Hitachinaka city is a seaside town in northwest Ibaraki prefecture known for beautiful flowers. The flowers are so famous they have even been featured in Travel + Leisure, Lonely Planet, and Conde Nast Traveler.
However, having been to Hitachinaka a few times, I knew flowers were just part of what Hitachinaka had to offer, so I wanted to learn more from the locals. For this article, I headed over to Hitachinaka city, and talked to Aoi-san, who works in the Tourism department.
During my conversation with Aoi-san, I learned that Hitachinaka even has a golden shrine dedicated to dried sweet potato (a local snack), was famous for Yakisoba (fried noodles), and had some incredible summer festivals.
Below is my interview with Aoi-san, which I hope you enjoy!
Photo: Beautiful Flowers in Hitachinaka
Hitachinaka City is gaining popularity as the ‘City of Flowers and the Sea’. After first enjoying the seasonal flowers at the National Hitachi Seaside Park (国営ひたち海浜公園), visitors can have a seafood bowl at Nakaminato Osakana Market (那珂湊おさかな市場) for lunch and then go for a walk or play at the seashore.
Also, if you take the Hitachinaka Kaihin Railway Minato Line (ひたちなか海浜鉄道湊線), a local train line, you can visit places of historical romance, such as the Torazuka Tomb (虎塚古墳) and the Jugoro cave (十五郎穴), which are representative of eastern Japan.
There are also many food delights to enjoy, such as hoshi-imo (Japanese radish) and hoshi-imo sweets, plenty of seafood including octopus and anko (redfish), Nakaminato yakisoba (fried noodles), as well as stamina ramen and soy sauce soft-serve ice cream. Please come to Hitachinaka City, where you can enjoy many things.
Photo: Hitachinaka is famous for its Flower displays.
Hitachinaka City can be enjoyed during all seasons.
Spring is the best time to see the nemophila and tulips at the ‘National Hitachi Seaside Park (国営ひたち海浜公園)’ as they are in full bloom. It is also the best season for golf, so a round of golf at the ‘Katsuta Golf Club (勝田ゴルフ倶楽部)’ is recommended. The ‘Torazuka Tumulus (虎塚古墳)’, built at the end of the Kofun Period, is designated as a national historic site and visitors can see the beautiful wall paintings which are only accessible to the public at certain times.
In summer, visitors can enjoy swimming at Ajigaura Beach (阿字ヶ浦海水浴場) and Hiraiso Beach (平磯海水浴場). This is where the ‘Hitachinaka Festival’ and fireworks festivals take place. Furthermore, cycling along the coast is recommended to feel the sea breeze.
In autumn, the kochia at the National Hitachi Seaside Park (国営ひたち海浜公園) are at their best. In addition, the Industrial Exchange Fair, a major autumn event, is great fun for the whole family and the Torazuka Tomb (虎塚古墳) Mural is also open to the public in autumn.
Winter is the season for delicious foods such as hoshi-imo and ankou (redfish) hotpot. The historical and traditional ‘Katsuta Marathon (勝田マラソン)’ is held in the city.
Photo: Fresh Scallops at the fish market in Hitachinaka city
Hitachinaka has a lot to discover with many tourist attractions and popular areas. If we had to recommend only three things, make sure to visit the following!
1. National Hitachi Seaside Park – 国営ひたち海浜公園
The park’s colorful flowers can be enjoyed throughout the four seasons. It is particularly busy with tourists when the nemophila in spring and the kochia in autumn are blooming. The park also has a variety of attractions, including a large Ferris wheel, a cycling course, a barbecue space and visitors can join other activities. Furthermore, there are also restaurants and cafés where visitors can taste local gourmet food using ingredients from Ibaraki Prefecture and sweets inspired by the flowers of the season.
2. Naka Minato Osakana Market – 那珂湊おさかな市場
This fish market offers a wide range of seasonal and local freshly caught fish. The market is lined with fishmongers and small shops, where you can buy seafood at low prices with plenty of variety. There are also restaurants where you can enjoy sushi with large pieces of fish and seafood bowls.
3. Hoshiimo shrine -ほしいも神社
The shrine was erected in 2019 and is lined with golden torii gates. This deity’s virtue is focused on ‘hoshii mono” things that you would like to have. Where people wish for things that they would like to receive. This is a sightseeing spot unique to Hitachinaka City, which also boasts the largest production of dried sweet potatoes in Japan.
Photo: Naka Minato Osakana Market
Actually, there are a few. Please try these when you come to visit.
Kaisen-don (fresh seafood rice bowl)
Kaisen-don (bowl of rice topped with fresh seafood) at the restaurants in Nakaminato Osakana Market (那珂湊おさかな市場) is a bowl of rice topped with a variety of fresh seafood. The toppings vary depending on the restaurant, including seasonal fish, local fish, and seared fish.
Hitachinaka City produces the largest amount of hoshi-imo in Japan. Sweet potatoes are steamed and sun-dried and are popular as a healthy sweet. There is a wide variety and they come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, making them ideal as souvenirs.
Nakaminato yakisoba, with its chewy texture, has been a local favorite for more than 60 years. The selection varies from flavored with locally produced soy sauce to sauce flavored with Hitachi Niku beef.
Stamina Ramen is a local delicacy of Hitachinaka City. It is characterized by its sweet and spicy filling of liver, pumpkin, leek and cabbage.
Photo: Kaisen-don Seafood bowl
There are many things visitors can bring back, among these we recommend the following.
Hoshi Imo (Dried Japanese Sweet Potato)
Hitachinaka City’s specialty is hoshi-imo. There are many varieties, such as Beniharuka, Tamayutaka, and Silk Sweet, and a variety of shapes, such as flat, round, and square-dried hoshi-imo. There are also many sweets made from hoshi-imo, which are recommended as souvenirs.
Nakaminato yakisoba, loved by locals, is also sold as bagged noodles. It comes with sauce, so you can enjoy Nakaminato yakisoba at home by adding your favorite vegetables and stir-frying them.
Dried fish is sun-dried one by one by hand in the sea breeze. They are dipped in soy sauce and you can taste the full flavor of the fish.
There are three festivals everyone in Hitachinaka is looking forward to every year.
Hitachinaka Hula Festival
This event is held every May at the Hitachi Seaside Park (国営ひたち海浜公園 / Kokuei Hitachi Kaihin Koen). Visitors can enjoy hula dancing while enjoying the sea breeze. At this event, the staff of the Hitachinaka City Hall performs a hula dance called ‘Kanehura’.
Nakaminato Marine Fireworks Display
It is held in front of the Nakaminato Fish Market (那珂湊おさかな市場) every August. The famous “Underwater Starmine” fireworks are launched from the surface of the water and attract many spectators with their fantastic beauty.
Minato Hassaku Festival
This festival has long been held every other year in August as the festival of Nakaminato Tenmangu Shrine (那珂湊天満宮) and is designated as an Intangible Folk Cultural Asset of the city. The highlight is the ‘Ohama-iri’ (お浜入り) when the Mikoshi (portable shrine) is carried into the sea!
Photo: Minato Hassaku Festival
There are a few places that visitors may not know about. Let me share some of them with you.
Takeda Clan Museum – 武田氏館
This museum exhibits and explains that Hitachinaka City is the birthplace of the Kai Takeda clan (甲斐武田), famed for the warlord Shingen
Naka Minato Reverberatory Furnace Site
This artillery foundry was completed in 1857 and is designated as a prefectural historic site. Two large metal melting furnaces were constructed using Dutch knowledge, and about 20 cannons were cast.
Jugoro Ana Tomb Groups – 十五郎穴横穴墓群
These mass graves were dug into the rock walls and were constructed between the Kofun and Heian periods (1,200 years ago). It is designated as a historical site by the prefecture. A large sword and a jewel were excavated from the digging site. It is said to be one of the largest groups of cave tombs in eastern Japan.
Photo: Jugoro Ana Tomb Groups
From a local prospective, Aoi-san really helped me understand what Hitachinaka city has to offer.
Next time I visit, I’m definitely going to try the Nakaminato Yakisoba and I’m also going to try to visit the Nakaminato Marine Fireworks display this year.
I hope you can as well!
If you are coming from Tokyo,
By Train (via JR line if you have a Japan Rail Pass)
Take the express train from Tokyo or Ueno Station to Katsuta station (Approx 75 min).
Driving is also easy. Take the Joban Expressway (E6) to Tomobe JCT and change on to Kita-Kanto Expressway (E50) get of at Hitachinaka IC (Approx 120 min).
There are several ‘Highway Buses’ that you can take from Tokyo station (Approx 120min). They go to several different places in Hitachinaka so please check online to see where is most convenient for your trip.
I hope you enjoyed reading about this hidden gem just north of Tokyo, if you would like to know more about fun things to do and travel ideas, please continue to have a look at our must-see / must do things nearby Tokyo page.
To book unique activities in English, please see the Nearby Tokyo experience page.
Contributor: Angus Miyaji
Founder of Nearby Tokyo and Japan World Link, Angus helps visitors discover off the beaten track destinations in the North Kanto regions (Tochigi, Gunma, Ibaraki & Saitama north of Tokyo). He regularly travels between Japan and the UK promoting tourism and Japanese sake.