しいことです。数年前の来日直後にカルチャーショックを覚えたことを思い出させます。この機会を通じて多くの素晴らしい知り合いができ,日本か海外で再会することを約束しました。」

「この街に住む,同国人の方と知り合いになれ,つながりを強く感じています。」と語るのは,ボランティアとして勤める交換留学生。「行ったことがない国と競うことで母国に想いを馳せます。ここでは,多くを学ぶことができ,また戻ってきたいという気持ちになります。」

私たちは,競技者とスタッフに,このイベントについての見解やどのような経緯で来日することになったかインタビューする機会を得ました。

日本代表チームは,とても知的な生徒たちで構成されています。初めは内気に話していましたが,競技の話になると一転し,彼らの目は興奮に満ちた様に変わりました。日本のチームメイトたちの結果に賛辞を送りつつ,他国のチームの才能にも驚きを隠せない様子でした。

「実際に対戦してみないと,世界とはいかに大きく,多くの優秀な競技者がいるということに気づきません。」と語るのは,日本代表の井上さん。「彼らはただの学生にしか見えませんが,一緒に競技をしてみると,彼らの優秀さに気づきます。」そんな井上さん自身も,個人得点で六位という成績を上げていて,かなり控えめに発言していることがわかります。

中国代表は,疑いなくチーム全体の力量としては最上でしょう。メンバー4人全てが2位,3位,6位,23位という金メダルを獲得しています。軽装で参加している他のチームと違い,彼らはお揃いのスーツで参加しています。このような事実について,彼らは笑えみ,顔を赤らげて返答します。「僕たちの先生から,こういう国際イベントにおいては,正装が日本では評価されると聞いていましたから,この国の文化に従っただけですよ。結果として,僕たちが最も正装になってしまい,他の国の競技者は,まるでシリコンバレーにでも勤めているかのようにTシャツと短パンでしたね。」

彼らは,中国国内での厳しい選考過程も説明してくれました。4人は,3次に渡る,過酷な選考試験と合宿を経て,国内2,000人の応募者の中から選抜されたのです。

遂に私たちは,ベンジャミン・クイ,その人と会うことが叶いました。私たちは,今日ここに来るまで,彼のことを知りませんでした。しかし,会場に到着するや否や,競技者の皆さんが,彼の話をしていることに気づきます。「ベンジャミン・クイにもう会った?」「彼の才能は並外れているよ。」

私たちが,ベンジャミンに出会ったのは,彼がエレベーターから降りてくるところで,皆,彼の方を見るのです。「彼が来た!ベンQだ!」そういう声を聞いてようやく彼がどれほど有名なのか気づいたのです。

最初の印象では,ベンジャミンは,普通の高校生にしか見えません。彼が世代を代表するトップのプログラマーだとは誰も気づかないでしょう。私たちが自身の名声についてどう思うか尋ねると,そういう注目はあまり好かないと,とても控えめに話します。ベンQは,5時間にもおよぶ問題を完全回答した米国プリンストン出身の高校生なのです。これは,今年の情報五輪まで誰も達成していない快挙なのです。彼は,中学二年生の時にコンピューターサイエンスに興味を覚えたのだそうです。

この科目は高校に入学するまで自己学習をしていたそうです。今年の情報五輪の参加権を得るまで,彼は,ノースカロライナにおいて6日間に渡る他の高校生との競争に打ち勝って米国代表になっています。彼は,今回のIOIについて,異文化を体験しつつ,自分が培った技術で競技に臨めることは素晴らしいことだと言い,自己ベストで,第2位に大差をつけ優勝しています。

最後に,私たちは今回,数理情報科学の世界を垣間見たに過ぎませんが,これらの技術は,私たちの将来に計り知れないほど重要だと気付かされます。

世間では,限られた特定の分野に興味を抱く人たちを未だ「おたく」という言葉で嘲り,彼らの才能が,凡人には,およそ理解できないとの理由で,嘆かわしいことに,学校でいじめられたり,誹謗中傷を受けたりします。しかしながら,「おたく」と言って差別する行為は,技術革新で世界を変えたスティーブ・ジョブスやイーロン・マスクのような才能を消し去ることにもなりかねません。私たちは,今回の競技者の皆さんが,将来,情報科学の世界で,その比類ない才能を発揮し,世界を動かす原動力になることを期待してやみません。

今回のIOIは,日本で初めて開催され,つくば市が開催地として選ばれました。つくば市は, 300もの公的,民間両方の科学関連施設が集積する日本で最も重要な科学都市として認知されています。高いレベルの研究を求めて,多くの外国人科学者や留学生がここつくば市に集まってくるのです。市では,外国人居住者に対する様々な多言語によるサービスを提供しています。一方で外国人居住者たちは,世界との橋渡し役として様々なボランティアを提供しているのです。

 

今回のIOI開催を契機として,つくば市,ひいては茨城県がより国際的に飛躍することを願ってやみません。

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Upcoming Events

Fruit Picking in Ibaraki

As Japan’s second biggest producer of agricultural products, Ibaraki is heaven for fruit lovers with a number of farms and orchards open to visitors. In autumn, many of these places offer fruit picking experiences, giving you the opportunity to enjoy freshly picked seasonal fruit with your friends and family.

Note: The phone numbers provided will most likely only be able to handle queries in Japanese

Asian Pears (Nashi)

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Ibaraki is the number one producer of Asian pears in the Kanto region, and the number two producer of the kosui and hosui varieties nationwide. They are mainly grown in Kasumigaura, Ishioka, Chikusei, Shimotsuma, and Yachiyo. Asian pears have been grown in Ibaraki since the Edo Period, and it is one of the oldest production areas in Japan.

Where can I go Asian pear picking?

Mito

Late August – Late September
Mito-shi Kajuengei Kumiai Renraku Kyōgikai (029-243-9312)

Kasumigaura

Early August – Late October
Chiyoda Fruit Tree Tourist Association (0299-59-2116)

Tsuchiura

Mid August – Late September
Little Farm (029-862-3542)

Grapes

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Ibaraki’s vineyards are very popular for their fruit picking experiences. You can try your hand at harvesting a number of different varieties of delicious grapes between July and October, from Kyoho grapes to western varieties that can be eaten with the skin on.

Where can I go grape picking?

Hitachiota

Early September – Mid October
JA Hitachi Hitachiota Budō Bukai Jimukyoku (0294-70-3488)

Tokai

Late August – Early October
Shimizu Budō En (029-283-0278)

Hitachi

September
Nakazato Leisure Nōen (contact JA Hitachi Nakazato Branch, 0294-59-0101)
Orikasa Budō Kankō Nōen (contact JA Hitachi Hidaka Branch 0294-43-0321)

Naka

August
Kamigane Budō En (029-298-3963)

Ishioka

Early August – Mid October
Yasato Kankō Kaju Kumiai (0299-43-1111)

Kasumigaura

Late August – Mid October
Chiyoda Fruit Tree Tourist Association (0299-59-2116)

Apples

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Most of Ibaraki’s apples are produced in the cooler mountainous areas such as Daigo, and you can enjoy their crisp sweetness between September and November.

When and where can I go apple picking?

Daigo

Mid September – Late November
Okukuji Ringo no Mura
Okukuji Ringo no Furusato
Okukuji Ringo En
Okukuji Asakawa Ringo Danchi
Okukuji Shizen Kyūyō Mura
For more information, contact the Daigo Tourism Association 0295-72-0285

Hitachiomiya

Mid-Late September – Late November
Takamura Ringo En (0295-57-3775)
Sawayaka Kajuen (0295-57-2711)

Hitachi

Early September – Early December
Nakazato Leisure Nōen (contact JA Ibaraki Hitachi Nakazato Branch, 0294-59-0101)

Shirosato

Early October – Late November
Miyamoto Kankō Kajuen (029-289-3551)

Ishioka

Late September – Late November
Yasato Kankō Kaju Kumiai (0299-43-1111)

Ushiku

Mid September – Early December
Kankō Nōen Naganuma Ringo En (029-875-0592)

Persimmons

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Ibaraki is the northernmost area where persimmons can be grown. They are grown widely throughout Ibaraki though mainly in the south of the prefecture. The persimmons grown in the Yasato area in Ishioka have been gifted to the Imperial family since 1955, which speaks volumes about their delicious flavour.

Where can I go persimmon picking?

Ishioka

Early October – Late November
Yasato Kankō Kaju Kumiai (0299-43-1111)

Kasumigaura

Late September – Late November
Chiyoda Fruit Tree Tourist Association (0299-59-2116)

Tsuchiura

Mid October – Mid November
Little Farm (029-862-3542)

Melons

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Ibaraki is the number one producer of melons nationwide. The Earl’s Favourite variety is grown through summer and autumn mainly in Hokota, Yachiyo, and Ibarakimachi, and it comes into season during October. In Japan, melons are very popular as gifts.

Where can I go melon picking?

Sakuragawa

Early September – Early October
KEK Chokuei Iwase Nōjō (0296-76-0744)

Hokota

Early September – Late September/October
Sun Green Asahi (0291-37-4147)
Forest Park Melon no Mori (0291-33-5621)

Mandarins

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Mt. Tsukuba is said to the northernmost area for growing mandarins, and most of Ibaraki’s mandarin producers are located in that area. The Fukure mandarin from the foothills of Mt. Tsukuba is only 3cm in diameter and are known for their strong acidic flavour.

Where can I go mandarin picking?

Ishioka

Mid October – Late November
Yasato Kankō Kaju Kumiai (0299-43-1111)

Sakuragawa

Early November – Late December
Sakayori Mikan

Chestnuts

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Ibaraki is the number one producer of chestnuts nationwide, and Kasama, Kasumigaura, and Ishioka are the main production areas. Delicious when simply boiled, they take on a whole other level of tastiness when candied or simmered in their astringent skin.

Where can I go chestnut picking?

Kasumigaura

Early September – Late October
Chiyoda Fruit Tree Tourist Association (0299-59-2116)

Tsukuba

Late September – Early October
Ogawa Blueberry En (0291-37-4147)

Dried Sweet Potatoes

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Whilst not a fruit, sweet potatoes are a healthy food packed with vitamins and dietary fibre, and Ibaraki is one of Japan’s top producers. Hokota and Namegata are the main production areas. 97% of Japan’s dried sweet potato is produced in Ibaraki.

Where can I see dried sweet potato being made/go sweet potato picking?

Ishioka

Asahi Satoyama Gakkō (0299-51-3117)

Kasumigaura

Chiyoda Fruit Tree Tourist Association (0299-59-2116)

Hokota

Forest Park Melon no Mori (029-133-5621)

Tokai

Hoshi-imo Kōbō (029-283-0278)

Upcoming Events

Kenpoku Art 2016

When: September 17 – November 20
Where: Hitachi, Takahagi, Kitaibaraki, Hitachiota, Hitachiomiya, and Daigo
Website

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Kenpoku Art 2016 is a large-scale art festival with the theme ‘Sea, Mountains, Art!’ held over 65 days in the six cities of northern Ibaraki. The event aims to highlight the spirit of innovation that can be found throughout Ibaraki through collaboration between art and science and technology while engaging in a dialogue with the pristine natural environment of Ibaraki’s north. It is a unique celebration of creativity that you simply cannot miss.

On the Kenpoku Art 2016 website you’ll find introductions of the featured artworks and artists, information about the guided tour bus, suggested routes to take through the festival, and more. It will be updated throughout the festival with new information about events, so don’t forget to keep checking back!

Main venues: Izura/Takahagi seaside (around the Tenshin Memorial Museum of Art and coastal Takahagi), Hitachi Station area, Kuji River/Hitachi-Daigo Station area, and the Kujiragaoka area in Hitachiota

Upcoming Events

A Guide to Ibaraki’s Beaches 2014

Within Ibaraki Prefecture there are 18 beaches for swimming, among which are 5 of the 7 beaches in the Kanto area chosen by the Ministry of the Environment as ‘Japan’s 100 Best Beaches’. Ibaraki’s swimming beaches are famous for their clear, clean water. Come and beat the heat at one of Ibaraki’s beaches!

Isohara Futatsushima Beach (Kita-Ibaraki)

Enjoy the sight of Isohara’s local symbol, the ‘Twin Islands’ (Futatsushima) from the white sands of Isohara Beach. This beach is known for its white sands and aquamarine water.

Period: July 26th to August 17th

Access: Car – 10min from the Kita-Ibaraki IC on the Joban Expressway

Train – 5min taxi ride or 15 min walk from Isohara Station on the JR Joban Line

Parking: Free (50 spots)

Inquiries: Kita-Ibaraki Commerce and Tourism Division   0293-43-1111

Takahagi Beach (Takahagi)

Only a 10 minute walk from Takahagi Station, this beach is perfectly located. The contrast between the clear, wide ocean and the white sandy beach is breathtaking.

Period: July 19th to August 17th

Access: Car – 10 min from the Takahagi IC on the Joban Expressway

Train – 10 min walk from Takahagi Station on the JR Joban Line

Parking: Paid (200 spaces, 1000 yen for regular, 2000 yen for mid-size, 3000 yen for larger vehicles)

Inquiries: Takahagi Tourism Association  0293-23-7316

Ishihama Beach (Hitachi)

This is a beautiful beach dotted with pine trees, selected as both one of the 100 best beaches in Japan and one of the 100 most beautiful white sand and pine tree beaches in Japan.

Period: July 19th to August 17th

Access: Car – 8 min from the Hitachi Kita IC on the Joban Expressway

Train – 10 min by bus from Juo Station on the JR Joban Line

Parking: Paid (370 spaces at 1000 yen each, 2000 yen for large buses)

Inquiries: Hitachi Tourism and Local Products Association  0294-51-3972

Kawajiri Beach (Hitachi)

This beach is right next to Kawajiri Port and its best features are the calm waves and wide, shallow sands. This is a place where even families with small children can enjoy swimming and playing on the shore.

Period: July 19th to August 17th

Access: Car – 5 min from the Hitachi Kita IC on the Joban Expressway

Train – 5 min by taxi from Juo Station on the JR Joban Line

Parking: Paid (40 places at 1000 yen each)

Inquiries: Hitachi Tourism and Local Products Association  0294-51-3972

Ouse Beach (Hitachi)

The closest beach to Hitachi Station. The tides form natural pools in the rocky shores that are extremely popular with children.

Period: July 19th to August 17th

Access: Car – 15 min from the Hitachi Chuo IC on the Joban Expressway

Train – 10 min walk from the Beach Exit of Hitachi Station on the JR Joban Line

Parking: Paid (180 spaces at 1000 yen each)

Inquiries: Hitachi Tourism and Local Products Association  0294-51-3972

Kawarago Beach (Hitachi)

This popular beach has been chosen as one of the 100 best beaches in Japan. This beach’s attractions include the wide, shallow shore, the clear, clean water, and large stretches of sand.

Period: July 19th to August 17th

Access: Car – 25 min from the Hitachi Minami Ota IC on the Joban Expressway

Train – 15 min by taxi from Hitachi-Taga Station on the JR Joban Line

Parking: Paid (460 spaces at 1000 yen each, large buses 2000 yen)

Inquiries: Hitachi Tourism and Local Products Association  0294-51-3972

Mizuki Beach (Hitachi)

This tiny beach is a hidden gem sandwiched between Kawarago Beach and Kujihama Beach. Chosen as one of the 100 best beaches in Japan, it features very calm waves.

Period: July 19th to August 17th

Access: Car – 20 min from the Hitachi Minami Ota IC on the Joban Expressway

Train – 5 min by taxi from Omika Station on the JR Joban Line

Parking: Paid (100 spaces at 1000 yen each)

Inquiries: Hitachi Tourism and Local Products Association  0294-51-3972

Kujihama Beach (Hitachi)

Close to both Kuji Fishing Port and Hitachi Port, this beach features a white lighthouse and a deep azure sea as well as exquisitely beautiful white beaches and green pine trees.

Period: July 19th to August 17th

Access: Car – 20 min from the Hitachi Minami Ota IC on the Joban Expressway

Train – 10 min by taxi from Omika Station on the JR Joban Line

Parking: Paid (350 spaces at 1000 yen each, 2000 yen for large buses)

Inquiries: Hitachi Tourism and Local Products Association  0294-51-3972

Ajigaura Beach (Hitachinaka)

A beautiful beach spanning 1.5km curving in a pine-tree dotted arc. Popular with couples and families with young children.

Period: July 19th to August 24th

Access: Car – 5 min from the Hitachi Kaihin Park IC on the Kita-Kanto Expressway after the

Tomobe JCT on the Joban Expressway

Train – 5 min walk from Ajigaura Station on the Hitachinaka Kaihin Railway Minato Line, after riding from Katsuta Station on the JR Joban Line

Parking: Tourism Association Parking (200 spaces at 1000 yen each)

Inquiries: Hitachinaka Tourism Association  029-273-0116

Hiraiso Beach (Hitachinaka)

This is a beach with calm waves, surrounded by dykes and breakers, making it perfect for families with children. The ‘Daichan the Whale’ floating slide is extremely popular with children.

Period: July 19th to August 24th

Access: Car – 10 min from the Hitachi Kaihin Park IC on the Kita-Kanto Expressway after the

Tomobe JCT on the Joban Expressway

Train – 10 min walk from Hiraiso Station on the Hitachinaka Kaihin Railway Minato Line, after riding from Katsuta Station on the JR Joban Line

Parking: Paid (100 spaces at 800 yen each, summer only)

Inquiries: Hitachinaka Tourism Association  029-273-0116

Uba-no-futokoro Marine Pool (Hitachinaka)

A pool in the ocean making use of the high tide. A very popular leisure spot for families with children.

Period: July 19th to August 29th

Access: Car – 10 min from the Hitachinaka IC on the Kita-Kanto Expressway after the Tomobe IC on the Joban Expressway

Train – 10 min walk from Tonoyama Station on the Hitachinaka Kaihin Railway Line, after riding from Katsuta Station on the JR Joban Line

Parking: Paid (100 spaces at 800 yen each)

Inquiries: Hitachinaka Tourism Association  029-273-0116

Oarai Beach (Oarai)

A beach featuring beautiful natural scenery backgrounded by forests. The beach itself is composed of natural pools formed between the rocks, and is popular with children because of the crabs and starfish that can be found there.

Period: July 19th to August 24th

Access: Car – 15 min from the Mito-Oarai IC on the Kita-Kanto Expressway after the Tomobe IC on the Joban Expressway

Train – 15 min by bus from Oarai Station on the Kashima Coastal Railway Oarai Kashima Line

Parking: Paid (1000 spaces; large vehicles 2460 yen, midsize 1020 yen, regular 800 yen, motorcycles 330 yen)

Inquiries: Oarai Tourism Association  029-266-0788

Oarai Sun Beach (Oarai)

This beach is proud to be the biggest in size in the Joban area. This beach is also known for being barrier-free, offering free rentals of wheelchairs that can enter the water and taking other considerations to make it possible for those with disabilities to enjoy the beach.

Period: July 19th to August 24th

Access: Car – 15 min from the Mito-Oarai IC on the Kita-Kanto Expressway after the Tomobe IC on the Joban Expressway

Train – 10 min by bus from Oarai Station on the Kashima Coastal Railway Oarai Kashima Line

Parking: Paid (7500 spaces; large vehicles 3000 yen, midsize 1300 yen, regular 1000 yen, motorcycles 400 yen)

Inquiries: Oarai Tourism Association  029-266-0788

Otake Coast Hokota Beach (Hokota)

The Otake Coast is also known as Ibaraki’s Gold Coast, featuring long, white sandy beaches and clear blue waters.

Period: July 19th to August 17th

Access: Car – 30 min from the Ibaraki Airport Kita IC on the Higashi Kanto Expressway

Train – 10 min by taxi from Shin Hokota Station on the Kashima Coastal Railway Oarai Kashima Line

Parking: Paid (1500 spaces, regular 1000 yen)

Inquiries: Hokota City Hall, Commerce and Tourism Division  0291-33-2111

Shimotsu Beach (Kashima)

This beach features beautifully clear waters and a pretty sandy shore, making it easy for swimming.

Period: July 18th to August 17th

Access: Car – 20min from the Itako IC on the Higashi Kanto Expressway

Train – 10min by taxi from Kashima Jingu Station on the Kashima Coastal Railway Oarai Kashima Line

Parking: Paid (300 spaces; regular 800 yen, midsize 1000 yen, large 2000 yen)

Inquiries: Kashima Tourism Association  0299-82-7730

Hirai Beach (Kashima)

A hidden gem located to the south of Shimotsu Beach. Its attractions include a wide beach and calm waves that make it perfect for swimming.

Period: July 18th to August 17th

Access: Car – 20 min from the Itako IC on the Higashi Kanto Expressway

Train – 10 min by taxi from Kashima Jingu Station on the Kashima Coastal Railway Oarai Kashima Line

Parking: Paid (750 spaces; regular 800 yen, midsize 1000 yen, large 2000 yen)

Inquiries: Kashima Tourism Association  0299-82-7730

Hikawahama Beach (Kamisu)

A beach popular for its wide, white sandy beaches and beautiful views. Very attractive to families with children due to the low parking fees.

Period: July 19th to August 24th

Access: Car – 35 min from the Itako IC on the Higashi Kanto Expressway

Train – 15 min by taxi from Shimousa-tachibana Station on the JR Narita Line

Parking: Paid (400 spaces; regular 200 yen, midsize 1050 yen, large 1580 yen)

Inquiries: Kamisu Commerce and Tourism Division  0299-90-1217

Hasaki Beach (Kamisu)

A shallow beach with clear water that has been chosen as one of the 100 best beaches in Japan. There are many spots for surfing and body-boarding, making it great for marine sports.

Period: July 19th to August 24th

Access: Car – 60 min from the Itako IC on the Higashi Kanto Expressway

Train – 10 min by bus from Choshi Station on the JR Sobu Main Line

Parking: Paid (600 spaces; regular 510 yen, midsize 1020 yen, large 1540 yen)

Inquiries: Kamisu Commerce and Tourism Division  0299-90-1217

Upcoming Events

Ibaraki Fireworks Festivals 2014

Fireworks are an integral part of Japanese summer, and Ibaraki prefecture hosts a number of marvelous displays every year. Dust off your yukata and get ready to shout ‘tamaya!’, because these festivals are not to be missed.

83rd Annual Tsuchiura National Fireworks Competition

When: October 4, 6pm onwards
Where: Near the Gakuen Obashi Bridge on the banks of the Sakuragawa River

The Tsuchiura Fireworks Competition began in 1925. Originally it was a festival to commemorate the spirits of the Kasumigaura Naval Air Corps who died while on duty, and to promote local commerce. From 1947 it became a competition where top ranked firework artists could test their skills. Firework artists colour the sky with giant flowers in an enormous display of skill to the delight of huge crowds of onlookers. Make sure you arrive early to get a spot!

Events already finished for the year

Hitachi Sand Art Festival Fireworks

When: July 20, 8 – 8:20pm
Where: Kawarago Port and Beach, Hitachi

The Sand Art Festival marks the opening of the Kawarago Beach Swimming Spot. These splendid fireworks are brought to you by Nomura Fireworks, a local Ibaraki brand. The fireworks set to music are particularly spectacular.

29th Annual Sakai Furusato Festival Fireworks

When: July 21, 7:30 – 9:10
Where: The banks of the Tonegawa River, Sakai

These fireworks mark the closing of the Sakai Furusato Festival. The dynamically delicate fireworks set to music and starmines will make you forget the heat of summer.

Oarai Ocean Fireworks Festival

When: July 26, 7:30 – 8:30pm
Where: Oarai Sun Beach, Oarai

Around 3000 fireworks light up the summer night sky over the ocean during the Oarai Ocean Fireworks Festival, held on the spacious Oarai Sun Beach. There are 10-hit runs of extremely large individual fireworks, big starmines, and wide-area starmines. The finale, a volley of fireworks set off in time to music, is particularly spectacular.

The 57th Annual Hitachi Port Festival

When: July 27, 7:30 – 8:30
Where: Pier 4, Hitachi Port, Hitachi

Hitachi Port lies on the front steps of Hitachi City. The Hitachi Port Festival is a huge event that has become a staple of the Hitachi area. Local businesses open around 100 stalls and floats and portable shrines fill the streets during this embodiment of summer festival spirit. From 7:30pm around 2000 fireworks are set off over Pier 4.

The 19th Annual Ajigaura Beach Fireworks Festival

When: July 27, 7 – 8:30
Where: Ajigaura Beach, Hitachinaka

This fireworks festival is held at Ajigaura Beach, one of Ibaraki’s best know swimming spots. Feel the sea breeze and listen to the waves lap on the sand as you watch large individual fireworks, starmines, and unique custom fireworks light up the ocean.

54th Annual Mito Komon Festival

When: August 1, 7:30 – 8:30pm
Where: Lake Senba, Mito

Around 4500 fireworks including fast volleys, custom fireworks, extra-big starmines, wide starmines, and starmines set to music light up Lake Senba during the Mito Komon Festival, one of Mito’s biggest festivals. Enjoy the reflection of the fireworks on the lake’s surface.

9th Annual Koga Fireworks Festival

When: August 2, 7:20 – 8:50pm
Where: Koga Golf Links, Koga

A whopping 20,000 fireworks are let off during the Koga Fireworks Festival. Behind the golf course where the festival is held, you can find the Watarase Basin, the largest river basin in Honshu.

Shimotsuma Sanuma Fireworks Festival

When: August 2, 7:30 – 9pm
Where: Sanuma Lake, Shimotsuma

3000 fireworks colour the sky over Sanuma Lake during the Shimotsuma Sanuma Fireworks Festival. Be amazed as large fireworks set to music explode above you. The mega starmine that signals the finale is a must see.

Hitachi Kawarago Ocean Fireworks Festival

When: August 2, 7:30 – 8:30pm
Where: Kawarago Beach, Hitachi

If you lay on your back in the sand and look up it’s almost as though you are being bathed with multicoloured rain. Watch as 1000 large individual fireworks, starmines, and volleys brighten the evening sky.

Toyoura School District Summer Fireworks Festival

When: August 2, 7:10 – 8pm
Where: Kawashiri Port Swimming Spot, Hitachi

Cool off on a hot summer’s night with starmines at the Kawashiri Port Swimming Spot.

39th Annual Kawashima Fireworks Festival

When: August 3, 7:30 – 9pm
Where: The banks of the Kinugawa River, south of the Shin Kawashima Bridge

2000 fireworks will colour the night sky and put you in a festive mood during the Kawashima Fireworks Festival.

25th Annual Juuou-machi Festival

When: August 3, 7:45 – 8:15pm
Where: Hongo Zensen (In front of the JA Juuou Branch)

This festival begins at noon in the park near the station with taiko drum performances and dancing by local children. In the afternoon there will be a portable shrine parade along the street in front of the station (ekimae doori) and a flea market in the rotary in front of the station. In the evening a fireworks display will signal the end of the festival.

2014 Hitachi Summer Festival

When: August 8, 8pm onwards
Where: Ose Grand, Hitachi

The Hitachi Summer Festival will start at 6:30pm, with a display of around 400 fireworks from 8pm. Sparklers will be distributed to children, but the supply is limited so the early bird gets the worm. There will be stalls, performances, and plenty of fun at this lively local festival.

61st Annual Toride Tonegawa River Fireworks

When: August 9, 7 – 8:15pm (may be postponed in bad weather)
Where: Toride Ryokuchi Undo Park, Toride

There will be around 7000 fireworks let off during this magnificent fireworks display over the Tonegawa River. There is plenty to be excited about, including a 300m Niagara Falls firework. You won’t be able to look away during this intense barrage of colour and light. There will be box seats available for a cost for those who want a better view.

36th Annual Tokai Festival Fireworks

When: August 9, 7-8:30pm
Where: Akogigaura Park, Tokai

The Tokai Festival is one of Tokai’s three biggest festivals, held every year in August. Enjoy a beautiful firework display that will colour the summer night sky.

Kokaigawa River Fireworks Festival

When: August 9, 7 – 8:30pm
Where: On the banks of the Kokaigawa River, south of Narita Bridge, Chikusei

This is the 10th time the Kokaigawa River Fireworks Festival has been held. One of the interesting features of this festival is that you can pay 1000 yen (or more if you want something fancier) for a firework that symbolises safety for your family, traffic safety, or prosperity for your business, and the firework will be set off for you. Unfortunately the deadline for purchasing the fireworks, July 15, has already passed this year, but this beautiful display is still worth witnessing for yourself.

27th Annual Nakaminato Fireworks Festival

When: August 12, 7 – 8:30pm
Where: Nakaminato Fishing Port Area, Hitachinaka

Enjoy a variety of fireworks at one of the busiest fishing ports in Ibaraki. Your breath will be taken away at the sight of the ‘underwater fireworks’ – a type of firework that is released on the water so that the lights dance across the surface, seeming to shoot out from under it.

Daigo Fireworks Festival and Floating Lanterns

When: August 14, 7:15-9pm
Where: Where Kujigawa River and Oshikawa River meet, Daigo

The sight of countless Obon lanterns floating along the river against a backdrop of fireworks colouring the summer evening sky is a sight to behold, and certainly not one to miss.

40th Annual Gozenyama Cooling Fireworks Festival

When: August 14, 7:30 – 8:30pm
Where: Noguchi, near Nakagawa River Bridge, Hitachiomiya

An established festival in the Gozenyama area, which is now part of Hitachiomiya City. Around 1000 fireworks will make this beautiful area even more spectacular than usual.

Ose Summer Festival

When: August 14, 8pm onwards
Where: Ose Fishing Port Square, Hitachi

This festival includes a kids’ treasure hunt, an exhibit by the fire department, a beach taiko drum performance, bon-odori, and more. The bon-odori is a traditional Japanese dance to welcome the spirits of the dead during Obon. Each region has its own version of the dance, so it is definitely worth checking out.

Ushiku Daibutsu Lantern Festival Fireworks

When: August 15, 7pm (dedicatory fireworks) and 9pm (main fireworks)
Where: Ushiku Daibutsu grounds, Ushiku

See the striking Ushiku Daibutsu lit up by a multitude of splendid fireworks.

Ota Festival Fireworks

When: August 15, 8:30 – 9pm
Where: Yamabuki Undo Park, Hitachiota

The fireworks mark the finale of the Ota Festival bon-odori, where locals get together and dance to beat the heat.

Hokota Fireworks Festival

When: August 16, 7:30 – 9pm
Where: Shin Hokota Western District, the lower part of Hokotagawa River, Hokota

The Hokota Fireworks Festival is held once every two years. Multicoloured fireworks will bloom like giant flowers in the August evening sky during this wonderful event.

Ayumi Festival Fireworks

When: August 16, 8pm onwards
Where: Ayumizaki Park, Lake Kasumigaura, Kasumigaura

The Ayumi Festival is a major festival held each year on August 16 in Ayumizaki Park. Around 1000 fireworks will light the sky above Lake Kasumigaura as the finale to this exciting festival, held alongside the Hobikisen fishing sail boats that Kasumigaura is famous for.

20th Annual Hitachinaka Festival Fireworks

When: August 16, 7 – 8:30pm
Where: JGSDF Camp Katsuta, Hitachinaka

These fireworks are let off on the first day of the two-day Hitachinaka Festival. Giant starmines and original fireworks set in time to music decorate the summer evening sky in a breathtaking show of smoke and lights. Day two of the festival is also packed with events including a portable shrine parade and dance contest, so be sure to check it out!

26th Annual Miwa Furusato Festival

When: August 16, 8 – 8:30pm
Where: Miwa Undo Park, Hitachiomiya

The festival begins at 2:30pm, and is packed with fun-filled events, including a character show and a raffle. The fireworks will follow the bon-odori and lantern parade, signaling the end of the festival.

Shirosato Furusato Festival

When: August 16, 8:45 onwards (approx. 20 minutes, may be postponed in bad weather)
Where: Daikeio Bridge riverbed, Awayama, Shirosato

With a folk song performance, bon-odori, yosakoi, and much more, the Shirosato Furusato Festival is packed with awesome events. The fireworks display will paint the summer sky. The finale is particularly noteworthy.

31st Annual Ayunosato Festival

When: August 23, 7:30 – 8:30
Where: Seiryu Park, Hitachiomiya

With events such as ayu (a type of fish) catching and a barbeque,  the Ayunosato festival allows you to enjoy the beautiful outdoors. A wonderful fireworks display draws this summer festival, which focuses on bringing people closer together, to a close.

2014 Inashiki Summer Festival Fireworks

When: August 23, 7 – 8:30pm
Where: Edozaki Sogo Undo Park, Inashiki

This summer festival has been held in late August since 1996. The fireworks display, which is the main event of the festival, boasts the most fireworks of any display in Ibaraki.

36th Annual Suigo Itako Fireworks Festival

When: August 23, 7:30 – 9pm
Where: A temporary site on the Kita-Tonegawa River in front of Suigo Hokusai Park, Itako

Starmines and other fireworks will colour the Suigo sky. You can enjoy fireworks over the water up close from the viewing point in Hokusai Park.

36th Annual Kashima Fireworks Festival

When: August 23, 7:30 – 9pm
Where: Lake Kitaura, Ofunatsu, Kashima

During the Kashima Fireworks Festival 10,000 fireworks will appear in the sky above Lake Kitaura. The ‘underwater starmines’ are known to be particularly spectacular. As the fireworks are reflected on the surface of the lake, you can enjoy twice the beauty of a regular fireworks display.

Tone Cooling Fireworks Festival

When: August 23, 8 – 8:50pm
Where: The banks of the Tonegawa River downstream from Sakae Bridge, Tone

Many people visit this lively festival on the banks of the Tonegawa River. See the sky painted a variety of colours during this wonderful fireworks display.

7th Annual Kitaibaraki Citizens Festival

When: August 24, 8 – 8:30pm
Where: Around Isohara Station, Kitaibaraki

Around 1000 citizens join the parade dance that is the main feature of the Kitaibaraki Citizens Festival. The fireworks display is the finale. You can also enjoy a multitude of handmade games and events.

30th Annual Kirasse Festival Fireworks

When: August 24, 8 – 8:45pm
Where: Hasaki Swimming Spot and the area around Sun Sun Park, Kamisu

This festival is held at the Hasaki Swimming Spot, which was chosen as one of the 100 best ocean swimming spots in Japan. The water is shallow for a long distance from the shore, making it ideal for a fireworks festival. Don’t miss out on the mega starmine!

50th Annual Joso Kinugawa River Fireworks Festival

When: August 30, 6:20 – 8:25 (may be postponed to August 31 in stormy weather)
Where: On the banks of the Kinugawa River, Hashimoto Undo Park, Joso

This display is coordinated by the Japan Fireworks Artists Association and some of Japan’s leading firework artists. It will include computer controlled fireworks, fireworks set to music, and much, much more. This spectacular display is not one to be missed.

Naka Himawari Festival 2014

When: August 30, 7 – 7:40pm
Where: Naka Sogo Park, Naka

42nd Annual Kamisu Fireworks Festival

When: September 20, 7 – 8:30pm
Where: Gonoike Ryokuchi Athletic Field, Kamisu

The fireworks in the evening are the main event of this fireworks festival, colouring the night sky above Kamisu brilliant shades of every colour.

Upcoming Events

11th Annual Mt. Tsukuba Summit Tanabata Festival

When: July 26-27
Where: In front of Mt. Tsukuba Summit Cable Car Station

Tanabata is a Japanese festival that celebrates the day that once a year Orihime and Hikoboshi (represented by the stars Vega and Altair), star-crossed lovers separated by the Milky Way, are able to meet. The day that Tanabata is celebrated varies by region, but it is generally a day in July or August. To commemorate the occasion, people write wishes on colourful slips of paper and hang them from bamboo

In Miyukigahara, in front of the Mt. Tsukuba Summit Cable Car Station 800m above sea level, around 20 Tanabata bamboo decorations will make a grand summertime display on Mt. Tsukuba.

Tsukuba is famous for its twin peaks. Izanagi no Mikoto is enshrined on Nantai-san, and Izanami no Mikoto on Nyotai-san. Izanagi and Izanami are a couple, so it is said they possesses the virtues of harmony in marriage and matchmaking.

Miyukigahara is in the middle of Nantai-san and Nyotai-san, and is said to be a holy place where at night the two gods meet and affirm their love for one another.

There will be 1000 slips of paper for people to write wishes on being handed out from the 24-27th, so first in best dressed! Come experience a traditional Japanese festival on the beautiful Mt. Tsukuba.

Upcoming Events

Oarai Ocean Fireworks Festival

When: July 26th (July 27th in case of cancellation), 7:30 – 8:30pm
Where: Oarai Sun Beach (Accessible via bus from Oarai Station)

The focus of this fireworks festival is ‘the bigger the better’, with 10-hit runs of extremely large individual fireworks, big displays, wide-area displays, a display set to music, and a firework with a diameter of 500m in the air! Nomura Fireworks, the winners of the Prime Minister Award, will be running the show.

The finale will feature ultra large fireworks followed by a fireworks display set to music like the one that was so popular last year. Come enjoy this beautiful symphony of fireworks and music by the sea. There will also be a firework cruise on the Nippon Maru luxury liner, for a new and unique way to enjoy the show.

It is expected that traffic on the day will be fairly intense, so please be aware of this in advance. For safety reasons, please bring a torch.

Upcoming Events

Ushiku Umeemon Ichiba

When: May 31 11am – 8:30pm, June 1 10am – 5:30pm
Where: A temporary site at the Ushiku Daibutsu

Come celebrate the delicious cuisine of Ushiku and the cities that surround it at the Ushiku Umeemon Ichiba (Ushiku Delicious Market)! You can enjoy a number of stage events like juggling and taiko performances throughout the day while you chow down on such delicacies as miso cookies and ice cream, ramen made from Ushiku veggies, Tsuchiura curry with lotus root, pancakes and parfaits from Tsukuba, and much, much more! There will also be a fireworks show from 8pm on Saturday. Don’t miss out!

Check out the full list of stalls and events on the website.

Upcoming Events

Candle Night in Mito

When: May 31, 2pm – 8pm

Where: Art Tower Mito

Take this opportunity to think about energy and the environment by turning out the lights and enjoying a relaxed evening in Mito. This event welcomes the coming of summer with gentle flickering candlelight. Admission is free, and there is a candle making workshop at 2pm. The candles will be lit at 6pm. If it rains, the event will be moved from the Art Tower Square to the covered walkways around it. Limited parking is available on site and in the surrounding area for a cost, but it is recommended that you come by public transport.

Upcoming Events

Hitachi International Street Performance Festival

When: May 10 12-8pm, May 11 12-5pm
Where:
Hitachi Locations
Hitachi Ginza Mall
Mae no Uchi Jido Koen
Hitachi Civic Center Shin Toshi Kaijo
Hitachi Station Square
Taga Locations
Yokappe Street
Suzuran Street
Anzu Namiki Street
Taga Ekimae Street
Taga Shimin Plaza Square
Taga Station Square
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Street performers from all around the world gather to perform at the Hitachi International Street Performance Festival. During the two days of this festival Hitachi will be transformed into a world of magic, mystery, and wonder by the thrilling performances of these highly skilled individuals. The Party in the Moonlight event on Saturday evening from 6 – 8pm at the Hitachi Civic Centre Shin Toshi Kaijo is particularly spectacular. Check out the flyer here.