Tsukuba: Enjoy Local Food and History Along a Scenic Cycling Route!
Would you like to explore a less-known but charming area in Japan that is not far from Tokyo? This article features a recommended cycling itinerary in Tsukuba; it includes some of the city's famous destinations such as historic ruins, as well as excellent local dining and even a winery!
Tsukuba, the Ideal Place for Cycling
Tsukuba City in Ibaraki Prefecture is perfect for a day trip from Tokyo or a casual one-night getaway. The city offers a variety of sightseeing destinations, starting with Mount Tsukuba. It also boasts a scenic cycling course that attracts many cyclists.
This article introduces a cycling itinerary that showcases the highlights of Tsukuba!
First, Head to Tsukubasan-guchi by Bus
Tsukuba Station on the Tsukuba Express Line is our recommended starting point for sightseeing in Tsukuba City. Best of all, it only takes about 45 minutes to reach the station from Akihabara and Asakusa in Tokyo!
You'll see a bus terminal directly in front as soon as you exit Tsukuba Station. From here, let's first hop on a bus for Tsukubasan-guchi. To reach the Tsukubasan-guchi bus terminal, take either a Tsukubasan shuttle bus or a regular city bus.
A Tsukubasan shuttle bus will get you to Numata Station in about 30 minutes. After getting off the bus, it's a three-minute walk to Tsukubasan-guchi Station. Although it takes 45 minutes by city bus, the ride is convenient since the final stop is Tsukubasan-guchi Station.
A variety of buses are heading towards different destinations at this bus terminal. So please check your bus line before boarding.
Let's Rent a Bicycle and Off We Go!
Visitors can rent a bicycle at the Kanto Railway Tsukuba-Kita Office right near Tsukubasan-guchi Station.
The cycling roads in the Mount Tsukuba area are well-maintained, with many international cyclists paying a visit in recent years. For this reason, free cycling maps are available in multiple languages at this business office.
You'll need to fill in an application form to rent a bike. But before that, please follow instructions from a staff member and choose a bike that best suits you.
There's a total of 16 bikes, ranging from large and small sizes. A one-day rental is 500 yen for adults and 250 yen for children. It's reassuring to know that the prices are reasonable and you can have the bike of your choice.
All the rental bikes have been given a number. When you decide upon a bike, please tell the staff the number to receive the lock and key. Before hopping on the bike, you'll also be informed about safety precautions.
Hirasawa Kanga Ruins: Follow in the Footsteps of History
Does your image of Tsukuba change while walking past traditional kominka homes?
While cycling in the Mount Tsukuba area, many interesting sights will come into view―including fields, farmlands, and traditional kominka homes.
Many Japanese-style confection shops and homes located here were originally traditional Japanese houses. Visitors can fully enjoy Japan's traditional atmosphere. Gazing out at the pastoral landscape, you'll feel relaxed and at ease pedaling through the countryside.
In Japan, bicycles are treated like cars, and you are expected to ride on the left-hand side of the road. Some of the streets in Tsukuba are very narrow. When traveling in a group, please ride in a single file on the left side.
The Hirasawa Kanga Ruins, an archaeological site near Tsukuba City, is the re-creation of a governmental administrative complex. This was used when Tsukuba County in Hitachi Province (present-day Ibaraki Prefecture) ruled the region over a thousand years ago.
The administrative complex at the time had a public hall, a shoso (a warehouse storing rice to pay county taxes), and a cafeteria. Presently, the shoso storage facility is the only original building here.
After a long-term study was conducted, the site's historical value was finally recognized. It was designated a national historic site in 1980.
A five-minute bike ride from the Hirasawa Kanga Ruins will take you to Hojo Oike Pond, a famous cherry blossom viewing spot.
You'll find both a large and small pond with some 500 cherry trees surrounding the bodies of water. The scenery is simply spectacular when the trees are in full bloom.
Kamaage Udon Aoyama: A Simple and Delicious Taste!
Tsukuba no Michi, which extends to the starting point of the Hojo area, was selected as one of the top one hundred scenic roads in Japan.
Along its route, there are many buildings that retain their historical appearance. Some renovated buildings also show traces of their glorious past, allowing visitors to relish in the retro atmosphere.
Kamaage Udon Aoyama is one of several shops located inside a renovated traditional kominka home.
Aoyama opened for business in 2018. The shop uses Taisho Period furniture and interior pieces. Coupled with the historical romance of Tsukuba no Michi, there's a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere here.
As indicated by the shop's name, the menu is centered around udon. In addition, there are onigiri rice balls and other light entrees.
There are two types of udon available: yabu udon and kamaage udon. Customers have their choice of either thick or thin noodles.
The shop also offers different sizes. Hot udon comes in small, large, extra-large, and a shiranami (white-crested wave) size that feeds four to five people. Cold udon comes in large and extra-large sizes.
Kamaage Udon 800 yen (large size)
While waiting for your udon, the staff will bring some ginger to your table. So be sure to grate the amount of ginger you want on your noodles.
You'll find several toppings on the table, such as green onions, a Japanese spice mixture called shichimi, tenkasu (leftover pieces of crunchy deep-fried batter), dried bonito shavings, and Tsukudani nori seaweed. You're welcome to flavor your noodles as you please. The variety of different flavors at one time will surely excite your tastebuds.
The large sake cup (ochoko) brought to your table with the udon contains a special dipping sauce. In Japan, there's a custom of putting hot water over the leftover sauce in the udon bowl and then drinking it. At Aoyama, it's even okay to drink it as is without adding hot water.
The shop owner, Mr. Aoyama, puts his heart and soul into making the udon, resulting in noodles with a smooth and chewy texture.
On the shop premises, they sell take-home frozen udon noodles that make a great gift. If Aoyama's noodles are to your liking, please purchase some and indulge in the delicious flavor at home!
Tsukuba Winery: Proudly Made, Delicious Wines!
The Mount Tsukuba area is covered with well-drained and acidic soil, making it the ideal environment for growing grapes.
Located at the southern foot of Mount Tsukuba is Tsukuba Winery. Currently, some 6,000 grape vines have been planted here.
When the vineyard first opened in 2013, the owners didn't have their own winery. Since then, they've been busily working on producing an excellent white grape variety called Hokuten no Ro and a red grape variety called Fuji no Yume.
The view of Mt. Tsukuba from the vineyard is breathtaking!
Once the production of these two major grape varieties got on track, the winery was established in 2019. Tsukuba Winery became the first winery in the city.
Tsukuba Winery is expanding its vineyard's acreage and plans to add an adjoining restaurant. They dream of using fresh ingredients from the Tsukuba area and serving cuisine that pairs perfectly with their delicious wines. Without a doubt, visitors will be able to feel the winery's attractiveness even more.
Tsukuba Winery's top priority has been giving Tsukuba City and Ibaraki Prefecture residents the first opportunity to taste their wines. This is why their wines are available only at the winery's retail shop and some in Tsukuba.
However, after achieving some of their objectives, they plan to extend their wine sales throughout eastern Japan.
Despite emerging as a newcomer in the wine industry, Tsukuba Winery's fans are steadily growing. When our writer visited the winery for this interview, customers even traveled long distances by car to place an order!
Tsukuba Winery is also close to a popular cycling road called Tsukuba Kasumigaura Ring Ring Road. This cycling route connects the Mount Tsukuba area with Kasumigaura City. If you have time, we recommend going for a bike ride along this picturesque route.
A section of Tsukuba Kasumigaura Ring Ring Road is called the Former Tsukuba Railway Line Course and runs over train tracks that remained after the line was taken out of service. This is why the route is rarely busy. As you head down the spacious route while gazing at the scenery of Mount Tsukuba, a feeling of exhilaration will come over you!
Discover Tsukuba's Charm While Cycling!
The breathtaking view from the summit of Mount Tsukuba attracts many people. But even if you don't climb up to the peak, there are plenty of impressive spots at the mountain's base. Even better, these spots can be easily enjoyed during a day trip from Tokyo.
There's also no shortage of popular restaurants in Tsukuba. If you're pooped out from a full day of fun activities, some tasty local cuisine will help bring your satisfying day to a proper close.
For travelers looking for an enjoyable day trip from Tokyo, please don't overlook the Tsukuba City area!
Written by Kenko
Sponsored by Tsukuba City