CIR Diary

International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI 2018)


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.


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.


“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.”


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.


“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.


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.



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.



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





















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。



CIR Diary

The Ibaraki Contents Collection

Japan’s status as a soft power has been growing since the turn of the century, and recently the national government has increased its support of Japan’s culture industry. Not to be left behind, Ibaraki has also fortified its efforts to promote the local content industry.

The Ibaraki Prefectural Government launched the Ibaraki Contents Business Evolution Project in 2014, with the aim of supporting and nurturing creators in Ibaraki and developing the local content industry. Its activities include the establishment of the Ibaraki Creators’ House, a base for content production activities and the nurturing of young creators in Ibaraki managed by the Tsukuba Incubation Laboratory. The house currently hosts 12 creators. The project also aims to support the exhibition of Ibaraki creators’ works with the organization of the Ibaraki Contents Collection exhibition in Akihabara UDX, held on Sunday March 6th, and the Ibaraki Contents Software Awards, the ceremony for which was held during the exhibition.


The idea behind the Ibaraki Contents Collection was 「あ、こんなのも作ってるんだ」 (‘Oh, they’re making things like this too?’), and it was held with the aim of increasing interest in and knowledge of the content industry in Ibaraki. Two of Ibaraki’s CIRs decided to take the opportunity to discover what creators in Ibaraki are up to, and attended the event.

38 booths featuring writers, animators, illustrators, comic artists, character designers, game designers, performers, and more were set up in two halls. On a stage set up in a separate room, a number of events were held throughout the day, kicking off with the Ibaraki Contents Software Awards 2015. The awards were separated into a smartphone app category and an animation category. A number of winning animated shorts were screened during the animation category, including some impressive works produced by high school students. The contestants were lucky enough to receive some feedback from the judges and special guests, who included Tomoya Aoki, the freelance blogger behind Ibaraking, and Production I.G. screenwriter Junichi Fujisaku, whose credits include Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Blood+, and Blood-C. After the awards were presented, Toru Noguchi, Director General of the Ibaraki Prefectural Government Planning Division gave a short address, in which he expressed his desire for content to become one of Ibaraki’s industries. There was also a special guest appearance from Ibaraki’s unofficial mascot Nebaru-kun!

Touring the booths was an exciting journey of discovery. Although I knew that there are many creators from Ibaraki who have successful careers in the content industry, I knew very little about local indie creators. There were too many interesting people to discuss them all here, so I have included a list of the booths below with links to the creators’ websites.

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One of the main features of the Ibaraki Contents Collection was a special talk show on the theme ‘What it takes to make it as a creator’ by Shinji Higuchi, a film and special effects director best known as one of the founding members of Daicon Film (now Gainax) and director of Shingeki no Kyojin: Attack on Titan, and Ryusuke Hikawa, a researcher of animation and tokusatsu. They discussed Mr. Higuchi’s early career. It was very interesting to hear how his passion for film making as a student led to a successful directing career.

A second talk session featured professionals from the fields of comics, games, and characters providing information on the current state of these industries and advice for amateurs looking to debut as indie creators. I was particularly interested to hear from Kei Otomo, a producer from the company NHN comico, developer of the smart device web comic and web novel reader app comico. He discussed how developing comics to be read on smart phones requires creators to take the scrolling top to bottom format into consideration when choosing how to lay out their works. The other presenters also discussed how changing technology has affected their industries.

Unfortunately we were unable to stay for the final part of the evening, the Ibaraki Creators Stage, featuring performances from the band Denshi Jision, screenings of short animations, a hero show using CG to introduce traditional Japanese performing arts, and more.

The Ibaraki Contents Collection was a wonderful opportunity to learn about creators in Ibaraki. If you are interested in their work, please take a look at the list below and check out their websites. Hopefully these government initiatives achieve their goal of raising the profile of the local content industry. I am certainly looking forward to more events like this in the future.

Ibaraki Contents Business Evolution Project Website
Ibaraki Contents Collection Website

What is the Ibaraki Contents Business Evolution Project?

Aim: Strive to promote the content industry by nurturing creators and creating a base for the production of content.

1. Manage the Ibaraki Creators House

2. Hold information sessions for residents and uncover talented creators
Create a network of creators, businesses, and organisations involved in the content industry, link with universities and hold seminars etc. in order to increase their knowledge and motivation as creators.

3. Support the exhibition of creators’ works
Match residents of the Ibaraki Creators House with companies and local industries and encourage the production of a variety of content through collaboration among creators. Display the results of this at the Ibaraki Contents Collection and link it to the development of business following the exhibition.

4. Hold the Ibaraki Contents Software Awards
Recognise anime and apps linked to the area, discover related talent and ideas, and promote the creation of an IT community.

Ibaraki Contents Software Awards 2015

Smart Phone App Category

Smart Phone Apps

Winner: Nobase! Nebaru-kun (Nebaru-kun wo Nobasu Shimin no Kai)
Runner Up: Hirameki Ibatouch!! (SHiFT-UP)
Runner Up: Ibachara Zukan (Ibaraki Prefectural Ryugasaki 2nd High School Commerce Department)

Smart Phone App Ideas

Winner: Omoidearimasu in Kasama (Kasama Omoide Seisaku Iiinkai)
Runner Up: Ryotei Fukuroda no Taki Keiei Simulation (Okawa Yosuke)
Runner Up: Ibaraki Yorimichi Navigation (Ishihara Hidemi)

Animation Category

Animated Short (Free theme)

Winner: Horikawa Demizu Hairu (Tani Yosuke)
Creator’s Website
Encouragement Award: ÉMIGRÉ (Nakajima Wataru)
Encouragement Award: Kami no Ue no Arty to Bit (Azuma Misaki)
Fighting Spirit Award: Gourmet Bancho (Champon)
Judges Special Award: Series Otomodachi (Nagaya Masaharu/Ishimatsu)

Animated Short (Ibaraki Theme)

Encouragement Award: Hajimete no Oryori Suteki na Natto (Takeko Denno Sosakudan)
Fighting Spirit Award: Natto Nostalgia (Sakata Ryo)

Character Design

Winner: Nobara (An)
Second Place: Mitona (Nakano Sanae)

Ibaraki Contents Collection Booths

4th Cluster


A group of students from Tsukuba University who got together with the common goal of making games. Their work includes the PC mystery visual novel game series ‘Campus Notes’, which is set at Tsukuba University. They are currently working on a smart phone RPG.

Categories: Game

ICH Manga-ka Group

A combined exhibition of Ibaraki manga artists, including Aoyama Takanori from the manga production unit RusuKey, whose manga B is currently being serialised on MangaBox, Kino Hinata, who penned the Manga Junior Meisaku work Night on the Galactic Railroad, based on the famous novel by Miyazawa Kenji, and Yokoi Sanpo, who adapts games into comic form for magazines including Famitsu DS+Wii, Terebi Game Magazine, and Pikopuri.

Categories: Game, Illustration



Otasaku has managed the original character store ‘Otasaku Shop’ in Tsukuba since 2006. She produces cheerful and lighthearted merchandise and clothing using Otasaku characters, who are based on cats.

Categories: Character, Merchandise

Geek House Tsukuba


A Geek House is a share house comprising mostly of tenants who are NEETs or engineers. Geek House Tsukuba is working on an apiary based on the IoT method. They commenced preparations in November 2015, and have since held study and hive making sessions.

Categories: Sharehouse, Apiculture

Imada Tama


A manga artist who debuted in 2010 with Pachinko Fever (Issuisha). They have since published several works including Pachipro7 (Tatsumi Shuppan), Pachinko Dairensho (Nippon Bungeisha), and Nekodamashii, and Nekopuni (Mediax). In November 2015, their work Kazoku ga Inakunatta Hi was published as a book.

Categories: Manga

Harukaze Mika


A manga artist from Tsukuba who attended Azuma Kindergarten, Elementary, and Junior High School and Takezono High School. She graduated from the Department of Law at Chiba University then honed her design skills in the Planning and Design Section of Kinmei Graphic Art. She currently resides in Tsukuba, working as a freelance manga artist and illustrator.

Categories: Manga, Illustration

Matsuri Hero Project


The Matsuri Hero Project began as Tsukuba Hatsu! Matsuri Hero Soran Dragon in 2010. They have held hero shows and traditional Japanese performing arts shows all around the country and even overseas. They offer a range of action entertainment, including 3D collaborative shows and education packages.

Categories: Performance, Action

Hitachi Risshi Juku Business Journal Session


A workers’ group where young owners, successors, and field managers of small and medium sized businesses in Hitachi and Hitachinaka of various fields, ages, and genders come together for study sessions. They shared ideas with local university students and created their own character and LINE stamps.

Categories: Character



This enterprise began as Studio Index in Hitach in 2003, and was primarily engaged in web design. After touring an overseas company, they began to design gaming apps. In 2015 they re-launched as SHiFT-UP, a smart phone entertainment app developer.

Categories: Game

Local Animation Production Project

A project launched from an Ibaraki Creators’ Network volunteer workshop to produce animation with a close link to the local area. They are striving to gain a wide network of supporters and have the animations they produce used to promote Ibaraki.

Categories: Animation, Tram

Koichi Uehara


An independent animator who produces animations that resemble silhouettes. He also takes on character design and illustration work.

Categories: Animation



An illustrator and comic artist who enjoys drawing young characters and machinery such as planes and rockets. They want to create works that can be enjoyed by many people.

Categories: Illustration



A literary circle consisting of Tsukuba University students and alumni.
Noriko Senju: Involved in a variety of writing projects such as publishing stories online and in pamphlets and writing game scenarios and popular fiction
Yowa Shido: Writes novels and game scenarios. Was a short-listed candidate for the 21st Dengeki Awards Comic Writing category.
Kugai Iori: Writes novels, comics, and game scenarios. Author of Kakuheki no Make Doll (Ponican Books) Yoneura Yuu: The youngest member, representing the next generation!

Isekai Toukei Kazoeuta


A collaboration project connecting a serial novel with the Ibaraki Prefectural Government Statistics Division’s twitter. The project was planned by the Statistics Division. Yotagarasu from the Ibaraki Creators’ House writes the story and Tsunayama draws the main characters for use on twitter and the covers. The story currently has three chapters. It is uploaded every two weeks to the writing website Shosetsuka ni Narou.

Categories: Statistics, Novel

Kakkoi Rikei Yogo de Koi Shiyou!

Bikkuri Suru Hodo Yaku ni Tatanai! Rikei Kudoki Monku Shuu (A Collection of Incredibly Useless Scientific Pick Up Lines). This book features highly specific scientific vocab and a clumsy male scientist. A collaboration between Noriko Senju of Yotagarasu and Natsumi Furuyama.

Categories: Illustration, original work

Natsumi Furuyama


A freelance illustrator specialising in illustration and character design active in Tokyo and Tsukuba since 2013. She recently illustrated the medical textbook Kanja to Kazoku ni Todoku Kanwa Care.

Categories: Illustration, Design

3D Girl Miri

A project by the Ibaraki Creators House illustrator Natsumi Furuyama, CG designer Akira Souma, and musicians Denshi Jision produce a 3D CG music video. Miri is the image character for Denshi Jision’s song ‘3 Jigen no Ano Musume to Kisu ga Shitai’.

Denshi Jision


A white-clad ‘scientific’ entertainment group/band active in Tsukuba Science City. As the members are scientists, their unique electronic music influenced by modern culture features Tsukuba and scientific vocabulary.

Categories: Science, Band



A graphic design company. They design brand logos, posters, pamphlets, websites, stickers, and more. They will commence the sale of a 3D projection experience kit for smart phones from April. The prototype was on display at the Ibaraki Contents Collection exhibition.

Categories: Design, merchandise

Studio Nibun no Ichi


A group consisting of a CG creator, graphic designer, and system engineer/ integrator. They are involved in a variety of production projects including videos, games, merchandise, apps, and illustrations in the pursuit of the concept of multi-use, which is one of the advantages of 3DCG.

Categories: 3D content production, video


The event producer Realize+ was established in 2015. They are working on an event for late July. Specialising in music and video, they have undertaken a new goal of treasuring their connections with people so that everyone they come in contact with can become a ‘plus’.

Categories: Event, Music

Studio Kinako


Studio Kinako is a studio based in rural Chikusei. They run classes and workshops for DJing, VJing, drums, keyboard, and DTM, produce music, and participate in events. They have participated in Comitia, Gallery Art Point Ginza, and Design Festa Harajuku.

Categories: DJ, Event



This company is engaged in the provision of services and development of apps for stores using SoftBank Robotics’ product Pepper. They are currently also in possession of Pepper’s older brother Nao.

Categories: App development

Takuhiko Yokoyama


Began working as an illustrator in April 2013. Has worked on individual and collaboration projects including ‘Kinder Book 3 2014 April Volume’, ‘Mushikui Note’ (Kanzen) ‘Fukashigi Plants Zukan’ (Seibundo Shinkosha), and ‘Watashi no Hatake no Chiisa na Sekai’ (Express Media Publishing, to be published).

Categories: Illustration, Insects



Organiser of ‘Moeshu Summit’, and event held every year in Akihabara attracting around 30,000 attendees, this company produces sake for a variety of contents. Their shochu ‘Vocaloid Lilly’ won the special aware Lilly Frankie at the 2010 Bin Awards.

Categories: Moeshu

Penton Kikaku Shitsu


The owner of this toy design enterprise started it as a post retirement project, making use of their experience as a toy maker. Their interest in carpentry lead them to start making wooden toys using a 3D CAD and CNC tool. They won the Hyogo Governor’s Award at the 2014 Hyogo Prefectural Tanba Nenrin no Sato Woodwork Exhibition in 2014.

Categories: 3D CAD, Toys

Eiko Kuriu


Born and raised in Tsukuba, Eiko Kuriu graduated from the University of Tsukuba College of Comparative Culture and Kuwasawa Design School. After working for companies involved in editing temple publications, lighting, and IT, she started working as a freelance illustrator in 2009. She mainly creates illustrations for books, magazines, and websites.

Categories: Illustration



Joined a printing company after graduation. After 10 years working as a designer, they went freelance. In addition to graphic design, they also do illustration and character design.

Tag: Character, illustration

Ibaraki Prefectural Ryugasaki 2nd High School Commerce Department


The commerce department started a project called ‘The commerce department began to use NetCommons’ as a part of the 100 year anniversary celebrations for Ryugasaki 2nd High School. The project includes activities such as the creation of groupware by students in the commerce department, a parent and child programming class using Viscuit, and the development of smartphone apps using Monaca.

Categories: App, Character

Oarai Introduction Booth


Oarai is working hard to show the world why it’s a great place, with projects like a store in the Oarai Resort Outlet dedicated to displaying the things that make Oarai wonderful and events that allow as many people as possible to enjoy Oarai, the setting of Girls und Panzer.

Categories: Merchandise, sightseeing, event

Tsukuba Short Film Competition


The Tsukuba Short Film Competition (Tsukuppe for short) is a film festival that is held to share culture from Tsukuba, uncover new talent, and to be a fun event for residents to enjoy. This year is the third year that it has been held, and director Yoshihiro Nakamura, who is from Tsukuba, will be participating as a special judge.

Categories: Video

Kenpoku Local Creative Project


This project seeks to create a new style of working by renovating vacant buildings in shopping areas into shared offices and supporting creators and creative enterprises so that they can work without worrying about time and their workspace.

Categories: Northern District Economic Development Division, supporting creators

Studio Puyukai


An animation studio based in Tsukuba. They have worked on a variety of projects, notably Agukaru, the short film ‘Mobile Suit Gakuen G-Reko Koshien’ included on the Blu-ray for Gundam G no Reconguista, and the short film ‘Pure Pure Purea desu’ available on the official Overlord anime website.

Ibaraki Nurse Center


The Ibaraki Nurse Center is a support facility dedicated to utilizing the skills of those in the nursing field for society. They have created the characters Hapina-chan and Nurse Centre-kun, and are working to raise awareness of them and their work among those in the nursing profession.

Categories: Character

Ibaraki wo Shirou! Dai Campaign


The slogan of this campaign is ‘Nobishiro Nihon Ichi. Ibaraki-ken’ (Ibaraki, the prefecture with the most potential in Japan). The Nobiru Ibaraki Senden Tai, a group made up on Yoshitimo celebrities lead by Yuuji Ayabe and Naomi Watanabe and assisted by Ibaraki’s unofficial mascot, the natto spirit Nebaru-kun, are working to spread Ibaraki’s appeal all around Japan.

Categories: Public Relations Division



Nebaru-kun is the unofficial mascot of Ibaraki. He is a natto spirit born to support Ibaraki, the home of natto, and all the children in the world.

Ibaraki Film Commission


The Ibaraki Film Commission assists in securing locations for the filming of movies and TV shows and in attracting projects to locations.

Ibaraki Digital Contents Software Awards


A contest honouring smartphone apps, short animated films, and character designs organized by the Ibaraki Prefectural Government, the Ibaraki Prefectural Sophisticated Information Society Promotion Council, and the Ibaraki Information Service Industry Association.

Categories: Ibaraki Prefectural Information Policy Division, Animation

Upcoming Events

Winter Illuminations in Ibaraki 2015 – 2016


Daigo Light

When: November 1 – February 15, sunset – 8pm*
Where: Fukuroda Falls
Cost: Adults 300 yen, Children 150 yen (New Year’s Eve ~ New Year’s Day is free)

*Illuminations will be on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays only. Between December 23rd and January 3rd the falls will be illuminated every night. On New Year’s Eve, the illuminations will continue until 2am.

Kuji River Illumination

When: December 1 – January 15, sunset – 10pm
Where: Along the banks of the Kuji River in Daigo


Hitachi Starlight Illumination

When: November 21 – December 25, 5 – 10pm
Where: Hitachi Civic Center, Shin Toshi Square (18 Saiwai-cho, Hitachi)


Satomi Illumination Festival

When: December 12 – December 31, 5 – 9pm (until midnight on December 31)
Where: Satomi Fureaikan Event Square (3417-1 Onaka-cho, Hitachiota), other locations along National Road 349

JR Hitachiota Station Illuminations

When: December 3 – January 12, 4 – 10pm
Where: JR Suigun Line Hitachiota Station Area (1043 Yamashita-cho, Hitachiota)


Hikari no Project in Takahagi

When: December 5 – January 8
Where: JR Joban Line Takahagi Station, Takahagi


Hitachinaka Christmas Illumination

Sawa Station: December 1 – January 11, 4:30pm – midnight
Nakaminato Station: December 2 – January 11 4:30pm – midnight
Katsuta Station: December 3 – January 11 4:30pm – 1am


Tokai Yume wo Kanaeru Illumination

When: December 1 – January 16, 5pm – midnight
Where: In front of the escalators outside the West Exit of Tokai Station, Tokai


15th Annual Ibaraki Prefectural Culture Center Illuminations ~ Hikari no Harmony

When: November 13 – December 25, 5 – 10pm
Where: Ibaraki Prefectural Culture Center (Kenmin Bunka Centre) (697 Higashikubo, Senba-cho, Mito)

Art Tower Mito Starlight Fantasy

When: December 1 – January 11, 5-10pm
Where: Mito Art Tower (1-6-8 Goken-cho, Mito)


Illumination de Tsuzuru Dream no Sekai

When: December 1 – February 14, 5 – 9pm
Where: Flower Park Ibaraki (200 Shimoaoyagi, Ishioka)
Cost: Adults 500 yen, Elementary and Junior High School Students 250 yen, children under school age free


Hikari ga Tsukuru Art Suigo Sakura Illumination

When: November 21 – February 28, 4:30 – 9pm
Where: In front of the windmill in Kasumigaura Comprehensive Park, Tsuchiura (1051 Oiwata, Tsuchiura)

23rd Annual Tsuchiura Winter Festival

When: November 24th – February 14th, 5 – 11pm
Where: Tsuchiura Station East and West Exit, Ekimae Street, where the old waterfall used to be at Tsuchiura Mall, various shopping districts in Tsuchiura


Mt. Tsukuba Ropeway Night Walk Stardust Cruising

When: September 19th – February 28th*, 5 – 9pm (every 20 minutes)
Where: Mt. Tsukuba Ropeway, Tsukuba
Cost: 1000 yen per person, free for children elementary school aged and younger

*Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays, and December 23 – 30th only. Not operating in poor weather, on January 1st, or February 6-7

Tsukuba Expo Center Christmas Illumination

When: November 21 – December 25, 4 – 10pm
Where: Tsukuba Expo Center (2-9 Azuma, Tsukuba)

Tsukuba Hikari no Mori

When: November 21 – January 11, 4:30pm – midnight
Where: TX Tsukuba Station Pedestrian Deck Area, Tsukuba
Website (currently displaying 2014 website)


Hoshi no Fantasy in Shimodate

When: December 5 – January 11
Where: JR Shimodate Station area, Chikusei
Website (2010 website)


Bando Illumination Fantasy

When: November 29 – January 23, 5 – 9:30pm
Where: Iwai Shopping District (along National Road 354), Yasaka Park Pool, Kushikake Shopping District in Bando


Yuki Station North Exit Illumination

When: November 17 – January 12
Where: Yuki Station North Exit Area, Yuki


Ami Premium Outlet Mall Winter Illumination

When: November 6 – February 17, sunset – 9pm
Where: Ami Premium Outlet Mall, Ami


Brilliantville Ushiku

When: December 5 – February 14th, 5pm – 1am
Where: JR Joban Line Ushiku Station West Exit Pedestrian Deck, Ushiku


Moriya Christmas Fantasy

When: November 28th – December 25th, 5 – 10pm
Where: Moriya Station West Exit Square, Moriya


Toride Station East Exit Illumination

When: November 23 – March 9th
Where: Toride Station East Exit, Toride
Website (2014 website)


Ryugasaki Illumination Dream Tree

When: October 31 – February 29, 5pm – 1am
Where: JR Sanuki Station East and West Exit, Ryugasaki Station, Ryugasaki


Kashima Hikari no Art Gallery 2015

When: December 4 – January 11, 5 – 11pm (until 6am the next day on December 31)
Where: JR Kashima Jingu Station Area, Kashima

Upcoming Events

48th Mito Hagi Festival

When: September 1st ~ September 23rd
Where: Kairakuen Park

In 1843, Mito’s 9th feudal lord Tokugawa Nariaki planted hagi (bush clover) that he received from the Date Domain as part of the construction of Kairakuen. Kairakuen’s hagi is mainly Miyagi-no-hagi; there is also white hagi, mountain hagi, round-leaf hagi, and many more, totaling 750 patches that bring the autumn landscape to life. Cited as one of the 7 plants of autumn, hagi was the most often-used plant in the Manyoshu collection of poetry, appearing in 140 poems.


September 6th (Sunday)
10:00am~: Cricket Release
10:00am~3:00pm: Pictures with Mito-chan!
10:00am~3:00pm: Photo shoot

September 12th (Saturday)
6:00pm~8:00pm: String Instrument Concert

September 13th (Sunday)
10:00am~3:00pm: High School Nodate Tea Party
10:00am~3:00pm: Pictures with Mito-chan!
7:00pm~8:30pm: Hagi Festival Komon Food Experience

September 20th (Sunday)
10:00am~3:00pm: Hagi Festival Haiku Competition

September 27th (Sunday) Moon Viewing
3:00pm~8:00pm: Kobuntei Tea Party
3:00pm~8:00pm: Goudou Nodate Tea Party
5:00pm~6:00pm: Song and Noh Recitation
6:30~: Japanese Flute (Shinobue)
7:00~: Horse-Headed Fiddle (Batoukin)
7:30~: Sword Poetry Recitation (Ginei Ken Shibu)
6:00pm~8:00pm: Full Moon Candle Night

One Day in Ibaraki

Mt. Tsukuba Onsen – Edoya

After viewing the beautiful plum forest on the side of Mt. Tsukuba or after a climb to the top, nothing is more relaxing than a dip in one of the local onsen. Nestled at the foot of Mt. Tsukuba next to Mt. Tsukuba Shrine is Edoya, a traditional Japanese inn (or ryokan) and onsen.


Although the three current buildings that make up the ryokan date from between 1968 and 1985, Edoya’s rich history can be traced back to 1628 during the Edo Period. After the Mt. Tsukuba Chuzenji Temple was built by Tokugawa Iemitsu, the area saw a sudden increase in worshipers, and Edoya was built to help meet those needs. After the temple was dismantled in 1872, the owner at the time built a western style mansion on the site, called the Holland Mansion, in 1873 in order to continue to draw visitors to the area.

Holland Mansion (Courtesy of Mt. Tsukuba Onsen - Edoya)

Over the years, Edoya has had many important and famous guests, including the 19th Sumo yokozuna (grand champion) Taniemon, Hitachiyama (born in Mito), poets Hakushu Kitahara and Yau Yokose, and even Emperor Showa (Hirohito) in 1985.


Nowadays, Edoya is still enjoyed by visitors, both from within Japan and from abroad. For those who only want to stay the day, Edoya is a great place to stop and relax. Inside, one can enjoy lunch at its café Seseragi, or just enjoy a cup of coffee or tea while resting your feet in the ashiyu (footbath) located on the veranda overlooking a small river and greenery. Day visitors can also take a dip in Edoya’s onsen, which also overlooks the same wonderful greenery, and refresh after a long day’s hike around the area. For those looking for a nice place for dinner, Edoya is also home to the Japanese style restaurant Yusentei, where guests can enjoy a private dinning atmosphere.



For those who wish to experience a traditional Japanese ryokan, Edoya offers Japanese style rooms to stay the night. With a large range of rooms, Edoya can accommodate between 2 to 7 people per room, making it a great place to stay for any occasion. They also have rooms with western style beds for those who want to still experience a traditional ryokan without sleeping on the floor on a futon. As most rooms do not have a bath, guests can bathe in the onsen for free (although rooms with baths are also available upon request). Also included in the price for most plans is a delicious Japanese style dinner and breakfast held in a dining area.



Edoya also offers banquet rooms that can be rented out for dinners, weddings, enkai (or drinking parties), and even office meetings. They also offer the option to book a free shuttle bus to and from Tsukuba Station, offering easy access from Tokyo, and to those who don’t want to hassle renting a car (or just driving in general).



While the ryokan is open all year round, it is especially popular during certain times of the year. The first is during the Plum Blossom Festival that runs between late February and late March. The next is during in the fall when Mt. Tsukuba turns red, yellow, and orange with the colors of autumn. Also, as Edoya is located right next to Mt. Tsukuba Shrine, it can become quite busy when shrine festivals take place.


Whether you find yourself at Mt. Tsukuba just for the day, or decide to spend a weekend relaxing, Edoya is definitely worth a stop!

Address: 728 Tsukuba, Tsukuba 300-4352
TEL: 029-866-0321
Website: (available in Japanese and Chinese)
Price: Lunch 3,000 yen/ person~
Stay (Dinner and Breakfast) 16,000 yen/ person~


Yasato de Toreta Restaurant

Yasato de Toreta Restaurant, located within the boundaries of the Flower Park in Ishioka City, was opened as part of an initiative by the Ishioka local government to revitalize and promote produce grown in the region. The name literally means “taken from Yasato”, Yasato being the name of the region of Ishioka (previously a separate town before merging with Ishioka in 2005) where the restaurant is currently situated. This name comes from the fact that, to the highest extent possible, the ingredients used in the restaurant are grown locally in Ishioka.

Yasato de Toreta RestaurantWhile being maintained by Ishioka, the restaurant is managed and run by Kiuchi Brewery. Although Kiuchi Brewery is well-known for their Nest Beer and umeshu (plum wine), it has also been very successful in the restaurant business as well, running two restaurants in Mito (True Brew in Mito Station and Nakaya, a soba restaurant in Keisei Department store), and one restaurant in Naka (Also a Nakaya). Kiuchi also was behind the “seasonal restaurant” that was set up temporarily at Uwaoka Elementary School in Daigo back in 2012.

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The interior of the restaurant is clean and has a modern feeling in its design. The warmth of the dark wood of the walls and ceiling offer balance to the gray cement flooring. Each table and set of chairs is different, being designed and crafted by a local artisan. One of the artisans even created a wooden crocodile which is on display just below the servers’ window.

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As mentioned before, the head chef, Mr. Mogi, tries his best to use only ingredients grown in Ishioka. The lunch menu consists of four main dishes: pasta, pork, fish, and beef. Each main dish comes as a course and includes an appetizer salad, choice of bread or rice, a dessert, and coffee or tea. The same menu, minus the pasta, is offered during dinner. As different vegetables go in and out of season, Mr. Mogi recreates the dishes every so often with what is available at that time. This means that no matter how many times you visit, chances are you will never experience the same exact plate twice.


During our visit, I enjoyed the pork course with rice. It came with a delicious 20-ingredient salad for an appetizer (the salad often changes, and all the ingredients used that day are written on a blackboard inside), sautéed pork with steamed vegetables as the main dish, and a cream cheese mousse with Asian pear gelatin and fruit for dessert. We were also treated to a three-squash soup, complements of the chef. The portions seemed a little small at first, but after eating the entire course it was definitely more than enough to fill you up. If you’re looking for a delicious meal for a reasonable price, I would definitely recommend Yasato de Toreta.


To make your trip to Yasato de Toreta even more worthwhile you can visit the farmer’s market that is located adjacent to the restaurant. Inside you will find the same tasty fruits and vegetables used in the restaurant, and plenty more (for a very reasonable price)! Mr. Mogi also writes recipes, which you can find in the market, so you can try your hand at making simple and delicious meals at home as well.

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If you have a day to spare, why not visit the Flower Park, have a wonderful lunch at Yasato de Toreta, and do a little shopping for some tasty and fresh fruits and vegetables? You definitely won’t regret it!

Contact Info
200 Shimoaoyagi, Ishioka, 315-0153 (Map)
(Located within the parking lot of the Flower Park)
11:00AM – 5:00PM Tues – Friday (L.O. 4:30PM)
11:00AM – 8:00PM Weekends and Holidays (L.O. 7:30PM)
Farmer’s Market: 9:00AM – 6:00PM
(Both restaurant and market are closed on Mondays. If Monday is a holiday, they will be open, and then closed the following Tuesday)
URL: (Japanese only)

Upcoming Events

2014 Hitachi Sand Art Festival

When: July 20th, 10am – 8:30pm
Where: Kawarago Port and Kawarago Beach, Hitachi


This year’s event includes many different attractions. There will be sand art creations on display and a section where you can learn how to make your own! There will also be stalls selling food and goods throughout the day and dancing on stage. For those who want to spend more time in the water there is a touring boat and a banana boat to ride around on, so bring your swimmers! To cap it all off, there will be a theatrical firework performance by Nomura Fireworks at 8pm.

There will be a free shuttle bus running from JR Hitachi-taga Station, and there will be no vehicles allowed in the area between 6 and 8:30pm, so hop on and leave your car behind. Come have some fun in the sun!

Upcoming Events

63rd Annual Itako Ayame (Iris) Festival

When: May 24 – June 29
Where: Ayame Park and various other locations around Itako
Official Website (Japanese)


This festival’s history goes back to 1952, when it was conducted by iris-lovers placing the cut flowers in beer bottles as decorations. From late May till the end of June, you can enjoy the beauty of around one million purple, yellow, and white iris plants of 500 different varieties blooming around Itako.

During the festival there will be a number of events, including ayame-odori (iris dancing) and yome-iri fune (bridal boats). Boats will also be operating between 9am and 5pm every day (and additionally from 6-7:30pm on Saturdays). For 1000 yen (500 yen for elementary school children and infants) you can travel back to a time when boats were an essential form of transport for the citizens of Itako.

Yome-iri Fune

Up until the land reclamation operations conducted as part of local development in the first half of 1955, the Itako area was built upon a system of canals. For that reason, when a new bride and/or her goods were to be transported to her new home (the husband’s family home) it was done using a Sappa boat.

The yome-iri fune during the Ayame Festival will be operating along the Maekawa River within Ayame Park every Wednesday (11am), Saturday (11am, 2pm and 7:30pm), and Sunday (11am and 2pm) throughout the festival. After arriving at the ‘Itako Bride’ memorial, the bride will walk along the pathway to the boat with her matchmaker and the boatman, then the boat will set off. Often the groom will be waiting at the dock of the destination. On the 15th and 22nd of June at 7:30pm you can see the special Milky Way Yome-iri Fune.

Upcoming Events

3rd Annual Ibaraki Sweet Fair 2014

When: May 23 -25, 10:30am – 4pm
Where: Ibaraki Prefectural Office 2nd Floor, Mito

Come celebrate the delicious Japanese and Western style confections made in Ibaraki Prefecture


Display and Sale of Confections (23rd – 25th) Ibaraki Prefectural Office Citizens’ Hall
Around 30 stalls will be in operation each day selling Japanese and Western confections, particularly those made using local ingredients.

Sale of Food Made Using Local Ingredients from Ibaraki (24th – 25th) Hibari Cafeteria
Chefs specialising in Japanese, Western, and Chinese cuisine will be selling food prepared with local ingredients from Ibaraki.

Sale of Farm Produce, Fish, and Specialty Processed Goods from Ibaraki (23rd – 25th) Prefectural Government PR Corner
1st Annual Confection Contest among Participating Stalls
The aim of this competition is to raise awareness for the sweets made by Ibaraki’s skilled confectionaries. A special page has been set up so that people can vote for their favourites. This year’s theme is ‘melon’!

Kasama Pottery and Confection Joint Event (24th – 25th) Hibari Cafeteria
A limited number of roll cakes served on Kasama Pottery dishes will be available for 500 yen.

Ibaraki Sake Tour Jelly
Breweries around Ibaraki will work with confectionaries to make jelly that compliments the unique flavour and style of each brewery’s sake. The jelly will be on sale as a confection for adults.

Sale and Display of Kureyon Shop Confections
The Kureyon Shop is support facility for people with disabilities created from the concept of people enjoying life together regardless of whether they have a disability or not. They will be displaying and selling sweets at their stall throughout the fair.

One Day in Ibaraki

The Storehouses of Yuki

Although many know about Yuki’s famous silk “Yuki-tsumugi” (結城紬), a more everyday object seen throughout the town is often overlooked. These, of course, are the various traditional storehouses scattered about the town.

Yuki Storehouse 1

It is said that these storehouses, or kura (蔵), first made an appearance in Japan as early as the Yayoi period (300BC-300AD) in the form of simple, log cabin-style buildings. Due to the fact that the wooden kura were vulnerable to fire the building materials evolved throughout the years to include more durable materials such as plaster and stone. The use of the kura also varied across the years. During the Edo period, store-type storehouses, or mise-gura (見世蔵) also became widely built, with a storage section connected to the store built in the same style. Regular storehouses built only for storage, called dozō (土蔵), were also built during this time period.

Yuki Storehouse 2

The storehouses in Yuki that stand out most are the store-style storehouses, or mise-gura. Different that other parts of Japan, the mise-gura in Yuki were mostly built between the early Meiji period until the Taishō period. Currently there are 31 mise-gura that have not be renovated currently in use in Yuki today, although there are a higher number that have been renovated inside or that have been abandoned. Of these 31, 20 are still being used daily, and 13 have been registered as cultural property (those registered have bronze plaques posted in front of them).

Registration Plaque

There are four main characteristics that set the Yuki storehouses apart from others in Japan. Due to the great care of those who utilized the storehouses throughout the years, they are in excellent condition and well-preserved. Since Yuki was spared of any large fire, many of the buildings remain in their original states. While most storehouses have black plaster on the outer walls, the Yuki storehouses are unique by having white plaster. Finally, the Yuki storehouses rarely use the outward-opening windows on the second floor that can usually be seen on the storehouses.

Miso Store

One of the great features in Yuki is that you can visit the small visitor center located near the center of town and participate in a guided storehouse tour. Many of the storehouses are still functional today, and if you are lucky you can take a mini tour a miso factory or sake brewery on the way. Our guide was very insightful and knew a lot about the history of each individual buildings. He was also quite knowledgeable of the various temples and shrines on the tour, giving an extra insight into the rich history of the town.

Making Miso

Although many of the storehouses are still occupied today, during special festivals and events throughout the year, many owners open their doors to the public. Especially during the doll festival during the spring, many of the buildings offer a beautiful display of traditional Japanese dolls, as well as various handmade arts and crafts. Some also sell and display kimono made from the well-known Yuki silk, made right in the very same neighborhood.

I would recommend visiting Yuki to see these unique storehouses to anyone who is interested in history or architecture. They are quite a sight to behold!