The 5th day started off at Kasama City, a town filled with history and culture. Ibaraki is known for pottery and it is especially famous in Kasama. Getting around the artistic city of Kasama on your own is actually not that difficult as they do have a bus service running from Kasama Station that will take you to all the attractions in the city. A full day pass is only ¥200.
The first stop was a visit to Shunpu Banriso Villa (春風萬里荘), a private house of Kitaoji Rosanjin. This house has about 300 square meters and was actually relocated to Kasama from North Kamakura, in 1945. It has some heritage value indeed. This attraction is managed under the Kasama Nichido Museum of Art.
Many people (me included) who are unfamiliar with the art scene would have not heard of Kitaoji Rosanjin, one of Japan’s most acclaimed potters.
He is noted artist and epicure during the early to mid-Shōwa period of Japan was talented in the field of pottery, cooking, drawing and seal engraving and has won awards.
His favourite collections and works of art are displayed in this villa. I found out that some of his masterpieces are displayed in MoMA, New York City.
There is also a tea room in this villa which has this beautiful outdoor view – modelled after Ryoanji in Kyoto.
The matcha experience here was so good. You simply can’t say you’ve experience Japan if you haven’t had real matcha!
These are toilets.
The garden in front of the villa was also beautiful. It was a pity that the weather was wet making it not so ideal for exploring around, but it was a lovely house indeed.
Opening hours: 9:30am – 5:00pm ( 4:30pm last admission), Dec – Feb: 10:00am – 4:00pm (3:30pm last admission). Closed on Monday
The next stop was “MON” pottery gallery (回廊ギャラリー門). It is a must to check out pottery in Kasama, and a must to go to Kasam if you love pottery.
Even the whole layout of the shop has the artistic vibes.
Ibaraki has been known for pottery since 1770 and many artists were born here. Many aspiring artists from other areas of Japan or other areas of the world even migrate to Kasama for the sake of learning the art. I am no expert at pottery (I would be more than happy to start picking it up!) but I could see how beautiful the pieces were! The whole beauty of it was of it being handmade and every piece looks different. The characteristics of Kasama pottery is said to be it having no characteristics. There are no rules and everything is freestyle.
2230-1 Kasama, Kasama-shi, Ibaraki-ken 〒309-1611
Opening hours: 10:00 am – 6:00pm
Another pottery gallery I checked out was Crafthills Kasama.
Macaron chopstick holders! I just had to get them.
The pottery here was just as beautiful. These were what I brought home.
2388-1 Kasama, Kasama-city, Ibaraki-Ken, Japan
Opening hours: 10am – 5pm
For lunch I tried Angler Fish Hot Pot (Anko Nabe) at Sansui (山翠) in Mito City, the capital of Ibaraki Prefecture. Angler fish hot pot is one of Ibaraki’s signature dishes and is especially popular during winter. It was my first time trying it and I was excited.
This portion is for 3. It costs ¥3570/pax.
The inner parts of the Angler fish as well as the vegetables are to be thrown in first, and the liver and fish meat last.
Such warm and comforting food was perfect for the cold rainy day. The creamy liver was really good!
This was my only (and very brief) stop for Mito City and the landscape looked pretty much like Osaka – urban and modern, but probably smaller. There were many shops around and within 5 minutes I managed to get some really good buys at a shop around the corner! I wish I had more time to explore this area.
2-2-40 Izumicho, Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture 310-0026, Japan
Opening hours: 11:00 am – 2:30 pm, 5:00–9:00 pm (closed on Tuesday)
The next place I went to was a famous park called Kairakuen, located in Mito City. This is known to be one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan, together with Kenroku-en in Kanazawa and Koraku-en in Okayama.
It was pretty much like a normal garden to me, until I saw this:
SAKURA! I was in disbelief – there’s cherry blossom during Autumn!?!
It was not at full bloom – in fact, dropping already, but still a beautiful sight!
Apparently this particular species of sakura blooms twice a year!
However, there were only a few of these special sakura trees around the big park.
Most of the trees they have here are cedar trees and plum trees. It would definitely be beautiful during full bloom. Do check this place out during spring!
A maple leaf on togyokusen (a natural spring).
1 Chome-１２５１ Migawa, Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture 310-0912, Japan
Opening Hours: 6:00am to 7:00pm (February 20 to September 30), 7:00am to 6:00pm (October 1 to February 19)
Admission fee: Free
Another attraction within the Kairakuen is the Kobuntei. This is a historical 3 storey wooden building, a Samurai house. The house was so beautiful! I enjoyed this house visit more than any other’s on the trip. As it was a gloomy day, I was unable to capture pictures which did justice to the house. The paintings on the doors were just so beautiful!
This one is called the Room of Bamboo (obviously).
The view from Kobuntei was lovely as well. I was particularly interested in that field of orange flowers in the background and was told it was marigold.
1 Chome-１２５１ Migawa, Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture 310-0912, Japan
Opening Hours: 9:00am to 5:00pm (until 4:30pm from October 1 to February 19)
Admission fee: ¥190
The last attraction of the day was Ryujin suspension bridge (竜神大吊橋). I do love bridges, a lot in fact. However, the water was bad and it was raining and misty, making it tough to take pictures.
Ryujin bridge is located in Oku-kuji Prefectural Natural Park, and is built over Ryujin dam. Total length of the bridge is 375 meters. It is the longest walking bridge in the main island (Honshu) of Japan.
Next year, they would be launching bungee jumping from the bridge, perfect for adventure seekers. The areas around the bridge are also suitable for hiking and exploring. I really wished the weather was better that day.
2133-6 Keganocho, Hitachiota, Ibaraki Prefecture 313-0351, Japan
Open hours: 8:30am – 5pm
Admission fee: ¥300
For the night we headed further up into the mountains to Fukuroda district. The ryokan for the night was Omoide Romankan, a pretty good ryokan where I enjoyed a good soak in the outdoor hot spring after being caught in the rain. The rooms are equipped with heaters and that is perfect for cold days.
As this is located in the mountain side near Fukuroda falls, there was also a view of the waterfall from the outdoor hot spring! Somehow when I went to the outdoor spring there was nobody in sight and I had it all to myself. This ryokan was pretty popular because I noticed there were a lot of other guests, mostly retirees.
For dinner it was kaiseki again (which I LOVE). The speciality of this meal was the chicken hot pot.
Somehow all the sake I’ve tried on this trip was so good, especially the one I had with this meal.
As usual it was a very sumptuous and delicious meal. I loved everything! And I was very well fed.
The futan was very comfortable was well and I had a good night’s rest. I would really recommend this ryokan if you’re exploring this area.
The breakfast was served buffet style and they had decent options! Don’t those tomatoes look simply delicious?!
９７８ Fukuroda, Daigo, Kuji District, Ibaraki Prefecture 319-3523, Japan