Famous for its lakes and irises
In the Suigo area, you will find the town of Itako, with its impressive waterways and blooming irises. Nearby sits the historic town of Kashima and its ancient shrines and monuments, offering something for all types of travelers.
- The ancient Kashima Shrine, which was built by Japan's first emperor
- Boat rides on the waterways of Itako and tours of Kashima Port
- Blooming irises in the spring during the Itako Ayame Festival
How to Get There
It takes less than two hours to get from Tokyo Station to Itako Station by train. There are also highway buses available.
Take the JR Sobu Line from Tokyo to Chiba and then take the Narita Line to Sawara Station. At Sawara, switch to the JR Kashima Line. The JR Kashima Line goes to Itako Station and the stations at Kashima. From Tokyo Station and Haneda Airport, there's a highway bus for the Suigo-Itako Bus Terminal.
The waterways of Itako
Itako sits between Lake Kitaura, Kasumigaura Bay, and Lake Sotonasakaura, with water on all sides except the north. To the southwest, it faces the Hitachi-Tone River. Throughout the town, waterways connect these bodies of water, and you can take canal rides through the town and see its 12 bridges.
Itako in bloom
Itako is particularly famous for its many blooming irises. From the end of May to the end of June, the town is adorned with purple, white, and yellow flowers. The Japanese word for iris is “ayame,” and each year at this time, the city holds the Ayame Festival.
The famous iris festival
The Ayame Festival is held at Suigo Itako Ayame Garden to celebrate the arrival of summer. The park has about one million irises from nearly 500 species. Events during the festival include the Ayame Dance and a traditional ceremony specific to the region in which a couple gets married on a boat in one of the town's canals.
Exploring the many parks
Itako has some other beautiful parks. Kongenyama Park offers spectacular views of the ocean and surrounding countryside. There are spacious green fields and paths to enjoy at Inariyama Park. Suigo Hokusai Park, a relaxing park right by the Hitachi-Tone River, has a fireworks display during the summer.
Kashima also has Kashima Shiroyama Park, which has the ruins of Kashima Castle, plenty of walkways and open spaces, and a playground for kids. The park is the site of the Kashima Cherry Blossom Festival, which is held at the beginning of April.
There are many famous temples to see in Itako. The peaceful, serene Chochoji Temple is located right on the edge of Inariyama Park. Another impressive temple complex is Nihonmatsuji Temple.
Exploring ancient history at Kashima
East of Itako sits the Pacific port town of Kashima. Kashima grew to become a prosperous trading town because of its connection to a number of sea routes. Today, it is rich with historical sites.
Kashima is the home to Kashima-jingu Shrine , one of the oldest shrines in eastern Japan. Kashima Shrine was reportedly built by Emperor Jimmu, Japan's first emperor, in the sixth century BC. The impressive complex enshrines the Shinto god of thunder and war.
Kashima is not all about history. Today, it is the home to the Kashima Antlers, one of Japan's best J. League soccer teams. Kashima Stadium, which recently expanded its capacity from 15,000 to 40,000, is worth a visit.
Getting around the area by boat
You can also enjoy a tour of the Kashima area by boat. Kashima Port is one of the world's biggest manmade ports, and you can tour its various waterways on the Eureka Boat. A tour guide narrates your trip around the port, and a dining area serves refreshments.
Witness the Pacific Ocean from up high
For a view of the coast, visit Ono Shiosai Hamanasu Park. This park is right next to the Pacific Ocean. In addition to its gorgeous landscaping and wide-open spaces, it also has a 77-meter observation tower that offers views of the city of Kashima and the Pacific Ocean.
Overflowing with attractions, it is worth dedicating around a day or two to really take in the diverse scenery of the Suigo area.