Written by Jasmine (GREATERTOKYO_Explorer)
Welcome To Japan! Day 2: Ibaraki - Visit Mt. Tsukuba And A Giant Buddha
Mt. Tsukuba, offering amazing views, and Ushiku, home to the tallest bronze Buddhist statue in the world, are just two of the great sightseeing spots in Ibaraki. They can be easily reached within one hour from Narita Airport!
Explore Japan Starting from the Airport!
Day 2: Ibaraki - Visit Mt. Tsukuba and a Giant Buddhist Statue in Ibaraki!
After landing at Narita Airport, you can start your exploration of Japanese culture by visiting the nearby charming areas of Chiba and Ibaraki. Historical landmarks, refined local food, hot springs and wonderful views - these are just some of the exciting points of interest that await here.
The first day of our two-day recommended itinerary introduced to you Narita, with its famous Narita Shinshoji Temple and historical townscape. After spending the night at Edoya, an excellent Japanese inn in Tsukuba, we suggest climbing Mt. Tsukuba to enjoy the great view from above, and go visit the Great Buddha in Ushiku in the afternoon.
9:30 - Go Up Mt. Tsukuba and Take in the Views
Ibaraki is full of unique places where you can encounter nature and see Japanese culture at a leisurely pace. These areas reveal a side of Japan not found in Tokyo and Kyoto, and make for a memorable travel experience.
On the second day of our tour starting at Narita Airport, we went exploring Mt. Tsukuba. The mountain is known for its excellent vantage points of Mt. Fuji and Tokyo Skytree, and a stunning view at night. It is also designated as one of Japan's 100 great mountains. The mountain's history is also notable: it is described in centuries-old waka (short Japanese poems of 31 syllables).
To go to the summit, stroll through the grounds of Tsukubasan Shrine, which is right across Edoya, to get to the Mt. Tsukuba cable cars. In about five minutes you will arrive at Miyawaki Station, the starting point for the cable car line that climbs up Mt. Tsukuba's steep slopes.
Buy a round-trip ticket for 1,050 yen (including tax) from the automatic ticket machine. There is a button you can press to view clear English instructions.
Once you buy your ticket, board the charming retro-style cable car. The ride is about eight minutes long and gains 495 meters in altitude. During the ride, you will have a great view of the city below.
The surrounding trees and plants along the line change appearance with the seasons. In particular, the azalea season in spring and the fall colors here are very popular, drawing many visitors every year.
After reaching the station at the summit, I started climbing the nature research trail, one of the several hiking trails available. The nature research trail is a 60-minute loop that takes you by Mt. Nantai, one of the mountain's peaks.
Along the trail are educational signboards with information on the nearby vegetation. The descriptions and information are written in Japanese, but there are also helpful pictures. Mt. Tsukuba is the habitat for many important and protected species. Try to see how many different varieties you can observe.
You will also notice a mound of piled up stones with messages written on them (known as "oishi kasane" in Japanese). The mountain is also a spiritually sacred area. It is thought that people who place these stones will have their wishes granted. These stones can be purchased at the nearby Tsukubasan Shrine.
On the loop, I passed by a couple of observation points well-known for providing spectacular views of Tokyo and Mt. Fuji. I also met some photographers and other hikers who were hoping to take in the view, like me. Unfortunately, the visibility was not ideal and we could only see the city down below. I suggest looking up in advance when the best view times are if you want to capture a nice shot!
The last part of the loop goes by Mt. Nantai and a shrine. It is an incline to reach the top, so come prepared to climb if you want to see the shrine and the view from the top. Again, as I went on a hazy day, I couldn't see very far from the top, but the mountaintop shrine and spiritual atmosphere were enjoyable.
Be aware that certain parts of the research nature trail are steep and rocky. I highly recommend wearing shoes appropriate for climbing and taking your time during the hike to make sure you don't lose your balance. Also, please note that parts of the trail may be closed off or changed due to weather and mountain conditions.
11:30 - Mt. Tsukuba Souvenir Shopping and Snacks
After finishing the hike, there's plenty more to do on the mountain. There are several shops and a cafe on the summit serving food and beverage, and also a shop by Miyawaki Station.
I rode the cable cars back down and visited the shop by Miyawaki Station. The soft-serve ice cream changes depending on the season, and comes in flavors like ume (plum) and matcha. You can also try grilled dango (rice dumplings) with a special walnut-miso sauce, and browse through a variety of other gifts and sweets.
I chose an adorable mountaineer Hello Kitty pin and a tiny golden frog thought to bring luck in money.
12:10 - Ride the Bus to Tsukuba Center
Next, I took the 12:10 departure bus to Tsukuba Center, an area with a concentration of restaurants and shopping in Tsukuba City.
From Miyawaki Station, walk back down the path you took to Tsukubasan Shrine. From the shrine, continue down the hill and walk along the side of the road. You will pass by a large red torii gate. Cross the intersection and you will arrive at the Tsukubasan Jinja Iriguchi bus stop. There is English signage marking the bus stop, too.
Once the bus comes, board from the back and take a ticket. To get off the bus at Tsukuba Center, drop the ticket into the box by the bus driver along with the required fare (720 yen, including tax). Please note that you have to pay exact change, but if you don't have the proper amount you can use the change machine located by the bus driver.
The bus takes around 40 minutes and passes by rural areas with rice fields, farms, and charming Japanese houses. I had a pleasant, relaxing ride and enjoyed the scenery.
13:00 - Lunch at Tsukuba Sansuitei
Picture courtesy of Tsukuba Sansuitei
Tsukuba Sansuitei, a Japanese restaurant on the second floor of the Okura Frontier Hotel Tsukuba, is the ideal lunch spot if you wish to taste the local cuisine.
The restaurant's interior is elegant and simple, and ideal for enjoying a leisurely meal.
The Hana-gozen set meal. Picture courtesy of Tsukuba Sansuitei
You can choose from meal sets with seafood, steak, and tempura. All the choices come with traditional side dishes, rice, and miso soup. Each dish is well-prepared, made with care, and presented beautifully. Please note you must make a reservation to eat here.
There are also private dining rooms featuring tatami rooms and traditional low tables that are great for special occasions. This is a restaurant suitable for visitors looking for a special experience of Japanese culture.
14:00 - Bus Ride to Ushiku Daibutsu
After lunch, we walked to the bus area of Tsukuba Center to get to our afternoon destination: the Daibutsu (giant Buddhist statue) in Ushiku. Board the 14:00 bus for Tsuchiura Station which departs from platform 5 (pictured above).
After 30 minutes, get off at Tsuchiura Sta. Nishi Guchi, which is the last stop on the line. The fare will be 630 yen (including tax). From here, ride 14:45 the bus bound for Amimachi. It leaves from platform one. Ride for around half an hour until Canon Mae. The fare for this bus is 620 yen (including tax).
Similar to the bus earlier, you should board these buses from the back doors and take a ticket. Be sure to pay your fare in exact change when you put in your ticket into the box by the driver. There will be a change machine on these buses, too.
15:30 - Gaze Up at the Towering Giant Buddhist Statue
For the final part of the day, I was excited to see Ushiku Daibutsu, a towering Buddha statue. At 120 meters tall, it is the largest bronze Buddhist statue in Japan and is registered in the "Guinness Book of World Records" as the world's tallest! The giant Buddhist statue of Todaiji Temple in Nara can fit into the palm of this statue's hand.
Get off the bus at Canon Mae. It is about a 15-20 minute walk to the entrance from here.
After getting off, continue down the crosswalk directly in front of the bus stop and take a left. You will see the giant Buddhist statue in the distance. Continue straight for several minutes until you arrive at the intersection behind the giant Buddhist statue.
Next, at the intersection above, and make a right. Go straight for several more minutes, passing by a cemetery and a parking lot. You will then come to T-shaped intersection. Turn left here and you will find the entrance to Ushiku Daibutsu, the giant Buddha statue. Continue in the direction of the statue and you'll soon see the entrance.
It costs 500 yen for entrance into the grounds and 800 yen for entrance to the grounds and inside the statue (both fees include tax). Near the entrance are models of parts of the statue such as the head, to help guests grasp the actual size of the statue. While taking photos, I continued along the path, closer to the statue.
Looking up directly at the statue at its sheer size and power is astounding. This is something everyone should experience at least once in their life. You can also go inside the giant Buddha if time allows it.
A picturesque koi pond and flower fields are by the statue. You can feed the koi by purchasing feed (100 yen), and the flower fields change throughout the seasons. In May, visitors can enjoy flower picking and vibrant cosmos cover the field from September through October.
The cherry blossom season in early to mid-April is also stunning, as vibrant pink shibazakura (moss phlox) is in bloom, along with the cherry trees. There is also a petting zoo with small animals that you can see.
16:30 - Go to Ushiku Station and Head to Tokyo
After getting some pictures of the Buddha, I wandered back towards the entrance. There are several souvenir shops selling gifts and snacks you can browse. As public transportation is limited, you will likely need to take a taxi back.
If you go back to the admissions window, you can ask an employee to reserve a taxi for you. They will also hand you a card telling you where to wait and which taxi car logo to look for.
I went to JR Ushiku Station, which takes about 15 minutes. From there, I boarded the train on the Joban Line headed for Shinagawa, Tokyo. It is about a one-hour-long ride. I enjoyed the ride, unwinding from the day's activities and looking at the pictures I took.
This two-day trip in Chiba and Ibaraki starting at Narita Airport is a great way to start your travel adventures in Japan because it features the essentials of Japanese culture: places full of history, traditional lodging and cuisine, hot springs, and beautiful views. Make your first encounter with Japanese culture an unforgettable one by stopping first at Narita and Tsukuba.
Day 2 Route Summary
Tsukubasan Edoya → Miyawaki Station → Mt. Tsukuba summit → Miyawaki Station → Tsukuba Center → Tsukuba Sansuitei → Tsukuba Center → Tsuchiura Station → Ushiku Giant Buddhist Statue → Ushiku Station
Transportation: 5,020 yen (around 2,000 yen for taxi ride to Ushiku Station)
Food: 1,800 yen
Souvenirs: around 600 yen
For more information on the places to visit and exciting things to do in Chiba and Ibaraki, please refer to these websites:
Chiba Prefecture: http://japan-chiba-guide.com/en/index.html
Ibaraki Prefecture: http://english.ibarakiguide.jp/
Supported by Ibaraki-Chiba Joint Promotion Council of Themed International Tourism