Splendid Foliage and Food! 9 Must-Visit Autumn Spots in Ibaraki
Ibaraki Prefecture is located near Tokyo and boasts incredible scenery and delicious food. September to November is the autumn season in Ibaraki, which means that it's the best time to visit for foliage and seasonal specialties. The following is a list of nine things to enjoy if you visit Ibaraki in autumn.
Autumn Destinations in Ibaraki
Many people long to view the autumn foliage in Japan at least once in their lifetime. There are many places to appreciate this scenery in Ibaraki, which is accessible two to three hours from Tokyo. The season brings a well of delicious food as well.
This article introduces recommended autumn spots and food in three areas: the northern part offers a variety of nature-rich sites, the central area where the prefectural capital Mito is located, and the southern spot close to Tokyo.
*Although the foliage season in Ibaraki Prefecture usually peaks in November, some sightseeing destinations can be visited from October to early December. Those interested in this year’s forecast should check the Ibaraki Guide website (Japanese).
Hananuki Gorge, located in Takahagi City, is a famous sightseeing destination. Many tourists visit it during the autumn foliage season.
The gorge is known for its stunning views from the suspension bridge. There is a promenade by the bridge where visitors can listen to the soothing sound of the river while admiring the foliage.
This scenic gorge area stretches from the Hananuki Dam to the Kotakizawa Camp Site. The gorge's most famous attraction is the stunning Shiomi Falls Suspension Bridge. There are also plenty of hiking trails for exploring the area.
The best time to visit is autumn when foliage covers the area in a blanket of fiery reds and yellows. Summer is another excellent time to bask in the natural surroundings. Bring your swimwear and plunge into natural pools and streams, then relax with a barbecue or picnic at the camp area.
Hitachi Aki-Soba Noodles
Soba, or buckwheat noodles, are a popular healthy dish in Japan. However, many may not be aware that Ibaraki produces brand-name soba called “Hitachi Aki-soba.”
This type of soba, known for its rich aroma and gentle taste, is used at famous restaurants across Japan.
Hitachi Aki-soba was cultivated originally in Hitachiota City, located in northern Ibaraki. The city is home to the Ryujin Suspension Bridge, , famous for its autumn foliage views. Visitors can order Hitachi Aki-soba at most nearby restaurants, so be sure to try this local specialty.
Ryujin Suspension Bridge
Ryujin Suspension Bridge stands 100 meters above the Ryujin Dam Reservoir. Spanning 375 meters, the bridge is inspired by the legend of a dragon said to reside in the Ryujin River. It offers panoramic views of the area’s mountainous landscape, including wild cherry blossoms during the spring and fiery foliage in autumn.
The bridge is also home to Japan’s highest bungee jump! This bungee jump is the ultimate way to take in the surrounding mountains if you're up to the challenge.
If throwing yourself off bridges isn’t your thing, there’s plenty more to explore in the surrounding area as well, including hiking trails, hot springs, and restaurants serving the region’s specialty: soba noodles!
Located in Daigo Town in the Oku-Kuji area, Fukuroda Falls ranks among Japan’s three major waterfalls alongside Kegon Falls in Nikko. This waterfall measures 120 meters in height and 73 meters in width. Since the gushing water cascades over four tiers in full force, it is also nicknamed “Yondo no Taki” (Four Times Waterfall).
Although the scenery changes seasonally, it is especially stunning in autumn with the foliage in the foreground. This area also has hot springs, making Fukuroda the perfect spot to visit at this time of the year.
Fukuroda Falls is ranked among Japan’s "Three Great Waterfalls." A visit here will quickly reveal why. Water cascades over four levels of the rocky cliff face, earning it the nickname "Yondo no Taki" (four times waterfalls).
In autumn, the falls are breathtaking when the fiery foliage transforms the surrounding mountains. But if you can’t make it in autumn, don’t worry! In winter, the waterfall freezes over in a stunning icy spectacle. In the summertime, the cool spray of the rushing water makes them a great place to escape the heat.
The Fukuroda Falls area is where several beginner-friendly hiking trails begin. It's a great way to explore more of northern Ibaraki’s stunning mountains.
If hiking isn’t your thing, head to one of the soba noodle restaurants or souvenir shops at the base of the falls. You can even sample the area’s famous apple pie!
Dried Sweet Potato (Hoshi-imo)
Ibaraki’s soil is ideal for cultivating sweet potatoes. Since there is little rainfall during the winter, the prefecture has grown hoshi-imo (dried sweet potato) for a long time. This local specialty is known for its refined taste. Likewise, Ibaraki produces 90% of the hoshi-imo in Japan.
While there are many sweet potato varieties, hoshi-imo can be categorized into two types. Hira-boshi is the sliced version, and maru-boshi is made from a whole potato. The taste changes according to the varieties and types, so please try the different kinds available.
Hitachinaka, a seaside city in northern Ibaraki, is known for producing sweet potatoes. Fortunately, hoshi-imo can be purchased at any souvenir shop in the prefecture.
Ibaraki Prefectural Archives and Museum
This facility is located in Mito, the prefectural capital of Ibaraki. There are various historical buildings here, including the former Mizukaido Elementary School built in 1881 and a private household from the Edo Period. No wonder it’s the perfect spot for a stroll.
In autumn, the ginkgo trees color the ground in yellow hues, turning it into a famous photogenic spot attracting many visitors. The trees are occasionally lit up at night.
Ibaraki Prefectural Archives and Museum
The Ibaraki Prefectural Archives and Museum (Mito City) was established in 1974. Permanent exhibits showcase the history of Ibaraki from ancient times to the present day. The museum itself is housed on a plot spanning 72,000m2. This formerly was a residence during the Edo Period (1603–1868) and later a Western-style school building from the Meiji Period (1868–1912).
During autumn, the museum grounds are fantastic to see bright yellow ginkgo trees, a seasonal highlight in Japan.
Kairakuen Garden: Momiji-dani Park
Kairakuen in Mito City is one of Japan’s three most famous scenic gardens.
Momiji-Dani Park, an expansion of the garden, is famous for its autumn foliage. There are around 170 maple trees that fascinate visitors with beautiful fiery colors reflected on the pond’s surface. Kairakuen also neighbors Lake Senba, so it might be fun to stroll around this beautiful body of water.
It is a 20-minute bus ride from JR Mito Station to Kairakuen Garden. With many lodging facilities and eateries near the station, the area is an ideal place to stay.
Kairakuen Garden is ranked among Japan’s top three most beautiful gardens, alongside Kenrokuen in Kanazawa and Korakuen in Okayama. The garden was established in 1842 by Nariaki Tokugawa, the ninth feudal lord of the Mito Domain. It has since served as a place of relaxation and recreation for the public.
Kairakuen is famous for its Plum Blossom Festival (Ume Matsuri) held from late February to early March. It is home to around 3,000 plum trees from 100 different varieties. Cherry blossoms and azalea in the spring and Japanese bush clovers in autumn keep Kairakuen looking beautiful year-round.
Ibaraki Prefecture is known as the largest producer of chestnuts in Japan. Kasama, a city in central Ibaraki, is a famous production area.
The best season for chestnuts is from September to October. Plenty of cafes and restaurants in Kasama serve menus featuring roasted chestnuts, chestnut confections, and kuri-gohan (chestnut rice).
Kasama is known for its ceramic ware, with many pottery-related attractions in the city. It is also home to Kasama Inari Jinja, a prominent shrine in Japan. Be sure to savor some chestnut dishes while visiting this area.
Kasama Inari Shrine
First established in 651, Kasama Inari Shrine is one of Japan's famous Inari shrines, attracting around 3.5 million pilgrims and visitors annually. The sacred site enshrines Ukanomitama-no-Mikoto, known to answer prayers for success in business and protection from fires. The shrine grounds are stunning in the late spring when the wisteria flower bloom. Another beautiful time to visit is during the chrysanthemum festival in autumn.
The streets leading up to the shrine are filled with various shops to explore, from traditional soba restaurants to fashionable cafes and renovated sake breweries. Specialties of the area include Kasama Inari Sushi, rice with walnuts, and other seasonal products wrapped in deep-fried tofu and roasted chestnuts. Kasama City is known for its pottery, and there are plenty of galleries in the area to pick up a souvenir before heading home.
Autumn Fruit in Ibaraki
Although Ibaraki once ranked second in Japan’s agricultural production, the prefecture continues cultivating various fruit types.
Autumn is a peak season for fruit, particularly grapes, pears, persimmons, and apples. There are many tourist farms in the area where visitors can harvest these fruits. Those interested in tasting their freshness firsthand with family and friends should try fruit picking!
Mount Tsukuba is one of the most popular spots in the prefecture. With over 1,000 species of plants, visitors can enjoy mountaineering and hiking year-round.
In autumn, the mountain is covered with seasonal foliage. The autumnal view can be admired from the ropeway and cable car, which operates a different route from the mid-slope to the summit.
Tsukubasan Shrine, located halfway up the mountain, is another spot that should not be missed. There are hot springs in the area, where visitors can relax after hiking or sightseeing.
The twin peaks of Mount Tsukuba are symbolic of Ibaraki. In Japanese, the peaks are Nyotai and Nantai, meaning the female peak and male peak, respectively. At 877 meters tall, Nyotai, the female peak, is the higher of the two. Mount Tsukuba is accessible in under two hours from Tokyo, making it ideal for escaping city life and getting in touch with nature. There are over 1000 species of flora and fauna on the mountain alone!
Both peaks are easily accessible by cable car or ropeway. If you're looking to exercise, there are plenty of hiking trails that suit all levels. Many trails have unique rock formations and historical Shinto sites.
While Mount Fuji is the symbol of western Japan, Mount Tsukuba is undeniably the symbol of eastern Japan. No trip to the Kanto region is complete without exploring this mountain!
Mount Tsukuba Stardust Cruise
Mount Tsukuba ranks among Japan’s 100 Famous Mountains and offers unparalleled views of the vast Kanto Plain.
From October to March each year, Mount Tsukuba Ropeway operates special nighttime services during the colder months. Visitors can marvel at the stunning Tokyo skyline at night, including lights glistening from the city center alongside Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Skytree.
Ride the JR Suigun Line to Enjoy Ibaraki's Autumn Scenery
Visitors can also take in the fall scenery in Ibaraki while aboard trains.
We recommend taking the JR Suigun Line, which runs from JR Mito Station to Fukushima Prefecture. The train line takes passengers to Daigo Town, which is home to Fukuroda Falls and the Ryujin Suspension Bridge. It also heads to Hitachiota, famous for its Hitachi Aki-soba (buckwheat noodles). From the train window, visitors will be treated to scenery filled with forests, rivers, rice fields, and magnificent foliage.