Two years ago, I visited Mito to attend their annual plum festival. That was prior to the pandemic. Since then, much has changed, yet there are many things to see and experience in our current environment.
The following is a two-day itinerary that will give you a good insight of the area.
Start your trip by taking the early Super Hitachi Limited express from Shinagawa to Mito. After about one and a half hours you will arrive at Mito Station.
Purchase a one-day bus ticket and head to Kairakuen Gardens, one of the three great gardens of Japan. During March the Ume are in bloom and the landscape a colorful pink, white, and red. Due to the pandemic the plum festival was canceled for 2021, but the park was still spectacular with over 3,000 trees (100 varieties) in full bloom.
Within the park is Kobuntei, a historical Japanese house that promoted the arts, with some interesting room decorations and a great view of the plum trees. Kobun is another Japanese word for plums.
Board the bus back to Mito station, then walk over to Kodokan, a National Historic Site and Important Cultural Property. Kodokan is an old feudal school built in 1841 and was the largest in Japan during the Edo period. Take your time strolling through the grounds. There are many gates and buildings with signs explaining each exhibit in English. Just opposite of Kodokan are the Old Castle Ruins with some interesting gates and a great panoramic view of the surrounding area.
It is now lunch time and a quick walk back to the station to “the Nest”, (Hitachino Nest Beer). This craft beer is known throughout the world and can easily be identified by the Owl label. The Kiuchi family has been brewing sake and beer for eight generations. This restaurant at Mito station has an excellent Wagyu burger set and you can try several different brews to go with your lunch.
To top off the day take a fifteen-minute walk from the station to Hirosawa City Hall (Ibaraki Prefectural Cultural Center).
During our Mito visit we were fortunate to attend Chisako Takashima and her Twelve Violins tour. If you haven’t been to one of her concerts, it is much more than the music, a complete entertainment package. Check the Mito city web page to find out what activities are available during your trip.
We arrived a little early and headed back over the river and up the hill to the really nice Workers Coffee Stand. This local shop serves up great roasted coffee, along with some tasty snacks.
Take an early morning walk along Sakuragawa River to Lake Senba, about fifteen minutes from Mito Station. The lake has many good pathways and is home to several water fowl including the Black Swan. During Sakura (Cherry Blossom season), take a walk along the river to view a multitude of blossoms.
Back to Mito Station for a fifteen-minute ride to Oarai via the Kashima Rinkai Tetsudo Oarai Kashima Line. This sea coast town is filled with attractions and is home to the Ooarai Girls (Girls and Panzer) anime TV series.
If you are not into walking, there is a one-day loop bus pass for just 200 yen.
Your first stop is Oarai Marine Tower for a panoramic view of the area. Up on the observation deck off in the distance you can see the G1 Tower, which is the worlds highest elevator research tower at 213.5 meters. On the second floor there is a Ooarai Girls theme cafe.
Next on the agenda is Kamiiso Tori famous for sunrise and sunset views. Just across the street and up the steps is Isosaki-jinja Shrine, built in 856. It is known as the marriage shrine.
It is now lunch time and just beyond the shrine is Oarai fish market with many nearby restaurants serving up the local catch of the day. They also serve mentaiko, a spicy cod roe.
Up the street from the fish market is Mentai Park where you can learn all about mentaiko and observe their production processing.
It is almost time to head back to the station, but there is one more stop and that is the Oarai Marlin Museum and restaurant. Oarai is famous for their annual billfish tournament and this little museum has every type of trinket depicting the great Marlin.
There are many other attractions in both Mito and Oarai, you may want to spend several days exploring the area.