Hello, this is _hiroyuki.ta. This time, I took a motorcycle tour from central Tokyo to Kairakuen in Mito City, Ibaraki Prefecture. Kairakuen is one of Japan’s top three gardens, and is home to 3,000 plum trees of approximately 100 different varieties. It is crowded with visitors during the plum season, but it is also an attractive spot where you can experience the history and culture of the Mito clan even during other seasons. This time, I would like to introduce what Kairakuen is, how to get there, what kind of attractions there are, and where the bike parking lot is.
What is Kairakuen?
Kairakuen was built in 1842 (Tenpo 13) by Nariaki Tokugawa, the 9th lord of the Mito domain. Nariaki carved out Mt. Shichimen facing Senba Lake and named it
Kairakuen'', hoping to make it a place to enjoy together with the people of his territory. The wordKairaku” is borrowed from the Chinese classic Mencius, which says,
The ancients enjoy themselves with the people, so they enjoy themselves with skill,'' and it expresses Nariaki's spirit of love for the people. Since the beginning of the Edo period, Kairakuen has been open to residents on days marked with3” and “8” every month. Currently, residents of Ibaraki Prefecture can enter the park for free.
Kairakuen is designated as a national historic site and a place of scenic beauty, and is considered one of Japan’s top three gardens along with Kenrokuen in Kanazawa and Korakuen in Okayama. Inside the park are the villa Kobun-tei, which derives from the plum tree’s nickname, “Kobunki,” and Kodokan, a domain school built by Nariaki, who returned to Mito studies. You can also enjoy the rich natural scenery such as Lake Senba, Shiki no Hara, and Tsukiike Pond.
Route to Kairakuen
This time, I took the Joban Expressway from central Tokyo to Kairakuen. If you ride your beloved Harley-Davidson FLSB Sport Glide, it will take you about two and a half hours to get there. On the way, you will pass through Metropolitan Expressway 6 and Keiyo Road, but if there is no traffic jam, you can drive smoothly.
Highlights of Kairakuen
Kairakuen is a strolling garden that spreads over approximately 13 hectares and is divided into three zones: historical area, natural area, and urban area. Each area has its own highlights. I will introduce them below.
The historical area stretches from the entrance of Kairakuen to the north shore of Lake Senba, and there are many facilities where you can feel the history and culture of the Mito clan. Representative ones are as follows.
- Kobun-tei: A villa that can be said to be a symbol of Kairakuen, and was named after the plum tree, “Kobunki.” This is the place where Nariaki admired plum blossoms and interacted with literary figures and artists. Currently it is used as a tea room and exhibition room.
- Kodokan: This is a domain school of the Mito domain and an educational facility built by Nariaki. It includes
Taisei-den'' andKodokan Museum,” which convey the spirit of Mito studies. In addition, in front of Kodokan stands a bronze statue of Tokugawa Mitsukuni, famous for “Mito Komon.”
- Tokugawa Museum: This museum introduces the history and culture of the Mito domain, displaying artifacts and documents left by the Tokugawa family, the lords of the Mito domain. What you can’t miss is the original version of “Great Japanese History,” which is said to be the culmination of Mito studies.
- Mito Castle Ruins: This is the site of Mito Castle, which was the residence of the Mito clan. Today, only the castle walls and moat remain. Also within the castle are the Ibaraki Prefectural Museum of Modern Art and the Ibaraki Prefectural Natural Museum.
The natural area stretches out to the south shore of Lake Senba, and you can enjoy the natural scenery of each season. Especially during the plum season, the entire park is colored with plum blossoms, making for a spectacular sight. In addition to plum blossoms, cherry blossoms and autumn leaves are also beautiful, making it perfect for walking and taking photos. The highlights of the natural area are as follows.
- Lake Senba: An artificial lake located in the center of Kairakuen, with a promenade approximately 2 km in circumference. You can enjoy boating and swan boating on the lake. There are also the Mito Civic Art Center and the Ibaraki Prefectural Library on the lakeside.
- Shiki no Hara: A plaza located to the southwest of Lake Senba, with a lawn and flower beds. Flowers bloom throughout the year, and you can see cherry blossoms and rape blossoms in the spring, and cosmos and red spider lilies in the fall.
- Tsukiike: A pond that extends south from Lake Senba, and was named because its shape resembles the moon. Pine trees and bamboo trees are planted around the pond, giving it a charming atmosphere.
- Plum grove: Kairakuen’s biggest attraction, with 3,000 plum trees of about 100 varieties planted. Plum blossoms bloom from February to March, and you can enjoy their scent and colors such as white, red, and purple. The plum grove also has
Plum House'' andPlum Chaya.”
The urban area is located to the southeast of Kairakuen and is located in the center of Mito City. This area includes Mito Station and Art Tower Mito. You can also purchase specialty products such as Mito’s famous
Mito Natto'' andMito Umeboshi.” Highlights of the city area are as follows.
- Mito Station: This station is about a 15-minute walk from Kairakuen, and is served by the JR Joban Line and the Kanto Railway Joban Line. In front of the station are
Mito Ekimae Square'' andMito Ekimae Shopping Street.”
- Art Tower Mito: This art facility is located about a 10-minute walk from Kairakuen and includes a music hall, theater, and art museum. The museum in particular has received high praise internationally, and hosts permanent exhibitions and special exhibitions.
- Mito Shopping Street: This shopping street is about a 5-minute walk from Kairakuen, where you can enjoy Mito’s food culture and traditional crafts. “Mito Natto” and “Mito Umeboshi” are especially famous and make perfect souvenirs.
Kairakuen Motorcycle Parking lot
Kairakuen does not have a dedicated parking lot for motorcycles, but there are several paid public parking lots nearby. Among them, the following two are recommended.
- Kairakuen Sakurayama Parking Lot 1: This parking lot is located about 1 minute walk from the main gate of Kairakuen and is open 24 hours a day.
- Kairakuen Sakurayama 2nd Parking Lot: This parking lot is located about 3 minutes walk from the west gate of Kairakuen and is open 24 hours a day.
This time, I went on a motorcycle tour from central Tokyo to Kairakuen in Ibaraki Prefecture. Kairakuen is one of Japan’s top three gardens and is a wonderful spot where you can enjoy history, culture, and nature. Especially not to be missed during plum season. If you go by bike, there are many paid sections, but you can ride more comfortably. There is also a motorcycle parking lot nearby, but it’s a good idea to check availability.