Mito is a former castle town and is now the capital city of Ibaraki Prefecture, less than 2 hours from Tokyo. Here are ten things to do in Mito:
1. Kairakuen Gardens
Kairakuen Garden is one of Japan’s top 3 most beautiful gardens, and was created around 170 years ago by Tokugawa Naraiki. The gardens have always been open to the public, despite many of Japan’s gardens historically only being accessible to the local feudal lords and their guests. The garden is full of plum trees which blossom in spring and there is also a park across from the garden.
- Admission: Free
- Access: A short bus or taxi ride from Mito station
- Phone: 029 244 5454
- Website: http://www.koen.pref.ibaraki.jp/foreign_language/en/index.html
2. Tokiwa Shrine
Tokiwa Shrine was built for Tokugawa Mitsukuni and Tokugawa Nariaki. The two lords are enshrined there and due to the popularity of these local lords, the shrine could be built after just a year of fund-raising among locals. The shrine dates back to 1874, and is located in Tokiwa village. The shrine itself is a short walk from the famous Kairakuen Gardens.
- Admission: Free
- Phone: 029 221 0748
- Website: http://komonsan.jp/
Tokugawa Nariaki built the Kodokan, which was opened in 1841. It was used by the Mito Clan as both an academic school and also for schooling the military. The original building remains, although some damage was sustained in the 2011 earthquake. The Kodokan is located in a quiet area, in Sannomaru and features some nice plum blossom trees in the grounds.
- Admission: free (donations appreciated)
- Phone: 029 231 4725
4. Modern Art Museum
Ibaraki’s Museum of Modern Art opened in 1988 and is charged with the mission of enriching lives by providing access to excellent works of art. The modern art museum comprises primarily works from the Ibaraki area, although there are also special exhibitions held in order to give Ibaraki people the opportunity to see art work from other collections.
- Access: 15 minutes walk (5 mins by bus) from Mito station
- Phone: 029 243 5111
- Timings: Tue – Sun 9:30 – 17:00
- Website: http://www.modernart.museum.ibk.ed.jp/english/
5. Mito Castle Ruins
Mito Castle is on the list of Top 100 Castles in Japan. It is the only one in the prefecture to make the list, although the structure was very basic and little remains as it was completely destroyed in WWII. It was one of the Tokugawa Shogunate’s castles – these famous Tokugawa Castles include Nagoya Castle and Wakayama Castle and are visited by visited by many castle enthusiasts every year.
- Admission: free
- Address:17822 Moro Road, Prunedale, California 93907
- Phone: 831-663-2292
- Events: Click here
- Timing: Tues-Wed 11:00 – 19:00, Thursday 10:00 – 18:00, Fri-Sat 10 – 16:00
- Website: http://www.monterey.org/library/
6. Mito Tower
The Art Tower of Mito includes an art gallery, a concert hall and the tower itself from which a nice view of the surroundings is available. The Art Tower also has a restaurant ‘Vert et Blancher’ and a museum shop. There is convenient basement parking, too. You can visit their website for an up-to-date list of upcoming events, many of which are free.
- Admission: Depending on event
- Phone: 029 227 8111
- Timing: 9;30 – 18:00
- Website: https://arttowermito.or.jp/index_en.html
7. Tatsuya Matsui Flower Robotics
Tatsuya Matsui founded the Tokyo based Flower Robotics in 2001 and the facility in Mito is worth a look. Flower Robotics are pursuing design of “beautiful robots” that fit our everyday life, and not only useful and acceptable to people, but actually perceived as beautiful. The robots developed are for various purposes and there are many interesting exhibits.
- Reception: 10:00 – 17:00
- Phone: 03 5545 1655
- Website: http://www.flower-robotics.com/
8. Mito Hachimangu Shrine
Hachinmangu Shrine is a quite popular shrine among local tourists, and attracts many visitors for its festivals. Festivals or celebrations are held seasonally, and Hachimangu is decorated with lots of colourful flowers. The structure is fairly small and has the typical Japanese shrine architecture. The shrine is also keen to encourage visitors to monthly celebrations on the 1st and 15th of every month.
- Admission: free
- Address: 8 – 54 Hachiman Town
- Phone:029 226 8854
- Website: http://www.mitohachimangu.or.jp/
9. Ibaraki Prefectural Government Observation Deck
As the capital city of Ibaraki Prefecture, Mito City is home to the various prefectural offices and government buildings – which rather conveniently includes a Prefectural Office Observation Deck, located on the 25th floor. From here you can look out over Mito as far as the ocean. There is also a natto and ice cream desert available. The deck is only open outside of office hours on January 1st, so plan your trip accordingly if you are hoping to see a sunrise or sunset.
- Admission: free
- Location: Ibaraki Prefectural Government Office
- Phone: 029 301 2375
- Timings: M-F 09:00 – 17:00
10. Mito Plum Blossom Festival
Japanese people enjoy Plum Blossom festivals throughout the country, and here in Mito you have the opportunity to enjoy the first signs of spring in Kairakuen Garden. In late February and March over 3,000 trees are blooming – including 100 different varieties. Normally in mid-March, you can also enjoy a night light-up of the plum trees in the garden – with the added excitement of fireworks.
- Access: Across from Kairakuen (temporary) station (used during the festival), or short bus or taxi ride from Mito station
- Timings: February 20th – March 31st
- Online: http://www.city.mito.lg.jp/001433/003463/p004128.html
Mito is a very relaxing place to visit so why not rent a bicycle and tour the city. Using the link above you can also find an alternative top 11 sights suggested by the Mito City Office Tourist staff with an English information sheet. If you like natto (fermented soybeans), then why not enjoy some local food. Locals even enjoy natto with their noodles.
Have a good trip and travel!