A Japanese road station like no other, Hitachi Osakana Center in Ibaraki turned out to be more like a fresh seafood market than a rest centre for travellers. Ibaraki has fourteen of these road stations and this one properly blew our collective minds and taste buds.
Known as michi no eki in Japanese, road stations were introduced about twenty or so years ago to help promote local foods, crafts and culture by providing rest centres and information portals for travellers. Accordingly, each road station has its own sense of uniqueness and this was quite apparent at Hitachi Osakana Center where, even if your head was properly buried in the sand, you would have still worked out that seafood was king here.
A rainy day greeted our visit here so once we parked the car we rushed indoors. We were greeted by a throng of people jostling about within warrens of indoor shotengai shopping streets. An absolute amazingly local experience, the sides of the shopping alleys were lined with semi-private eating booths were we witnessed families grilling up their freshly purchased seafood. The atmosphere, not to mention the aroma, was incredible.
A classical kaisei-don seafood bowl was the order of the day. The self-service option was a great idea and we all chose our favourite pieces of seafood to go with our bow of rice. Being partial to some good silver-skinned fish, I found the saba mackerel here to be a real treat. For around JPY1200, give or take depending on the pieces you choose, we found the value to be superb.
Outdoor food and craft stalls are also features at Hitachi Osakana Center but given the weather that day, we weren't really able to give them our proper attention. Perhaps next time. In any case, the intimate ambience here and the rich tastes in seafood offer another amazing highlight of travelling throughout local Japan.