I was inspired by my recent coastal Ibaraki daytrip (courtesy of Travex Tours) to compile a “what to do in Hitachi and Hitachinaka, Ibaraki Prefecture” list.
My in-laws live in coastal Ibaraki and I’ve spent plenty of summer and winter holidays and random weekends there. But, the bus tour was the first time for me to experience the sights as a tourist.
Here’s what I recommend seeing on a trip to Hitachi and Hitachinaka. These are all tourist spots but they’re more for domestic visitors. This means you’ll get a chance to experience the sights as a local. The downside is that there is little info/guidance in English. If you’re up to the challenge…
What To Do In Hitachi and Hitachinaka, Ibaraki Prefecture
Seabirds Cafe (Hitachi Station)
When arriving in Hitachi by train, I like to take a break and unwind at Seabirds Cafe inside Hitachi Station.
This is one of my favorite “date spots” and it’s extremely popular with locals. Go before or after lunchtime so you don’t have to wait in line.
If you’re visiting Hitachi during the summer or end of the year season, sign up for the August fireworks and New Year sunrise viewing.
Seabirds Cafe overlooks the Pacific Ocean and has large glass panels. Actually, the Kaigan Exit of Hitachi Station has great views of the ocean as well as an outdoor walkway for strolling.
If you’re traveling with mini-rail fans, a stop at Hitachi Station is perfect for catching freight trains. You might even see the “high speed” freight trains that run as fast as 85 km/hr! (The final destination is either Fukushima or Nagoya, BTW)
Hitachi Station is serviced by the JR Joban Line (常磐線), which connects Tokyo/Ueno/Shinagawa to coastal cities in Chiba, Ibaraki, Fukushima, and Miyagi Prefectures.
Its name, Joban (常磐), comes from the former feudal provinces of Hitachi (常陸, present-day Ibaraki Prefecture) and Iwaki (磐城, present-day Fukushima Prefecture).
Coincidentally, 常磐 can also be read as “Tokiwa,” which is the name of one of the limited express trains linking Tokyo to Fukushima, passing through Hitachi Station.
U No Misaki
U No Misaki is a large relaxation resort in Hitachi City that houses a park, hiking paths, a beach, a restaurant, a hotel, and hot springs.
On the grounds of U No Misaki is Urara No Yu, an onsen that has an outdoor bath with amazing views of the Pacific Ocean.
The bath overlooks Ishihama Beach, known for its stunning contrast of white sand and vibrant green pine trees (one of 100 such beaches in Japan).
After taking a soak, my in-laws and I always eat dinner downstairs at the restaurant. It’s definitely worth it to stay for dinner and watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean.
You can’t go wrong with a (raw) seafood bowl but you can always play it safe and grab a plate of fried chicken and edamame!
U No Misaki, by the way, is where a majority of the birds (鵜 | u, like “oo” in “goo”) used in cormorant fishing (鵜飼 | ukai), are caught.
Cormorant fishing is an ancient fishing technique where sweetfish (鮎 | ayu) are caught at night under the flickering flames of fire lanterns. It’s a very popular activity to see between May and November in Gifu Prefecture.
During certain times of the year you can even enter the hilly area where the cormorants are caught.
Oarai Isosaki Shrine
Famous for its 1,000 year old stone torii standing tall in the Pacific Ocean on a wave-battered rock, Oarai Isosaki Shrine was the first stop on our tour.
I must mention that it was raining heavily that day and the combination of sea wind, grey skies, choppy waves and pouring rain against the torii made a formidable impression.
Rather than being annoyed that it was raining, I really felt the power of Mother Nature. Even little Kaiju didn’t mind nor was she afraid.
With that said, getting to the torii is a bit tricky, particularly when the weather is poor.
From the main hall, there’s a descent down a rather steep flight of stairs. At the beach there’s a breakwall about 1 meter high.
Every summer there are stories of tourists who fall over or deliberately climb over for the “pic of the day.” Be careful!
Sakatsura Isosaki Shrine
A “brother” shrine to Oarai Isosaki Shrine, Sakatsura Isosaki Shrine is where you want to go if you have hopes of striking it rich in a lottery.
Several of the big lotto prize winners swear their success is due to a pilgrimage to the shrine and rubbing the lucky turtle statue.
The shrine is also worth visiting because of its mystical tunnel of trees more than 300 years old.
It’s one of Japan’s “power spots” and strolling through it’s like being walking in a Miyazaki film or entering some magical land. Technically, torii gates denote the transition from the profane to the spirit world, so you’re heading to some other worldly realm.
Hitachi Seaside Park
This time, I visited the sea of green kochia just as they started to change colors.
To see kochia when they are crimson red, visit Hitachi Seaside Park in mid-October. I would personally love to see it next month!
Early May and mid October are when the park is filled with visitors. But an off season visit is the best time to explore the vastness of the park.
No trip to coastal Ibaraki is complete without a meal of FRESH seafood. But, be warned — you might get spoiled!
Monday night sushi at Kura Zushi has always been our family “thing.” But ever since I had a few plates of freshly caught sushi at lunch at Umi no Eki, I don’t think those Monday nights will ever be the same!
Definitely come here for a unique conveyor belt sushi experience. The toppings vary in price (100 to 400 yen). But, the size is literally double what you’d get a regular sushi place. Plus, they had so many kinds of toppings that I’d never seen before.
If you’re adventurous, try the Hitachinaka style takoyaki with a whole baby octopus!
Bonus: Moriya and Tomobe Service Areas
If you are going to coastal Ibaraki by car, you’re likely to stop at one of two service areas on the Joban Expressway.
Moriya (守谷) is right outside to Tokyo, while Tomobe (友部) is closer to Hitachinaka, Kasama City. (Japan’s largest producer of chestnuts, btw. The things you learn while in line at Starbucks!)
Moriya is probably my favorite because of its super cute mascot Moriken (守犬). He looks like a frog but he’s a dog. he was looking at a frog statue and his mom thought he liked frogs so she made a frog hat for him.
(Come on, don’t be surprised that a service area has a mascot with a weird backstory — TIJ!)
The Moriken Shrine is only at the Moriya Service Area heading back to Tokyo. It’s a great spot to end your coastal Ibaraki journey, shift gears, and head to your next Japan destination.