The area around Oarai and Hitachinaka has long sandy beaches and bustling fishing ports. There are several famous and gorgeous parks in the area, set to the backdrop of the ocean's endless blue. You'll find plenty to see, do, eat, and explore while in this stunning corner of Ibaraki.
Oarai and Hitachinaka are accessible from Tokyo by express train and highway bus.
You can reach both Hitachinaka and Oarai by taking the Hitachi Super Express on the JR Joban Line from Ueno Station. It stops at Katsuta Station, which is at the center of Hitachinaka.
For Oarai, go to Mito Station and catch the Kashima Rinkai Railway Oarai Line to Oarai. There are buses that go directly to Oarai and various parts of Hitachinaka from Tokyo Station.
The Oarai and Hitachinaka area sits right on the ocean and is home to a number of fantastic beaches. Ajihaura Beach is a pristine beach with gentle waves near Hitachi Seaside Park. It has excellent views and a pier at one end where you can watch the waves crash against the rocks.
Oarai Sun Beach is a stretch of white sand beach that's perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and surfing. It's the biggest single beach in the Kanto area and stretches from the fishing port in the north to the picturesque bluffs to the south. The water here is shallow so it's great for wading and water sports.
For a look deeper into the sea, there's Aqua World Ibaraki Prefectural Oarai Aquarium, a huge aquarium with 68,000 animals of nearly 600 species.
It's famous for its giant water tanks and its sharks. It has 45 species of sharks, making it the biggest collection of sharks in Japan. There's also an outdoor playground for kids, dolphin and sea lion shows, and great views of the Pacific.
Ibaraki is famous as a great place to see some incredible flower gardens. Hitachi Seaside Park is probably the area's most picturesque park. It's a spacious park blanketed in flowers of different colors that overlooks the town of Hitachi and the ocean.
During the spring, the park's gentle hills are covered in pale blue nemophila flowers. In late summer, it's covered in a carpet of kochia bushes that turn crimson in the fall, creating a surreal landscape.
Hitachi Kamine is another park with excellent views of the ocean and plenty of cherry blossoms. In addition to its fields of flowers, the park has two amusement parks and a zoo. Shizumine Furusato Park is known for its yaezakura, or double flowering cherry blossoms, during the cherry blossom season.
Oarai Isosaki Shrine is located on a bluff overlooking the ocean. It has three gates and one of them, Kamiiso-no-Torii, is an iconic sight of Ibaraki. It stands on a rocky island at the edge of the Pacific Ocean where the waves crash against its base.
Oiwa Shrine is another excellent shrine complex in the Oarai and Hitachinaka area. Halfway up Mt. Oiwa, it stands among the whispering mountain pine trees, creating a mysterious atmosphere.
If you're into seafood, the area presents a few must-see attractions. You can't visit the Oarai or Hitachinaka without hitting the Nakaminato Fish Market. It rivals Tokyo's Tsukiji in its bustling atmosphere and delicacies from the depths of the sea, but is a little more tourist-friendly. Visitors wander among rows of vendors selling fresh seafood at reasonable prices, while nearby restaurants prepare cuisine with the day's catch.
If you like mentaiko, or seasoned cod roe, you have to visit Mentai Park Oarai. This is mentaiko maker Kanefuku's Ibaraki factory and it's open to the public. The company has turned its factory into a museum and education center to help spread its passion for this delicacy around the world.
Ibaraki is known for its coastline and the Oarai and Hitachinaka area is a great place to enjoy it. If you're a seafood lover or a flower fanatic, a single day in Oarai and Hitachinaka area will leave you wanting more. If you have a few days to spare, take your time to really soak up the beauty of this pocket of Ibaraki.